Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Democracy Now on Chicago Closing Schools and Privatization

Chicago to Shutter 50 Public Schools: Is Historic Mass Closure an Experiment in Privatization?

'They are conducting a very massive ... irreversible experiment here on other people’s children.'
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As the academic year winds down, a record number of Chicago schools are preparing to close their doors for good in the largest mass school closing ever in one U.S. city. Last week, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 of the city’s public schools in a move that will impact some 30,000 students, around 90 percent of them African American. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed for the closures in order to save the city more than $500 billion, half of its deficit. "Rahm Emanuel actually does not have an educational plan, he has an economic development plan," says our guest Diane Ravitch, who served as the assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush. Proponents say the closures will hit schools that are both underperforming and underutilized. But a vocal coalition of parents, teachers and students has fought back, warning that the closures will lead to overcrowded classrooms and endanger those students forced to walk longer distances to their new schools. We go to Chicago to speak with Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, which helped lead the campaign against the school closures. "They are making a very massive, radical and, frankly, irreversible experiment here on other people’s children," Sharkey says.
AARON MATÉ: It’s almost June, and students across the country are counting down to the summer break. But today we look at Chicago, where a record number of schools are preparing to close their doors for good. In a controversial move last week, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 of the city’s public schools. It’s the largest mass school closing ever in one U.S. city. Some 30,000 students will be affected, around 90 percent of them African American.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed for the closures. He says the city will save more than $500 billion, half of its deficit. Proponents also say the closures will hit schools that are both underperforming and underutilized. But a vocal coalition of parents, teachers and students has fought back.
AMY GOODMAN: At protests and public hearings, closure opponents have denounced the plan as discriminatory for overwhelmingly targeting African-American and Latino neighborhoods. They warn the closures will lead to overcrowded classrooms and endanger those students forced to walk longer distances to their new schools. After last week’s vote, Alex Lyons of the group Save Our West Side Schools said the school district is putting children in harm’s way.
ALEX LYONS: I am very, very disappointed and upset in the rubber-stamp vote that was taken by the CPS Board of Elections to take our kids from the classroom and put them on the front row of killings, murders, war zones, seeing things that a kid should not see to go to school.
AARON MATÉ: The vote to close so many Chicago schools may be historic, but it already follows around 100 other school closures in Chicago since 2001. Ahead of last week’s vote, a group of Chicago parents filed two lawsuits saying these new closures violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and Illinois civil rights law.
AMY GOODMAN: To discuss the Chicago closures, we’re joined by two guests. In Chicago, Jesse Sharkey is with us, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, which helped lead the campaign against the school closures. And here in New York, Diane Ravitch is with us. She served as the assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, now a historian of education and the best-selling author of over 20 books, including The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s start in Chicago with Jesse Sharkey. Explain the latest and why these schools are being closed and what you’re doing about it.
JESSE SHARKEY: Well, Amy, thanks for having me on, first of all.
There’s been a real shifting rationale about why the district is closing the schools. What they keep—what they’ve said is that it will save money and they have a budget deficit to worry about, and then now they’re saying that this will allow them to better serve the students whose schools are being closed. Both rationales are outrageous. As far as saving money, the district is planning—or the city is going to spend $300 million to renovate a new stadium for the DePaul basketball team and renovate the tourist areas of the city, that we don’t believe the school closings will save that much money. And we definitely don’t think that this will actually help the students that are being affected. In all the previous rounds, we found that the University of Chicago research shows that over 90 percent of the students actually wind up with worse educational outcomes as a result of their schools being closed. So, this will be very harmful to the students. It’ll be harmful to the public school system as a whole, and to the people who work in the schools, as well.
AARON MATÉ: When the closures were announced in March, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was across the country on a ski vacation with his family in Utah. When he got back, Emanuel defended the plan to close so many of his city’s schools.
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: To deal with the 54 schools was not taken lightly, but it was taken with the notion of how do we make sure that every child can get to a quality school with a quality education.
AARON MATÉ: I want to bring in Diane Ravitch. So the argument here is that there’s around 100,000 empty seats that are wasting taxpayer money. What’s your response to that?
DIANE RAVITCH: Well, you know, it’s funny, because over the past several years we’ve seen the federal government and a lot of local governments saying that kids need smaller schools. And, actually, in New York City, for example, many schools have been broken up; big schools have been broken up into five or six schools, and many new small schools have been created. All of these schools could have served as the ideal small schools. There really was no reason to close them. And many people think it may have been payback to the teachers’ union for having struck last September. Other cities that have closed schools have found no cost savings, because the children still need services, the children still need teachers, so that there are really no cost savings.
This is, I think, on Rahm Emanuel’s part, he’s following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Arne Duncan. Arne Duncan started this idea that the way to improve schools was to close them, which is obviously a ridiculous idea. But he closed three schools in 2002, and then, two years later, he announced his reform plan, which he called Renaissance 2010. And the heart of Renaissance 2010 was to close schools and open new schools, and that would somehow miraculously improve education. Not only did it not improve education in Chicago, and he did close lots of schools and open many more—it did not improve education, but in this latest wave of school closings by Rahm Emanuel, the three schools that—the first three schools that Arne Duncan closed and reopened have now been closed again.
AMY GOODMAN: How significant is this school closure—schools closure, I should say, 50 schools in Chicago, in the context of education in America, in the United States?
DIANE RAVITCH: Well, I think that what—what’s so terrible is that people have come to accept the idea that closing schools is a reform strategy. And as I mentioned, the one who started this was Arne Duncan. We now see it happening—
AMY GOODMAN: The secretary of education.
DIANE RAVITCH: Secretary of education. So, we now see it happening in New York City, where the mayor has closed something like 150 schools over several years—not so many at one time—massive school closings underway in Philadelphia and Detroit. In city after city, the civic and business elite and the—whoever’s put in charge of superintendent has taken the position that they’ll close schools. And what they’re mostly doing is privatizing them. I mean, you have to understand that the closing schools argument is not simply about public schools getting better, which obviously they don’t, are not—and the kids are not sent to better schools, they get sent to equally low-performing schools. And not all the schools that are being closed are low-performing schools, by the way. But it is part of a larger scheme to advance privatization, to create privately managed charter schools that are non-union schools. And Chicago now has about 75,000 children in non-union charter schools.
AMY GOODMAN: But the mayor, Jesse Sharkey, says it’s to close this massive debt.
JESSE SHARKEY: That’s their claim. You know, the mayor has also said that there’s not enough money, but he will refuse to consider raising taxes. The mayor also sets aside about a quarter billion dollars a year, which goes into essentially a sort of real estate kitty, a sludge fund called the tax increment finance funds. But really, we do see this as an attempt to close public schools and replace them with non-union charter schools. Chicago has signed onto the Gates compact, which promises to add 60 new charter schools in the next four years. So even as they close traditional public schools, neighborhood schools—look, some of these schools have been around for over a hundred years and, you know, survived two world wars and a Great Depression, but haven’t survived this mayor. And so, even as he’s talking about closing schools because there’s too many "seats," quote-unquote, they’re opening many other schools. The rationales begin to fall apart. And frankly, the rationales keep shifting. You know, these are sort of the third sets of justifications they’ve made for this policy.
AMY GOODMAN: Diane Ravitch, the choices that the city of Chicago is making, where they put their money and where they take it out?
DIANE RAVITCH: Well, you know, it’s—I think Jesse is quite right. This is not about saving money. It’s not about giving kids a better education, because there’s solid research that shows that most of the kids who moved in from a closed school to another school, there was no change at all for them. This is really about a privatization movement that’s underway across the country, and I think that Rahm Emanuel wanted to be the biggest, the baddest and the boldest by closing the most schools.
AMY GOODMAN: And then, what is happening instead in Chicago, where the money is going?
DIANE RAVITCH: Well, it’s going to tax breaks for billionaires like Penny Pritzker and other people who are developing and building, and it’s—and gentrifying the city. And this is not about children. It’s not about education. Rahm Emanuel actually does not have an educational plan; he has an economic development plan. And this is where the schools fit in, which is to close public schools and to open more and more privately managed charters.
AARON MATÉ: Jesse Sharkey—
JESSE SHARKEY: Amy, if I could add one thing—
AARON MATÉ: —the impact on students, some parents—like we heard one parent say in the beginning, that this will force students into longer walks to school, and this happened across gang lines.
JESSE SHARKEY: Yeah, we’re concerned about safety.
I’d just add one other thing about saving money, which is that one part of the plan, which will save money and be very detrimental to students, is they intend to massively increase class size, both in the schools which are closing—well, both in the schools which are receiving closed students, the students of closed schools, and also across the district. We know that small class size is educationally effective, especially for elementary school students in the lower grades, especially for disadvantaged students—i.e. exactly the students that have been targeted by these closures. And we think that class sizes are going to spike as a result of this.
The safety is a real concern, as well. I mean, we’re talking about 50 schools that are in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago. They have not had adequate sort of planning time to make real safety plans. When the list was announced in late March, the people who are actually responsible for helping the kids get to school safely didn’t even know their schools would be on the list. You know, the district is scrambling to play catch up. And they’re making a very massive, radical and, frankly, irreversible experiment here on other people’s children.
AMY GOODMAN: This is happening under a Democratic administration, Diane Ravitch, in Chicago. You served as secretary of education under George H.W. Bush. How does this philosophy, this approach, compare?
DIANE RAVITCH: Well, just I was assistant secretary of education.
AMY GOODMAN: Assistant secretary.
DIANE RAVITCH: Well, actually, what has been most disheartening, I think, to people across the country who care about public education is that President Obama and Arne Duncan launched the same—basically the same program as No Child Left Behind, only more punitive. No Child Left Behind was—one of the remedies in No Child Left Behind was that if a school didn’t have scores that went up and up and up every year, the schools might be closed. Arne Duncan launched something called Race to the Top, which said, here’s billions of dollars, and if you accept any of this money, one of the things you agree to is to close schools. He calls it a turnaround. He calls it a transformation.
Here is a Democratic administration that has bought the Republican line fully. I was asked by a reporter the other day, "How come Republicans are so willing to collaborate?" It’s the one issue where the Republicans are happy to collaborate with President Obama, and that’s education. And I said, "That’s because President Obama has adopted the Republican position on education, which has always been testing, choice and accountability." And the accountability is people get fired, schools get closed. The Democratic agenda has always been one based on equity. The kids with the greatest needs should have the smallest class sizes and the most resources. And that’s the reason for federal aid to education, was to try to level the playing field. But President Obama, unfortunately, has abandoned the traditional Democratic approach and has embraced the Republican approach. And that’s why gets so little push-back in Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to end with one of the most vocal campaigners against the Chicago school closures, a nine-year-old boy, third grade student at Marcus Garvey Elementary School in Chicago, named Asean Johnson. In a video of a recent protest that’s gone viral, he brought the crowd to its feet as he spoke out against Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
ASEAN JOHNSON: Rahm Emanuel thinks that we all are toys. He thinks he can just come into our schools and move all our kids all over gang lines and just say, "Oh, we can build a building right here. Let’s just take this school out. We don’t care about these kids." But it’s kids in there. They need—they need safety. Rahm Emanuel is not caring about our schools. He’s not caring about our safety. He only cares about his kids. He only care about what he needs. He do not care about nobody else but himself. You should be investing in these schools, not closing them. You should be supporting these schools, not closing them. We shall not be moved today! We are going to City Hall. We’re deporting Rahm Emanuel. We are not toys. We are not going, not without a fight! Education is a right! That is why we have to fight! Education is a right! That is why we have to fight! Education is a right! That is why we have to fight!
AMY GOODMAN: That’s nine-year-old Asean Johnson. His school, Marcus Garvey Elementary, was initially on the chopping block, but it’s one of four schools that were spared in last week’s vote. This is Democracy Now! I want to thank Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, and Diane Ravitch, assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, historian of education, best-selling author of almost—of over 20 books, including The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Henry Giroux on Chicago School Closings

