Why Have School?
Blood and Money versus Reason
By Rich Gibson
Innocently enough, schools now begin to open for the 2016-2017 school year.
It is not, however, an innocent time.
above, high school teacher Bill Boyer in the ruins of a Detroit school, one of many
To address the current electoral spectacle alone: the consolidation of fascism via the inseparable bonds of imperialism and opportunism–sums it up for me.
Such is the context of the routine: buying school clothes, fun lunch-boxes, the anticipation of new friends, the anxiety of new teachers–and old–administrators counting bodies to match facilities, and much more.
Even so, as schools open throughout the US, one typically ignored question needs to be asked in every classroom: Why have school? Why are we here?
Let's step back a moment in order to put school in its proper, social, perspective.
Schools are the centripetal organizing point of de-industrialized North American life, and much of life elsewhere.
Evidence: School workers, not industrial workers, are by far the most unionized people in the USA, nearly four million union members.
School unions are slowly losing members, a snail’s pace, while industrial unions collapse, evaporate, because, in part, industry evaporates, and because industrial union leaders abandoned the heart of unionism–the contradictory interests of workers and employers. The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Associations’ top officials did the same.
Nearly all of the 15 million youth in grades nine to twelve today will be draft-eligible in the next five years. And almost every one of them is registered.
What is going on in schools?
The demagogue, Obama, invaded US schools with his Race to the Top (RaTT) project personified by Chicago's education huckster Arne Duncan. The RaTT sped what was already happening in capital's schools and adds a few factors for spice.
The RaTT's predecessor, a bi-partisan project touted by Democrats and Republicans alike called the No Child Left Behind Act had at least these key factors:
The development of a regimented national curriculum to promote patriotism; and illusions--we can all make it–Obama as proof.
High stakes standardized tests to promote segregation and ignorance through a falsified pretense of scientific backing; and;
The militarization of schools–at every level, in every social class. In World War One, a U.S. general called for schools to become “Human munition factories.”
The RaTT made logical extensions:
Sharpened demands for a national curriculum, now buttressed by the “Common Core,” in more subjects (beyond literacy and math);
Merit pay based on student test scores;
Attacks on all forms of tenure (made palatable to the public because they know through experience that there is no shortage of incompetents in schools);
Layoffs, hits on pay and benefits, increases in class size;
Tuition hikes driving youth out of college with razor-like precision, plunging others into lifetimes of debt, effects measured by inherited wealth;
Some privatization, but hardly only privatization (the corporate state reflects both the unity and contradictions internal to the ruling classes who have different short term views of profitability);
Calls for national service setting up a syphon for middle class opposition to a draft;
Intensified “civic” takeovers, really re-colonizing, into cities and schools in crisis, like Detroit, demonstrating the contradictory goals of social control and profiteering. In 2016, the Detroit Public Schools, once the finest urban school system with 299,000 students, no longer exists. In a move similar to the good bank/bad bank scheme of 2009, DPS is a debt collection agency while the new school entity seeks a name. There is a naming contest sponsored by radio channel 105.9; this in a city where so many put so much hope into the last seven years of change. All the DPS teachers were fired four years ago. Some were rehired, an utterly arbitrary process. Many were not. The union did nothing but sue to continue to collect dues. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/03/28/detroit-and-the-international-war-of-the-rich-on-the-poor/ ;
Ruthless competition between school districts and states for limited RaTT reward dollars with for-profit charters sucking up critical resources. In Katrina’s New Orleans, all the schools are chartered; workers’ pay cut, unions out;
A harsh rule of fear and intimidation sweeping across all of capitalist schooling;
Corruption is endemic in capital’s schools, as it is in society. More than a dozen Detroit principals pled guilty to embezzling seven figures of dollars from the poor children of the bankrupt city. John Deasy, a Broad Foundation creation, attempted to buy an iPad for every child in the Los Angeles system at retail price, minus the software. Deasy was released, another in the richly rewarded Music Man shuffle of passer-by superintendents.
In wealthy Poway, California, the superintended conned the school board into a bond deal that gave the district $105 million, but would eventually cost $1 billion. He then embezzled nearly $350,000 from the district. The deal was kept secret from the public until it was done. This while pocketing a salary of $308,900 a year.
