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In Part 1, I detailed why this moment in history is one filled with hope and promise.  Now I turn to why it is a time of Challenge.

My family just finished a semester in Spanish schools.  As I mentioned in Part 1, in Spain, teachers, students and many others across the country have been protesting school funding cuts on a weekly basis.  This symbol can be found on t-shirts, signs, posters:

¨No to the cuts to schools and healthcare.  No to the cuts to labor rights¨ 

When school let out, we took our family traveling across Spain and neighboring France (where my mother grew up from 1933-1939 as she escaped the Nazis).  During the trip in France, we saw many signs about the French resistance to the Nazi occupation during WW II.  My children asked about the resistance and I told them of Simone de Beauvoir’s writings published after the war.  At the end of World War II, the French Resistance celebrated the end of the brutal Nazi occupation, but as the war lifted they awoke to a startlingly inhumane world.  Slowly the details of the holocaust became apparent and movement activists (and the rest of the world) became conscious of the size and scale of the 12 million people murdered in concentration camps. They became aware of the details of human suffering after the U.S. dropped two nuclear bombs in Japan on an entirely civilian population. They had to digest the vicious truths about Stalinism abusing the utopian communist dream.  And in this nightmare they began to rebuild a devastated Europe. Despite the devastation, it was a time of hope because the Nazis were gone.  Looking back today, we can see how Europe has rebuilt and we know that during the 1960s the movements blossomed in Europe as they did in the US with significant victories for women, African-Americans, and gays and lesbians.

Today, in the U.S., we are waking up to a different reality.

After seeing much progress in human rights from the 1950s to the early ‘80s, there have been a series of setbacks over the last 30 years.  For a moment we felt a bit of hope with the election of Barack Obama, the country’s first community organizer and person of color to become president.  Though we failed to see much change, we found a new inspiration with the Occupy movement—a symbol of the awakening in this country, and a similar “spring” or awakening throughout the world.  We are waking up to on-line for-profit charter school companies grabbing thousands of dollars off every school child they can get their hands on [see Kids mean money at Education Week].  We witness corporations driving their oil pipelines through the center of the country and see “corporatism” destroying our environment and this drive for oil shift government dollars from schools to wars for oil in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and to huge military aid to the Egyptian military and other anti-democratic regimes throughout the Middle East.   We are awakening to the reality that a U.S. president (and our democracy and economy and educational system) is not much more than a pawn in a game being ruled by profit-seeking lobbyists and the most self-focused of the super wealthy donors who cannot feel beyond their own limited world and self-interests. 

As the French resistance awoke to a world of violence, we are waking up to corporate interests dominating most of our public spaces.  We are waking up to the wealthiest capitalists like the Koch brothers and Bill Gates funding and mainstreaming ideas that replicate their vision of reality --  a vision that is anti-union and anti-working people.  Like Microsoft’s attempts to dominate the software world, Gates seeks to see his (very limited) visions dominate the education world.   We are waking up to an America with a huge tolerance for inequality.  We are waking up to a form of capitalism that, like a disease, is taking over our electoral process with unlimited, anonymous donations and privatizing every inch of the public sector that they can get their hands on.

The scale of this “right-wing”, what some call “neoliberal,” attack is becoming clearer. 

This is the most difficult time in public education’s history since before Brown v. Board of Education.  Although the Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools, today schools are highly segregated.  Income inequality and school funding inequality are reaching an all-time high. Testing mania is at an all-time high. Teacher bashing in the U.S. is at an all-time high—oddly influenced by so-called corporate “reformers” because any business knows you can’t succeed by bashing your work force.   The consistent derogatory talk of blaming teachers is making the field very unattractive for people enter.  All of the highest performing countries know that the one of the major secrets to their success is making the field attractive to the most committed and the brightest.

The U.S. is slipping further and further behind the rest of the developed and developing world in terms of educational opportunities and outcomes.

The U.S. education system and the movement for public education is simultaneously the cutting edge of the right-wing attack on the public sector and the greatest potential for hope for working people and people of color.  Students have always been at the forefront of social movements from the SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) lunch counter sit-ins to Paris in the 60’s to Soweto in South Africa.  The movement for public education has the opportunity to become the cutting edge of our future movements.

Read about that potential in Part 3, Where do we go from here: The State of Public Education, The State of Movements for Human Rights.  In the meantime, please add your perspective on the challenges today and comment below.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Most liberals dont like to talk about ed deform... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello

    ... because it is a right wing thing that has been put on steroids by Obama. Very embarrassing. Or you get limousine liberals making movies like "Waiting for Superman," playing right into the neoliberal scheme. (Talk about Inconvenient Truth!) You get a daily dose of propagandizing for these deforms (See: teacher/teacher union bashing) by the corporate media, which reached a year long crescendo when Race to the Top was in the running (2009 - 2010)

    One network, NBC/MSNBC, went the extra mile, with its week long special, "Education Nation," basically acting as political advertisers, shaping a carefully crafted campaign for these deforms. They pulled out all the stops. They did this two years in a row, guest after guest singing the same song, from both "sides" of the pundit/pol aisle.

    "They" (corporatocracy w/ both sides of the aisle) won. 34 states changed their laws for the worse, due to that thrilling ride inside that cash adorned Trojan Horse called Race to the Top (of neoliberalism!)

    Curiously, while this big push was manifesting on MSNBC, the "liberal" heroes of that very same entity, who have hour long shows nightly (Keith included, who was there at that time), acted all "there's nothing to see here... move along!", ie, they totally ignored the big happening, the issue, what everyone else on their network/corporation was shouting from the rooftops.

     That speaks volumes. They wouldnt speak out FOR it, so they didnt speak at all. (Maybe taking a leaf out of the Mitt Book: That's not for public airing! Take it to a private place!) Yet Rachel will go full bore, long segments, night after night, on far less societally impacting tributaries of interest, like C Street, for example. Go figger.  Hey, if Keith/Ed/Rachel werent well informed enough to even begin to tap this topic (lol), how about inviting on Matt Damon or Jon Stewart? They are among the few who get a voice in the media who have spoken out strongly against these deforms. Entertainers!

    The reality is that the education "reform" movement is a highly activated appendage of the corporate control/neoliberal blob that is consuming our unions, our democracy. It is connected, deep tissue, to the economic decimation of the middle class, the privatization and oligarchical overtaking of our country. The fact that the liberal champions of corporate media dont dare touch it shows just how much heavy investment is behind it, with both "sides" of the aisle wholly on board.  

    Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a lame party, or should it drive a lame party to break out? If it cant, should it break out?

    by NYCee on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 07:30:10 AM PDT

    •  Thanks NYCee (0+ / 0-)

      you are absolutely right that the problem lies on both sides of the aisle.  i would like to hear your ideas on how to break out of the corporate domination.

      as a country we have broken out and made advances in civil rights, in women's rights, labor rights and in LGBT rights.  i am confident we can break out of this 1% domination of the 99%.  i suggest some ideas in my next post about, "Where do we go from here."  i will post it this week.

      i look forward to hearing your ideas.

      -Greg

  •  Given that I am the first and only comment... (0+ / 0-)

    On a diary up for 2 hours kind of makes my point, I think.

    Thanks for the effort! Keep on keeping on. Yours is an extremely worthy endeavor, no matter the lack of interest - all the more worthy because of that.

    Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a lame party, or should it drive a lame party to break out? If it cant, should it break out?

    by NYCee on Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 07:33:09 AM PDT

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