There is no fluoride in the water in San Diego. Fluoride was always
identified by the John Birch Society as part of a communist plot to destroy
the will of good US citizens to resist communism. The town that once profited
from hosting political conservatism and the Navy as its primary employer
now lives with the remnants of that legacy: grisly dental carries among
children in an area with more than 100,000 youths without medical care.
Overstretched school nurses serve as family physicians but in, "America's
finest city," dental care goes untouched.
The Navy and the Marines still maintain a powerful presence in San
Diego County. The defense industry is second only to manufacturing in the
area Gross Regional Product, at around $10 billion. San Diego is still
port to 48 ships, 200,000 acres of military land, and around 100,000 military
personnel. Officers complain daily about the treatment of enlisted people,
many of whom are so poorly paid they are eligible for food stamps. The
enlisted corps cannot find affordable local housing near bases.
The Navy willed San Diego another peculiar legacy: 31 million gallons
of napalm, left over from fire-bombing missions on Vietnam. Napalm, primarily
an incendiary anti-personnel device, had been designed by Dow labs in Midland,
Michigan. Photos of naked Vietnamese children, victims of napalm running
in terror, clothes burned off and skin peeling, triggered mass protests
all over the US. Not long after the war, napalm became hazardous waste,
stored in drums near the Fallbrook community, whose citizens protested
the presence of the petroleum-based enemy in their midst. The last of the
napalm was shipped to Texas in March, 2001, to be used to fuel energy plants.
One booming factor in the economy, drugs, goes unmentioned in Chamber
of Commerce brochures, but the 2000 film "Traffic," makes the issue difficult
to hide. Peter Smith of the University of California San Diego estimates
that the Tijuana drug cartel has an annual budget of around $500 million.
Tourism is vital to the region's economy. The tourism base stills
controversy, as it does in every area which depends on cheerful appearances
for income. Says a leading local environmentalist, "It would be unseemly,
outside the family," to point at the cost-cutting that creates vacant lifeguard
booths on the beaches, or to repeat too often that the beaches are frequently
closed due to sewage run-offs.
"Don't buy south of 8," is a realtors' slogan indicating that people
of quality should not purchase homes beneath I-8, a moving border that
slowly shifts north as the Hispanic, black, and Asian population grows
in the south. Although segregation and poverty is not as glaring in San
Diego as it is in many northern industrial cities, it is still in force,
at every level. Even in liberal wealthier public schools that encourage
students to come from poor areas, children who arrive on busses are repeatedly
reminded that they are visitors. 55% of San Diego County citizens are white,
9% black, 23% Hispanic, 13% Asian/other.
San Diego is relatively prosperous, or at least many of its citizens
are. There are nearly one million families in the area with an average
household income of $70,000. The city keeps its truly poor completely outside:
in Tijuana. There the maquiladora plants replace the North American industrial
work force with wages sometimes under $20 per day. Still, since year 2000,
the maquiladoras have laid off more than 200,000 people, their jobs outsourced
mostly to China, where labor is sufficiently cheap, so cheap that it is
economical to transport China-made goods back across the Pacific. Near
the Mexico border, families, babies in arms, can still be seen dashing
down local expressways, surging toward hope, with the Immigration and Naturalization
Service in hot pursuit. That pursuit reverberates into daily life for all
San Diegans, as the INS sets up check points on major highways, exacerbating
the massive traffic jams that already plague the area, and interrogates
the occupants of cars identified in their profiles as suspicious. While
the targeting is clear, it remains that the mass of the citizenry are all
under surveillance. Even with purportedly severe oversight, the border
remains a sieve of drug trafficking.
The former head of the Immigration and Nationalization Service, Alan
Bersin, who made his reputation by separating people by nation and race,
is now the head of the local school board, implementing standardized curricula
and tests with the same vigor he applied to border-crossers in his last
position. His father-in-law is a major land developer in the area, the
good wife's dad standing in line to profit handsomely from the sell-off
of school-owned property. The father-in-law is a big contributor to the
Democratic party. His two key issues: fluoride (for) and gun-control (for).In
a recent election, area billionaires like the owners of Qualcomm, the baseball
Padres, and a local discount chain spent nearly $3/4 million trying to
drive a critic of the land deals off the local school board. They lost.
The INS commissioner nevertheless continued his Skinnerian school
campaign. The upshot is in part that San Diego area schools are extraordinarily
regimented, marching children between classes, stressing phonics-based
literacy programs and abstract Chicago Math projects, designed to drill
kids and de-skill teachers. In-class reward systems that pile on top of
one another to a degree that is hard to follow are common in city schools.
Gifted and talented programs in most schools select the white and affluent,
suggesting that five to ten percent of the kids in a school can be truly
gifted-at everything, and they are better than the rest.
Key leaders within the San Diego schools used a number of measures,
for more than 20 years, to mingle children who might otherwise never see
each other. Camping programs, a series of educational tours of the historic
Old Town district, magnet school programs, extended workshops in Balboa
Park and its zoo, all at least briefly integrated children from all over
the city, from its many racial and economic groups, in ways that most cities
would envy. All of this, as the community knows, will lose funding and
cease to exist at the end of the 2001 school year. In addition, "thousands
of children, including children in kindergarten, will be retained in grade
because of standardized test scores," according to a leading African-American
educator at San Diego State University.
Students in systems like this are fearful of freedom, unaccustomed
to guessing or lively chatter, commonly whining and tattling-all symptoms
that experienced educators know reflect deeper problems. Test scores that
measure parental income and race fix self-worth for children, teachers,
and schools. The teachers' union has, for the most part, battled the commissioner
on bread and butter grounds, but rarely challenged his curricular edicts.
San Diego boasts that if the city were a state, it would be ahead of New
York, Number One in the USA for test scores, although even the test writers
admit that the way to raise scores is to recruit richer kids; teaching
seems to only have a secondary influence.
Central San Diego is the home of the thriving San Diego State University,
more than double its undergraduate size just ten years ago, and planning
to become a prestigious graduate research university. The campus is following
the entrepreneurial lines of many universities: naming key buildings after
big donors, and seeking more. One campus building is: Gateway. The SDSU
president faced his toughest test early in the school year of 2000. A handful
of students in a Native American organization suggested that the campus
mascot, "Monty Montezuma," was offensive. Monty is the embodiment of the
campus symbol, a caricature of a red-faced cartoon Indian, the Aztec. Monty,
though, takes life form at football games when, historically, a fraternity
boy plays Monty in red paint, chasing sorority "squaws," around the stadium,
carrying a spear and spitting fire. At a campus rally, one county board
member screamed, "If the students of SDSU want a fire-breathin', spear-chuckin',
squaw-chasin' Monty Montezuma, then they should have him!"
At the rally, a lonely critic pointed out that, "there is no Mad
Priest running around chasing nuns on behalf of the Padres."
Initially, the student government, after considerable research and
judicious discussion, voted to ban Monty and the Aztec from campus. Faced
with an alumni and student outcry, the student council backed off, called
for a vote, and tossed the decision to the university president. More than
90% of the student body voted to keep the mascot and the symbol. The faculty
voted to offer that the name Aztec be kept without the Monty caricature,
suggesting that the name Aztec did not necessarily represent people. The
faculty senate was, on the day of the vote, more than 90% white. The SDSU
president, trained as a philosopher, "after much research and study of
the matter of the Aztecs," decided to keep the name and to fob the question
of Monty to a committee. Monty lives.
To the north, the city of Oceanside butts up against Camp Pendleton.
It is a crew-cut city of tattoo parlors, check-loan agencies, motorcycle
sales lots, and bars. Farther north, as LA comes into view, the public
signs along the highways are strung with razor wire to ward off gang tags,
graffiti, an indicator that the softer background of San Diego is fading
Between Oceanside and downtown San Diego is Miramar, a huge military
air base that, due to cutbacks, is not nearly as busy as it once was. The
mayor eyes this area hungrily as a possible site for an expanded airport,
a supplement to the local Lindbergh Field, named after the ocean-crossing
fascist aviator. Nearby residents, however, include the NASDAQ- investor
crowd. They have launched a series of counter-attacks, suggesting that
the airport be located near Mexico.
Political life in San Diego is almost hushed. Candidates for public
office never mention party affiliations. Few people know if the mayor is
a republican or a democrat. One reporter who covered local politics related,
"In most cities the people know the bosses are corrupt, and in some cities
that makes them mad. In San Diego, they don't even know what corruption
is. The bosses just file their reports as if taking bribes was not corrupt,
and the citizenry just can't tell a bribe from a bid." It was a small scandal
when a local council- person was driven out of office, convicted of taking
bribes from a local businessman in order to gain her vote on a downtown
stadium. But when she was removed, the project simply moved forward. The
city officials never broke their deal with the football Chargers either:
to buy every unsold seat at Qualcomm stadium, an agreement which cost the
city a million dollars in 2000 as the Chargers charged for their mediocrity.
Dick Nixon called San Diego, "My lucky city," visiting often. Ronald Reagan
lives just an hour north.
The city government, apparently benign, takes no notice that gasoline
prices in the county, fixed by a small cabal of energy-owners, range about
25 cents per gallon higher than in Los Angeles. The leader of local consumer
group, UCAN, says it is hard to organize in San Diego.
San Diego struggled out of a recession in the late 1980's by highlighting
its existing base in research and development-and supporting Nafta. The
1994 trade agreement tripled the export market for the region. Now, 8 million
legal border-crossings are made monthly at the Tijuana station. Hispanic
activists claim that an average of one person a week dies trying to make
an illegal crossing into California. The movement of the free market does
not apply to people. The hyper-competition that is the basis of Nafta's
outlook is seen as good for the region's economy. San Diego is home to
an entire corridor of bio-tech companies and research institutions like
Qualcomm (of Eudora software fame), the Salk Institute, the University
of California at San Diego (third only to Harvard and Stanford in federal
research funding in 1998), and Scripps Research Institute, focused on synthetic
vaccines and autoimmune diseases-all engaged in entrepreneurial work aimed
at combining knowledge and the commodity market. At every level, education
is seen as key to regional economic development.
