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The Proto-Fascist Future of Education: It’s Here

November 6, 2010

1) Imagine a world in which teachers are called in one by one on the first day of school and told by the principal not to talk to other teachers during the school day, because he doesn’t want “cliques to form.”

2) Imagine a world where a competent teacher who actually teaches credential classes herself is fired from the above charter school for low student test scores, yet still is good enough to teach at a Cal State University.

3) Imagine schools in which cameras with audio are placed in every classroom and teachers can be fired for something they say not to the administrations liking.

4) Imagine a world in which teachers are told that students will learn better if they all write on their whiteboards exactly the same way.

5) Imagine a world in which competent teachers are interviewed by students who have been used as pawns and then not rehired at their own schools. These same students who were told that they would have “input” into their educations by interviewing their own teachers for their jobs are now being taught by subs and Teach for America recruits so green that LAUSD had to pay off- track Fremont teachers to give them a crash course in teaching.

You don’t have to wait for the future; it’s already here. Meet the Alliance for College Ready “Public” Schools. Events 1, 2 and 3 occurred on their campuses. And I recently met the completely competent and delightful teacher victimized by this charter school. I met her at a book group that has been set up by a Huntington Park High School teacher and we are currently reading The Global Assault on Teaching, Teachers and Their Unions. Their website is updated with worldwide stories about teachers fighting privatization all around the globe.

And from Chuck’s postings, we know where example 4 occurred and we all know about the fifth one -we lived it.

Our book group seems to be forming into more of a Political Action Committee with two chapter chairs present, a very knowledgeable substitute teacher who knew quite a bit about what was happening at Fremont and told an interesting tale about a charter school who right around Christmas time gives about 150 students a present: they have been kicked out and now will attend the local public school? Who are these lucky kids? The ones doing the most poorly academically and the ones with behavior and emotional problems. The local public school then has a line around the block as they attempt to absorb all of these kids who are only a test score to the local charter school.

And when Hillcrest elementary school was going through political changes, a group of “parents” went around the neighborhood trying to get them to go charter, but it was discovered these were charter school parents posing as Hillcrest parents. Apparently, the charter school parents have to put in hours. They were outed by the office manager of Hillcrest who encountered them one day and recognized none as real Hillcrest parents.

Our book group / emerging PAC also discussed why all of a sudden, billionaires and hedge funds who have never been interested in education, all of a sudden are so worried about student progress.

If you think privatizing education is only happening here, you’d be mistaken. From Buenos Aries to New Zealand to the UK, teachers are fighting spending cuts by right wing governments and attempts to end strikes. In Buenos Aires, students and teachers are protesting the wealthy, right wing mayor’s starving of public education and attempts at privatization. Sound familiar?

Add to this the recent court decision that teachers have no free speech rights when it comes to curriculum– that ultimately they are just mouthpieces, actors if you will- hired to perform and read a script. So in other words, a doctor uses his professional expertise to do what is best for his patients, but teachers are not allowed this “luxury.”

Live to fight another day? Another day is here. I’m certainly in no position to judge any other teacher. I reapplied at Fremont because my students asked me to. It took me a while to realize that in some people there are just no good intentions, but I had to be smacked in the face with it. Now I cynically teach at a school where yes, I might be doing some good for a few students, but in reality I am there because it shields me- temporarily at least- from the raging war against teachers a few miles away, yet we at our tiny campus are not immune. We are told that if we just put our desks in a certain configuration and had “engaging lessons,” our students would not walk out of the rooms at will, smoke dope and make rude comments.

Even the most progressive minded principals, those most aware of the district’s bad intentions- even they are not immune from internalizing the anti-teacher rhetoric sweeping the nation. If a die-hard hippie peace and love administrator claims that “pods” will solve every school wide management issue, reality has been thrown to the wolves. Telling teachers that putting students who have been neglected, abandoned, who have been incarcerated, -that “pods” are the savior, I guess without any other support from the district for kids who desperately need it, what is left for an administrator to do than to mouth education speak?

Meanwhile Public School “Choice” marches on with Huntington Park High School being called Public School Choice 2.5, an attempt to further divide teachers from each other and destroy unions which all evidence proves are not the problem. Still, I understand why it is better to keep these schools within the district and within teacher hands, however the thin contracts ensure the LAUSD bureaucracy can step up at will and take power from teachers. If the district were truly interested in a collaborative model, they would go with School -Based Management but of course that is not what they are interested in. They are interested in forcing teachers to work longer hours with fewer protections while teachers do most of the work of running the school, coordinating internships for students and myriad other responsibilities that ensures high burnout rates and a constant influx of young, poorly paid but well -educated teachers.

There is some hope, but only if we all get active. Four LAUSD school board seats are up for grabs this spring. If teachers get all four candidates elected and they agree to reverse Public School Choice, we might be able to begin reversing some of the damage to public education. Our book group seems to be evolving into somewhat of a Political Action Committee. Here’s to the start of something beautiful. There was talk at the meeting of having an entire school of teachers divert their union dues somewhere else. Someone needs to get the attention of the top brass of UTLA. Electing Democrats while ignoring the rank and file certainly isn’t working. If you need a little push to get involved, reread the first three points above. If that doesn’t do it, I’m not sure what will.
Maybe a reminder that Monday there is a vigil for Rigoberto Ruelas
at the LA Times building from 3:30 to 5:30.

RIGOBERTO RUELAS VIGIL flyer

One of the teachers at our book group gathering works at Miramonte. She said of Rigo: “He wasn’t just a good teacher, he was a great teacher.”

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