Henry A. Giroux | Marching in Chicago: Resisting Rahm Emanuel's Neoliberal Savagery

Monday, 20 May 2013 10:16 By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed

Protesters march in the Loop March 27, 2013 during a rally to protest the proposed closing of 54 Chicago public schools.Protesters march in the Loop March 27, 2013 during a rally to protest the proposed closing of 54 Chicago public schools. (Photo: WBEZ/Robin Amer)
Across the globe, predatory capitalism spreads its gospel of power, greed, commodification, gentrification and inequality.  Through the combined forces of a market driven ideology, policy and mode of governance, the apostles of free-market capitalism are doing their best to dismantle historically guaranteed social provisions provided by the welfare state, define the accumulation of capital as the only obligation of democracy, increase the role of corporate money in politics, wage an assault on unions, expand the military-security state, increase inequalities in wealth and income, foster the erosion of civil liberties and undercut public faith in the defining institutions of democracy.1. As market mentalities and moralities tighten their grip on all aspects of society, democratic institutions and public spheres are being downsized, if not altogether disappearing. As these institutions vanish - from public schools to health-care centers - there is also a serious erosion of the discourses of community, justice, equality, public values and the common good. One does not have to look too far to see what happens in America’s neoliberal educational culture to see how ruthlessly the inequality of wealth, income and power bears down on those young people and brave teachers who are struggling every day to save the schools, unions and modes of pedagogy that offer hope at a time when schools have become just another commodity, students are reduced to clients or disposable populations, and teachers and their unions are demonized.
Read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other scholars at Truthout's Public Intellectual Project.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s current attempt to close down 54 public schools largely inhabited by poor minorities is one more example of a savage, racist neoliberal system at work that uses the politics of austerity and consolidation to further disenfranchise the unskilled young of the inner city. The hidden curriculum in this instance is not so invisible. Closing schools will result in massive layoffs, weakening the teachers unions. It will free up land that can be gentrified to attract middle-class voters, and it will once again prove that poor minority students, regardless of the hardships, if not danger, they will face as a result of such closings, are viewed as disposable - human waste to be relegated to the zones of terminal exclusion.  Not only are many teachers and parents concerned about displacing thousands of students to schools that do not offer any hope of educational improvement, but they are also concerned about the safety of the displaced children, many of whom "will have to walk through violent neighborhoods and go to school with other students who are considered enemies." 2. This is not simply misguided policy, it is a racist script that makes clear that poor black youth are disposable and that their safety is irrelevant.  How else to explain the mayor's plan to produce a Safe Passage Plan in which firefighters would be asked to patrol the new routes, even though they have made it clear that they are not trained for this type of special duty. That many of these children are poor black children trapped in under-resourced schools appears irrelevant to a mayor who takes his lead from politicians such as Barack Obama and Arnie Duncan, two educators who have simply reproduced the Bush educational reform playbook, i.e., more testing, demonize teachers, weaken unions, advocate for choice and charter schools, and turn public schools over to corporate hedge-fund managers and billionaires such as Bill Gates. Emanuel’s passionate zeal to downsize schools in impoverished black neighborhoods is matched only by his misdirected enthusiasm to lay out $195 million "on a basketball arena for DePaul University, a private Chicago university." 3.
Emanuel’s policies are symptomatic of a much larger war against teachers, public goods and the social contract.  We increasingly live in societies based on the vocabulary of  "choice" and a denial of reality - a denial of massive inequality, social disparities, the irresponsible concentration of power in relatively few hands and a growing machinery of social death and culture of cruelty. 4. As power becomes global and is removed from local and nation-based politics, more and more individuals and groups are being defined by a free-floating class of ultra-rich and corporate power brokers as disposable, redundant, and irrelevant.  Consequently, there are a growing number of people, especially young people, who increasingly inhabit zones of hardship, suffering and terminal exclusion.  Power has lost its moorings in democratic institutions and removes itself from any sense of social, civic and political responsibilities. Mayor Emanuel, along with his neoliberal political allies, occupies the dead zone of capitalism - a zone marked by a ruthless indifference to the suffering of others and self-righteous coldness that makes human beings superfluous and unwanted. At the same time, this zone of capital accumulation and dispossession destroys those public spheres and collective structures such as public and higher education that are capable of resisting the logic of the pure market and the anti-democratic pressures it imposes on American society. Peter Brogan sums it up well in his analysis of the forces behind the current attacks on teachers and public education. He writes that the neoliberal agenda behind such attacks has:
been outlined in numerous planning documents from different city administrations, some of which have been drafted by the Commercial Club and have at the center an urban development strategy based on revitalizing the downtown core and prioritizing the financial, real estate and tourist sectors of the economy while at the same time demolishing public housing and schools in order to gentrify historically African American and Latino working class neighborhoods. These transformations are deeply related to the larger structural crisis of capitalism. The background to this is the crisis of profitability that comes to a head in the early 1970s, and the ushering in a period of capitalist regulation known as neoliberalism, marked by savage attacks on unions, workers and working class living standards. Reconstructing the built environment of the city has been absolutely central to all of these changes. This is one attempt to deal with the structural crisis of capitalism at this critical juncture. And destroying unions, and teachers’ unions in particular, have been key to that attempt. 5.
This is all the more reason for educators and others to address important social issues and to defend public education as democratic public sphere. And it is all the more reason to defend the Chicago Public Teachers Union in its struggle with Emanuel because this battle is not a local issue. On the contrary, it is a national issue that will set the stage for the future of American public education, which is on its deathbed.  The struggle in Chicago must be understood as part of a larger set of market-driven policies in which everything is privatized, transformed into "spectacular spaces of consumption," and subject to the vicissitudes of the military-security state. 6. One consequence is the emergence of what the late Tony Judt called an "eviscerated society" - "one that is stripped of the thick mesh of mutual obligations and social responsibilities to be found in" any viable democracy. 7. This grim reality represents a failure in the power of the civic imagination, political will, and open democracy. 8. It is also part of a politics that strips the social of any democratic ideals. It is also the politics that drives Emanuel’s policies in Chicago around education and a host of other issues.
In Emanuel’s ideological script, the common good is viewed as either a source of profits or pathology.  The market is the only template that matters in shaping all aspects of society, and freedom is reduced to the freedom to shop, indulge one’s self-interests and willingly support a society in which market values trump democratic values. According to Emanuel and his ilk, the arch enemies of freedom are the welfare state, unions and public service workers such a public school teachers. And as was evident in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, law and order is the new language for mobilizing shared fears rather than shared responsibilities, just as war becomes the all-embracing organizing principle for developing a market-driven society and economy. 9.          
 Emanuel supports a notion of educational reform in which pedagogy is often treated simply as a set of strategies and skills to use in order to teach prespecified subject matter. In this context, pedagogy becomes synonymous with teaching as a technique or the practice of a craft-like skill. Even worse, pedagogy becomes a sterile method for developing skills aimed at raising test scores. The Chicago public school teachers must reject this definition of teaching and educational reform, along with its endless slavish imitations, even when they are claimed as part of an "educational reform" project.  In opposition to the instrumental reduction of pedagogy to a method - which has no language for relating the self to public life, social responsibility or the demands of citizenship - progressive educators need to argue for modes of critical pedagogy that illuminate the relationships among knowledge, authority and power. 10. For instance, any viable reform movement must raise questions regarding who has control over the conditions for the production of knowledge. Is the production of knowledge and curricula in the hands of teachers, textbook companies, corporate interests, or other forces?
Central to any viable notion that what makes a pedagogy critical is, in part, the recognition that pedagogy is always a deliberate attempt on the part of educators to influence how and what knowledges and subjectivities are produced within particular sets of social relations. Of crucial importance is the question of authority and how it is legitimated, used and exercised.  When teachers are stripped of authority, pedagogy becomes lifeless, methodical and militarized, reduced to low-level skills and modes of standardization that debase creativity and cripple the imaginative capacities of both teachers and students. Part of what the Chicago teachers are doing in their protests against the school closings is drawing attention to the ways in which authority, knowledge, power, desire and experience are produced under specific basic conditions of learning, and in doing so, they are shedding light on educational reform movements in which teaching is stripped of its sense of accountability to parents, place, and the complex dynamic of history and communities. Under such circumstances, the Chicago teachers are refusing educational policies in which matters of authority and pedagogy are removed from matters of values, norms and power.
Emanuel’s neoliberal educational philosophy has no understanding of what actually happens in classrooms and other educational settings because it is incapable of raising questions.
Nor does it acknowledge that pedagogy is simultaneously about the knowledge and practices teachers and students might engage in together, along with the values, social relations and visions such practices legitimate. What scares Emanuel and other neoliberal reformers is that pedagogy is a moral and political practice that is always implicated in power relations because it offers particular versions and visions of civic life, community, the future, and how we might construct representations of ourselves, others, and our physical and social environment.  
At the heart of the Chicago demonstrations against Emanuel’s polices are a series of broader questions that situate the right-wing reform movement in a broader set of market-driven politics. For instance, what kind of society allows economic injustice and massive inequality to run wild in a society allowing drastic cuts in education and public services? Why are more police being put in schools just as more prisons are being built in the United States? What does it mean when students face not just tuition hikes but a lifetime of financial debt while governments in Canada, Chile and the United States spend trillions on weapons of death and needless wars? What kind of education does it take, both in and out of schools, to recognize the emergence of various economic, political, cultural and social forces that point to the dissolution of democracy and the possible emergence of a new kind of authoritarian state?
