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(This article was co-authored by Diana Zavala, a parent with a 9 year old child in New York City Public Schools who works with Change the Stakes and Geminijen, a member of the Anti-Capitalist Meet-up Collective who also taught in the New York City Public Schools).

In Aldous Huxley's sci-fi classic, Brave New World, Huxley explores a dystopian world where the government, for the good of the society, programs citizens to conform to its norms through "repetitive learning" techniques and  ‘soma’, a mind-altering drug, that makes humans compliant with its highly stratified, unquestioning consumer society run by a few elites or "alphas."  If a person either cannot or is unwilling to be programmed, they are cast out of the rational "civilized" society into an area saved for "savages" where the messy human emotional traits of people's suffering and desiring and dissenting are relegated.
This conforms to Marx's concept that a society's educational system is designed to reinforce the dominant economic culture, which in the current capitalist mode of production views people as inanimate commodities whose only usefulness is to promote increased profit for the corporate elite.

Obama’s “Race to the Top” model of educational reform (RTT) is an eerily good fit with both Huxley’s and Marx’s concepts. In response to globalization, Obama’s RTT, in line with the 1999 World Bank education reform model, is replacing public schools with privately run but publicly funded schools where a few students are being educated to become the corporate elites leaving the rest to be minimally educated as the blind consumers and maintainers of the system.

Obama's approach recommends the development of a limited number of charter schools run by private corporations and institutions where the subject content of the schools is nationally standardized and teachers are taught to teach to the tests to indoctrinate the new, more limited number of white collar workers still needed in a global economy into the corporate "new speak." That this is already happening is evidenced by the fact that under the new business model promoted in the charter schools, students are no longer referred to as citizens, but customers and clients. This corporate model is enforced through a system of standardized testing and “accountability”.

Just as Huxley’s Brave New World used  ‘soma’ and repetitive ‘sleep learning’ to program and indoctrinate the populous, our new educational regimen of mandatory testing uses the element of repetition and standardized testing from early learning  through high school to the same end. However, it is not the "success" of the individual  student these tests are intended to measure.  The tests are used to determine and label how well a student conforms to the dominant culture.

As in Brave New World, the Race to the Top educational model uses these techniques to repress any democratic dissent or critical thinking. If students, teachers, parents or school districts question these norms, or refuse to get with the program, schools will lose funding, a teacher may be laid-off or fired for being ‘unsatisfactory’, and a child may be denied promotion or access to a “good” school (i.e., end up among the "savages"). Thus the stratification of society is reinforced by the use of testing.

If punitive standardized testing is the stick that is used to enforce the corporate model, the possibility of upward mobility for the individual child regardless of race, gender or economic background is the "soma" used to sell this model to the public. As in  Brave New World, people are told that the programming is for their own good, so that they can compete in the global economy of the 21st century.

Steeped in language of upward mobility and empowerment, rich liberals such as Bill Gates put billions into reassuring people that minority and poor children will receive the same consideration as the children of the rich. All children will begin equal in the race for the brass ring, ignoring the fact that, under this model there will always be only a few winners and  that the Bill Gates’s of the world will not be sending their children to these the schools and – oh yes --  the necessary funds are only available to those who go along with the program.

Instead of working for the collective good of all children, parents and teachers end up fighting each other for the limited number of slots available and available only to those who accept the corporate kool-aid.

An  Educational Model for the "Savages."

Instead of letting the multinational corporations define and use education to control the rest of us, what should education mean to those of us in the system? What is our view of the value of literacy and education?  While education alone cannot create a more egalitarian and humane society, what kind of education can give us the tools to fight the domination of a corporate model that does not have our interests at heart? How can we develop the active critical thinking to question why some people have money and power and others don’t, why individualism and competition is better than cooperation and a collective approach, why teachers shouldn't only teach to the test but include art, music, sports  and literature? Finally, why our work is not valued on its usefulness to society as a whole but what will sell products?  Radical education is not isolated from the real world, but is specifically designed to break the mold of top down education to empower students, parents and the community to act in our own self interest.


Challenging the “High Stakes” Testing Model (A Case Study)

Developing an understanding of how we “fight the power,” requires an understanding that for the power to be effective, it must be enforced. In this case, the corporate norms of capitalism are enforced through continual testing with punitive consequences should “the people” refuse to comply with this indoctrination.  This continual testing is not only devastating to the mental health and learning process of young children, but as a method by which the state imposes its will on the people.

The following is what we hope will be the first in a series of diaries with a parent with a nine year old son in the New York City public education system. Diane Zavala’s  son was subjected to  the current version of “high stakes” testing personally. She is actively involved in educating the community about the consequences of high stakes testing and what can be done about it.