Near downtown San Diego is Balboa Park, home of world-renowned museums
and a zoo housing, among other species, two Pandas bought at a cost of
$1 million from the Chinese. The zoo is famous for making its fences almost
invisible, providing homes to the animals in near-natural environments.
The museums were the site of recent protests. Dozens of Christians complained
that the museum's exhibit, "Torture Instruments and Their Symbols," was
San Diego's police force is hard to spot. The city, in 1990, adopted
a policy of "community policing," meaning self-policing, and maintains
a fairly low crime rate while employing about ½ of the police officers
as other cities of comparable size.
Led by liberal local politician Steve Peace, San Diego was the first
of California's cities to deregulate the public utilities, thus leading
the way to one of the most massive transfers of wealth in history, what
could be the entire $10 billion budget surplus of the state shifting to
millionaire Texas energy owners. A quick citizen boycott in the area drew
some action, and brief price caps, but the leading local consumer advocate
believes further boycotts simply will not gain support. The local unions
have joined with the energy companies in supporting the rate hikes and
shift of wealth, which they believe may benefit their members working on
energy-related jobs. Heating and electricity costs in homes in San Diego
in late 2000 multiplied by a factor of nine in many cases, forcing San
Diego State students to leave apartments to quadruple-up with friends,
and teachers to begin to raise demands for the next contracts.
Memories of resistance in San Diego are nearly obliterated. Few people
know that the anarchist Industrial Workers of the World were big players
in town in the early 1900's, that they led free speech fights for the right
to form unions-and that they were taken out on the desert on boxcars and
dumped. Many of them died. Few students are aware that one of the most
militant student strikes of the 1960's happened at SDSU, under banners
demanding affirmative action, military off the campus, and black studies
programs. Nearly no one in town remembers that in the early 1970's sailor
uprisings on aircraft carriers stationed in San Diego kept those ships
from entering the Vietnam war for months, one not at all. History in school
is a test item, not a question of reading and acting on the world.
The west side of San Diego County boomed in the last decade, primarily
on the back of NASDAQ prosperity. In La Jolla, a wealthy community of cliffs
by the sea that uses its local art galleries in preference to museums,
professors at the prestigious University of California at San Diego, once
home base to Herbert Marcuse, cannot afford to live in the community. In
fact, the local paper estimates that less than 30% of the county residents
can afford to purchase local homes. The NASDAQ boom also blew up housing
costs as high-tech millionaires bid up once middle-class housing, as an
The brief spate of Nasdaq wealth did offer new alternatives to many
San Diego area residents, for whom appearances are excruciatingly important.
The local press is replete with ads from doctors offering their services
to alter body parts, from hair to eyes to tummies to legs, to ensure the
image of well-being. The image is likely to be quite correct. Few working
class medical plans cover cosmetic surgery. Close to the ads for the surgery,
though, are ads from personal injury lawyers, offering to sue for botched
East County San Diego has a similar, but not so harsh, reputation
as the area south of 8. West County gentry sometimes call the East County
folk: Goat-Ropers, trailer-trash, meth-makers, haze-suckers (the air pollution
that tamps down the horizon gets locked in the high hills to the east)
and Klan-fans. East county is a much cheaper place to live. In Julian and
to the northeast, it snows in the winter-drawing crowds of thousands of
residents for a moment of snow-boarding, and a taste of hot apple pie.
An Indian reservation east of Alpine is home to a small casino, usually
full of unsmiling gamblers under heavy surveillance, and a discount shopping
mall designed to look like a pueblo village, complete with piped in sounds
of coyotes and desert birds. This reservation, like others in the area,
now donates sports equipment to poor kids in the city.
South and west of the reservation, north and east of the city, lies
Santee, also known by its own residents as "Klantee," a long-time bastion
of white supremacist activity and part of a school system that since 1999
has been home to a high school teacher who, with her husband and son, long
operated a Nazi web site. The son is now in jail, for fascist threats.
The mom is still teaching.
There is no center city in Santee; just a scattering of desert strip
malls and a Walmart on the outskirts of town. The city limits buttress
one of the largest city parks in the country, the eight square miles of
rolling hills inside San Diego called Mission Trails Regional Park. Coyotes
roam out from this park at night, eating pets nearby. The San Diego River,
usually a trickle, runs through Mission Trails. Water rights, as a question
of property rights, have underpinned regional wars since the Gold Rush.
Park Rangers at the visitor center welcome newcomers and say they wish
more than 10% of the area's population would stop by for a hike each year.
The daytime trip from San Diego to Santee runs under typically blue skies
through the middle of the park, the road lined on both sides by the mountain
ridges that create the region's micro-climates, neighboring domains that
vary from seashore to mountain to desert. Santee is desert, only incorporated
after irrigation in the early 1980's.
With 60,000 residents, and streets named Pleasant, Carefree, and
Magnolia; Santee was seen by many as a suburban nirvana, upper-middle class
and trouble free. It's about 85% white, 14 % Hispanic, 1% black. In Chamber
of Commerce documents, Santee is portrayed as the site of the lowest crime
rate in the area, "a solid well-ordered community...with elementary test
scores in the 70 to 90th percentiles." In one Santee-based San
Diego State University class for pre-service educators in the winter of
2000, a young white woman felt comfortable to rise and say, "Look, I am
a racist. Racism has been around forever. So get used to it. Why don't
you stop talking about racism and teach us some methods?"
Santee is home to many poor and working class people. Geographically
and economically set up to be a racist area, the city houses people who
also struggle against racism-and its cohorts. They swim upstream.
Santana High in Santee is home to the Sultans, presumably precursors
to the Aztecs for many grads who go on to college. Santana High is typically
California-modern. The school is nearly windowless. It needs a fresh coat
of paint. However, immediately adjacent to the school is a fully equipped
football stadium, complete with irrigated green grass and a full lighting
system and stadium seating, not crude bleachers, but stadium seating. The
geography of power for the Sultans is etched in the contrast of the stadium
and the school.
It's Only Me
On March 5th, Andy Williams, a small thin freshman white
boy who arrived in the fall of 2000, opened fire with an unusual German
Arminius eight-shot 22 revolver, available on the internet now for $55,
in Santana High School in Santee. He killed two people, wounded 13 more,
11 students, a student teacher, and a security guard. Ensconced in a boys
bathroom, a good defensive position for a shooter, he had reloaded four
times. Faced with a one-man police assault, he dropped his fully-loaded
weapon, fell to his knees, and said, "It's only me."
In a phone interview, Andy Williams former track coach said he was
the kind of kid, "who would sweep the snow off the neighbors' driveways,
who would run errands for the Alzheimer's patient down the street."
Andy Williams' Arminius killings followed these other white kids
shooting white kids: Jonesboro, West Paducah, Springfield, Littleton. In
some cases, the shooters lived in an area where open racist activity was
commonplace. In others, they did not. Some shooters had connections with
the NRA. Others did not.
Santana High, in 1998, had a California API (Academic Performance
Index--weighted scores for five subjects, with scores ranging from 200
to 1,000) of 636, considerably higher than the less affluent El Cajon High
(526) and lower than the more moneyed Valhalla High (710). For comparison,
the truly affluent La Jolla High got an 812. Impoverished Hoover High inside
San Diego averaged 444. Test scores are consequential to administrators
in every California district. Their sense of importance sifts down in the
form of fear and greed. Schools and school workers are financially rewarded
and punished by the state testing system. Soon, students will not graduate
and teachers will be fired, based on test scores. There is little room
to take off for simply being sixteen, planning to catch up in a year. This
quantification of learning, which most know is based on inheritance, and
regulation of the curricula, rooted in the politics of inequality and exploitation,
strikes at every level of the school system, creating pressure and despair
at levels previously unseen in US schools.
In the San Diego schools, the board voted 3-2 on March 11 to de-fund
magnet and performing arts schools, in order to pay for the hundreds of
students predicted to fail standardized exams in the spring. Those students
will now be grade-retained, and forced into summer school. The money saved
from stripping the arts schools will not be enough to cover the costs of
the summer schools. The board is looking for other possible cuts.
Teacher contract disputes have been growing bitter in Santee and
nearby areas. In Cajon Valley, teachers picket nearly every day demanding
a contract and a fair wage hike. Similar if less militant actions have
been building in Santee.
Beginning early in the school year, Pastor Gary Cass, a trustee on
the Santee school board, held demonstrations outside Santana High, holding
up pictures of aborted fetuses and signs opposing abortion, accusing fornicating
students of devils' lives. He was, according to his statements, frequently
ridiculed by passing students. Later, Pastor Cass suggested that an atmosphere
of contempt for life in Santee pervaded every move in the community.
On the same day Andy Williams opened fire, an auto accident in San
Diego county killed three people. A day later, a child committed suicide
inside Hoover High. The latter incident was deliberately silenced by the
media, according to a manager at the San Diego Times Union, in order to
prevent copy-cat suicides. The auto accident got third-page coverage, then
vanished. Andy Williams's gunfire drew media coverage from all over the
world. It became a spectacle, a commodity to be sold.
Contrary to one of the key messages of standardized high-stakes tests:
ruthless competition is the key to success; several youths and a security
officer risked their lives in order to try to stop Andy Williams from continuing
to fire his weapon.
A 22 caliber revolver is a peculiar choice for someone who planned
his murders carefully, as much of the media has portrayed Andy Williams.
The Ariminius is a shabby weapon, low-power, and not deadly but for well-aimed
shots at close distance. While two people were tragically killed, a higher
powered gun would have likely killed many more, with greater accuracy.
Since Andy Williams chose this weapon from eight in his father's locked
gun closet, it would seem that, accepting his internal logic, Andy Williams
made an irrational choice. While concealment may have been an issue, along
with the 8-shot capacity (rather than the typical 6-shooter revolver) Andy
Williams had other concealable choices, and he picked the Ariminius.
Andy Williams's father and mother separated, bitterly, about ten
years ago, and later divorced. There are continuing court battles over
his child support. His mother was in the military. His father accepted
a job with a defense-related industry in the fall, 2000. Several of the
previous school shooters had, in these instances, similar backgrounds,
including living in a milieu with a background of racist or Nazi activity.