 In an age of irresponsible privatization, unchecked individualism, celebrity culture, unfettered consumerism and a massive flight from moral responsibility, it has become more and more difficult to acknowledge that educators and other cultural workers have an enormous responsibility in opposing the current threat to the planet and everyday life by bringing democratic political culture back to life. Lacking a self-consciously democratic political focus or project, teachers are often reduced either to the role of a technician or functionary engaged in formalistic rituals, unconcerned with the disturbing and urgent problems that confront the larger society or the consequences of one’s pedagogical practices and research undertakings. In opposition to this model, with its claims to, and conceit of, political neutrality, it is crucial that teachers in Chicago and cities across the United States combine the mutually interdependent roles of critical educator and active citizen. This requires finding ways to connect the practice of classroom teaching with the operations of power in the larger society and to provide the conditions for students to view themselves as critical agents capable of making those who exercise authority and power answerable for their actions. The role of a critical education is not to train students solely for jobs, but also to educate them to question critically the institutions, policies and values that shape their lives, relationships to others, and myriad connections to the larger world. Equally important is the task of teacher unions all over America to forge alliances with a range of social movements so that the struggle for education is connected to the struggle for social provisions, a new understanding of politics, and the development of mass movements that can shut down the savagery of a neoliberal public pedagogy and economic machine that is the enemy of any viable notion of democracy.
 Education is never innocent, and if it is to be understood and problematized as a form of academic labor, educators must resist all calls to depoliticize pedagogy through appeals to either scientific objectivity or ideological dogmatism. Educational dogmatism now takes the form of blatant attacks on unions, the dissolution of public schools largely inhabited by poor minority students, the imposition of disciplinary apparatuses that criminalize the behavior of low-income and poor students of color, and the development of curricula that deadens the mind and soul through a narrow pedagogy of test-taking. What is happening in Chicago and other cities in the United States is the production of pedagogy of repression. This suggests the need for educators to rethink the purpose and meaning of education, the crucial importance of pedagogy in a democracy, and the collective struggles that will have to be waged against neoliberal racism and its attempts to dismantle the power of teachers to gain control over the conditions of their labor.
Education must be reclaimed as central to any viable notion of citizenship, civic responsibility and democracy itself. What Rahm Emmanuel and his ilk fear is the potential of public education to enable students to think critically, hold power accountable and imagine education as a form of educated hope. Education and pedagogy cannot be reduced to the dictates of an audit culture with its rendering of critical thought nil and void just as it elevates a mindless pedagogy of test-taking as the ultimate pedagogical practice and the final arbiter over what constitutes quality teaching, learning and what it means to be educated. What is lost in this pedagogical practice, is a pedagogy that provides the conditions for students to come to grips with their own power, master the best histories and legacies of education available, learn to think critically and be willing to hold authority accountable - and most importantly, the dangerous notion that changing attitudes is not enough and that students should also be pressed to exercise a fearsome form of social responsibility as engaged citizens willing to struggle for social, economic and political justice. This is the last approach to education that the current mayor of Chicago wants to see materialize in the cities’ public schools.
What Chicago public schools teachers are fighting for in their three days of demonstrations is the right to define teaching as a performative practice that is not only about teaching young people to be literate and knowledgeable but also to embrace the mutually informing modalities of power and knowledge so as to engage education as an act of intervention in the world, one that moves beyond simple matters of critique and understanding.  At the essence of the brave struggles waged by the Chicago public school teachers is the recognition that any viable approach to pedagogy must acknowledge the crucial nature of the labor conditions necessary for teacher autonomy, cooperation, decent working conditions, safety of the children, and the relations of power necessary to give teachers and students the capacity to restage power in productive ways - ways that point to self-development, self-determination and social agency.
What these three days of demonstrations must address is that without power over the conditions of their labor, teachers become pawns in a neoliberal politics in which they are deskilled, reduced to security guards, and work under conditions that transform education into a form of training.  High-stakes testing and its corresponding tactic of promoting cheating among administrators, putting into play the most degrading forms of competition, and its killing of the civic imagination is both a debased form of instrumental rationality and a reification of method - put another way, a kind of methodological madness. What needs to be addressed is that pedagogy is more than a method or its antithesis, a free-wheeling conversation between students and teachers. On the contrary, it is precisely by recognizing that teaching is always directive - that is, an act of intervention inextricably mediated through particular forms of authority that teachers can offer students - for whatever use they wish to make of them - a variety of analytic tools, diverse historical traditions and a wide range of knowledge. At issue here is a pedagogical practice that must provide the conditions for students to learn and narrate themselves and for teachers to be learners attentive to the histories, knowledge and experiences that students bring to the classroom and any other sphere of learning. In this instance, pedagogy should enable students to learn how to govern rather than be governed.
The war being waged against Chicago Public schools, teachers and students is the product of a corporate ideology and pedagogy that numbs the mind and the soul, emphasizing repressive modes of learning that promote winning at all costs, learning how not to question authority, and disdaining the hard work of learning how to be thoughtful, critical, and attentive to the power relations that shape everyday life and the larger world. As learning is privatized, depoliticized, and reduced to teaching students how to be good consumers, any viable notions of the social, public values, citizenship and democracy wither and die.
What role might public school teachers take in light of poisonous assaults waged on public schools by the forces of neoliberalism? In the most immediate sense, they can raise their collective voices against the influence of corporations that are flooding societies with a culture of war, consumerism, commercialism and privatization. They can show how this culture of commodified cruelty and violence is only one part of a broader and all-embracing militarized culture of war, the arms industry, and a Darwinian survival-of the-fittest ethic that increasingly disconnects schools from public values, the common good and democracy itself.  They can bring all of their intellectual and collective resources together to critique and dismantle the imposition of high-stakes testing and other commercially driven modes of accountability on schools. They can mobilize young people and others to defend education as a public good by advocating for policies that invest in schools rather than in the military-industrial complex and its massive and expensive weapons of death, for instance, the US government’s investment in procuring a number of F35 jets that cost $137 million each. They can educate young people and a larger public to fight against putting police in schools, modeling schools after prisons, and implementing zero tolerance policies that largely punish poor minority children.
Instead of investing in schools, children, health care, jobs for young people, and much needed infrastructures, neoliberal societies celebrate militarism, hyper-masculinity, extreme competition, and a survival of the fittest ethic while exhibiting disdain for any form of shared bonds, dependency and compassion for others. Advocates of neoliberalism have eliminated social provisions, destroyed pension plans, eliminated health-care benefits, allowed inequality to run wild, and have done so in order to safeguard and expand the assets of the rich and powerful.  As social bonds and the institutions that support them disappear from such societies, so do the formative cultures that make civic education, critical literacy, and cultures of questioning possible. Too many school systems operate within disciplinary apparatuses that turn public education into either an extension of the prison-industrial complex or the culture of the mall. When not being arrested for trivial rule violations, students are subjected to walls, buses, and bathrooms that become giant advertisements for consumer products, many of which are detrimental to the health of students, contributing to the obesity crisis in America. Increasingly, even curricula are organized to reflect the sound of the cash register, hawking products for students to buy and promoting the interests of corporations that celebrate fossil fuels as an energy source, sugar-filled drinks, and a Disney-like view of the world. And of course, this commodification of public education is migrating to higher education with the speed of light. University student centers are being modeled after department stores, complete with an endless array of vendors trying to sell credit cards to a generation already swimming in debt. University faculty members are valued more for their ability to secure grants than for their scholarship.
What is encouraging about the growing opposition of the Chicago teachers to the poisonous policies, pedagogies, and shameless racism of Mayor Rahm Emanuel is their willingness, under the inspiring educational leadership of Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, to develop a discourse of both critique and possibility. This has meant developing discourses and pedagogical practices that connect reading the word with reading the world and doing so in ways that enhance the capacities of young people as critical agents and engaged citizens. In taking up this project, Lewis and others have struggled to create the conditions that give students the opportunity to become critical and engaged citizens who have the knowledge and courage to struggle in order to make desolation and cynicism unconvincing and hope practical. Hope in this instance is educational, removed from the fantasy of idealism, unaware of the constraints facing the dream of a democratic society. Educated hope is not a call to overlook the difficult conditions that shape both schools and the larger social order. On the contrary, it is the precondition for providing those languages, values, relations of power and collective struggles that point the way to a more democratic and just world.
Educated hope provides the basis for dignifying the labor of teachers; it offers up critical knowledge linked to democratic social change; it affirms shared responsibilities; and it encourages teachers and students to recognize justice, equality and social responsibility as fundamental dimensions of learning.  Such hope offers the possibility of thinking beyond the given. As difficult as this task may seem to educators, if not to a larger public, it is a struggle worth waging.
It is important to note that democracy begins to fail and political life becomes impoverished in the absence of those vital public spheres such as public and higher education in which civic values, public scholarship and social engagement allow for a more imaginative grasp of a future that takes seriously the demands of justice, equity and civic courage.  Democracy should be a way of thinking about education, one that thrives on connecting equity to excellence, learning to ethics, and agency to the imperatives of social responsibility and the public good. 11. The right-wing governors, corporate-affiliated politicians, and the shameless hedge-fund managers and billionaires are waging a war in order to colonize public education and destroy the dignity of teachers, students and critical learning.  The Chicago teachers refuse to believe that the antidemocratic market-driven forces attacking American public schools are irreversible, part of a new common sense that is beyond critical inquiry and dissent. The three days of demonstrations hold a wider meaning for all Americans. Not only do they demonstrate that the future is still open, but that the time has come through a show of collective struggle and moral and political outrage that public education is crucial to invigorating and fortifying a new era of civic imagination, a renewed sense of social agency and an impassioned, collective political will. Public school teachers are one of the few remaining forces left in the land of corrupt bankers, hedge-fund managers and right-wing politicians who can imagine the promise of democracy and are willing to fight for it. The struggle being waged by the Chicago Public School teachers is part and parcel of a battle for the essence of education, if not democracy itself.