I see the role of parents in the current education reform as a critical one. For decades the policies of No Child Left Behind and now Obama’s Race to the Top, have obliterated the presence of parents from the equation. The tests have taken on their own omnipresence in the lives of teachers and students and are a core factor in schools.

“Changing” the system is still something many parents don’t grasp. Parents still see  testing as a natural and appropriate part of education. Buzz words such as “accountability” “choice” and “achievement gap”are being used by the RTT advocates in a distorted way by plotting “Accountability” = bad teachers + “let’s get rid of them”. “Choice” = parents want to choose the best school for their children (i.e. charter schools that come in with disparate funding), This often or probably always pits one child against the other, one parent in a lottery against her neighbor. Children within the same school buildings don’t talk to each other because traditional public schools and the new privately sponsored Charter schools are co-located and the charters have the funds to have labs, music programs, libraries, and fancy technology while the zoned school is getting cuts to their budget. “Achievement gap” has come to mean that somehow the Black kids are behind and that what they should aspire is to be like the “white kids” who are the success, in and of itself a racist ideology. These are the core beliefs that we as parents and community members have to fight in order to shift the current direction of ed reform.

Another barrier for parents is the social and emotional concerns parents have over the consequences of resistance. If their child is to opt-out of the testing: will their child be teased by peers for  not being part of the group? Will their teachers and principal single the child out and not support a parent’s decision by providing an alternative option during testing time?

For parents to question the value of testing is something that will require a major change of hearts and minds to accomplish. However, the momentum is growing as more parents experience different aspects of the Race to the Top agenda in their own families. Whether it be because:

- they see their child get left-back because s/he didn’t pass the ELA and or Math NYS exam,

- or because they notice that their child is anxious and stressed out about the tests,

-  or because they see their favorite teacher replaced by a young, white-childless teacher product of Teach for America,[a conservative program, known for training teachers to educate to the new norms]

- or because they see their child’s school pushed into fewer, less desirable classrooms with larger numbers of students when it is co-located with another school, often a charter school that promoting the new test driven agenda,

-  or because their child is “counseled out” of a school because s/he is not meeting the testing standards [and might make the school less competitive],

- or because they see special programs in their child’s school replaced with homework/test prep,

- or because the school they send their children to suddenly received an “F” and can potentially be closed before their second/third child ever attends.

For all these reasons and more, parents are noticing that there is something happening in education that does not fit the schema they have of what education “should” be. This becomes the catalyst for parents who see the need for a change in the system.  

The Power of the Test

Parents are kept separate and in the dark about the tests, they are not given information and or asked for consent. Parents are told that the tests exist to prepare the children for college, but they are not told that the excessive emphasis on getting the grade on the test means there is a narrowing of curriculum to focus only on subjects that are tested and excluding subjects like social studies, art, music, technology, second language drama, etc. -- all the subjects which make up a liberal arts education.

One role of the parent is to demand that parents be informed and consent be required for their children to participate in the testing, especially when consent is required for everything else from teaching health-education, to a student being photographed, school trips, and peanut allergies. In no other area does a school hold the ultimate decision, maybe in medical requirement of vaccines, but even here there is a way for parents to opt-out by claiming religious or medical exemptions. But even here, when parents comply with the vaccine requirement it is not like their child is taken into a doctor’s office and the parent is not allowed to know the vaccine their child is administered.  If the tests are mandatory, then parents have a right to review the tests after the fact, but even this is denied by the current standard of practice for administering the tests. Currently there is a process whereby a parent can request access to see parts, but not all, of a child’s State exams; however, a Freedom of Information Law [FOIL]process is required in order to gain access and access is limited to the principal’s office, no photographs, or photocopying allowed, never mind it being a lengthy process.

This leads to the fact that students are being used as for-profit subjects for for-profit organizations who sample their testing material on the students without responding to an independent ethics committee to assess the impact of the testing on the students. Even when a parent decides to enroll their child in a study for scientific or educational purposes, the parent is given the right to opt-out at any point in the process without consequences.  There is nothing that involves a minor in which the parent information and consent are denied, except in standardized, high-stakes testing used for purposes of “accountability” on the shoulders of an 8-year old on whose success lies the whole  “national security” as it has been articulated by the likes of Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice.

Parents are not only being kept in the dark about testing in the schools, but they are also held at the mercy of the privatization agenda by putting the fate of their child’s academic future on the test. Parents are in fear and feel disempowered by the current centralized educational system.  There are many considerations parents need to make when confronted with the recognition that there is something not right happening and deciding that change is necessary and that they can be a part of the alternative.