Depression is anger turned inward. The people who have been abused
become the abusers. Andy Williams, after his move to Santee, became the
brunt of tormentors from Santana High and began to hang out with kids who
call themselves the "burnouts," on a block not far from the school where
they shoot baskets, drink beer and smoke dope. It was at this location
that, finally, Andy Williams' skateboard was taken, and his shoes stolen
off his feet, by a fellow who threw him to the ground. This fellow was
among the first shot in Andy Williams' shooting spree, giving lie to reports
that what he did was utterly random. For weeks before the shooting, a depressed
Andy Mitchell had emailed his girlfriend in Maryland, Kathleen Seek. He
John Schardt, a Santana high school student, had what the press calls
the, "presence of mind," to first photograph, and then videotape, the shooting
in progress. He turned his tapes over to the police, became a CNN commentator,
spoke on Good Morning America, and then chose to step back and wonder about
what he was becoming. Still, John Schardt says, "Well, this may be my break.
It could be a career in journalism."
On March 6th, the day after Andy Williams opened fire,
the students and parents and school workers of Santana High were urged
to go to the SonRise (sic) Church, where a team of nearly 200 therapists,
some of them corporate grief counselors, had been hired to intervene between
the students, and real community grief. The corporate grief counselors
come from at least two different companies that have been formed since
these school shootings popped up. Capital's replacements for feudalism's
priests, they complained about having to vie for a meager pool of public
funds. There are 12 school counselors for the 1900 students of Santana
Santana High and its principal, Karen Degischer, were prepared for
Andy Williams. There was a written plan in place. It included the grief
counselors, a SWAT approach pre-tested by the police, staging areas, and
a federal guidebook on, not just school violence, but school shootings.
The district had received nearly $1 million in state funding to prepare
and prevent school violence. Two educators had attended workshops in 2000
on managing the school in case of a shooting. Degischer has an excellent
reputation in the community as a caring and concerned educator, interested
in curriculum, instruction, and the learning community. According to the
plan, she immediately made herself available to parents and students, circulated
a letter to them, and remained available throughout the week.
The school front on March 6th was quickly lined for two
city blocks by huge TV vans and trucks, spearing up into the sky with a
variety of antennae. Huge traffic jams surrounded the school. The fences
of the school were covered with large prayer banners from Christian sects,
and even the three competing local Christian schools. Each proclaimed God's
concern. Flower shops did a booming business and dead flowers lined one
fence by the school. Children hung out on nearby corners, making themselves
available for unparked members of the press.
One radio station carried a program produced by 'professional' kid-shooter-spotters
who urged people to take note of young people who are being picked on,
as adults and others should be wary of them, and perhaps authorities should
be notified about people who prefer to be alone, and are teased, as they
may pose a threat to the school community.
The Mayor urged people to pray for Santee. The populace soon grew
angry at the media and tried to drive them off by running honking car caravans
past the media trucks, making it nearly impossible to broadcast. The citizens
began to scream at reporters who tried to interview them. Many residents
vehemently expressed hatred for the reporters, and even a university researcher,
saying that, "They are just here to make us look bad." One older man in
a tailored suit said, "Property values here are tied to our image, and
they are destroying it." The community appeared ready to circle the wagons.
In a meeting closed to the public in a nearby church, one citizen told
a researcher that a part of the discussion was to seek guidance from God,
and to stop speaking to the press. However, some students continued to
pose for interviews. One, a Brittany Spears look-alike, smiled through
tears at a line of reporters waiting for her words, as her heavier and
less marketable classmates walked by unnoticed.
Each morning, students and local ministers held prayer vigils on
the property fronting Santana High. Teachers, who do not enjoy the historians'
luxury of a ten-year wait before analysis and action begins, sought to
reach out to their students, to try to bridge the fear and anger that many
clearly felt. One teacher told a researcher, "There are so many gaps between
us now, so many divisions, that it is hard to have a trusting relationship
with a kid. And they can't trust us either. This was not what I wanted
when I started to teach."
On the morning of March 7th, Wednesday, a huge simulated
card, folded but open in two parts, appeared on the fence in front of Santana
High. It read, on one side, "From the students of Santana High to God:
How could you let this happen in our school?" On the other side: "To the
Santana Students from God: I am not allowed in your school." The next day
a fourteen year old girl opened fire in a Catholic school in Pennsylvania.
Bishop James Timlin of Scranton, who is a pilot, flew into the Williamsport
airport in his private plane to console relatives.
Two thousand teens commit suicide every year in the US. In Michigan
and California the incidence of teen suicide has tripled since 1995. In
the week of March 7th 2001, more than 50 fires were set in the
Oakland California school system. In San Diego that week, 124 death and
bomb threats were received in various part of the school system, tracked
by the internal police force. Testing on one of several California standardized
tests began the week of March 12, with some freshmen segregated for four
hours, taking exams that could determine, already, whether or not they
Estimates are that Andy Williams will get about 40 to 90 years in
prison. Under a new California law, he will be tried as an adult, but he
cannot get the death sentence. He will, if the police are correct, get
25 years for each of the deaths, and another 40 for a series of gun charges.
He has little to bargain with but his youth and his mental state.
At his arraignment, Andy Williams appeared in court in an orange
prison jumpsuit. He kept his eyes down, only occasionally glancing up at
the judge. His father could not afford an attorney, so he was represented
by a public defender who had not had the foresight to put his client in
a child's suit, or even a t-shirt. Andy Williams' lawyer did not raise
the question of bail, so the prosecutor, feeling a need to preserve the
procedure, suggested that the judge ask the defense attorney about it.
The judge asked the PD if he wanted bail for his client. The PD simply
said, "No." He did not point to the freshman Andy Williams next to him
and point his finger to the tv camera and say, "this is an insane child
and he should not be tried as an adult." The PD said, "No." Andy Williams
was bound over for trial, likely to begin in late March. He shuffled from
Immediately after his arrest, the police interrogated Andy Williams.
It is unclear as to whether he was offered Miranda warnings, or if a minor
can waive those warnings. In any case, Andy Williams is quoted by the police
as saying that he opened fire because he hated Santana High and was frequently
late, then locked out. He had planned to kill himself with a final round
from his Ariminius. He was aware that the killings were wrong, but, "if
people die, they die." Mayor Randy Voeple of Santee said that Andy Williams
is clearly mentally disturbed.
At least four youths were subsequently expelled from Santana High.
They are alleged to have had knowledge about Andy Williams' plans. Never
given a hearing, they were told they were being transferred to other, unnamed,
schools and the public was told it was for their own safety. The public
was not told that these students cannot return to those schools until next
year. No students who were involved in the repeated hazings of Andy Williams
have ever been disciplined.
The Quest for Hope
On Friday March 9th more than 3,000 Santee residents and
a hoard of reporters, gathered at the SonRise Church for a locally telecast
service for the dead and wounded. California Governor Gray Davis, the engineer
of the shift of public wealth to the utility owners, attended the ceremony
and offered a brief prayer. His wife, who attended Santana High, joined
Dr Folio of the SonRise Church spoke at length, in front of a robed
choir of about 100: "Jesus said, 'Believe in me. I will come again and
where I am you can be also. I am the way and the life. No one comes to
the Father but by me.' There are several lessons here. We all die. Death
for Randy and Byron is happiness and peace. They are in heaven, a real
place with streets of real gold. Imagine Randy and Byron arriving in heaven
on March 5th and magnificent angels come to greet them. 'Come
in! They say, and you can pick out a beautiful outfit!' And they get all
dressed up, never looked better.
"Randy and Byron wonder, 'How did we get to this great place so fast?'
And there is a parade of their relatives who gather around them and they
approach the throne of God and God steps down and says, 'Well done, my
servants!' (The audience burst into applause).
"The boys then say, 'If you could see me now, I am walking in streets
of gold. I am in a perfect place. I'm with that gang of mine. If you could
only see me now.'" This in rhyme with the song.
"Jesus Christ, is the ONLY way to heaven and the entry fee is Jesus
Christ, who is coming back someday. We will see Randy and Byron again.
That means comfort for us today, and joy for us tomorrow. Randy and Byron
can see us today. Students I tell you to trust in the Lord. Teachers you
teach the Lord. Do not leave this room without knowing Jesus Christ."
A cowboy singer followed with a rendition of, "I Can't Believe I
Can Really See You Now."
One of the deceased boys had wanted to be either a stuntman or a
doctor. The other dreamed of being an FBI agent.
ABC Channel Ten in San Diego had promised to carry the church service
commercial-free, then to go blank for an hour so families could talk to
each other. They would not commodify the tragedy. Directions on how to
hold a family discussion were posted on the screen. The service ran ½
hour late though, so, promptly at 9:00 p.m., the station picked up with,
"Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"
On Monday, March 12th, the March Madness basketball tournament,
the biggest gambling event of the year, began at SDSU. The school cancelled
its usual academic year, rescheduled spring break, in order to bring the
playoffs to the university. The SDSU president hopes to propel the school
into academic respectability by pumping the basketball program. The basketball
team provides no competition in town. There is no professional basketball
team. It is important in San Diego to be positioned as a friend of those
who own the football Chargers and the baseball Padres.
On March 13th , a principal from a nearby school appeared
on the local NPR affiliate to argue in support of the state standardized
tests. Confronted with a myriad of opposing data, including a local Chamber
of Commerce report that links the test results only to income levels, the
principal replied, "That is all we have, the standards that were established
for us and the tests that came next. I have to find hope in something and
I prefer to find hope in following the rules." She added that getting elementary
children accustomed, "to sitting still for hours, bubbling answers, is
going to provide good employees for business, and that is our job."
The 10 March New York Times, which covered Andy Williams and his
lonely gunfire in ways far more extensive and sophisticated than any local
news source, carried an op-ed article by a neurologist attesting that Andy
Williams' brain was, like all kids his age, a "biologically immature brain,"
and hence people his age are likely to open fire. The Associated Press
of March 12 also carried an article covering Education Secretary Rod Paige
comments, "Alienation and rage are at the heart of this. What is needed
is more character education."