See, for example, David Harvey, The New Imperialism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Wendy Brown, Edgework  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); Henry A. Giroux, Against the Terror of Neoliberalism (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2008); Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford University Press, 2010).
Valerie Strauss, “Three Days of Marches in chicago to Protest School Closings,” The Washington Post (May 17, 2013).
Travis Waldron, “Why Is Chicago Devoting $125 Million To Build A Basketball Arena For A Private University?,” ThinkProgress (May 15, 2013).
See, for instance, on the rise of the racist punishing state, Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010); on the severe costs of massive inequality, Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality: How Today Divided Society Endangers Our Future (New York: Norton, 2012); on the turning of public schools into prisons, see Annette Fuentes, Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse (New York: Verso, 2011).
Peter Brogan, “What’s Behind the Attack on Teachers and Public Education?” Solidarity (September 14, 2012).  
Quoted in Michael L. Silk  and David L. Andrews. “(Re)Presenting Baltimore: Place, Policy, Politics, and Cultural Pedagogy.” Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies 33 (2011), p. 436.
Terry Eagleton, “Reappraisals: What is the worth of social democracy?” Harper’s Magazine, (October 2010), p. 78.  
Alex Honneth, Pathologies of Reason (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 188.
For an excellent analysis of contemporary forms of neoliberalism, Stuart Hall, “The Neo-Liberal Revolution,” Cultural Studies, Vol. 25, No. 6, (November 2011, pp. 705-728; see also Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism; Giroux, Against the Terror of Neoliberalism.
For examples of this tradition, see Maria Nikolakaki, ed. Critical Pedagogy in the Dark Ages: Challenges and Possibilities, (New York: Peter Lang, 2012); Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy (New York: Continuum, 2011).
See, Henry A. Giroux, The Education Deficit and the War on Youth (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013).