University of California Davis Chancellor, Linda Katehi, was forced to resign from that position in August, 2016, for nepotism (oddly promoting her son and daughter-in-law) and lying about her connections...(she) “had shown poor judgment, violated multiple university policies and misled, even lied to, her superiors, the public and the media.” Katehi was chancellor during the infamous mass macing of sitting students shown in a viral video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AdDLhPwpp4
Katehi later hired a public relations firm to attempt to wipe the internet of any record of the incident.
Like so many of her kind, “Katehi will remain on administrative leave for a year as chancellor emeritus, receiving her $424,360 annual pay with the promise that she will return as a faculty member.” The president of the UC Davis academic senate heaped praise on Katehi. (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-uc-davis-chancellor-katehi-resigns-20160809-snap-story.html)
Florida has been a hotbed of teacher union corruption, convictions ranging money from embezzling hundreds of thousands from the teachers’ union accounts–many teachers in Florida live in trailers--to child molestation. The list is bottomless.
History, especially the history of Vietnam, but historiography itself, is absent in most schools. As our recent Cassandra, Chalmers Johnson, said in his “Nemesis” trilogy, this means Americans “cannot connect cause and effect.” The point of education, “who am I in relation to others and what shall I do?,” is upended by this lost quest to link past, present, and future http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/12/the-wars-on-vietnam/;
Feelings are important. Fear seems is the core emotional value in schools today.
What is the social context of school?
The education agenda is a war agenda: class war and an imperialist war. One begets the other.
Let us tick off the emerging realities of our times; the results of the hollow promises of democracy—contradicted by the many crises of capital.
A nauseating Sophie’s choice lies ahead–the Clinton/Trump imitation contest.
Hillary Clinton, the wanton war-whore, savage executioner of the American Inquisition, cuckqueen, betrothed not to Bill, but to Wall Street and the Pentagon, psychopathic liar who thinks her insistence (with Samantha Power and Susan Rice-bourgeois feminists arise) for wars on Iraq, Libya, the overthrow of a fully bought regime in Egypt, the attacks on Syria–two million refugees and hundreds of thousands dead--and the fabricated revolution in the Ukraine and provocations of Russia are exceptionally good ideas-as is the “pivot” (encircling) to China.
More war! More children of the poor killing their counterparts on behalf of the rich in their homelands. Within the US military, they routinely call each other, “cannon fodder.”
Donald Trump, daddy-made billionaire, opposed to immigration unless she is hot, openly racist, a flag waving sub-Huey Long with a base of fanatics that bows to abhorrent lies. No less crazy, and no more, than Clinton.
Either way, endless war.
above, Clinton and NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia at the 2016 NEA Assembly
Both teacher unions, the National Education Association and the smaller American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Clinton early, to the despair of many members who were never polled–rooting for her fishhook, Bernie Sanders. Sanders turned to urging a vote for the lesser-evil, Clinton who he had called a darling of Wall Street billionaires.
In an op-ed in the LA Times on August 5th, Sanders wrote, “During the primaries, my supporters and I began a political revolution to transform America. That revolution continues as Hillary Clinton seeks the White House. It will continue after the election.”
He never mentions foreign policy (empire). A political revolution is not an economic revolution. Per Lucy Parsons, “never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.”
Both unions’ leaders, as with the entire “labor movement” will work tirelessly to cajole members into volunteer campaigns and, later, voting booths, rather onto picket lines that might be embarrassing to Democratic Party candidates at every level.
The coming elections should not only be studied as how voters chose who would most charmingly oppress the majority of the people from the executive committee and armed weapon of the rich–the government.