Peter Yarrow, of the Peter, Paul and Mary trio that in 1968 sang
courageously standing on overturned trash cans in the midst of tear-gas
filled Grant Park during the Chicago Democratic Convention, and the concurrent
police riot, appeared in San Diego area elementary schools shortly after
the shooting to promote a school program titled, "Don't Laugh at Me." It
includes lyrics that go, "Don't laugh at me, don't take your pleasure from
my pain."One third grade child, whose eyes would not focus in unison, was
interviewed following Yarrow's performance. The youth said, "Well, I hope
this makes it stop." The "Don't Laugh at Me," curriculum is owned by McGraw-Hill,
a major promoter of high-stakes standardized tests.
The San Diego Times Union, managed by former Nixon aide Herb Klein,
assigned its religion and ethics editor to the question of the repeated
school shootings of white children by white children. Whiteness, privilege,
alienation, and despair, did not enter her discourse. Sandi Dolbee wrote
in favor of several solutions: better anticipation, less guns, more self-surveillance
and reporting from kids, cherish life-stop killing. "Try to be a little
kinder." Her thesis: We are all together.
In the Interim
In California alone, in two days following the Santana High shooting,
11 students were arrested for making threats to their schools or people
in them. The Nasdaq collapsed over the next two weeks, losing more than
one-third of its value. The Dow slipped below 10,000. Pre-service teachers
in the College of Education at San Diego State discussed the impact of
the stock crisis on their lives, and wondered if it was wrong to take pleasure
in seeing wealthy investors fail. A few students noted that they were investors
themselves, that they were losing all they had. One asked, "Does this mean
that members of the tribe cannot criticize the casino?"
Fifteen days after the Santana killings, rolling electrical blackouts
that had plagued most of California for weeks hit San Diego for the first
time. The blackouts and skyrocketing energy bills, increasing in some cases
by 1000%, destroyed small businesses around the state. In that period,
questions about the cause of the state energy crisis began to be answered
by court actions filed by public and private entities, insisting that the
deregulated energy providers had deliberately created a shortage, taken
huge profits, closed aging plants and crushed the unions inside, avoided
public scrutiny, and used the legislative and executive branch of the state
government to begin to syphon off a nearly $11 billion state budget surplus
to private pockets. That budget surplus had once been earmarked for education.
California's school system, which ranks near the top of the states
in the number of high-stakes standardized tests students must take, is
41st in the US in per-pupil spending (at around $5,400), 45th
in access to computers and 50th in access to school nurses and
libraries. The average California teacher makes about $44,100, 7th
in the US, but the cost of living in California is extraordinarily high,
especially so in the San Diego area.
In 2001, in the spring, California began to distribute money to teachers
and schools based on scores on the Assessment Performance Index, the results
of standardized exams. Susan Harmon, a leader of CalCare and an Oakland
teacher, calls the API, "the Affluent Parent Index, a tactic to divide
teachers and students, and to wreck good schooling." She has urged education
workers to use, "the bribes to take ads in local papers denouncing the
process so the community will understand." API scores do indeed resemble
an economic instrument, not an educational tool. In the San Diego area
those schools scoring in the lowest 10% have 93% of their students on free
lunch programs, while the highest scoring 10% have only 7% of their students
on free lunch. The lowest scoring schools have the highest percentage of
English language learners.
After the Santana shootings, on March 21, the San Diego Education
Association issued a newsletter, " The Advocate." The paper reflects SDEA's
continuing battles with the school district. Director Robin Whitlow, on
the front page, urges school workers to speak out against administrative
policies that do not address, or fund, "the whole child," warning that,
"we will see more incidents..."
By mid-March 31 children had been booked by area police departments
for making threats against their schools. 17 were arrested and booked on
school weapons charges. One of the most wealthy districts, Poway, suffered
repeated school lockdowns and closings, silenced in the local media.
On March 22, I was in a pre-service teacher course in nearby Cajon
Valley when news of a school shooting seeped into my classroom via cell
phones. My students had friends and relatives at shooting site.
I went to Granite Hills High School shortly after the gunshots. Part
of the Grossmont Union District, Granite Hills High, with 2,900 students,
is located on a corridor of schools on Madison street, a corridor lined
by trailer parks, and one trailer-park-convalescent-home. The corridor
houses, to the west, El Cajon High, a middle school, and elementary school,
then Granite Hills High. Kids at both high schools claim the other is the
wealthier. Granite Hills High, according to a long-time teacher-resident,
is, "a rim school, meaning that the higher up you are on the mountain here,
the more you have; not like Mexico. El Cajon High is at the bottom of the
Teaching and learning in the Grossmont Union district is powerfully
regimented along Skinnerian behaviorist lines, each student's educational
goals quantified and tested. For example, the district boasts these measures:
"Responsible Individuals: Who succeed in a diverse environment as
evidenced by satisfactory workplace skills and acceptable attendance as
reported on the Extended Transcript.
Involved Individuals: Who exercise
rights and responsibilities as citizens to participate in the United States
democracy as evidenced by a score of 70 percent or better on the American
Government Program Assessment."
The school system is segregated, as most are, by a severe interior
tracking system based on estimates of a student's literacy skills, typically
a race- income measure. Only students in Advanced Placement classes are
given competing theoretical perspectives in education; for example, in
economics a critique of labor and capital as opposed to a consumer education
curriculum. The goals and objectives of each class are explicitly linked
to a specific state standard, and a test-each device claiming to promote
critical thinking skills.
Some of the schools programs can only be considered bizarre. One
two-day event involving the entire school, highlighted on the Granite Hills
web page, is headlined by a skull and bones caricature and another cartoon
of the Grim Reaper. The program, "Every 15 minutes," is described as:
" During the first day events the "Grim Reaper" calls students who
have been selected from a cross-section of the entire student body out
of class. One student is removed from class every 15 minutes. A police
officer will immediately enter the classroom to read an obituary which
has been written by the "dead" student's
parent(s) - explaining the circumstances of their classmate's demise
and the contributions the student has made to the school and the community.
A few minutes later, the student will return to class as the "living dead,"
complete with white face make-up, a coroner's tag, and a black "Every 15
Minutes" T-shirt. From that point on "victims" will not speak or interact
with other students for the remainder of the school day. Simultaneously,
uniformed officers will make mock death notifications to the parents of
these children at their home, place of employment or business... During
the most powerful program of the retreat, the students will be taken through
an audio - visualization of their own death....On the following morning,
a mock funeral service will be held at the High School.
The assembly will began with a video of normal school day activities
including scenes from the first day of the "Grim Reaper" and the staged
accident. The assembly will be hosted by an Officer (Project Coordinator),
who will guide the audience through the devastating effects of losing a
loved one due to a bad choice "
The web site highlights photos of moments from last year's two-day
event, bloodied and smashed students being carted off in ambulance carts-a
Teachers at Granite Hills have web pages. One social science teacher
"I would like to be addressed as Mr. Carter, please. Thank you. I
am looking forward to this semester. relax. I have over nine years of teaching
experience, spanning the military, corporate, and educational fields. I
am a veteran of instruction. My techniques have resulted in zero friendly
casualties in my military unit during wartime, record profits in the corporations
I have served, and several passing grades for students who were previously
Another social science teacher, Gene Kraszewski, who says he has
a Cornell PhD in comparative politics asserts in part,
" I recently completed a Masters in Forensic Science with an emphasis
in criminal profiling, crime scene investigation, and forensic DNA databases.
Prior to teaching I worked in the federal government in intelligence analysis
and law enforcement."
Yet another, "Before teaching, I Was a Judge Avdocate (sic) in the
U.S. Marines for
4 years. I practiced law for 14 years in civil litigation, taxation
and estate planning."
Tim McMahon, who is featured on several teachers' web sites who say,
"I love Tim McMahon,"says:
"I coach football and track here at GHHS. IF I ever have
spare time I enjoy anything athletic and being outdoors. In order
to be a good role model it helps to have good role models. I want to thank
God and my parents for that. Remember ~"Work Hard, Play Hard!"
One teacher, Joanne Climie, was a delegate to the Democratic Convention
in 2000. She posts web-photos of a party she held for the Democrats at
a beach-front home. Her union, the NEA, brought more people to the Democratic
convention than any other organized group, to support the failed candidacy
of Al Gore. Most of the educator force at Granite Hills received at least
one degree from San Diego State. At least one of them serves as an adjunct
in the SDSU education program. This is an overwhelmingly white and middle
class teaching force, relatively well-educated, reflecting diverse skills,
much like most schools. With all their diversity, such as it is, each of
them works with the "Essential Districtwide Learner Results," a rubric
which forms the skeleton for the state's common measure of educational
merit: standardized high-stakes tests.
Test scores show that Granite Hills High senior classmates placed
an average of 1060 on the SAT in 1998, while El Cajon High notched but
890. However, Granite Hills tested 30% of their 640 seniors, while El Cajon
only tested 20% of 390. Granite Hills is a slightly wealthier school. Neither
school measures up to the truly affluent La Jolla High on the flush Pacific
coast which tested 85% of their 342 seniors and averaged 1106 on the SAT.
The GHHS "Eagles" football team, which always fills the stands, went 6-4
last fall, winning its last game over Santana High's "Sultans." Granite
Hills currently most famous grad is Shane Spencer, a New York Yankee ballplayer.
The city of El Cajon is east of the city of San Diego, but inside
San Diego County. In written history, El Cajon, surrounded by hills and
mountains, was appropriated early by Catholic padres as a valley grazing
land. It's really desert, converted to agriculture by irrigation, converted
again by urban sprawl. There is nothing disconnecting El Cajon from the
series of paved avenues that lead to the ocean on the west, and the open
desert about 15 miles to the east.
El Cajon is a city of about 95,000; 70% white, 20% hispanic, 5% black,
5% asian. It's a young community, more than 50% of the residents under
30. By political geography alone, it's race-based space. El Cajon, like
Santee, has a contradictory history of people- to- people cooperation,
often church-based, and the white supremacist movements that have deep
roots in the Grossmont Union School District. Every student I interviewed
at Granite Hills High was aware of Nazi and Klan-skinhead activity in the
community and the presence of a pro-Nazi teacher at Grossmont High School,
not far away. The Grossmont District, according to a long-time resident
and San Diego State professor, "was recently seized by the religious right.
