Real Reform

The pubic school system in the U.S. has long been the Afghanistan of the right wing: the place where all of their dreams of hegemony and empire are destroyed. In modern times, the right’s dislike, if not hatred of public education is certainly rooted in the Civil Rights movement, and in desegregation. But it has deeper roots as well.

How do you nurture an abiding hatred of the government when just about everyone has attended a government-run school? Even worse, the public schools have long been strongly unionized. So the right’s strategy has been to take (what they consider) their money elsewhere: to charter schools. It’s just white flight.

The Obama administration should have a clear cut education agenda: stop the attacks on teachers and strengthen the public schools through full funding. There’s no shortage of good ideas about how to improve the schools, either; my favorites are integrated environmental curricula, like the “Edible Schoolyard” project.

Instead, Obama keeps pushing Bush-era policies and not surprisingly teachers are getting nervous about the ongoing threat of massive layoffs (Teachers’ Union Shuns Obama Aides at Convention). Meanwhile Secretary of Education Duncan works the appeasement angle.

Duncan’s remarks are interesting. She sent the National Alliance of Charter Schools a speech, but didn’t appear in person, and she “challenges” them to do better, etc., implying what’s now become obvious: a charter is no magic panacea for anything; charters don’t do better, as a whole, than the public schools.

He political advice is telling. “I think building stronger relationships,” she says, “with CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, building better relationships with the leaders of the civil rights organizations…” In other words, your class and race roots are showing, and you’d better fix it.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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