As privatization of the whole educational system is slowly becoming a reality, the role of parents first and foremost in the current educational climate is for parents to unite and demand that their children not be used in this demented system of testing claiming to provide “accountability” and “choice”, which are “good” things, but that in essence are being used to destroy the teacher’s union as the last standing obstacle on the path of privatization.  So parents should bear in mind that their civil rights are being violated in this current climate of education reform, and that they are being used to shift public education to the private sphere that has nothing to do with the well-being of children.
The current climate of testing creates a separation between all interested parties in education. When tests are administered, teachers are not allowed to assist a student, usually because the teacher did not design the test, so s/he doesn’t have knowledge of the test question, but it goes as extreme as not allowing a student a bag in the event of vomiting, which is known to have happened in extreme cases of testing anxiety and the teacher is not permitted to provide the student with a bag or a glass of water to assist the student. The administration guidelines prohibit the teacher from engaging with the student other than to proctor the exam by keeping time and by allowing the student required breaks if these are dictated by an Individualized Educational Plan. The alienation from the testing experience runs deep in severing the trust and established rapport a teacher has with his/her students and goes further into separating her from the parents and from the school community as a whole.

If parents can come together and refuse the testing, which is at the core of the privatization agenda, then the whole system of evaluating the teachers, producing the school report cards that leads schools to closure, implementation of charters, and the test-prep industry profiting off of the students will be disrupted. Parents need to see these connections and understand that their voice is critical in destabilizing this machine that will dismantle public education in our country.

Parents are not alone in their isolation from their children’s education and condition of fear of consequences for non-compliance, teachers are also alienated from each other, their union, their administrators, parents, and even from their students. Parents and teachers are often not allowed to share their personal opinions, but required to include the principal/supervisor when communicating with parents. Teachers are afraid for their own jobs, Even tenured teachers are harassed and given unfair evaluations and excessed from their buildings, which gives them a stigma for any future employment and professional growth.

Teachers are divided in two camps, those who were teaching before the days of “accountability” and those who were trained and hired to accept the notion that part of a teacher’s job is to closely analyze data to use to tailor instruction and to fear that if the student is not making quantifiable progress that the quality of her instruction is questionable.

The teachers teaching before the current emphasis on standardized testing are more likely to know that a student comes in many different forms and from many different backgrounds and circumstances that often are not reflected in the grades a student receives.  There are those students who are natural test-takers and do well no matter what, and there are also those students who are intelligent, hard-working, creative, good writers, artists but who will not perform the part on a test, no matter the type.  These teachers know that engaging instruction and monitoring growth at different points during a unit of study to tailor the instruction to the needs of the students means good teaching. However, with the emergence of NYC ’s Teaching Fellows and national programs like Teach for America, teachers are quickly being trained to administer tests, to follow standards, to analyze data, to keep pace with a dictated [top down] curriculum.  They view their job as facilitators not instructors. The scripted curriculum, the national standards, and the standardized tests are the “real” education and they (the teachers)are mere facilitators or human factoids that implement the essential elements of education in the student.

What Is To Be Done?

In the current state of education, parents have been vanished from participation and their voices are ignored in favor of “professional” elected individuals. Often parents protest the closing of a school but will be ignored and the school gets closed. Parents need to be considered in the decision-making process at all levels starting from the classroom, the school, the community, and at the citywide level in order to have a push-back against this powerful train going determined to devastate education.

In the current climate, parents need solidarity with each other to share information and education and to make collective decisions. Parents cannot be pitted against one another because all parents want the best for their children and their schools. Parents need to have a presence in their children’s school be it through established forums or alternatives.

But even if parents participate in Student Leadership Teams [decision making bodies in a school that include parents, the parent organization, and school events],  there is also a need to engage parents in an understanding of the structure and function of the citywide and regional administration that include the role of the Chancellor, the regional and district superintendent, learning support, the community school district superintendent, and district offices.

They need to know who makes decisions on charters, school closings, budgets, busing, special education, enrichment, after-school programs, school infrastructure, and resolutions passed by the district decision-making body that collects the concerns at the district level of schools to bring to the higher body for decisions.

The corporate powers that are implementing this system are afraid of the parents and have clearly used their power to encourage the development of school districts in which democratic input is limited; i.e., Bloomberg has usurped the public education system in New York City and is, in essence, the sole decider now in educational reform.

Reestablishing the role of parents and community control as a necessary component in education decisions at the district and regional level is critical. Parents have to get creative as to how this information can be transmitted to other parents [i.e., at a Saturday meeting which helps parents with their English and childcare is provided] There is also a need for grassroots educational organizations outside those within the system. And we don’t have to start from scratch. There is a  long history of teaching black history in grassroots Freedom Schools established by SNCC activists in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. This concept continues today in occasional day long boycotts of inner city schools to provide grassroots black history workshops to protest the lack or distortion of black history in the official school curricula. La Raza, a Chicano organization instrumental in the 1960s, is once again organizing the community in the Southwest in the fight to keep bilingual education.