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Henry A. Giroux

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. His most recent books include: Youth in a Suspect Society (Palgrave, 2009); Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy (Paradigm, 2010); Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Paradigm, 2010); The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (co-authored with Grace Pollock, Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2011); Henry Giroux on Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011). His newest books:   Education and the Crisis of Public Values (Peter Lang) and Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm Publishers) will be published in 2012). Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His web site is

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Punishing Students For Not Making Eye Contact? How Charter Schools' Prejudiced Policies Undermine Equality

Punishing Students For Not Making Eye Contact? How Charter Schools' Prejudiced Policies Undermine Equality

Charter schools are failing children of color and students with disabilities even as their supporters advocate using civil rights rhetoric.
Photo Credit: Images
This article is the first of a two-part series examining who is being left behind in the wake of charter school proliferation and the complicated web of profiteering that is driving the movement. Part I details many of the ways in which charter schools fail poor children, children of color and students with disabilities even as charter school supportersappropriatecivil rights rhetoric. Part II will focus on the big business of charter schools.
On the heels of news that Philadelphia will be closing 23 schools for the 2013-2014 academic year, Chicago has made an even more startling announcement: Chicago Public Schools has proposed closing 54 schools for the next academic year. The idea is to replace them with charter schools, an initiative that Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has supported enthusiastically.
Enthusiasm for charter schools primarily comes from them being hailed as a panacea that could solve longstanding disparities in education quality, and possibly even turn around longstanding divides like racial disparity and economic inequality.
Without irony, the charter school movement has adopted the banner of the civil rights movement to create an aura of moral authority. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised pro-charter propaganda film Waiting for Superman for ushering in a “Rosa Parks moment.” And a Goldman Sachs banker famously called charter schools the “civil rights struggle of my generation.”
Ultimately, however, not only do charter schools fail children of color and students with disabilities, they often actively work against them as they try to transform students into what they imagine is the status quo. From outrageous fees to strict disciplinary codes, charter schools continuously work to target students they don't want.
Charter Schools Not a Clear Success Story
There is little evidence that charter schools are the silver bullet touted by supporters, let alone a beacon of racial empowerment. Though charter school research is new and fairly underdeveloped, the one large-scale study to date, a 2009 project conducted by Stanford’s conservative, pro-charter Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that a majority of charters do not outperform public schools, with more than a third actually doing worse.
Another study came out just last week helmed by the nonprofit Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, which works to address the ways social and economic inequality can affect education and academic performance. It studied the effects of school closure and charter school proliferation on three cities: Chicago, Washington DC and New York. It found that the triumphalism of the charter movement was entirely unfounded, and that the quality of education for the most vulnerable children became worse in the wake of closings and charter school growth.
How Charters Discriminate Against Disable Students
Beyond test scores as measures of achievement, there are other ways in which charter schools may be undermining equality of opportunity. Because they are, technically speaking, public entities that receive federal funding, charter schools are bound by all federal civil rights legislation prohibiting schools to discriminate on the basis of disability, race and/or socioeconomic status. State and local bodies that govern charters are tasked with guarding against discrimination.
But the truth is that charter schools may be discriminating. A June 2012 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that during the 2009-2010 academic year, about 11 percent of traditional public school students were identified as disabled. In charter schools, that number dropped to 8 percent. Plus, the study noted, “[The] proportion of charter schools that enrolled high percentages of students with disabilities was lower overall. Specifically, students with disabilities represented 8 to 12 percent of all students at 23 percent of charter schools compared to 34 percent of traditional public schools.”
The 2012 study suggests that there is not yet enough information to determine that this is happening because charter schools discriminate in a systematic way. Still, it details multiple anecdotal accounts that suggest a more systematic rooting out in the admissions process.  For example, it names P.B., et al v. Pastorek, a complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other advocacy organizations in 2010. According to the SPLC, “Students with disabilities were denied access to New Orleans public schools and often pushed into schools unable to provide them with the educational services they deserved under federal law.” The complaint cited “violations in more than 30 New Orleans schools -- including charter schools and schools operated by the state’s [post-Katrina] Recovery School District.”
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, which is also helping with the case, notes that, “[An] estimated 4,500 students with disabilities are denied equal access to educational opportunities, routinely pushed out of school, and subject to discrimination on the basis of their disabilities” every year. Since the Recovery School District began governing New Orleans education policy after Katrina, the Committee alleges, the city has failed to provide equal educational opportunities to disabled students, neglected the mandated “child find” policy to identify and serve disabled students, denied disabled students “a free appropriate education” and “unlawfully disciplined and excluded [disabled students] from educational programs.”
The changes since the crossover from traditional public schools were swift, but the complaint has been pending in federal court for more than two years now.
Though the GAO study encourages more systematic research, it does identify some causal factors that may be leading to discrimination. One is the reliance of charter schools on fundraising from private institutions. Charter school administrators told the GAO they simply did not have sufficient resources to provide the mandated disability services, particularly when it came to meeting the individual needs of students. Schools also noted that they were ill-equipped to serve students with the most severe cognitive disabilities.
The report concluded that, “[S]ome charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling and denying admission to students with more severe disabilities because services are too costly.” This is their excuse, but it bears repeating that this hasn’t been researched or verified. Further, charter schools have much more autonomy when it comes to the distribution of funds than other public schools. It’s not clear whether lack of funding is the real cause for discrimination—or simply unwillingness to enroll students with learning disabilities who may reduce a school’s average test scores.
How Charters Discriminate Based on Race and Class
In addition to complaints of disability discrimination, there is evidence that charter schools are doing a poor job of achieving racial equality or helping poor students. The new study by Broader, Bolder Approach to Education found that districts in the three cities that aggressively closed schools and opened charter schools to replace them increased race- and class-based achievement gaps, even as pro-charter reformers continued to cast themselves as contemporary civil rights activists.
This is perhaps nowhere more pronounced than in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), where African-American students comprise 41.6 percent of the student population, followed by Latino students at 44.1 percent and white students at 8.8 percent. CPS students are also overwhelmingly poor. Eighty-four percent of the district’s students – that’s 338,000 children – qualify for free and reduced lunch, so it’s difficult to untangle class and race here. The bottom line is that the system is not succeeding by any civil rights-era ideals.
Gary Moriello, who retired from CPS in 2007, worked as an educator for 37 years, first as a teacher and then as an elementary school principal. He tells AlterNet, “Charter schools tend to siphon off the children they want from traditional public schools.” And it’s clear who they don’t want, he says: “Special-education students, English-as-a-second-language students, students with various behavioral issues. It makes their jobs easier.”
CTU researcher Sarah Hainds says Chicago charter schools have built-in disciplinary systems that facilitate discrimination against poor children. Charter schools in Chicago follow strict codes of conduct similar to military school styles of discipline. Hainds says this is a frequently cited draw for many parents who are nervous about gang fights and shootings in their neighborhood schools.
In Chicago charter schools, strict disciplinary codes are one way charter schools can target and remove students they don’t want. In 2012, three public education advocacy organizations, Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) and the Advancement Project, teamed up to research and report on the effects of the demerits system. One of the most egregious groups, a charter authorization organization called Noble, earned $200,000 a year in net profits simply from enforcing its severe discipline code, in which each minor infraction costs $5.
Noble requires that children sit up straight and maintain eye contact with the teacher when addressed. Briefly averting eyes? That’s a demerit. Students can earn demerits for speaking faltering English or speaking in black or Southern dialect, as they are required to “articulate in standard English” at all times. New English learners are not exempt from this policy. The study found that families were being charged for “any infraction on a list of prohibited conduct…that pretty much describes the full gamut of teenage behavior including such minor issues as having a shirt button unbuttoned or being seen with a bag of chips or sharpie.” Twelve demerits means children must take a discipline class that costs an extra $140. At more than 12 infractions? That’s two discipline courses at $280. Noble’s schools “will not waive these fees, even for low-income families, and about 90 percent of Noble students are low-income.”
Hainds says, “Some children’s families can’t afford to pay for the demerits, and they get kicked out of the charter schools. When fees reach $280 or so, that’s just too much for many families.” Rules are so strict that it’s nearly impossible to avoid demerits, and the demerit system has become a way of rooting out the poorest students.
Plus, the rigid disciplinary system gives new meaning to the phrase, “school-to-prison pipeline.” Chicago Public School parent Mikki Kendall, whose eighth-grade son currently attends a Hyde Park school marked for closure, tells AlterNet she would sooner homeschool than send her child to a charter school. She notes that the extreme military-style discipline fosters a system in which “children are treated like criminals.” Indeed, the dangers of what Kendall aptly calls the “militarization of the ‘hood,” including the policing of inner city schools,are well-documented as bad for children. Yet the harsh discipline goes unchecked.
Some of the marginalization may even happen by default. Both Hainds and Kendall point out that children who attend the charters already have some advantages over many of their peers. Hainds explains:
They are kids whose parents went online, filled out the application, completed all the steps of the application process and made all the formal agreements to enroll their children. A child with a single mother who works multiple jobs to care for multiple children—that is not the child walking in the door of a charter school.
And even though decades of U.S. educational history have borne out the truism that separate cannot be equal, Department of Education data shows that charter schools have some of the most race- and class-based segregation in the country.
Charter Schools Take Schools from Parents and Children
In addition to the ways in which charter schools fail vulnerable children who enroll or try to enroll in them, their very existence almost always comes at a cost to existing traditional schools and the students who attend them. School closings are one manifestation of this cost that policymakers rarely discuss. Hainds tells AlterNet that Chicago’s community schools have deep roots in the often tight-knit communities they serve: "At school closing hearings, people constantly say that it’s as if CPS is erasing their history. There are schools where three generations of family members have attended. There’s a ton of pride, even if a school has low test scores and discipline issues, it’s still the center of their community. CPS has closed schools that are named after important African Americans—again, it’s like CPS is erasing history."
Then there is the psychological impact of being uprooted. Hainds notes that students “feel that CPS has given up on them—that instead of helping their schools, CPS just shuffles them somewhere else.” While CPS is promising to do better for next year, it misplaced and failed to assign at least 250 students to new schools last year. Hainds adds, “CPS even acknowledges that it can’t force parents to send their kids to the designated schools, which actually means that it does not know where all 30,000 kids will enroll next year.” She notes that this upheaval has historically caused a decline in academic performance.
Safety is also an important issue. Kendall explains that many students attend her son’s Hyde Park school because their own neighborhoods are unsafe. Many schools that will serve as alternatives are located in less safe neighborhoods. Neighborhood children, meanwhile, may be asked to walk an additional eight blocks to school through or to areas that put them at greater risk. Hainds shares these concerns, noting that many schools are located in areas with heavy gang area, and “surrounded by foreclosed homes, busy streets [and] viaducts.” She says security will be heightened, but says this is no solution because it only “criminalizes the children.”
On top of everything else, closing and charter proliferation can disempower parents. First, Hainds notes, longer walking distances may prevent many parents from being more involved in their children’s education simply because they have neither a car nor a bus route that goes the distance.
Kendall notes that parents are finding it very difficult to access reliable information about the school closings. Sometimes they are told that registration is too low, sometimes that their schools are under-performing. Privatization via charter schools means that schools are less accountable to the public, including parents. She points out that parents have little recourse to combat disciplinary overreach, which further marginalizes parents.
Ultimately, Kendall fears, school closings, displacement and charter proliferation are creating a “lost generation of kids.” She says, “I can get my kids through with homeschooling if I have to,” but asks, “What happens to kids who don’t have parents with the education or resources to do this?” For people who appropriate civil rights rhetoric with such abandon, corporate school reformers in Chicago appear almost shockingly unconcerned with this question.
Helen Gym, a parent, activist and former teacher—now with Parents United for Public Education and online education resource the Notebook—tells AlterNet:
I see schools as an intrinsic part of communities, particularly marginalized communities, where people are fighting to make voices heard. We have to realize this is not about education. It’s about recognizing that our public schools are the largest, most stable, and most passionate defenders of equity, access, and aspirational hope in this country. In every other sector of this nation, those things are under attack. This is about the evolution of our country, and it is inextricably linked to issues of race, class politics, equity and justice—all longtime, core struggles for people. If we understand that, it makes the path forward a little clearer…There has been incredible pushback in Philadelphia. No matter what happens, the record will show that there were many people who united and stood against the closings. It’s not just about how politicians vote — it’s about who we are as communities and a society, and who showed up when we needed to fight.
So if evidence increasingly mounts showing that school closings and charter proliferation, the question becomes, “Why do we keep closing schools and building new charters in the first place?” The short answer: Profit.
It’s clear that parent advocates like Kendall and Gym, public intellectuals like Ravitch and many more will continue fighting to stop the march toward endless school closure and mass charter school proliferation. But the grassroots movements fighting these trends are in for quite the battle, especially when it comes to wealth and government influence — things their opponents have in abundance.
Kristin Rawls is a freelance writer whose work has also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, GOOD Magazine, Religion Dispatches, Killing the Buddha, Global Comment and elsewhere online.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Remembering Chicago's great school boycott of 1963

