Taking a School Field trip: visiting Philadelphia to try to imagine, ‘Imagine 2014’

The tragedy that is becoming public education is metastasizing all over the nation. Hear anything on national news? Of course not, they are bought and paid for by the corporations that own them like GE, Disney, Fox, etc. which is why I wanted to share this with you. It is from the ‘notebook’, put out by the Philadelphia School District. It may give you some insight as to why parents are opting out of public education and allowing the new authoritarians to warehouse and plot their children’s lives.

Take this quote from a parent who appeared online on February 12, 2010, just this week in the notebook.org ‘blog’:

“Thank goodness for whoever is responsible for this change. My son attends Samuel Daroff and has been injured at least for [sic] times. He is an [sic] great student with no behavior issues. He has had two serious injuries to his head because of other children with behavior problems. No incident reports were ever written and it is not even on file in the nurses [sic] office there was also injury to his right ear and he had his mouth busted also by troubled children…again no incident report was written. This has made it impossible to request a transfer because I have no proof. We need new leadership Mrs Bonnie Berman is the school principal has done a poor job in managing Daroff. Childrens safety has been compromised and its scary to think she will remain at Daroff. In the beginning of the school year for several months children who were coming to breakfast were being sent out of the building after breakfast back out into the street to walk 11/2 blocks to enter the school yard instead of allowing them to enter the yard safely from within the building. Some of these children were in just the 1st grade. I am so grateful to whomever [sic] is responsible for the change thats [sic] coming. Because of the change I am no longer interested in having my child removed from Daroff. I have faith that under new leadership my child will get the education he deserves. Thank You. Thank You. Thank” You” (http://www.thenotebook.org/blog/091183/renaissance-schools-plan-designed-exclude-local-educators-and-community-members#comment-4673).

This in response to the new Imagine 2014 plan for Philly schools, another shiny version of Chicago Renaissance 2010 from where Arne Duncan appeared. These school yard bullies always use the same bright and dreamy ltheme park anguage: Imagine, Renaissance, Leave No Child Left Behind: it’s enough to make you puke. But so it is, for now. The corporatocracy does the same thing for war; they do the same thing for profits and they do the same thing for control. The corporations manufacture and unleash ‘feel good’ language as propaganda; in doing so they embed assumptions into the mind.

Why aren’t the schools safe?

Having safe schools is imperative, but the reason schools are not safe is the same reason all of us are not safe — the material economic and social conditions of our society have left us with a broken ‘free market’ fundamentalist system that has decimated our country and economic and social structure over thirty years.

You know the routine and the banshee cries: the cities are broke, the public coffers are empty; the parents are concerned and righly so (as indicated above) for their kid’s safety and the kids themselves are getting more desperate and afraid — for they are victimized, bored, tired, penniless, come from broken families, enclaves of domestic violence, victims of saturation carpet bomb marketing; many of them they live in the streets, have no adequate shelter and little or no future. Will they turn to an authoritarian state in hopes that it will improve their individual lives? Maybe.

Here is the thinking of one blogger who works in Philly schools:

“I agree that the creation of Renaissance Schools cannot be stopped (emphasis is mine) and that it is important for teachers to try to influence this process. I also agree that drastic changes need to be made in Philadelphia Public School system in general. Where I may differ is that I am and will remain in opposition to this the whole Renaissance plan as it currently stands” (http://www.blogger.com/profile/07326311110464959460).

Then if you are in opposition why not fight for public schools? Why capitulate and become a valet for the whole sordid mess? We see this same mindset in the health ‘care’ debate, don’t we? Resignation.  But only due to the fact there is no ‘fight on the ground’.

There will be a fight

There will be a fight though, and the banksters and the corporatists know this. Take this quote from the same Philly notebook site but from an anonymous, yet astute commentator:

“We don’t have to wait four more years to witness the results of Dr. Ackerman’s (the school district CEOs) Imagine 2014 agenda. All we need to do is to reflect upon the current state of Audenried High School. During the course of this school year violent teenage behavior within and outside of this school has been ripping it asunder. The school was literally torn to the ground and rebuilt during the Vallas administration. A new school facility was erected at a cost in excess of sixty million dollars. The school reopened last year under the watch of the Ackerman administration. Its staff has been replaced. There is a new principal who leads a reconstituted staff of relatively young and energetic teachers.

The instructional reforms (remedial reading and math programs) that Dr Ackerman has trumpeted as the district’s next great curriculum innovation are being implemented there. It should be a great school to attend.

Apparently it isn’t as good as it was intended to be. Currently the Ackerman administration is pouring tens of millions of dollars of stimulus money and additional state funding into purchase of new textbook series, consultant fees, testing instruments and the services of various “for profit” contractors. Who is monitoring these expenditures? The Notebook has not been successful in gaining access to information concerning any of these proposed expenditures until after the SRC has voted their approval. For too long the people who are most invested in our schools (children, parents, teachers, and principals) have been the subjects of questionable experiments and the victims of failed reform efforts. It is time that we demand accountability from the adults who are the architects and sponsors of these so-called reform activities. It is time that we the people hold our leadership accountable” (http://www.thenotebook.org/blog/102211/what-youve-been-saying-about-renaissance-schools).