Lines are bitterly drawn in the sand."
On a clear evening, westbound travelers along I-8 can see the sparkle
of El Cajon's lights, about 8 miles from the sea. The location, between
the city of San Diego and the deep desert, once made El Cajon a site for
agriculture, now for small sales and manufacture. It's a deeply religious
area, with many churches, many of them fundamentalist, and many small bars.
The town has nine Christian schools. Auto racing is very popular here,
noted in Chamber of Commerce brochures. While parts of El Cajon, like Fletcher
Hills, are prosperous, most parts are not. El Cajon circles three zip codes.
The median housing costs vary in a range from $180,000 to $240,000, cheap
to mid-range for the booming area housing market. About 60,000 people per
year move to San Diego county.
El Cajon's streets are littered with cheap fast-food joints, tattoo
parlors, IGA's with little exterior lighting, auto parts shops. El Cajon
is desert strip mall, post-colonial, even post-decay. There is an eery
darkness about the entire area, partially brought on by Governor Gray Davis'
demands for energy conservation. The homeless in El Cajon sleep in parking
lots just off the main drags in the city. Some of them are aging derelicts.
Some are kids. On a spring evening in a parking lot off First Avenue, a
group of five homeless men kicked a drunken homeless youth who was passed
out on the ground, stopping when an intervener protested. To the south,
beautiful Mount Helix, a breadloaf shaped hill of moneyed homes arranged
for views behind expansive shrubbery-and no sidewalks, looks down on El
Cajon, and across to Mexico.
What is uncounted in the racial demographics is the presence of a
large number of mulit-racial people in the San Diego area. The intermingling
of many groups in the area makes the choice of race on job applications,
for example, a tough call. There is also a sizeable Chaldean population,
predominantly Catholic, which adds up to one of the largest enclaves outside
the Middle East, and Detroit. Some El Cajon neighborhoods are integrated,
by race if not class, as are some of the churches. At least one large El
Cajon church, however, did purge a group of its members for being too far
to the left. Nevertheless, there are many people in El Cajon with a lifelong
commitment to their city, and to principled stands on question of race-and
much of that is secured to a religious outlook of community.
Gunfire at Granite Hills
Shots Fired, Students
At around 12:50 on March 22, Jason Hoffman, a white boy just 13 days
past his 18th birthday, started shooting outside Granite Hills
High. He was armed with a 12 gauge shotgun and a 22 caliber pistol. He
had purchased the 22 handgun after a ten day waiting period, according
to law. He loaded his shotgun with birdshot, meaning that rather than have
a relatively small number of larger buckshot slugs leave the barrel, a
high number of tiny birdshot pellets are fired, with much less penetrating
power. It is uncertain whether he knew that a 22 handgun and a birdshot
load are poor choices for someone wanting to kill. Indeed, no one was killed.
Hoffman never fired the handgun. 5 people were shot, including Hoffman,
a teacher, and 3 students. 5 others were injured fleeing from the shooting.
Of those shot, Hoffman was the most seriously injured.
Jason Hoffman was shot in the face and the back by an El Cajon police
officer, Rich Agundez, who had been assigned to the school as part of a
recent intensification of local school security. The two had a brief gunfight
just outside the school, the officer firing five times, hitting Hoffman
twice, and hitting the 12 gauge shotgun Hoffman was firing, probably disabling
it. Hoffman never reached the interior of the school building. It is unclear
where the other two bullets from Agundez gun went. In firefights, it is
not uncommon for even trained combatants to miss their targets more often
than they hit.
Officer Agundez was firing a 40 caliber Glock pistol, the new weapon
of choice among many police departments. The 40 caliber projectile offers
considerable stopping power, nearly equivalent to the 1911 Colt 45, and
a high-capacity clip. The Glock was one of the few real innovations in
weaponry in the 20th century. Made of Tenifer finish on polymer
and steel, the pistol was initially designed for the Austrian military.
The Glock was originally seen in the US as plastic pistol, a terrorist
weapon, able to slip through metal detectors. It gained considerable fame
in the movie "Die Hard," when Bruce Willis suggested, wrongly, that terrorists
could smuggle it onto airplanes. Congress sought to ban its importation.
But, since 1985, the Glock has appeared on more than thirty tv shows, including
the Simpsons, and 50 movies, like Scream 2, High School High, and 12 Monkeys.
Beginning in 1988, law enforcement agencies and military operations all
over the world adopted the powerful, ergonomic, Glock. Shot in the face,
it is remarkable that the impact of the Glock 40 caliber bullet did not
kill Jason Hoffman.
Granite Hills High School, like all schools in the area, was already
under a high alert that was suppressed by the media. However, the entire
community was aware of increased security and involved in discussions about
security measures. Parents in the district, following the shooting at Santana
High, met and rejected a proposal for metal detectors in the schools. More
than 170 threats on schools were received in the county in the previous
week. A school lockdown plan in case of a shooting had been rehearsed several
The El Cajon officer who shot Hoffman, Rich Agundez, is a cousin
to one of the campus officers who was shot by Andy Williams at Santana
High two weeks ago. When the Granite Hills shooting erupted, SWAT teams
were on the school in minutes, with a plan. Students knew how they were
to evacuate, hands on heads.
According to Bernadette Roberts, a Granite Hills student interviewed
by a San Diego Channel 8 newsperson, the school's principal, Ms Torres,
had been warned about Hoffman. Roberts says that she told administrators
six weeks ago that Hoffman was an angry youth, dangerous, and that he had
commented to her that he was "planning another Columbine."
Ms Roberts described how, at the slightest error, Hoffman would smash
his computer mouse on his desk in class. She informed the authorities that
he had told her he intended to kill people. Ms Roberts says she believes
the school personnel should have taken action, been fully prepared, watchful
at least, but clearly they were not. She believes that Hoffman is, "not
a horrid kid, actually good, just really angry."
Hoffman had been grade-retained at Granite Hills High. He should
have graduated in 2000 and told Roberts that he was very angry about his
treatment by school officials. A student who wished to remain anonymous
stated that Hoffman had been informed that he would not graduate in 2001,
and that two days before the shooting Hoffman had tried to enlist in the
m Navy, but was rejected. School officials refused to comment. The Navy
confirmed that the service turned down an application from Hoffman, in
part because of his weight and a skin condition.
A large youth, well over 200 pounds, Hoffman was isolated from the
class of 2001. The San Diego Union Tribune of March 23 reports that,"he
dressed oddly." Hoffman, according to other students, was living in a small
apartment near the school with a neighbor-guardian who took him in after
his parents separated and appear to have left the area. Residents near
the apartment disputed this, saying he still often lived with his mother,
Denise Marquez. Ms Marquez did not answer her listed telephone and later
rejected requests for an interview made through her attorney. A black student
at Granite Hills High, a junior asking anonymity, said, "He was just one
of those guys who wanted to do his job here and get the hell out." A white
student, who also asked to be anonymous, repeated what many kids said,
"He was a good guy awhile ago but he didn't want to talk to any of us any
more. He was just always alone."
Unverified police reports say that the target of Hoffman's shooting
was Dan Barnes, an administrator who was counseling Hoffman about his anger
problems. Barnes' father, Darrell, had been a teacher in a school where,
22 years ago, another shooting had taken place, killing two. Dan Barnes,
a Dean (for students "E to K") for less than three years, is a San Diego
State University social studies grad with a teaching credential from El
Cajon's Christian Heritage College, close to Granite Hills High.
The president of Christian Heritage College describes their mission:
"All classes and extra-curricular activities are based on a Scriptural
foundation and integrated with Biblical truth. The Bible is our rule of
faith and practice and sets the standard for our perspective and viewpoint.
Subject matter in each academic field is measured under the lens of God's
Word....A special focus of CHC, since its founding, has been an emphasis
on the biblical account of creation and origins (in opposition to evolution
theories), and on the virtues of democracy and America's historic values
of free enterprise, the work ethic and limited government." Prospective
professors at CHC are required to have a missionary zeal and evidence of,
"obedience to God's Word."
Jason Hoffman, like Andy Williams, had access to other weapons in
his home, including a a potent Colt 45 pistol and a semi-automatic rifle
with a scope. If he had planned and trained, Hoffman could have remained
in his pick-up truck in the school parking lot and shot Dean Barnes at
However, as Jason Hoffman approached the school on March 22, he saw
Dean Dan Barnes outside and opened fire with the shotgun. Mr Barnes, unhit,
fled inside. Mr Hoffman was quickly met by Officer Agundez. Shortly after,
Jason Hoffman, just 18, was shown on television shirtless, twisted on his
left side, his face mangled, dark blood pouring from his mouth into a blue-green
plastic pan held by an attendant, being wheeled to an ambulance. Most of
his large body was covered by a gray blanket, used perhaps to warm him,
perhaps to cover the body shackles and handcuffs locking his hands behind
Frantic parents seeking their children moved through a staging area,
Kennedy Park, (not titled for the assassinated president) next to the school.
They shouted their kids' names, and once united, paused at a small monument
of two candles, a heart-balloon, and a message of sympathy brought by Santana
Professional grief counselors arrived at Granite Hills High almost
immediately after the shooting. They knew each other and most of the administrative
players from their experience at Santana High. They began to plan a day
to teach conflict resolution. "After all," said one counselor, "we do know
that conflict in school is simply wrong."
A group of nearly 9,000 members of the National Association of School
Administrators was meeting in San Diego's Convention Center on the day
of the Granite Hills shooting. One woman, who refused to speak on the record,
made it clear that she believed the source of the repeated shootings in
US schools is, "the distance of the teachers and the children. Our teachers
don't, or won't, have time for them." Ann Bryant spoke to the press openly,
saying, "The teachers just must know the students." As is the case with
most professional teacher conferences, the convention center exhibit area
was awash with packaged materials for curriculum and instruction, and school
safety, available for sale. The NASA membership, as observed at the exhibit
hall, is solidly white, reflecting the make-up of the teaching force itself.