Mayor Emanuel wants you to believe he's closing schools, firing teachers, jacking up class sizes, and farming out schools to his charter cronies for the sake of kids held hostage by "the status quo." Though as you can see, screwing over kids has always been the status quo in Chicago.
Though as you can see, screwing over kids has always been the status quo in Chicago.

At least Mayor Richard J. Daley didn't try too hard to pretend that the Willis Wagons were in the best interests of children. Everyone knew he was aiming to appease white voters terrified or enraged by the thought of integration.
In contrast, Mayor Emanuel wants you to believe he's closing schools, firing teachers, jacking up class sizes, and farming out schools to his charter cronies for the sake of kids held hostage by "the status quo."
Though as you can see, screwing over kids has always been the status quo in Chicago.

Posted by on 05.20.13 at 03:27 PM

63 Boycott

  • '63 Boycott
The city's all-powerful mayor was ignoring their pleas, so the public students of Chicago felt they had no choice but to walk out of school and march in protest. That could be a headline ripped from today's pages, as students join parents and teachers to protest Mayor Emanuel's decision to close 54 public schools.
But in this case the protesting students were teenagers from 1963, and the mayor was Richard J. Daley.
They were protesting the segregation policy of cramming hundreds of students from city's then-burgeoning black population into rickety trailers rather than putting them in white schools with plenty of room.
Most of the protests were directed at school superintendent Benjamin Willis—the trailers were nicknamed Willis Wagons—but the power behind Willis was the first Mayor Daley.
In that regard nothing except the name has changed in 50 years. Today's CPS officials and board members are rubber stamps for Mayor Emanuel.
At least Mayor Richard J. Daley didn't try too hard to pretend that the Willis Wagons were in the best interests of children. Everyone knew he was aiming to appease white voters terrified or enraged by the thought of integration.
In contrast, Mayor Emanuel wants you to believe he's closing schools, firing teachers, jacking up class sizes, and farming out schools to his charter cronies for the sake of kids held hostage by "the status quo."
Though as you can see, screwing over kids has always been the status quo in Chicago.
In any event, the protests of 1963 have been on my mind since I've been chatting with Gordon Quinn, one of Chicago's great documentary filmmakers.
Back in 1963, Quinn was a 21-year-old junior at the University of Chicago who thought it might be fun and fruitful to follow the student marchers as they made their way out of school and into the Loop.
"There'd been a series of marches against Willis and his policies for several weeks," Quinn recalls. "But the organizers let us know that the one on October 22 was going to be a massive boycott, and we didn't want to miss it."
So along with two filmmaking buddies—Mike Shea and Jerry Temaner—Quinn filmed the demonstrations.
"We followed the kids as they marched into the Loop," says Quinn. "I was in this old Volkswagen bus—an old hippie bus. There were thousands of demonstrators. It was a great day."
For last few months Quinn and some of his colleagues at Kartemquin Films—Rachel Dickson, John Fecile, Matt Lauterbach, and Zak Piper—have been going through hours of footage from that day. They've also interviewed two leaders of the protest, Don Rose and Robert Lucas. (Unfortunately, they have no interviews with the late Al Raby, a teacher and civil rights activist who was one of the key organizers.)
Now Quinn wants the kids of '63—well into their 60s—to step out of the past and be interviewed. "The boycott is one of the great civil rights struggles in Chicago," says Quinn. "But it's never really got the attention it deserves."
So here's the deal, everybody . . .
Check out Quinn's website,
There are hundreds of pictures of boycotters—some as young as 12 or 13. If you see someone you know, or see yourself, or don't see yourself but know you were there, you can share your story, upload photos, and/or e-mail or call to let Quinn know you'd like to be interviewed.
It's a worthwhile project for reasons other than nostalgia. Today's students should know they're part of a long tradition of protest.
If we keep at it long enough, something good may happen.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

First baby born into National Children's Study in St. Louis

Data Command Force

Susan Ohanian
First baby born into National Children's Study in St. Louis

NOTE: As happens with the Internet, some of the links no longer work, but the article is still informative.

by Missouri Education Watchdog

Question: Is a Version of the P20 Pipeline Already Being Used in St. Louis?

We've written previously about the educational data sets ready to be implemented for students to supply the workforce and reported in Pajamas Media. Data is set to be gathered via a P20 Pipeline on your student for information on blood tests, eye and hair color, gestational age at birth, voting status, non-school activity information and other interesting information. Your student will be tracked from preschool through age 20 and into the workforce. The data prepared is quite extensive and there are 351 data sets listed in the Education Data Model.

Why wait for a child to enroll in school to gather information? Selected pregnant women in the St. Louis City, Jefferson County, and Macoupin County, Illinois areas could be part of a national children's study for their children from birth through age 21. This is a story from Fox 2 in St. Louis detailing the collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and major medical universities.

What is the stated purpose of this study? By following children from the moment of birth until they turn 21, researchers hope to find out what role the environment plays in how children mature and grow. But environment is more than air and water; it also includes family, neighborhood, income, school, and race, among many other factors. By monitoring their environments, and running periodic blood and genetic tests, researchers want to answer hundreds of questions about children. (Emphasis added)

Does this information from a study about children from birth to age 21 either voluntarily or through school records bother you? Do you want the government and school to know details about your family, income and genetic information? We know what the purpose of the educational data system is from the Illinois Data System Warehouse Document.
It is to provide the workforce:

The term workforce is defined as consisting of the workers engaged in a specific activity, business or industry or the number of workers who are available to be assigned to any purpose as in a nation’s workforce.

