Because Americans love their sports analogies…the President came out like Rocky Balboa on Red Bull as he made a resounding comeback in the second debate, the latest poll shows Romney gaining ground as they go around the final turn at Belmont…I’m going to use one in my musings on the state of education in the United States. When I think about the issues confronting public education in America and reflect on some of the articles I come across, it brings to mind basketball’s full court press. The purpose of this strategy is to put pressure on the offensive team the entire length of the court, beginning even before the ball hits the parquet floor to prevent a successful inbound pass. In this way, every effort is made to disrupt any dribble, pass or shot by the team with possession of that glorious 22 oz. sphere. If the players are constantly harassed by traps, steals, double teams, picks and blocked shots their resolve, perhaps even their will to live, begins to wear thin and the team begins to unravel. Well, sports fans, the Grand Poobah’s of profiteering watch ESPN too and they have come up with their own playbook to take down those pesky, name tag loving teachers. Murdoch sees public education as an opportunity not to improve the lives of five hundred billion children but to make five hundred billion dollars on the backs of those five hundred billion children at the expense of their most impassioned advocates, their teachers and parents. As the housing market bubble has turned into a blueberry ala Violet Beauregarde, and the last billion dollars from the federal (U.S. taxpayer’s) bailout of the investment banks has been spent on one last private island, investment capital has gone back on the prowl for new money to increase the coffers of the old money ruling class.
It’s a full court press on the administrators, teachers, unions, students and parents. With everyone fighting for survival due to the economic conditions created by the sponsors of the education “reformers” in our midsts, there is little energy left for questioning or critical thinking much less collective action. Teachers are beginning to reap the whirlwind of value added measures that have been included in the new teacher evaluation systems tacked on to No Child Left Behind II: The Race To The Top of Sisyphus Mountain. New York’s Department of Education wants to bypass education certification programs completely and train teachers internally, further deprofessionalizing the profession. Parents are finding out that confidential student and teacher data is being shared with corporations who are seeking to track families for marketing purposes and publicize the evaluation results of low rated teachers. Higher education is not immune either to the ravages of the “free market” system as student debt and a widening college caste system keep people from livin’ la vida loca. The public education unions, once considered untouchable, have suffered some of the most dramatic setbacks, as No Child Left Behind has transformed into No Charter Left Behind under a POTUS who still can’t seem to find those darn, pair of comfortable walking shoes he’s been looking for. As the spectators cling to the edges of their seats, the once illustrious, Dream Team known as the Seattle Supersolvers finds shot after shot blocked by the underdog, Washington Smart Alecs team captained by William Henry Gates III.
Meanwhile, the 800 lb. puffin in the room continues to be ignored, which is the stratifying effects that poverty has on the public school system in the United States of (standardized) Assessment. As much as Americans love to believe the myth that every child can succeed if they would just pull themselves up by their untied bootstraps, real educators know that when the child leaves the school at the end of the school day, there might not be a free or reduced meal waiting for them. An eye opening study by David C. Berliner, Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America’s Youth, dispels the notion that the debilitating outcomes related to a child’s socioeconomic status can be easily counteracted by a “highly effective” teacher. Education researchers and historians from Kozol to Ravitch to Freire have been sounding the alarms on poverty and education for years, like basketball coaches waving their arms wildly on the sidelines to get the referees to blow the whistle for a foul or at least call a time out. Public education alone cannot level the playing field for millions of young adults in our country who must overcome stagnating wages, unaffordable housing and healthcare, reduced job benefits and security, and increasing tuition costs to even enter the running for the American Dream™. This is an intended effect caused by decades of planning by the ruling class to simultaneously enslave and profit off of the working class. Every empire needs someone to build its pyramids, plant its crops or compete in its coliseums and it fo’ sho’ isn’t going to be Caesar’s children. In the meantime, the ruling class would prefer the serfs to be at each other’s throats rather than their own and teachers are an attractive target for two reasons, one they tend not to fight back because they are too busy straightening their classroom’s desks for the hundredth time and two they are the gatekeepers to the (white, middle to upper class) language that children will need to access the kingdom. For young people who are taught to think critically and link cause to effect may one day ask their leaders why there’s no money for schools but hundreds of billions for the military. Apprentices who learn a craft may one day wonder why everything around them is made in Tucheng, New Taipei, Taiwan. Scholars who are taught to think empirically and follow the evidence wherever it may lead will inevitably speak up and speak out against a morally indefensible system and this cannot be allowed by our corporate captors. As every sports junkie knows, no pain no gain, and the austerity makers don’t mind if your pain is there gain because in the end, winning isn’t everything it’s the only motherfudging thing.