Regarding the San Diego School System and it's CEO, Alan Bersin (WSJ editorial April 30), 

There is nothing at all new or innovative about Superintendent Alan Bersin's project in San Diego. Nestled in a society that is daily more inequitable, jingoist, and racist--and rapidly institutionalizing irrationalism, the school boss is mirroring the activities of his counterparts all over the United States. Given that the nation is offering its youth perpetual war, though, Bersin might fit the bill better than most. 

Bersin's project, like all the rest, has these components:

  • Establish the beneficiaries of economic inequality as the arbiters of school reform. 
  • Conclude that the key problems in schools are kids and teachers. 
  • Deny that doing school reform without doing social and economic reform in communities is like washing the air on one side of a screen door. 
  • Master the work place by stripping the minds of the teachers, replacing them with scripted partisan curricula cloaked as fair standards.
  • Lay off vital classroom aides, often the bridge between monolingual teachers and English language learners. 
  • Eradicate extraneous curricula like art, writing, music, physical education, etc.
  • Focus on high-stakes test scores, disclaim that they mostly measure race and class. 
  • Deepen school segregation by tracking kids based on their test performances. 
  • Divide the school worker force with merit pay schemes linked to the scores.
  • Decry poor teaching and order educators into remedial training programs offered by out- of- towners who hold those teachers in contempt--and spend $60 million on it.
  • When teachers and parents in wealthy areas of the district object that the plan dumbs them down, give them autonomy while holding noses to the grindstone in poorer communities. 
  • In a district that is $30 million in debt, ignore crises of class size and chronic shortages of supplies.
  • Ensure your own pay raise, at 20% ($284,000 a year) then notify the teachers that "we are in hard times," and hence there is no money for teacher wage hikes.
  • Let no form of administrative hubris go unsurpassed. 
  • Seek grants from foundations, and link the grants to your own job security.
  • Use the police to discipline critics at board meetings, drastically slash public comment.
  • Encourage the elimination of dissenting board members, assist in a million dollar campaign financed by land developers and stadium owners to subvert a local election-but lose.
  • Claim terrific results, though by your own measure, test scores, little has happened.
There is nothing original about this. It's an international trend. That one San Diego board member witnesses this and says, "fascism," may be a stretch, but the sum of the above is more than worrisome. 

Those who will profit from the endless hostility offered as the national future may not object. Those of us who have dedicated our lives to reason and social justice are fighting back. Students in San Diego recently won the right to inform one another of their right to boycott the Big Tests that Bersin and his ilk so revere. That boycott is a superior educational device to anything he is urging in classrooms.  

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