The strategy of focusing on the testing industry as the nexus where students, parent and teacher interests meet could also be the focus of a campaign of escalating protests and civil disobedience. Change the Stakes is a grassroots organization with a membership of about 20 core members who are parents, teachers, former parents or teachers, and professors who share an understanding that high-stakes testing is deforming the quality of education and are dedicated to resisting the use of standardized tests to evaluate students, teachers, and schools.

Change the Stakes (CTS) has organized successful actions (including civil disobedience)against stand-alone field tests administered to the elementary school students for the purpose of sampling questions by the for-profit organization Pearson Inc. to use in future exams.

Parents in CTS also opted their children out of the Spring exams this year. Their act of civil disobedience has gained strength and support with over 2,000 signatures of parents and teachers who support opting-out of testing. The Opt-Out petition has also spawned other testing resolutions including a Principal petition to not administer the tests and a Professor petition to not use the new “accountability” language in their teacher-training curriculum.  CTS is leading the way in advocacy against high-stakes testing and the misuse of tests for other purposes not intended such as value-added performance equivalents to measure teacher quality and to create school progress reports.

CTS is pushing for a non-punitive alternative for parents to opt-out of high-stakes testing as these are developmentally inappropriate for children.  CTS is an outgrowth of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) which created a committee to examine the role of testing in education and has grown to become its own entity but continues to work closely with teachers and teacher issues.  

It is CTS's view that the teacher’s working conditions are the student’s learning conditions and these cannot be separate. What is good for the students is good for the teachers: class size, standardize testing, co-locations, school closures are not good for teachers and these are issues of concern to CTS.

from Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Chapt 2:

"At the end of the room a loud speaker projected from the wall. The Director walked up to it and pressed a switch.
"… all wear green," said a soft but very distinct voice "and Delta Children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm so glad I'm a Beta."

There was a pause; then the voice began again.

"Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able …"
The Director pushed back the switch. "They'll have that repeated forty or fifty times more before they wake; then again on Thursday, and again on Saturday. A hundred and twenty times three times a week for thirty months. After which they go on to a more advanced lesson."

Till at last the child's mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child's mind. And not the child's mind only. The adult's mind too—all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides—made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions! "

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Postcapitalism and Extraterrestrial Anthropologists.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hi folks - welcome to our new time! Hope you will (13+ / 0-)

    weigh into the discussion.  Just as a matter of logistics, what happened to the the option to "share" our articles at the beginning of the blog?  I see tweet (which I don't do - so I hope you will) and I see facebook, but no "share" option

  •  Brava, Diana! (13+ / 0-)

    This piece is one of the most amazingly accurate analysis of our educational system I have read.


    ..the smoker you drink, the player you get....

    by Diane Gee on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:13:51 AM PST

  •  Brave New World remains a visionary (12+ / 0-)

    novel, as well as a wickedly funny (in places) polemic wrt the technocratic state. Twenty years ago, I thought that the outlines of such a state as then taking shape in America might portend greater societal benefits.

    Silly me. It was quickly co-opted by neoliberal economic policies and now we have the blight of charter schools as a "corrective" to the public school system (astronomically priced at the college level) and NCLB.

    I teach at the university level and have taught HS in the past. Even taught at a private HS a few years ago (a good school which nonetheless went bellyup due to poor management). I have never met an instructor who saw any merit in these standardized tests. Not one.

    Framing this essay with Huxley is an inspired move, Geminijen. I will re-read this fine essay later today.

  •  Excellent piece (12+ / 0-)

    It reminds me of a lecture given at the local Univ. by Chomsky. Here is a link to a blog discussing Chomsky's views plus a YouTube of him speaking.
    Noam Chomsky Spells out the purpose of Education

    We have to decide whether education policy will continue be used as a tool of conformity in ongoing class war in this country, adapting only to changes in technology and labor conditions, or whether it will become a tool of enlightenment for a more egalitarian and more humane society.

    It is clear how the powerful have chosen. Good old Huxley was spot on.

    “Democracy is not just the right to vote, it is the right to live in dignity.”  ― Naomi Klein

    by cosmic debris on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:18:04 AM PST

  •  the anti-capitalist meetup is cross-posted at: (9+ / 0-)

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:23:13 AM PST

  •  Opt out in Michigan (7+ / 0-)

    This was more likely to happen in 1998 than it is today.

    Our country, middle class, democracy is being dismantled before our eyes.

