|Real teachers are being forced from workplaces for two reasons: 1) to de-fund the perceived left (never mind teachers aren't necessarily liberal); and 2) to drastically diminish staff and salaries. Did you know that some online outfits pay only $60 a course to college teachers. Yes, the pay scale varies widely. But the growing trend to extract near-slave wages reveals one of the main objectives of the charter movement as well.
Traditional schools face problems of their own. One Rhode Island School fired its entire staff. We were told they deserved it. We were told that schools, which have high rates of failure on engineered tests; who have high percentages of kids speaking English as a second language; or many kids without parental support, supervision, and involvement, must achieve anyway--or else. We were even told that our president approved of the firing of 100% of the staff of that school. I object.
Listen for the galloping horsemen of the apocalypse. The privateers ride again. Never did I believe that this country would be so craven as to disembowel public education and put profits above children to the extent that "we" have. But it has happened and happens again nearly each and every day as the horror that is our de-funding of public education in America. And then come the roaring headlines, half of the public schools in St. Louis MO, will close. Closed. Half of St. Louis's public schools.
In 40 years, flight (to private and charter schools)reduced the student population from 75,000 to over 17,500. This is an education disaster in the works. A part of America's school systems died this week. Let the reality of that sink in. 29 of 61 schools in St. Louis are closing. And the American public education system entered new terrain this week. Its infrastructure, like the old Middle School in Blacksburg, perennial source of disagreement regarding its disposal, will become political footballs. The battle between those seeking community buildings v. privateers will play out all across the St. Louis area. Or, the schools will be bulldozed altogether by developers. Whatever the decision, the waste of taxpayer resources is staggering.
Not that long ago, Michael Bloomberg and his Billionaire Boys Club friends, fire-saled away nearly 2 dozen NY City schools to privateers. NY City Public School "Chancellor," Joel Klein is a former prosecutor, btw. And yet he presides over the massive school district, supposedly as its protector and advocate. He is nothing of the sort. And not surprisingly, he runs it in ideological fashion, the more charters the better. He's one of the nation's leading apologists for the educational takings movement: Our property into theirs with the wave of a wand. There are many possible descriptors of this movement, some more virulent than others. But two words are most appropriate: Separate and unequal.
Three Billionaires' foundations underlie the current push to shutter and hand off America's public schools: Gates, Walton and Broad. Americans are wont to proclaim what a great guy is Bill Gates.
For decades, he built a mighty monopoly, playing worse than hardball with other high tech firms. And then, (playing reverse Robin Hood), he overcharged us all for decades. Hundreds upon hundreds of dollars of overcharges to each of us for his open-door, virus-plagued (too many open doors and vulnerabilities to count)operating systems and "productivity software" . How much productivity have you lost trying to fix the Blue Screen, or tie up your machine with endless scans, updates, troubleshooting and back ups all necessary because of Bill Gate's overpriced products? We endure numerous other inconveniences because the house that Gates built takes too much of our money for rushed-to-market products which must be updated over and over and over.
And now, playing the patron saint of the Billionaire Boys, he works behind the scenes to destroy the NY City public school system. He lures in Oprah Winfrey, who never-met-a-millionaire --or billionaire--she doesn't admire. Her show to gave him education "credibility" among America's Moms. And you wonder at the arrogance of a man and the company he once chaired, who think they should control the educational content of the world. There are others (including Google's CEO), but probably none so good at persuading Moms and grandmas that, where education is concerned, he's the boyish-looking good guy.
It's not a coincidence that even as this happens, the Billionaire Boys Club (Gates Foundation, Walton Foundation and Broad Foundation) has persuaded NY City's Mayor and top education honchos to hand over citizen paid infrastructure to billionaires and hedge fund managers, as if they can run a school. Education is not and never should be a business, but exploitation. The minute it is, it is no longer education. If this is Bill Gate's idea of how to change the world, we could use far, far less of his notions of change.
Finally, the news broke this week that Texas has approved the Newt Gingrich history curriculum. Radical con revisionism is now enshrined (probably for decades to come) in one of the largest states. We are told to watch for these same radical conservative curricula to invade textbooks in a state near us. God help us. (And ,no this was not founded as an officially Christianist nation, Gingrich's revisionism notwithstanding.)
I have some questions, brought home by Virginia news items this week: At what point does education become virtual rather than real? At what point does the mis-education of America's children render our nation an empty shell? At what point does the exploitation of schoolchildren for profit become our worst learning nightmare. At what point does de-funding education; ripping off communities of their education infrastructure; saddling them with phony "education" systems," and, worse, debt, become a crime against humanity? Don't look now, but that time approaches, and indeed may already be here.