The public workforce system is a network of federal, state, and local offices that function to support economic expansion and facilitate the development United States workforce. The system is designed to create partnership with employers, educators, and community leaders in order to foster economic development and high-growth opportunities in regional economies so that businesses find qualified workers to meet their present and future workforce needs.

This educational data is to be shared with the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. Where is the information from the pregnant women study being shared? From the National Children's Study website:

The National Children's Study is led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in collaboration with a consortium of federal government partners. Study partners include the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIHM, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Here is some of the information they will gather on children in this study. (For a more detailed report you can access the 76 page brochure here). It seems as if it will indeed ask and answer hundreds of questions about children. Combined with the data sets from the schools, it appears there isn't much varying Federal agencies (over 40 Federal entities in the Children's study alone) won't know about your family or your child. Do you believe this is a positive development? Why do all these federal agencies need to garner information on families and individuals? Is this the role of government?

Whether you think it is a valid role or not, the government is already studying its first baby in the region. Here is an article about the first St. Louis infant born into the National Children's Study.

A version of the P20 pipeline has arrived in St. Louis with a week old infant.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Common Core Test

Test Your Common Core Savvy

The “Common Core” standards are now being imposed on schools around the country. This regimen is the latest phase of the corporate assault on public education, orchestrated by multibillionaires like Bill Gates, imposed by the Obama White House and carried out by a handful of “educational” monopolies (Pearson, McGraw Hill, College Board). On April 6, Class Struggle Education Workers in New York held a workshop in New York City on “Common Core: Privatization and Regimentation of Public Education.” The lead speaker, Charles Brover, gave a “test" illustrating what the Common Core is all about. The test was inspired by and adapted from “Test Your Public Ed Savvy,” by Susan Ohanian and Stephen Krashen, The Progressive (magazine), January 26, 2013.* Take the test below, click on the answers (with explanatory notes) and raise your Common Core Savvy.


Multiple-choice test. Choose an answer and click on it.
  1. According to the Common Core mission statement, with implementation of the Standards “our communities will be best positioned”
    1. to provide greater educational equity.
    2. to provide greater educational access.
    3. to compete successfully in the global economy.
    4. to expand and activate civic participation.
    5. to enhance students’ intellectual development.
  2. Common Core Standards were developed because
    1. parents worry that U.S. children score far below other countries on international tests.
    2. teachers lack the skills to craft adequate curriculum and wanted help.
    3. state departments of education asked for them.
    4. of grass-roots concern that children need special tools to compete in the Global Economy.
    5. the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation paid for them.
  3. Who said, “people don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.”
    1. Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy
    2. Donald Trump, real estate mogul, TV star
    3. Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City
    4. Don Rickles, insult comedian
    5. David Coleman, architect of the Common Core Standards
  4. What makes Common Core Standards different from all other educational standards?
    1. All other standards fail to provide guidance for teachers and curriculum developers.
    2. All other standards are a hodge-podge without evidence-based assessment.
    3. All other standards lack sufficient academic rigor.
    4. All other standards are not enforced by a national testing regime.
    5. All other standards overvalue non-informational texts.
  5. U.S. international test scores aren't at the top of the world because
    1. we lack common standards and valid tests.
    2. many teachers are not doing their job.
    3. nearly 25% of American children live in poverty.
    4. American children are not interested in hard study.
    5. parents don't take an interest in children's education.
  6. The new online feature of Common Core testing
    1. will reduce administration costs.
    2. will streamline student evaluation.
    3. offers new opportunities for creativity.
    4. will lead to more individualized learning.
    5. means students will be tested many more times each year.
  7. After taking the most recent New York State tests aligned to the Common Core Standards, an upstate 8th grader, Sophia, created her own test with items based on her letter, titled, “Dear New York State:” In her letter she writes:
    1. Thank you so much for the state test. How else could I know how I am doing in school? This multiple choice test really gives me a chance to exhibit deep learning and critical thinking.
    2. When I take a state test, I feel I am at my best. I am so focused. I welcome the pressure and stress; so do my teachers and family. Some additional neuro-enhancing drugs can also help.
    3. When I take a state test, I am not myself. I feel as if I need to do everything the way the state thinks it should be. There is only one way to do these tests: your way.
    4. When I take a state test, I feel really confident and happy because I know that there is always one right answer to every question. In this crazy, mixed up world, it’s good to know that someone is in charge. I love your state!
    5. We need tougher standards, and a better way to excel on the tests based on them. When I take a state test, I always think that my teacher didn’t prepare me for this or that question. You can’t trust teachers or schools. Let’s have the test-makers educate us directly. BTW I own a computer and a smart phone. This can work!
  8. Who said Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans. That education system was a disaster."
    1. Rush Limbaugh
    2. Pat Robertson
    3. Editor at The Onion
    4. Bill O'Reilly
    5. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
  9. While extolling the benefits of standardized testing, Obama and the billionaire reformers send their own children to private schools not dominated by testing because
    1. they don’t really like their own children and only want what’s best for others.
    2. they are not interested in knowing about the intellectual development of their children.
    3. they don’t care about the effectiveness of their children’s teachers.
    4. they think the tests will detract from the excellence of their children’s education.
    5. at these prices, they don’t need tests to know the schools are damn good.
  10. “Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation” This is a Common Core Mathematics Standard for grade:
    1. K
    2. 1
    3. 2
    4. 3
    5. 4
  11. When Kentucky tried to pilot a Common Core aligned curriculum, proficiency rates
    1. went up 5%
    2. went down 30%
    3. went down 10%
    4. went up 10%
    5. stayed about the same
  12. What is the most likely effect of the Common Core Standards on student achievement?
    1. U.S. students will outperform students in Finland and Singapore on international math tests.
    2. The racial achievement gap will be narrowed, finally.
    3. No effect other than massive cheating, increased tears, family stress, and perhaps with regard to the math tests, some prayer in public schools.
    4. Students will achieve competitive advantage in the global marketplace.
    5. More students will be college and career ready.
  13. Who among the following educators does NOT support the Common Core Standards?
    1. Linda Darling Hammond
    2. Howard Gardner
    3. Jeffrey Wilhelm
    4. E.D. Hirsch
    5. Randi Weingarten
  14. Children who live in poverty in the U.S.
    1. are protected by a comprehensive social welfare safety net.
    2. need a very structured curriculum.
    3. are more likely to attend a school with poorly supported libraries than are middle-class children.
    4. have the same chance for school success as other students-if their parents support education.
    5. need vouchers to attend better schools
  15. A notable feature of education in Finland, the country scoring highest on international tests, is:
    1. universal pre-school emphasizes an early start in skill development.
    2. children in grade school have a play break every 45 minutes.
    3. a system of annual national standardized tests informs teachers of every child's skill attainment.
    4. there are no teacher unions to cripple reform.
    5. corporate leaders have taken a leadership role in school policy.

  1. C is correct. The final sentence of the mission statement of the Common Core Standards: “With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”

    Answers A, B, C and D are important purposes of education, but the Common Core initiative represents a chauvinist, competitive distortion of those purposes. For an even scarier, openly militaristic justification of support to the Common Core, see U.S. Education Reform and National Security (2012) by Murdoch exec and former NYC corporate educational reform raider, Joel Klein and “mushroom cloud” imperialist war monger, Condoleezza Rice (not such an odd couple, after all). Along with the Common Core Standards and testing, they also propose a periodic “National Security Audit” because public schools “constitute a very grave national security threat facing this nation.” It is not a giant step from thinking about our children as “human capital” (rather than human beings) and widgets to thinking about them as human drones.
  2. E is correct. See “Is the Gates Foundation Involved in bribery,” July 23, 2010.

    The Gates Foundation gave more than a hundred million dollars to the Council of Chief School Officers and the National Governors association (“JoLLE Forum — Rotten to the (Common) Core,” Nov. 1, 2012) — the two main organizations charged with drafting and promoting the Common Core. The Common Core Initiative is a key part of the “reformers’” market-based strategy to denigrate and close public schools, bust and marginalize unions and make way for charters, vouchers and privatization. Answer B is a false claim given as another rationale for the Common Core. “Reformers” undermine the professional expertise of teachers, particularly career teachers who have devoted their lives to the profession. The “reformers” instead idolize the Teach for America model where Ivy League hotshots teach for a couple years, enhance their resumés, and then go off to their real jobs, often — as in the case TFA graduate Michelle Rhee — to the lucrative education reform business. Answers A, C, and D are also untrue
  3. E is correct. David Coleman in a speech to New York State educators in Albany, April 2011 disparaging personal writing.