    What we need is a Democrat in the White House.

    by dkmich on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:27:43 AM PST

  •  nicely done, good luck to CTS/GEM (7+ / 0-)

    it would seem that not only is testing a form of soma but in fact the use of ADHD meds and the manipulation of special education among others is an instrumental application of the privatization soma we are ingesting

    “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” - Dalai Lama XIV (-9.50; -7.03)‽ Warning - some snark above‽

    by annieli on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:28:41 AM PST

    •  I agree that meds of many kind (I am especially (6+ / 0-)

      against anti-psychotics and parents who try to use the ADHD speed meds to "up" their childrens performance.  Also, any child who is restless because they are being taught crap or questions and disrupts the teacher is labled ADHD.  However, as someone who has ADHD (they didn't lable it back in the day) and whose son also has it (it can be biologically verified through brain wave tests), I am not against all meds all the time.  Just like I question the Brave New World, I always want to question any solution where one size fits all and try to deal with the specific individual and do what works to empower that person the most.  BTW, I never had meds -- my son took them when he was in school because it helped him graduate, but not now that he's out -- he says it spoils his creativity and I agree with that.

  •  As education has been turned into a commodity (10+ / 0-)

    to be exploited for profit, students become raw material shoved onto the assembly line for processing. After the have been pushed through the k-12 system their value increases as they are forced into the student loan racket. People borrow larger and larger amounts reaching for jobs that are less and less likely to produce enough income to service the loan. The inability to discharge the debt in bankruptcy results in debt peonage for years and years to come.

    •  Frankly (4+ / 0-)

      I was taught that way in public school in Texas back in the '70s. My government teacher was a particularly bad example of mass indoctrination. I had flu for two weeks, but had to keep up with the class. I borrowed a notebook from someone two years ahead and aced my two make-up tests, as what she wanted was her own pronouncements put in different words, and her pronouncements never changed. I shudder to think of what she would have made of standardised testing.

      "We are monkeys with money and guns". Tom Waits

      by northsylvania on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:44:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is no guarantee that public schools will be (4+ / 0-)

        less indoctrinating.  The two advantages of public schools are 1)they at least try to education everyone and 2)there is still a little public accountability through the voting booth.

        The fact is that corporate politicians in the lastthirty years have made very effort to dry up funds for public schools and right now are looking for any way to break unions and close public schools instead of really trying to reform them.  That's because, along with the charter schools, is a specific agenda to privatize and corporatize our public schools -- which will eventually (and has been shown to be increasingly true as we get some data on charters)for their own purposes.  It's the new American form of "structural adjustment" that we visited on the 3rd world and now want to bring home.

        Our best hope of good schools is keeping the comunity - students, parents, teachers --involved in the decision making process.

  •  I suppose I must be one of the "elites" (4+ / 0-)

    I attended a magnet school, not a charter school.  And it was my decision to apply and audition for the school, although my parents were willing and agreeable with it.

    For me, the fact that I was getting a high quality education took a backseat to the fact that I was finally in a nurturing environment with other students who actually wanted to be there.  At the public school I attended for middle school, there was the sense that many of the kids simply saw no reason for school.  It was probably immaturity and lack of vision, especially for the poorer kids who had no hopes of college later on.  

    When I attended a magnet high school, however, that sense of "I'm only here because 'they' are making me" - whether "they" was their parents, or the government or whever - vanished completely.  Instead, everyone in my high school wanted to be at school.  We wanted to learn, we wanted to push ourselves and our boundaries.  Hell, we even wanted to do well on the tests!

    I think the biggest failure of Race to the Top and NCLB is that not only do they leave the parents out of the equation, they also fail to impress upon the kids the true purpose of education.  It's not to train you to get a job.  It's not a glorified babysitter (although many places treat it that way.)  It's not to indoctrinate culture or ways of life (hence, religion not belonging in the classroom.)  It's to teach children and teenagers how to think for themselves, and how to self-motivate.

    I don't feel like an elite - my education did get me into a good college and now I'm working on my master's degree.  Instead, when I was in high school, I felt like I was finally among true peers, instead of the lone smart kid among a sea of betas and gammas.

    The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

    by catwho on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:32:15 AM PST

    •  "lone smart kid among a sea of betas and gammas?" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, Geminijen

      You use the language of an elitist even if you deny being one.

      ..the smoker you drink, the player you get....

      by Diane Gee on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:39:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was mirroring (3+ / 0-)

        the tone and discussion of the diary.  Had Brave New World not been included initially, I certainly wouldn't have used those words.

        If anything, I'd been one of the alphas or betas shucked off to an island for not conforming.

