Yoking the California Universities

Schools are now the centerpiece of North American society. The class that once civilized the US, the industrial working class, has mostly vanished, and those who remain are ensnared by organizations, like the AFL-CIO unions, so corrupt that they are nothing but wings of management within the workers ranks. The industrial working class won at least these things: regulated hours of work, laws against child labor, rights to organize and bargain, some enforceable rights of free speech, social security, some welfare benefits, and they had a considerable impact on expanding public education. But they are either gone (the maquiladoras plants in Tijuana have laid off more than 200,000 workers in the last two years---jobs outsourced mainly to China) or they are mostly impotent (note the retreat of the west coast long shore workers---and their remarkable potential to shut down the coming Oil War). 

This means that schools, not industrial work places, are the center of this society, the place where most people organize their lives. And it means that what teachers (the most unionized people in the US) counts more than ever. School wages can be driven down, the curriculum regulated and tested, but schools cannot be outsourced. 

The maneuvers to regulate education, sharpening for about 10 years, cannot be seen outside this context, nor outside the context of preparing for perpetual war, while shielding deepening inequality. Hence the attacks on whole language, as a vision that links parts to the whole, are as much war preparations as the National Guard buildup, or the militarization of the schools. This has been easy to see for quite some time. To split one from the other, Open Court from Iraq, is a serious mistake. whole language will not be served by partial politics. 

There is no reason, at least in history, to believe that most teachers will resist, fight for equality, democracy, or against tyranny. The mass of modern teachers have really no history of that. In Germany, the teachers organizations were early volunteer Nazis. In Russia, they struck in favor of the Czar, as they did in China, in favor of warlords. Teachers in South Africa did play a leading role, in important cases, but at the end of the day that role too was limited, nationalist rather than anti-capitalist, and bred what exists in S Africa today. Moreover, the ANC and the SACP both understood that under apartheid, closed schools are better than open schools, so many teachers were working in rebel freedom academies, radically different from official schooling--as school boycotts shut down apartheid knowledge. 

Teachers in the US are, for the most part, wittingly colluding with elites, serving as missionaries of capital, inequality, and imperialist war. They do that for a variety of reasons, their own limited privileges, the racism that is rampant in the profession (90%-plus white), nationalism, fear of really minor discipline, fear of social rejection--and some good reasons like lack of tenure. Some teachers are resisting, and so are some students. At the end of the day, it seems likely to me that most teachers will trail behind student actions and the potential of uprisings in the military, and the cities. Some teachers (and students), courageous and conscious, will take the lead, now--even at the risk of sacrifice--and play vital roles. Remarkably, most of the student test resisters, and their allied teachers, have won the fights that they have led. 

The key, I think, is to lead now; to fight as openly as possible now. It is going to be much, much harder to resist, either for smaller issues like academic freedom or larger issues like school strikes against the war, as time goes by. Laying low will not pay off. This does not mean that people should stand in school house doorways beating their breasts, asking to be fired. It means that we must begin to organize, agitate, and educate--and act-- more openly, defy more openly, so we can find spaces to resist, and to enlarge those spaces for more resistance.

The California State University System (the "workhorse" according to the Chancellor), and the UC system ("the race horse"), is now about to be regulated in new and powerful ways, via regulating what goes on in the colleges of education, the "credential programs." As part of the state Master (sic) Plan, the credential programs are directed to teach people certain forms of knowledge, and methods, in order for the students to pass state high-stakes standardized exams, presumably for their credentials (tho cities in Ca will hire nearly any breathing body to warehouse children of the working class).

California, since the passage of proposition 13 in the late 1970s, managed to shift what was once the finest (and least expensive) education systems in the US, to what is now one of the worst---worst academically, most segregated by class and race, most militarized, etc. We are to believe that the products of that system, chosen by the governor, turned around and wrote "world class" standards. 

Right now, the process of regulating the California universities is in the experimental stage, the experiment being run mostly by ETS---pointing back to the authority gained from many honest educators who participated in an initiative organized by Enron's Gray Davis appointees, in designing the project---and ratifying the standards. Come on to my web says the spider to the flies.

The experiment is already a mess, with the people suffering most being the students. Required courses have been added, with no expansion in the program for time, tuition goes up, existing classes bulge with syllabi designed to meet the standards, etc. Students are likely to be tested on knowledge they never will encounter in the pilot program. And, predictably, language, income, and affect gateways will select for a middle-class and white success rate. Of course, for faculty there are issues of academic freedom, work load, etc.

The long term impact, at least in the CSU system, will be to regiment the whole of the liberal studies (BA)programs---as each academic division lines up to get its syllabi in line with the requirements for the credential program. Geography will be official geography. As is often the case, many faculty will volunteer to knot their own nooses, seeing FTE's on the horizon. Some faculty will resist, in the name of academic freedom, workload, or just for the sheer good of the students. That needs to start now. 

In our case at SDSU's COE, the part of the faculty that I lead, the Social Justice Cluster which includes Educational Foundations, Multiculturalism, Social Studies, and Ed Psych, voted overwhelmingly to call a moratorium on their participation in the pilot project unless certain key provisions are not met. While this is hardly a rejection of the standards, the tests, and the pilot itself (which I think would be appropriate), it is at least a stand taken. 

There is no reason to believe that the Faculty Association will take action. Already in the hip pocket of Gray Davis, as is the NEA, the union is not going to take the lead fighting a project they helped create. Nor will the professional organizations, propelled not be wily tactics, but by the lowest forms of sheer opportunism. It is going to be up to the faculty rank and file, and students, to initiate this fight, and carry it wherever it may go. 

We need to find other CSU and UC faculty who recognize what is up, and who are willing to take stands on their own, or to write to educate others. 

We are in the process of setting up a bulletin board for concerned people. Please pass this along.....best r


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