Granger Ward, the African-American school superintendent recently
arrived from Manhattan who also oversaw the outpouring of grief at Santana,
refused to comment on Ms Robert's complaint that the school administration
had been forewarned, as did principal Torres who, unlike her counterpart
at Santana, pushed through a throng of reporters, refusing to speak.
At 4:45 pm, there were 27 news trucks at Granite Hills High, antennae
towering into the sky, but still running. Kennedy park was thick with grief,
and diesel exhaust. Reporters tracked down kids and parents and nearly
anyone for interviews, and watched the basketball finals in their trucks
during slow moments. NBC, which cancelled afternoon programing to cover
the shooting, interrupted evening newscasts to assure viewers that the
soaps they may have missed would run between 2:00 a.m and 5:00 a.m. Unlike
the Santana High tragedy where two people died, all local radio stations
but one stopped continuous coverage of the tragedy by 5:00 p.m.
Granite Hills' Senior Prom is scheduled for the night of June 2nd
at Sea World, which offers, for $41.95, "sensational high-energy events
like our sea-lion spectacular with Clyde and Seamore with their own hilarious
home repair tv show." The Prom is still on. When asked, one student said
she and her friends will, "flee to Mission beach and get stoned."
This may be the last year that travelers can see Mission Beach from
the road. Sea World, announcing a shift from its past as," an educational
institution," recently won waivers from environmental restrictions on seaside
construction. The park will, in 2002, erect a 100 foot amusement ride,
reaching into the Pacific. Sea World officials agree that the ride will
obstruct views and be noisy, "but no worse than the traffic on I-5."
On Target: Unfeigned Hope
U.S. schools are very safe. The children in them are in far more
danger, intellectually, from the standardized tests that are demolishing
their education, physically from the Coke machines installed in cafeterias,
in many cases, to gain funds to buy needed supplies, than they are in danger
from any intruder with a gun. Even so, kids are killing kids in schools.
The frenetic motion of the commodity market requires processes which
drive people apart: exploitation on the job, alienation of people from
their labor and from others by class and race, intellectual work made meaningless
by disconnecting it from rational action, spectacularization in many forms
like casinos over meaningful work, surveillance disguised as protection
for the common good, a focus on things over people, consuming and selling
can overpower honest human relationships. At the same time this process
is met by equally requisite forces uniting people world-wide through systems
of production, exchange, and distribution. Underlying this tension are
the lingering competing ideologies, "Every man for himself," vs "Do unto
others as you would have them do unto you," or perhaps more on point, Acts
4-4, "From each according to their ability to each according to their need."
The struggle for what is true within these contradictions, and acting
on that developing understanding, is a reasonable approach to forging social
justice; building caring democratic and egalitarian communities that recognize
the existence of an opposition that is often ruthless.
This opposition has its heart and mind in a desperate commodity-market
system ever on the prowl for cheaper labor, raw material, and markets.
The market is expert at denying its own reality. Unable to tolerate the
interaction of democracy and equality, the market deepens the invisibility
of a Master-Slave relationship that remains as a good metaphor to explain
many of our present-day social relationships. Confirmed shoppers and casino
gamblers do not notice the cameras, or the people who worked to fill the
designer bags-or the Man Behind the Screen.
People convinced to celebrate irrationalism, to pay for the destruction
of reason, to choose to answer questions they cannot answer by a turn to
superstition, those people are among the victims of history, the caged
birds that build their own cages.
The key to understanding education and the movement of ideas in the
US today is to grasp what the Master desires in such a relationship, and
what the Slaves need. Above all, the Master wishes Mastery to be unobservable
and when it is not imperceptible to appear inevitable, to teach the slaves
that they cannot comprehend or transform their circumstances. The Master
will offer the Slaves every kind of conceivable division, language, race,
nation, gender/sex; except the key division: Master and Slaves. The Slaves,
per the Master, need an inner cop, and a priest. Slavery becomes natural,
reality, even friendly, as dreamy daily routines available as apparent
privileges to a graded scale coded by color, literacy, culture, and caste,
hush the firepower behind the carrot.
What transforms this relationship? Work, Knowledge, and Love, all
interacting as they do in life. As Hegel and Marx recognized, the Master
has no interest in labor (the relationship is rooted in the Master not
working, but owning), the fullness of knowledge (mysteries like racism
serve the master, understanding racism serves the slaves), and Love (for
while the Master can say that we should give peace a chance, the Master
cannot live it.) The Master has no interest in movement, change. He is
trapped standing on the slaves' throat. So, the interest of the Master
is to promote: This relationship does not exist, nothing changes. The Master
cannot Love. He can only exploit. His view of the relationship is wholly
one-sided, top down.
In contrast, the Slaves have an interest in overcoming this relationship,
intellectually and materially. Through engaging and examining the processes
of work, and acting on deepened understanding, the slaves not only have
an interest in transforming the world; it is the only thing they can do.
Work is the negation of the way they must live, and it is the way they
must live. The secrets of Oz are hidden inside understanding labor and
sexuality (love, not exploitation), the key absence in most standardized
curricula and exams.
Labor alone will not do. The relationship of labor to what can be
revealed by understanding the social relationships that the unjust positioning
of the Master and the Slave create is equally significant. Why do we work
and he alone owns? Why does he use the government as a weapon against us,
and then tell us the government is a neutral in which we all have a share?
The struggle for what is true, like labor, is the impetus of history.
Labor and Knowledge alone will not do. Only the Slaves have a view
of the totality of the relationship of the Master and the Slaves. Only
the Slaves have an interest in not just smashing that relationship, but
truly overcoming it, transforming the human condition in every conceivable
way, from relations of work and intellect, to the whole of human relationships.
This is why the Slaves must simultaneously challenge the totality of the
processes of exploitation and alienation, but to do so with a community
that can end the spiral by building a society that can love all of its
members, from each according to commitment to each according to need. This
is the advantage of the Slaves.
That is not a series of mythical abstractions. California has more
stringent gun laws than any state in the nation. Complex governmental preparations
were made for Andy Williams and Jason Hoffman, yet Andy Williams killed
and Jason Hoffman destroyed his own life, and damaged others. Kind intelligent
people are in Santana High and at Granite Hills, throughout the school
worker force, yet a child shot other children. Communal surveillance is
only possible in a society sharing common interests, yet every message
of everyday school life reverberates with the Master-Slave relationship.
Slaves learn, wisely, not to rat.
There is no way out of this without considering the whole of the
relationship of the Master and the Slave, no way out without also addressing
it in its parts: Love, Work, and Knowledge, and building a caring community
in the midst of an antithetical society. No existing reform organization
in the US, particularly the race and craft-based union movement, is capable
of overcoming this relationship, or especially interested in noticing it.
The absence of a well-known revolutionary movement, the notion that
There is No Alternative, is a powerful buttress for irrationalism and hopelessness--and
a key reason children are in despair. The children are not entirely wrong.
It is apparent that even the winners at school have not won much. Andy
Williams and Jason Hoffman were both trapped in situations with no clear-cut
exit. The eradication of hope in the eyes of the youth is a project achieved
by the success of US imperialism, the triumph of the commodity, the market,
the spectacle, science in service to hierarchy, and technology designed
to oppress. But this is a victory rooted not in popular participation,
but in technological might and sheer force, and thin shield for a vulnerable
In schools, now the centripetal points of civic life in the US, authentic
community-building exists and is emerging in the form of an explosion of
opposition to high-stakes standardized testing. Integrated school-based
groups like the Rouge Forum, Substance Newspaper in Chicago, the California
Resisters, the Whole Schooling Consortium, and the Whole Language Umbrella
are all struggling to answer the dilemma: How can we keep our ideals, and
still do school, still teach and learn? They try to organize across borders,
in new ways. Action oriented, anti-racist, and largely organized along
lines that promote school worker-community unity, they shy away from reliance
on mainstream media and traditional notions of leadership. They seek methods
of instruction that demonstrate the interpenetration of freedom and rigor,
that grapple with the internal interactions of equality, democracy, and
the contradictions of inclusion and hierarchy.
These groups may form models in the struggles ahead. Winning is,
in the Master-Slave relationship, going to come sooner or later. All of
the conditions exist to fashion a democratic equitable society, to share-except
the decision to act to do so.
One hot evening in June, 2000, eight white male high school students,
aged 14 to 17, from one of the wealthiest cities in the United States,
Rancho Penasquitos, went hunting. Their game: aging Mexican workers living
in cardboard shacks in the valleys just outside their home town. Armed
with clubs, BB guns, rocks, bats, and sticks, the youths launched three
distinct night-time raids on five different migrant workers, all over 60.
The white youths left their game for dead, unlike most hunters who make
The young white men were tried as adults in 2002. In the interim
the local press blacked out their faces in court proceedings, the electronic
media rarely mentioning their names. Their judge was an opponent of Proposition
21, a successful 1999 ballot measure which makes it possible to try juveniles
as adults. Initially, the white youths demonstrated contempt for their
victims, and their critics, one saying to me, in response to a shouted
question, "This thing shouldn't ruin my career." All eventually pled guilty
or no contest to charges of elder abuse, assault, and robbery; not attempted
murder, and not under a stiff California hate crime statute.
Alfredo Sanchez still has 20 bb's in his face, Anastacio Irigoyen,
over 70, has a bb lodged next to his left eye. Both of the older men say
their lives are destroyed, they cannot overcome living in fear every day.
"Every time I hear an unusual noise, I am terrified." When police found
Sanchez, he was bloody, huddled in his shack in a fetal position, refusing
to come out.
The judge sentenced the attackers to a variety of relatively mild
sentences, six months in an east county youth center for one man, four
months and 200 hours of sensitivity training for another. The victims said
that justice was done, but that justice was, "very moderate." Most of the
attackers have two strikes under California's severe three-strikes-and-you-are-out
law, a no-nonsense provision meaning 25 years to life for three- time felons.
An advocate for immigrants who attended the trial said of the varying sentences,
"They were, well, thoughtful."