Yes, the same suspect: Paul Vallas ran the Philadelphia school district before saddling up to ride to New Orleans to help privatize that one. This is where he languishes now, with publicly paid for chauffeurs and a six figure salary. He made it ‘back’, one of the few who did.

Do not be discouraged for people do understand!

There are people who understand as the blogger above indicates, all over the country, which is my point and why I share this with you.  And as the first parent post and teacher post illuminates, there are people who are confused as well, resigned to the whole mess; they have to work for a living and if there is no work, then they simply live to survive.

But many know that giving our public schools over to the ‘new turnaround’ artists who are really ‘turnover’ artists who wish to bench our children in privately run for profit schools is not only not the answer, it’s criminal. Even the word despicable word ‘provider’ shows the contempt for humanity embedded in the business doublespeak and the deadly scheme as all the wonderment is sucked out of education for brand names and bureaucratic references. We are askance in health providers, school providers, and military providers: it seems there are some who ‘provide’ and some who are ‘provided’ for — the class society.

It is the same all over now from San Francisco to Chicago to Philly

Of course now that tax breaks for the rich and cuts in public schools have forced the cities into bankruptcy, it’s time for the disaster politics in Philly now. This is where we are: from D.C. to LA, from Detroit to Philly, it’s the same and the plutocrats and billionaire philanthro-capitalists use the same language to ‘manage perceptions’ and manufacture consent. It is either a ‘Renaissance’ as in Chicago where Duncan left bloody fingerprints, or it is “Imagine Schools” but it’s all the same – the privatization of education, meaning no democratic decision making but instead centralized control of decision making; no transparency in government but instead secrecy in government; public funds will be used to prime the pump as the schools are bankrolled by ‘investors’ or billionaires who now have all the money; and of course more draconian cuts in public education for the two-tiered educational system like that created in New Orleans, the model for it all, and of course merit pay for teachers to destroy unions, less salaries and benefits for teachers, no job security and teachers divorced from the conception of lesson plans as corporate canned curriculum and the newly written corporate textbooks are ushered into schools.

This is the Wal-Mart model of education also known as neo-liberalism, a stage of economics we are now in and have been for more than thirty years. It is when everything is privatized from prisons to schools and then financed by the public though taxpayer funds. The government is used as a collection agency to fund the privatizers. And since the dragnet has replaced the safety net as social services are cut, keep an eye out for the faith-based charlatans to come along and ‘Mother Theresa’ the whole thing into further illegitimacy.

We are cannibalizing our children

Children used to be our future, the hope for the mobility of another generation.  In this disaster phase of capitalism there is no future for children and thus the ‘war on youth’. They must now be contained, militarized, regimented and otherwise controlled for there is no future for them in a country that makes nothing, is broke and owned and operated as an outsourcing enterprise for profit. No public playgrounds, no public schools, no public libraries — no public ‘nothin’. Tethered to the carpet loom of NCLB children will learn quickly that child wonderment has been replaced with adult bewilderment.

They won’t stand for it either, you’ll see. They will either go into gangs (70,000 gang members in Chicago alone), drop out of school, go to prison or be swallowed up by the military industrial complex for the next resource war.

The website Socialist Equality said it best:

“Under conditions in which American capitalism has no future for tens of millions of working class youth, except permanent unemployment, the ruling elite and its political representatives are repudiating the principle that every child, no matter what his or her background, should have access to at least a basic education.

The egalitarian principles that underlie public education are incompatible with the extreme levels of social inequality that characterize American society today. Therefore the fight to defend the right to universal access to high-quality education is inextricably tied to a broader struggle for social equality and the reorganization of society in the interests of the working class. The alternative to capitalism is socialism, i.e., a society democratically controlled by the working class, based on production for social need, not private profit” (The way forward for Detroit teachers, Social Equality, December 8, 2009http://socialequality.com/node/682).

We must take moral and social responsibility

We have an ethical responsibility to assure no harm comes to our nation’s children, not just are own children, don’t we? If so, then many of us know that change will not come from capitulating to the new ‘turnaround’ artists’, the elite social engineers and social Darwinists who habitat the educational landscape — it will come from social organization and united direct action from working people that challenges the brutality of capitalism at its core.

If we want to nurture children and provide them with decent community schools and a decent future, then we don’t ‘turn them over’ to the auctioneers do we?  No, not at all, we work to build a better society and this will take time, mobilization, communication and effort.  I am hopeful underneath the current cloud of despair for I understand history, and history is the history of class struggle.  We have been at such crossroads before and although it is easy to become deracinated and cynical, it is far more gratifying to resist with others.  We must help parents understand it is the system itself that has been pocketed.  Once they do, I am confident in their ability to understand.