        The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

        by catwho on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:59:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  *have been n/t (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

          by catwho on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:00:20 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I think we fail to value skills that we dont have (6+ / 0-)

          or won't make us "upwardly" mobile. But we all need to wear clothes, have shelter, live, love and play which involves a lot of unseen labor in our lives (the nurses aides in our mother's nursing home whom I'm sure we want to give our mothers loving and attentive care). When we disrespect those people and work that don't seem to be leading us to the "successful" lives of upwardly mobile capitalists, we will suffer in the end when people do not take care of our parents, make shoddy clothes and houses, spit in the food they cook for us.  It takes a village to make a world and we have to appreciate and respect the effort of the whole or it will fall apart. Being a good citizen (and hopefully we all vote)requires that kind of social awareness or we will end up with the Ayn rand variety of society that we currently seem to be experiencing.

    •  I think we need many types of schools for many (8+ / 0-)

      types of learners.  And I think it can be done for all students in the public system if we make it a priority. I sent my son to an alternative public high school which had a very nurturing environment.
      It's not that  we can't make schools like this (after all, all the private schools the Gate's send their kids to have art, music and critical thinking).  It's that "they" the alphas intentionally destroy these things in public schools  (where I also have had at times excellent teachers who inspired me to critical thinking) and then put forth a few "better" schools so that kids think only "they" are the ones who deserve education and to hell with the rest.  

      I think we need to create a system where all students can fufill their potential.  Some may be bettter at hands on mechanics or computers, others poets, etc - but all should interact and help each other to see the positive role of all in society.

    •  Was going to say (5+ / 0-)

      my son went to magnet school. Because I was a printmaker and covered with ink by the time I had to pick him up after class, I was not accepted by the magnet PTA and so worked with the main school parents. This was very much the case at his school, though it wasn't a charter:

      Children within the same school buildings don’t talk to each other because traditional public schools and the new privately sponsored Charter schools are co-located and the charters have the funds to have labs, music programs, libraries, and fancy technology while the zoned school is getting cuts to their budget.
      The parents in the main school were happy to have the magnet school on premises because their kids got to use the facilities, though the kids did not intermingle. Is this true in charter/ public school situations or are they totally segregated.

      "We are monkeys with money and guns". Tom Waits

      by northsylvania on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:50:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Very segregated. And the regular school, which (4+ / 0-)

        has been stripped of its extra programs due to budget cuts, gets to watch, in some cases, the charter school kids now get these extra programs paid for by the corporate sponsors of these schools.

        My favorite is a school in Brooklyn run by a hedge-fund manager who got free public space (worth a lot in NYC and didn't put in a dime of his own).  When his school came into the building, class size in the regular school wwas doubled as the regular kids were pushed into basement classrooms next to the boiler.  It was ugly.

      •  The magnet school I attended was separate (3+ / 0-)

        A completely separate campus, a completely separate school.  

        We had the same funding per student as the other schools, and we had many programs and classes cut compared to a "comprehensive" high school.  

        It's just that instead of cutting out the art classes, we cut out the hairstylist and cosmetology classes and home ec classes.  We cut out gym and all sports and added in dance and acting classes instead.  

        Any class that wasn't a fine arts program or academic was removed.  

        Our rival school, about a mile away, was the health sciences and engineering school.  It completely cut away all arts funding and most sports funding, but changed those to a rigorous engineering and science curriculum, with a partnership with the nearby hospitals and medical school for students planning on becoming doctors and nurses.

        The feeder schools we left behind, the comprehensive high schools, often complained about the "brain drain" - my graduating class of 75 and the science school's class of 100 would have likely been in the top 1% of the rest of the county's five high schools.

        While that point is valid, it permitted us to attend schools that didn't waste money on sports programs we wouldn't participate in, and instead spend that money on the arts and on extra science classes.

        Charter schools are quite different from magnet schools.  They claim to only focus on academics, but they don't spend the "saved" money on a different area of emphasis like a focused magnet school does.  Instead, that money goes straight to the private administrator's pockets.

        The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

        by catwho on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 03:37:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Was your magnet school intended to help integrate (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          the school (cause that was how they started) or a particular neighborhood?  What made it a "magnet?" A magnet to what? what was a racial make-up of your school? I'm not challenging you, just trying to understand.  Most of the magnets in NYC were in a regular school.  My son's "alternative school" was in a separate building.  

          •  "Magnet" meant drawing from the whole county (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Geminijen, radical simplicity

            I grew up in a very large metro area, with half a million people inside the county itself, and another million or so in the surrounding metro area.   Not the biggest city in the state and certainly not NYC, but a decent sized city, especially for the South.