    He went on to say, “It is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood’.” If we subject this statement to the “close reading” Coleman favors, we may notice his use of the word, “people.” The “people” who “don’t give a shit” turn out to be our bosses, and education is understood as making “Johnson” a useful, compliant worker. If we extend the critique beyond a close reading, we may want to ask about David Coleman’s problem with his childhood. Answers A, B, C and D are wrong although any of these figures could have said it on another occasion.
  4. D is correct. – (This is our Passover question.) It is all about the testing. The tests will be used for everything—to determine outcomes for students, funding for schools and districts, and to be a big part of teacher evaluation determining pay. Educators who try to divorce the Common Core Standards’ lofty language of pedagogical “practices” from the brute facts of the standardized testing are fooling themselves and/or others. CCS promoters say the standards direct “the what” but not “the how” of teaching. But the detailed descriptions of the CCS and the testing requirement for “coverage” imply a shallow curriculum and teacher-centered, direct instruction.

    Answers A, B, and C are wrong because there have been many standards documents that have engaged educators as aspirational guides to what students should be able to know and do. Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (1989, 2000) of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is a good example. It offers lots of guidance for instruction and formative assessments, but no associated standardized tests. (Sadly the NCTM along with most mainstream educational organizations is now drinking the Common Core Kool-Aid.) Answer E is wrong because teachers always try to balance and blend genres; the CCS impulse to teacher-proofing results in a pointless ratio of fictional to informational text.
  5. C is correct – See “Measuring Child Poverty,” UNICEF, May 2012.

    With increasing child poverty, soaring inequality and more visible downward mobility, educational “reformers” blame public schools, teachers and their unions, parents, anything and everything but the social and economic conditions that devastate the learning opportunities of so many of our school children. Even to mention such reality-based factors exposes the critic to charges of engaging in “the soft-core bigotry of low expectations.” When you disaggregate the data on international tests such as PISA, U.S. middle class students who attend well-funded schools achieve high scores on international tests, among the highest in the world. “PISA 2009 Reading Test Results: The US does quite well, controlling for SES. And maybe American scores are ‘just right.’

    Answers B, D, and E are wrong because they are untrue, and A is a non-sequitur.
  6. E is correct. See “Common Core Assessments.” See also “How Much Testing” by Stephen Krashen, 25 July 2012.

    Online testing will also contribute to the spiraling costs that school districts cannot afford. See “Federal Mandates on Local Education: Costs and Consequences – Yes, it’s a Race, but is it in the Right Direction?” It is, however, a profitable dream come true for test makers and publishers who can now address a single national market mandated to test and test again.
  7. C is correct. See Sophia’s excellent letter and test. In the same reading passage Sophia quotes Einstein’s reprove that if you “judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Sophia’s letter expresses how these tests represent a powerful authoritarian reading lesson, a frontal attack on children’s creativity and identities as learners. Answers A and B are untrue, D is insane, and E may be the right answer for Pearson Vue publishers, but 8th graders know better.
  8. E is correct. “Duncan: ‘Katrina was the best thing for New Orleans school system,’” Jan. 29, 2010. Answers A, B and D are wrong, but any of these figures could have said it, and doubtless “reformers” of every stripe cheered on the racist dismantling of the New Orleans school system. C might have said it as a parody of A, B, and D, but it was actually said by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Despite heralding the New Orleans catastrophe as an “opportunity” to usher in wholesale market-based approaches, New Orleans remains among the lowest performing districts in the low-performing state of Louisiana. Its charter schools have such a high rate of exclusion, the system has been sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  9. D is correct. Of course, we don’t really know what’s in their heads, but Obama sends his children to Sidwell Friends; Rahm Emanuel sends his to the Dewey-inspired Lab School that is explicitly opposed to these tests. While “reformer” politicians balk at “throwing money” at the public schools, they have no trouble throwing money in the direction of their own kids. They also claim (in face of robust evidence to the contrary) that class size doesn’t matter. Sidwell Friends costs about $32,000 per year. And the NYC private schools cost even more. Corporate school reformers and for-profit entrepreneurs Benno Schmidt and Chris Whittle, for instance, run the Avenues school in Chelsea. Teacher student ratio: 9 : 1. Cost $43,000 a year (New York Times, 10 July 2011). As part of education austerity and teacher speed-up, the Gates Foundation suggests stuffing even more students into public school classrooms. Answers A, B and C are probably not true, and answer E, well…
  10. A is correct. While it is possible to develop an appropriate lesson from this K standard, it is precisely its inappropriate formal character that is most likely to find its way into the kindergarten classroom—administratively imposed because of the Standards testing regime. Answers B, C, D, and E are wrong, but lessons based on this standard—particularly the formal representation of equalities—could also be suitable as lessons for students in grades beyond kindergarten. Good teachers will find ways to work around the CCS.
  11. B is correct. See For those who believe in the “vast right wing conspiracy,” it makes one wonder if the high failure rate presumed by Common Core promoters isn’t designed to further malign the public schools and marginalize teachers unions. The reformers have been disappointed by the reluctance of middle-class, suburban parents to chuck in their public schools in favor of the reformers’ voucher and charter privatization schemes. Maybe reformers believe that if a bunch of their kids start failing, the parents will come around.
  12. C is correct. Recent research by the Brookings Institute studied the effects of the state standards on student achievement and found no effect except for a slight increase in 4th grade. See The 2012 Brown Center Report: How Well Are American Students Learning? The research report concluded: “The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.” Answers A, B, and D are untrue. E is the continuation of the false promise made for NCLB under which the achievement gap widened. The CCS is likely to do the same.
  13. B is correct. Howard Gardner is a signer of the “Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative” expressing “grave concern” about the effects of the Standards on young children, pleading for a suspension of the Standards for K – 3. Statement issued by the Alliance for Childhood, March 2, 2010. Answers A and C are untrue and indicate the extent to which liberal educators have bought the propaganda of the CCS when it comes to advancing careers and selling materials. D is wrong and to be expected of the godfather of such projects. E is wrong and dangerous because it opens up teachers’ unions to union-bashing when the CCS goes the way of NCLB but worse. Wedded as they are to the Democratic Party, neither the AFT or NEA bureaucracies are in a position to stand up to the educational “reform” policies of Obama and Duncan. Race to the Top and the CCS are a continuation and intensification of Bush-era NCLB.
  14. C is correct. See Di Loreto, C., and Tse, L. 1999. “Seeing is believing: Disparity in books in two Los Angeles area public libraries”. School Library Quarterly 17(3): 31-36; Duke, N. 2000. For the rich it’s richer: “Print experiences and environments offered to children in very low and very high-socioeconomic status first-grade classrooms”. American Educational Research Journal 37(2): 441-478; Neuman, S.B. and Celano, D. 2001. “Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: An ecological study of four neighborhoods”. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 1, 8-26. Answers A, B, D, and E are untrue.
  15. B is correct. See “Finland Schools Flourish in Freedom and Flexibility,” The Guardian [London], 5 December 2010. Answers A, C, D and E are incorrect. “Reformers” point to high performing school systems in other countries to bash U.S. public schools, unions and teachers but fail to mention that Finnish schools, for instance, are fully public and unionized; they pay teachers better and provide more professional autonomy and development; they do not torture children with continuous standardized tests, and they do not turn over their educational system to corporate market-based “reformers.”
Score analysis:
  • 14 – 15 correct: You already know too much about this subject and are probably some kind of troublemaker. (Call us.)
  • 9 - 13 correct: You have not spent too much time reading about the Common Core Standards that won’t affect student achievement in any case.
  • 0 - 8 correct: Needs improvement. Perhaps some “value added” evaluation is in order.
*Questions 2, 5, 6, 8, 14, and 15 were taken from Ohanian and Krashen. The rest is of this test was created by the Class Struggle Education Workers (CSEW).

The CSEW is a New York City-based group of teachers, educators and unionists committed to a Marxist understanding and active, working-class defense of public education internationally. Because capitalism generates poverty, inequality, and racism, we believe that educational issues must be faced as part of a wider struggle for the emancipation of the working class and the oppressed by building a class-struggle workers party to fight for a workers government. You can contact us at, or to comment on our test, write some new test items (please norm these with a cohort of radical teachers), or argue with us about our answers. (We have been known to change grades.)