Thursday, October 12, 2017

Resisting Betsy DeVos

Tomorrow, I'm going to be joining what many expect will be the largest single protest to date against US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Hundreds if not thousands of us will be in the streets outside the Bellevue Hyatt Regency protesting her destructive, divisive, and dangerous education policies.

DeVos is just the latest public face of the corporate-style education "reform movement," those monied interests that seek the end of public education in favor of turning our children over to private corporations, an agenda that has been well-documented in Diane Ravitch's incredibly well-researched book Reign of Error. (If you need more background, you might also like to read here and here.) These are the folks who are trying to hoodwink us into the false belief that our current public education system is failing. As Ravitch writes:

Public education is not broken. It is not failing or declining. The diagnosis is wrong, and the solutions of the corporate reformers are wrong. Our urban schools are in trouble because of concentrated poverty and racial segregation. But public education as such is not "broken." Public education is in a crisis only so far as society is and only so far as this new narrative of crisis has destabilized it. The solutions proposed by the self-proclaimed reformers have not worked as promised. They have failed even by their own most highly valued measure, which is test scores. At the same time, the reformers' solutions have had a destructive impact on education as a whole.

They are engaged in a classic "Shock Doctrine" campaign, one in which they have manufactured a "crisis" by way of creating an opportunity to impose so-called "free market" solutions, ones that would turn our children from young citizens being educated for the purpose of participating in democratic self-governance, which is the proper role of public education, and turning them into laborers in corporate test score coal mines. It is an agenda that is widely supported by neoliberal titans like Bill Gates as well as hedge fund managers and other money-grubbing Wall Street types. Private corporations already make billions off the backs of our children, but under the leadership of DeVos, they expect even more. It is an agenda that is widely opposed by professional educators, parents, and children, the people who know the most about education in American and have the most at stake, although I would argue that should these people succeed, we will all suffer.

Seattle high school teacher and author Jesse Hagopian has penned an open letter over at The Progressive in which he details our objections to the policies of DeVos, pointing out that the only real difference between her and her predecessor Arne Duncan is one of degree:

To be fair, I want to acknowledge that the destruction of public education didn't begin with you (DeVos). When your predecessor Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came to town, we protested him as well. Like you, he was also committed to privatizing education; he just didn't have your zeal for the voucher approach. But Duncan was even more motivated than you to reduce an individual student's intellectual and emotional learning to a single number on a test that could be used to punish a child, a teacher, or a school.

This is not a partisan issue: both parties have become acolytes for the schemes of Wall Street. I acknowledge that public education can and should be improved, but what they are proposing isn't reform: it's a hostile take-over.

They are fighting a long game in their quest to privatize and profit-ize public education, but so are we. They might have the money, but we have the numbers and no one can stand against teachers, parents, and children when we are united. That is why I will be on the streets of Bellevue tomorrow (Bellevue Hyatt, 5 p.m.) joining my voice with my fellow teachers, parents, and other concerned citizens, resisting the corporate scheme to dismantle public education and throw our children to the money-grubbers. I hope to see you there.

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