The mother of one of the young white men said, as the proceedings
began in the court room, that her boy was a great child, and the incident
was merely an accident in his life.
The racist attackers were Morgan Manduley, Jason Beever, Bradley
Davidofsky, Adam Ketsdever, Michael Rose, Kevin Williams, Steve Deboer,
and Nicholas Fileccia. Davidofsky, Ketsdever and Rose were identified as
the three most blameworthy in the attacks. All three apologized in court.
Schools in the immediate Rancho Penasquitos area have among the highest
test scores in the state, rank 10 on a 1-10 scale where 10 is tops. Nearby
schools serving working class districts and the military, though, like
Pauma, got a 1. Camp Pendelton, the massive Marine base, is also nearby.
Their schools' scores are somewhat above mid-range. The superintendent,
Tom Anthony, who serves both areas, agreed that the API tests take about
11 days out of the school year, for testing alone, setting aside the question
of test preparation. He says, however, that following the standards is
absolutely key. In addition, "I just live competition." Following the interview,
traffic was halted on the expressway which runs through the Camp Pendelton
base as ambulances rushed toward a veteran Navy Seal who, in practicing
descents from a helicopter, missed the rope and fell to his death, the
sixth accidental death on the base that year.
In January 2001 the San Diego PBS station released a documentary,
of Hate. The brilliant hour-long video traces the lives of young people
in San Diego County, especially in Lakeside, east county, focusing on the
1999 murder of a migrant worker who was sleeping under a bridge by two
white male youths. They had close connections with local fascist movements,
the Nazi Party and the Hells Angels--and through the methamphetamines which
make the gangs resourceful. Although the film-maker is clear that fascist
movements exist throughout San Diego, particularly in the high schools
where hopelessness is a key by-product, Lakeside residents felt under assault
and launched a vicious counter-offensive. The film-maker received death
threats, as did a university researcher who sought to conduct interviews
about the video on the main street of Lakeside. One resident was quite
clear, "That kind of horseshit news costs us money--we own homes here you
know." Another group of youths passing in a pick up truck halted, jumped
from the truck, raised a stiff arm seig-heil salute, shouted, "White Power!"
leaped back in the truck and hurried away.
The Lakeside Rodeo, a very popular event, drew record crowds in 2001,
despite warnings of impending terrorist attacks.
So-Long Jason and Andy
On September 11, 2001, terrorists struck the World Trade Center,
the Pentagon, and caused the crash of a passenger jet in Pennsylvania.
On September 13, after disappearing for two days, President George W. Bush
declared a crusade, perpetual war on terror, and called for patriotic shopping,
especially for stocks. The stock market fell more than 1000 points, dipping
into the 8,000 range. Shortly after, the Patriot Act, passed overwhelmingly
by a bipartisan congress, suspended civil liberties. Tourism in San Diego
collapsed. Those small store owners who had not been wiped out by the manufactured
energy crisis began to close their doors.
On September 14, 2001, six months after the school shooting, Jason
Hoffman, the heavy-set school shooter from Granite Hills High, the second
of the area's school shootings, pled guilty to five counts of assault with
a deadly weapon and premeditated attempted murder with a gun. His likely
sentence: 24 years. Hoffman was clearly suffering from acute depression
at the hearing announcing his plea deal. The prosecutor agreed that Hoffman's
depression, indeed, his "mental illness," was well-known, even before the
shooting, and that his mental state was considered in the plea bargain.
Jason Hoffman's mother, Denise Marquez, was at the sentencing. She only
said that she could not guess why her son opened fire, other than to say
he had been very unhappy. The local press described Jason Hoffman as a
"burly man," with a gruff voice.
On October 5 2001, a conservative member of the San Diego City School
Board, Sue Braun, a realtor, circulated an email about two people on the
board who frequently disagree with her,
" John and Frances get so outrageous that they upset the rest of
the board members including me. . . The only idea I have is to shoot the
both of them. I was thinking of a way to get them both with one bullet..."
In a school system with a Zero Tolerance Policy for any kind of threat,
nothing was done to Ms Braun. There was, though, some public criticism.
Braun said that her feeling were justified, if her words were not, and
On October 9 2001, the jailhouse suicide watch was lifted on Jason
Hoffman. On October 29, police said he had hanged himself in his cell and
died. He tied strips of his bedding to a vent, and his neck. When he was
removed from suicide watch, he was held in a windowless cell twenty-three
hours a day. Court records released to researchers after his death indicate
that his childhood had been marred by parental violence, alcohol and substance
abuse. Responding to inquiries, one county prison official said, "Well,
I guess he just didn't like jail."
On June 24 2002 the San Diego Chamber of Commerce announced that
with the opening of a new Harrah's casino on a nearby reservation, San
Diego became the casino capital of California. The casinos have payrolls
of more that $200 million, attracting 35,000 people a day. 10,000 people
work in the casinos.
Andy William's school shooting in Santee preceded Jason Hoffman's
by 17 days. On June 19 2002, Charles, "Andy" Williams, then 16, pleaded
guilty to two counts of murder and thirteen counts of attempted murder.
His plea came as a bit of surprise as the hearing was initially designed
to be a pre-trial session. He, like Hoffman and the racist youths from
Ranch Panasquitos, was being tried under the provisions of Proposition
21, as an adult. He faced a minimum of fifty years. At the hearing, Andy
William's father said his son had been the victim of incessant bullying,
burned with a cigarette lighter, beaten, thrown against walls. His attorney
said the guilty plea was entered because his sixteen year old client directed
him to do it.
On August 15 2002 Andy Williams was sentenced to fifty years in prison.
The next day a lengthy report was released, the result of repeated police
and psychiatrist interrogations after the shooting incident. Andy Williams
said he was distraught, depressed, by relentless bullying. Extraordinarily
isolated in a new setting, he felt a favorite teacher had betrayed him
by reprimanding him for not having done his homework. He had told some
friends that he planned to assassinate people in the school, and felt more
and more that he had to carry out his own threat-even though he knew that
they would not keep their promises to help. Sitting by a dead classmate's
body in the bathroom after the shooting, awaiting the arrival of authorities,
he said he felt as if he was not there, that he was actually watching the
scene unfold through detached eyes, not his own. When he was shooting,
he said, he was, "depressed, not angry." He chose the 22 caliber weapon
because he believed if he did shoot any people, they would not die.
At the sentencing hearing, only one person expressed real outrage
at the length of the prison term, the minimum; a teacher. He was incensed,
demanding that the shooter be sentenced, "at least to forever." Several
relatives of the deceased and wounded spoke, one saying that she receives
hate mail from people who believe her child was more perpetrator than victim.
One parent summed up the comments of the rest, "No one should have to live
with the death of their child. I believe strongly in justice. But I cannot
describe it. Your Honor, I trust your judgement."
Immediate victims felt otherwise. One shooting victim, Peter Ruiz,
felt the penalty was too light, then shrugged and said, "Ah well, who knows?"
Scott Marshall said he wanted more than a 25 year sentence. Other victims,
saying their lives were wrecked by having been shot, underlined Marshall's
thoughts. One, suffering a graze wound to the finger, said, "I never ever
saw him. But he shot me. Now every time I hear a noise, I see him."
Andy Williams, taller and more filled out, spoke through tears, "I
feel horrible and ashamed by what I did. If I could only go back to that
day, I would never get out of bed. I want everyone to know I am sorry.
I feel horrible."
Attorneys at the hearing expressed some dismay that Andy William's
lawyer had not attempted an insanity defense. "This sentence could not
have been any worse. There was no reason to plea him out, and following
the directions of an obviously crazy child in a courtroom is no excuse.
He's going to a juvenile jail where they keep gang kids. He will not do
well there at all, his ass is theirs, then he graduates to a prison system
where he will be again seen as meat."
The juvenile prison where Andy Williams will be held initially is
in Tehachapi, the location John Steinbeck used in his Grapes of Wrath
as the spot where the Joad family stood when they first viewed California,
full of hope. The prison is one of 21 that the state has constructed in
the last twenty years.
Until 1978, California had but two prisons of any size, San Quentin
and Fulsom and ten smaller jails. In 1978 California citizens passed Proposition
13, a popular ballot measure led by Howard Jarvis, which shifted the burden
of the tax system away from taxing property, corporate profits, and inherited
wealth, toward a regressive tax, mostly a state sales tax. The base of
support for proposition 13 came from, mostly, small homeowners who feared
a rapid rise of property taxes. The beneficiaries of the measure were large
agricultural, tourism, and industrial interests. Proposition 13 became
know as The Revolt of the Haves.
In the 1970's, California jailed about 110 prisoners for every 100,000
people in the state. In 1998, the number stood at 445 per 100,000. California
now has the largest prison system in the western world. It holds more prisoners
than any other state, and 40% more than the entire federal prison system.
The prison system, which is in part filled by mandatory fixed sentences,
no longer makes any pretense to rehabilitation.
In the same period, since the passage of Proposition 13, California
schools have gone from being widely recognized as some of the best (and
least costly) in the world, to being ranked in the bottom quartile of the
nation. Between 1980 and
1995, the corrections budget increased 847%, while spending for higher
education rose 116%.
The prison industry boomed in the 1980's and 90's, as did the guards'
unions, now one of the most influential sectors of the AFL-CIO and a million-dollar
contributor to Governor Davis campaign war chest. Most of the new prisons
are in rural areas, creating economic incentives in otherwise depressed
towns with chronically high unemployment. The guards fear the privatization
of their industry, arguing that private prisons are less humane. Rather
than carry out industrialist Jay Gould's cynical threat of the early 1900's,
"I can get one-half of the working class to kill the other," the developing
situation is such that a significant portion of the class is guarding the
Still, between 1985 and
1995, guards killed 36 inmates -- triple the number killed in the federal
system and the next six
biggest incarceration states combined. Recent news stories testify to
the levels of official
violence too -- the acquittals of guards for staging "gladiator battles"
the prison yards at Corcoran,
and for arranging the rape of inmates at Pelican Bay.
