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
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
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
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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