            The three magnet schools were created in the 1980s as a means of providing a more enriched curriculum in their respective areas than the comprehensive high schools were capable of giving.  A typical comprehensive high school had around 3,000 students - and every sports team under the sun.  They were supposed to provide not only college prep lines, but also vocational prep, so taught everything from auto mechanics classes to cosmetology.  These were zoned schools - and since many parts of the condensed city-county were integrated neighborhoods anyway, busing solely for integrating purposes wasn't as necessary (although two of the five high schools had had to be integrated and probably still involve some magnet-esque busing.)

            One magnet school served only elementary and middle schools, and that was the closest to a charter school the county had.  It called itself a "traditional" school and required uniforms back before that came into fashion for public schools, requested permission for corporal punishment from parents as part of the requirement for attendance, and from what I understand was a much stricter environment than the relatively fluffy and lenient elementary and middle schools I attended were.

            My school provided middle /high school and fine arts, and the science high school focused on advanced math and science.  Both schools provided only college prep academics, and all classes were taught at the AP level in high school.

            In the morning I would catch the normal bus to my zoned school, then ride a short bus to downtown, a full thirty minutes away by highway.  In the evening, big buses would distribute all the kids to the correct neighborhoods from all three of the magnet schools (which were all close together downtown.)  However, the two high schools had so many extracurricular activities, most of us got in the habit of walking to the downtown library to wait for parents or catch public transit home instead.

            The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

            by catwho on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 04:34:23 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I personally think we can provide a variety of (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              programs to all students in a variety of ways.  As a social studies teacher, my main concern in the K-12 curriculum is for students to to learn democrat skills and to learn to interact with students from all walks of life in a society.  while, I like smaller class sizes, I do like a school as a whole to represent the whole community.  I think too early specialization can be a narrowing experience.  I don't see why you can't have specialized programs and at the same time have some classes or programs that overlap.  In my high school, which was a general comprehensive high school, they had honors classes, yet everyone had the opportunity to study as an elective, one of four foreign languages, art, and yes sports, as well as certain vocational classes from computers to carpentry. A sculptor might like to learn how to do wood inlays in a carpentry class. Guess I'm saying that while I want the right to individual differentiation, I liked that when we elected student governments, all students --jocks, art majors and computer geeks voted in the same election and learned to interact and hopefully respect each others choices and paths (course that is never perfect).  guess I want to have it all.

            •  Again, I am curious about the class and racial (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              make-up of the school.  

              •  Strict affirmative action (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JayRaye, Geminijen

                Required to roughly represent the makeup of the county, which was 45% white, 45% black, and 10% "other."  Half male, half female.  With only 75 students, getting the exact ratios was impossible, but we were a fairly diverse bunch all the same.

                Also, a good third of the students qualified for free lunches based on income.  While some of the students came from relatively well off backgrounds, most were like me - lower middle class or working class backgrounds.

                The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

                by catwho on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 05:24:38 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you Diana Zevala and Geminijen (7+ / 0-)

    for this excellent piece which I am certain will stimulate good discussion. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your hard work to write such an excellent description of the impact of privatisation of public education, of the class nature of the changes and the impact on children of the working class! Fantastic piece!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:35:40 AM PST

    •  Thanks Ex Pat! But I also think it is important to (5+ / 0-)

      not only look at the issue in the economic base (privatization) but to also look specifically at how we are being manipulated in the superstructure, the culture tools used to enforce the base.  This is particularly clear how problematic this is when you read comments like the one from the young woman (or man) who was in a magnet program.  Nothing wrong with finding a nurturing education -- but the way she falls into the trap of justifiying it is the problem.

  •  ACM schedule (3+ / 0-)


    13th: UnaSpenser and NY brit expat
    20th: NY brit expat
    27th: ??



    Looking for volunteers for the last weekend in January and for February forwards. If you can write a piece, it is cross-posted at a number of sites and even tweeted! We need volunteers to keep the series going, so please, volunteer below in reply to this comment, write directly by private message to NY brit expat who is doing the scheduling or send a message to our email group address:

    I hope that this time is good for everyone, please let us know if it is not!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:40:39 AM PST

  •  great diary (3+ / 0-)

    Dismantle public education..and then what
    ..reinstate child labor?

    Nothing would surprise me anymore from either the Republicans or the Democrats.

    WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Dec: Life so cheap; property so sacred.

    by JayRaye on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:04:55 PM PST

    •  I think that is their long term intent- don't (4+ / 0-)

      forget, education is not a right guaranteed in the constiution -- it is dealt with by the states.  As companies move abroad for cheaper labor, they don't want to be stuck holding up an education system that they once needed to train workers.  they fully intend to turn us into a third world country where we compete for sweatshop jobs just like everyone else.  Welcome to the end of american exceptionalism.

      •  More than 25 years ago a friend of mine said: (3+ / 0-)

        "they (the ruling class) plan on ending the social-welfare state, because they are beginning to realize that they can create a third world country right here.