The Andy Williams court proceedings were immediately announced on
local television, interspersed with reports that Metabolife, a local company
which sells diet pills shot through with the herb ephedrine, was under
scrutiny from the Federal Drug Administration. Ephedrin is reported to
have been the subject of several private legal actions charging that it
is hazardous to health-a variant of the many forms of speed available from
motor cycle gangs in east county San Diego. On the same day, the horse,
"David Copperfield," won at Del Mar Race Track, a north-county venue which
draws wealthy patrons, and two-dollar bettors, from all over the world.
And, on the same day, the state of California's energy oversight
body released a report stating that Enron and related energy companies,
like San Diego's Sempra, had indeed looted the state budget by manufacturing
an energy crisis. Coupled with massive expenditures rising from the September
11 terrorist attack, maneuvers like posting armed National Guardsmen on
bridges, the state budget, under-reported prior to a November election,
was officially in deficit at $25 billion. Budget experts winked at this
estimate, saying it is short about $15 billion, a shortfall hidden because
of the upcoming November gubernatorial vote.
Local school boards, on the same day, reported that they were beginning
to abolish the caps on class size (20 for kindergarten through 3rd
grade) won by teachers over the years, due to necessary cost cutting. And
Governor Davis announced that the state would probably be unable to pay
cash rewards for districts with high API scores, though the testing would
continue. Wayne Johnson, president of the California Teachers' Association,
the largest branch of the National Education Association which with 2.7
million members is nearly three times the size of the next largest union
in the U.S., the Teamsters, issued a statement agreeing with the Governor
that these are tough times. Johnson, who in August 2002 publicized Governor
Gray Davis' demand for a million-dollar contribution from the California
union (which had been given the agency shop by the governor, a provision
in the university system which requires faculty members to pay dues), did
not publicize the fact that his union had already granted contract concessions
to the state. On the governor's initiative the state abolished a teachers'
tax credit, worth about $700 per educator. One teacher, a former auto worker,
said, "Ridiculous. We know that making concessions to a boss is like feeding
blood to sharks. They only want more."
Coincident to the court hearing, authorities also reported the discovery
of a dead body in the east county desert, a Mexican immigrant, dead from
On April 30 2002, Rita Wilson, an assistant principal in a wealthy
San Diego north-county school stopped female students who sought to enter
a high school dance in the entrance and raised their skirts in an attempt
to discover if they wore thongs, skimpy underwear. Her repeated searches
went on in full view of other students. Students charged humiliation and
sexual harassment. Wilson was later transferred despite parent and student
demands for her dismissal.
On Saturday, September 14 2002, the San Diego State University football
team readied to play its first game at Qualcomm Stadium, named after the
owners of the Eudora software program. Qualcomm is also home to the San
Diego Chargers professional football team and the Padres baseball team.
Refurbished with nearly 70 million dollars of public money in 1997, the
professional team owners now declare the facility obsolete, demanding new
buildings, under the threat of leaving town. The Padres won a new stadium,
under construction in 2002. The same owners, who advertise, "Our Town,
Our Teams," contributed more than $100,000 to the city school board campaign,
an unusually high sum aimed at driving critics of the INS-Superintendent
and the vehement realtor Sue Braun off the board. John Moores, owner of
the Padres and listed in Forbes as one of the richest men in the world,
also contributes heavily to ballot initiatives designed to eliminate race-based
statistics in the public arena, counting the number of black people in
the University of California system for example, on the grounds that racism
is no longer an issue. After September 11, the Padres played about one-third
of their games dressed in camouflage outfits. Boot-camp Marines visiting
from Camp Pendelton were marched to and from their seats, in a section
in distant left field. Air-force jump-jets hovered over the stadium.
Before the September 14th football game began, a young
man dressed in loincloth and headdress as Monty Montezuma, the Aztec Warrior
eliminated by a faculty vote and action of SDSU President Webber, pranced
through the stadium. Carlos Gutierrez had been the official SDSU Monty
in the early 1990's. Hired by a consortium of developers and realtors,
the privatized Monty obtained tickets for 15 seats all over the stadium,
so security guards could not insist that he sit in any one area. The crowd
went wild, cheering de-regulated Monty mightily. The football team, still
called the Aztecs, for which there is no official human connection, lost
the game decisively, blowing a 21 point lead as the Aztec Warrior blew
on a conch shell.
Away from the field, Gutierrez has parlayed his SDSU education into
a job selling radio ads. President Webber is considering the abolition
of the football program.
In some cases, schools shut down by civil strife are superior to
open schools. This was easily seen as true in South Africa during the apartheid
period, in the US south during the civil rights movement, etc. For schools
hit by long term boycotts in those areas, the freedom schools that were
established were vastly superior to the formal school system. There is
instructive wisdom in this history, especially in a country that offers
its children perpetual imperialist war and that seeks to use its segregated
militarized schools to promote witless and violent forms of nationalism.
In early September 2002 in San Diego the parents at one north county
elementary school withdrew their children from the school in protest of
the Superintendent's lock-step "Blueprint," curriculum regulation, a plan
that eliminates nearly all instruction in areas other than reading (marketed
as Open Court) and math (Chicago Math) , in order to drive up test scores--a
project that has mostly failed. The superintendent in recent community
meetings has been met with the chant, "The Blueprint is for blue bloods,"
perhaps in response to a six-figure offered to the school board from the
Gates Foundation, of Microsoft fame. One requirement of the grant's continuance--the
presence of Alan Bersin, Superintendent.
Bersin's local on-site procurer for the Blueprint is an otherwise
inconsequential former educator, Tony Alvarado, driven out of New York
City schools for corruption. Alvarado had been collecting loans worth tens
of thousands of dollars from his own school employees. Alvarado now earns
in the high-six figures in San Diego to serve as Bersin's education expert.
The San Diego district is flooded with "trainers" from New York, claiming
they made a miracle there that can be duplicated. In an interview with
a university researcher in April 2001, Alvarado insisted that economic
and social inequality has nothing to do with school. "We are all in this
simple as that. The problem is the teachers-and the principals. They don't
know anything. The kids hate school. They don't even know why they are
there." Alvarado was clearly infuriated by the Mira Mesa boycott, denouncing
the parents and teachers as child abusers.
Mira Mesa's boycott was mostly blacked out in the local press. It
is a relatively wealthy section of a wealthy county. The Mira Mesa parents,
and some teachers on the side, argued that the Blueprint is making their
kids dumber. The boycott deliberately attacked the school's funding--all
of the absences are unexcused-- at a cost of about 150 dollars per child.
The boycotters were also trying to influence a hot school board election
coming up soon, an election in which all the candidates say they support
the Blueprint to one degree or another, but some want to tweak it more
than others. The volatile relator Sue Braun is not running, her seat up
for grabs. The candidate supported by the local affiliate of the National
Education Association was exposed in Herb Klein's San Diego Union Tribune
for having been stripped of his Naval command for abusing his men. The
leak of the highly confidential report came under attack as well.
Parents, teachers, and students in Lajolla, a more wealthy area of
San Diego, succeeded in opting its children out of the Blueprint in late
2001 by threatening to turn their entire area into a charter school. Superintendent
Bersin made a deal in order to keep the high Lajolla test scores in his
county-wide count. He agreed that the Lajolla schools could ignore the
Blueprint, because their test scores are high. Citizens in the areas of
the region called "south of the 8," the poorer regions, began to mutter
that if the Blueprint is a design for stupidity in north county, it is
in the south as well.
This may be a harbinger. Michigan's wealthy districts (like Birmingham)
initiated battles against the state test, the MEAP, boycotting the test
in mass, sometimes at 95 percent. Later on, poorer districts followed their
lead, and at one point in 1999 Detroit teachers shut down the entire district
in an illegal wildcat, against the Governor, against their racketeer union,
and against one of the toughest anti-strike laws in the country. For the
most part, they won the strike and no one was disciplined. Today, the mass
of Michigan metro-Detroit citizens reject the MEAP as a valid tool, and
with some more work from the resistance, there is a good chance it will
Then, on September 10th 2002, the largest division of
the faculty at San Diego State's College of Education (widely seen as the
crown jewel of the California State University education programs) voted
to halt their participation in a pilot program directed by the Educational
Testing Service which would cause them to align their syllabi, the classroom
curriculum, with the California content and teaching methods standards
(Teacher Performance Expectations and Assessments, TPA/TPE).
On September 10 2002 the Social Justice Cluster, following considerable
deliberation, passed this motion:
We reject the TPA/TPE process for which we initially volunteered,
in good faith. Our experience with the process leads us to conclude, furthermore,
that we must reject the standards that give the process motion, and the
law which gives it force. We believe this is not a process to improve teacher
education, but to regulate and standardize knowledge, not only in colleges
of education, but throughout the university system, in a manner which is
not in the best interest of our students nor ourselves. We believe the
standards are partisan standards, the tests that will follow will be
partisan tests, with profound problems of class, race, linguistic,
and disability bias.
Therefore, we call upon all college of education faculty in the CSU
system to follow our lead, so say no to this intrusion. Moreover, we will
inform our students and the community of our action in hopes that we will
be able to spark additional resistance to the one-size-fits-all high-stakes
testing movement which we believe will not improve assessment, but deepen
segregation and promote the irrational worship of exam scores---scores
which measure, above all, inherited capital.
We believe that while we are indeed working within a state teacher
credential program, we have rights of academic freedom which not only make
it possible for individuals to reject this proposed regulation, but which
exist as a treasure to the community, reflecting the vital role of a university
where people can gain and test knowledge in a reasonably free atmosphere,
and to offer that society criticism which may not be possible elsewhere."
Love, work, and the struggle for rational knowledge, one ceaselessly
playing into the other, are the motive forces of history--linked to what
is perhaps a more distant memory and desire: Freedom. The relentless efforts
of a social system which must objectify all of its subjects, isolate and
alienate all from all in a perpetual irrationalist's war for cheaper labor,
raw materials, and markets, is incessantly met by people trying to establish
their own agency, people who are often thwarted. At issue, in part, is
how, or whether, they examine their own agency, as instruments of their
own oppression, or in the struggle for reason, community, inclusion, and
equality--in order that each may contribute to the emancipation and creativity