        At the time I thot that was a bit extreme and pessimistic.
        Now I realize that he was 100% correct.

        WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Dec: Life so cheap; property so sacred.

        by JayRaye on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:15:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  So it's time to get down in the trenches and start (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat, JayRaye, northsylvania

          the good fight.  We no longer get to ride on the coat tails of the capitalist ruling class!  Sigh.  Nobody ever said it would be easy!

        •  your friend was totally correct (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye, tardis10, northsylvania

          and even Ernest Mandel did not see it; many thought that they had learned their lesson from the great depression and understood how an advanced capitalist system cannot function in the absence of a social welfare state and a public sector, they were wrong ... we must see what is happening as the culmination of a long fight to demonise the poor, the working class and to overturn all gains made in the post-war period.

          Am working on a piece on austerity and the absurdity of the IMF saying they made a mistake, it was not a mistake, austerity is doing exactly what they wanted it to do.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:29:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Funny thing is, between me & my friend, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NY brit expat, northsylvania

            I was the more radical one.

            It was my radicalism, and also my knowledge of labor hx, that made me think, "They wouldn't dare."

            How wrong I was.

            Looking forward to that piece, ex pat.

            WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Dec: Life so cheap; property so sacred.

            by JayRaye on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:47:30 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Hey Ex Pat, if you're still there -- what's with (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat

    the lack of a "share" icon at the beginning of the blog? Is it just my computer having limited excess?  I see facebook,  and tweet, but no share icon.  Is it just me or when did they stop doing that?  I like the share button.

    •  it is that way on my computer and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geminijen, northsylvania

      has been so for a few weeks, it is a result of a new up-grade I think; to share either press like and it will share on your facebook page or copy the address and paste it as a comment on facebook ...

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:56:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Too bad they stopped "share" --it gave you many (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat

        more sharing options than only facebook. Plus you could share the whole article, not just 140 characters like Tweet.  I'm an old retrograde.  I hate tweet though it is the new fashion.

        •  I went on twitter once, freaked out, and (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Geminijen, northsylvania

          never went back; I tweet because we have a page there, but I cannot cope with the fact there is both too much information and at the same time, too little information. You can share at any place using the method of copying the address and pasting it into a post ...

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 01:35:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I like this new time. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, JayRaye, Geminijen, annieli

    Thank you for changing it.

    "We are monkeys with money and guns". Tom Waits

    by northsylvania on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:52:50 PM PST

  •  In some ways magnet schools are similar to charter (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, annieli

    schools.  Both are housed in regular public schools, but have separate teaching staffs and curriculums.

    What many don't know is that magnet schools were an attempt to meet the anti-segregation requirements of the Federal law for federal funding.  If a school could not show a mix of students, they might nnot qualify for federal funding.  Magnet schools were designed to attract middle class kids from more affluent schools into the schools in poorer neighborhoods.  However, when they went looking for students, they did not look for middle class black kids, but middle class white kids. So what you had was middle class more privileged white kids in the same school, but separate from poorer black/brown students.  The statistics looked good because it only showed the percentages of minority and white kids in the school as a wohle.  but in reality it was usually very segregated, only so close (in the same building) that it often increased resentment between the groups. Not only that, it reinforced every stereotype as to who was better just by the selection process --they didn't go looking for poorer white kids in working class white neighborhoods -- or middle class black students.  anyway, you can see what I'm talking about.

  •  Great piece (3+ / 0-)

    We homeschool, in part because we were aghast at the "teach to the test" mentality that was already evident when our first child was in first grade. The school system actually blocked out a couple of weeks in the 1st grade curriculum specifically for teaching test-taking strategies. We're talking 6 and 7 year olds!

    That said, while I agree with nearly everything in this diary, it's very important not to lose sight of the roots of programs like RTTT: it's simply a renaming of NCLB. Our daughter has never been in an "Obama" school system, but she was certainly in a school system that dedicated tons of cash to testing companies. But the problem arose long before even W and his special focus on enriching his brother Neil via standardized testing requirements.  

    Young cousins of mine were sent to a charter school in the 1980s. Their educational experiences there sucked beyond belief, and they begged to return to the public school. The early charters were proving grounds for the methodologies now being employed in the public schools: eliminating recess (or using the loss of recess as collective punishment if any student is anything other than passive in class); eliminating PE, art, music, drama, etc., while focusing on memorizing the data required for a make-or-break test, rather than encouraging critical reasoning skills, or the ability to assess the validity of a claim, or the ability to understand and express ideas, or the ability to learn how to learn.

    This is a problem that is far bigger than any administration, and it certainly didn't begin with, and will not end with, this one.  

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