It should be studied, more importantly, as how an element of capitalist democracy, the spectacle of elections, speeded and consolidated the emergence of fascism as a mass popular force; that is:
The corporate state, the rule of the rich, a near complete merger of corporations, unions, and government, coupled with perpetual war to creatr a rich nation with 15 million children living in poverty—21% of all children http://www.nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html;
The continuation of the suspension of civil liberties (as with renditions, NSA, etc.);
The attacks on whatever free press there is–Obama versus the whistle-blowers;
The ascent of more racism and segregation (in every way, but especially the immigration policies);
The promotion of the fear of sexuality as a question of pleasure (key to creating the inner slave), and the sharpened commodification of women (Sarah Palin to pole dancers);
The governmental/corporate attacks on working peoples' wages and benefits (bailouts to merit pay to wage and benefit concessions);
Intensification of imperialist war (sharpening the war in Afghanistan sharpens war on Pakistan while the Libya/Egypt/Syria fiascos created ISIS which provokes war on Russia, as China is encircled, and the US is NOT going to leave Iraq's oil);
The promotion of nationalism (all class unity) by, among others, the union bosses;
Teaching people the lie that someone else should interpret reality and act for us, when no one is going to save us but us;
Trivializing what is supposed to be the popular will to vile gossip, thus building cynicism-especially the idea that we cannot grasp and change the world, but also debasing whatever may have been left of a national moral sense;
Increased mysticism (is it better to vote for a real religious fanatic or people who fake being religious fanatics?). Connecting with the military–nearly every regiment has a Christian patron saint–Michael for the 82nd Airborne;
Incessant attacks on radicals, isolating, discouraging, surveilling, and in some cases jailing those who not only practice radicalism, but who theorize to-the-root analysis;
Notable militarization of all of society, but especially the police: Ferguson, etc.;
Capitalist schooling exists within these social rising circumstances.
Whose schools are these?
These are capital's schools. Democracy never dominated capitalism.
This is, again, a capitalist democracy in which capital rules democracy at every turn ($12.9 trillion bankster bailouts, the auto-takeover on behalf of stockholders while auto workers' lives were gutted; empire's wars matched by the failures of socialism--various New Economic Policies mistaken for Marxism--thus forging the ground for rising forms of imperialist and religious, 5th century, barbarism, etc).
Schooling is not education, the latter a “leading out;” the former, schooling, a fethishized form of mis-education.
The capitalist market necessarily creates pyramid-like inequality, not only in the pocket, but in the mind.
Is there a single public school system in the US?
There is not. There are five or six carefully segregated school systems, based mostly on class and race.
The image of education in the minds of philanthropic economists is this: “Every worker should learn as many branches of labor as possible so that if he is thrown out of one branch, he can easily be accommodated in another.” (Marx).
There is a pre-prison school system in much of Detroit, Michigan or Compton, California; a pre-Walmart system in National City, California; a pre-craft worker system in City Heights, California; a pre-teacher or social worker system in Del Cerro, California; a pre-med or pre-law system in La Jolla, California and Birmingham, Michigan; and a completely private school system where rich people send their kids, like George W. Bush or Mitt Romney-or the Obama kids.
Rich schools teach different realities using different methods from poor schools. In truly rich schools the outlook is: “This globe is ours; let us see how we can make it act.” In the poorest schools, the outlook is, “Tell me what to do and I will do it.”
What are the social practices of capital’s schools?
Schools are huge multi-billion dollar markets where profit and loss influences almost everything.
“Current expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools are projected to be $634 billion for the 2015-16 school year. These expenditures include such items as salaries for school personnel, benefits, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs. The current expenditure per student is projected at $12,605 for the 2015-16 school year.” (National Center for Education Statistics: NCES).
Schooling is always connected to the twins: profiteering and empire.
Consider the buses, the architects, textbook sales, consultants, the developers for the buildings, the upkeep, the grounds, the sports teams, salaries, lunches, etc. Cost is always an issue in school.
Children are complex commodities in schools. In California, every child is worth about $6,000 to their school, pro-rated on daily attendance.
As much as crusader George W. Bush was an agent of god, in his mind, so are school workers meant to be missionaries for capital and imperialism in reality.
The average salary for public school teachers in 2011-12 was $56,383. Salaries of public school teachers have generally maintained pace with inflation since 1990-91. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2014). Pay varies a good deal, state to state, but the overwhelming majority of school workers have health benefits, pensions, vacation time, and, often, paid tuition.
Multiply $56,383 (add the benefits’ cost) by the total number of just unionized school workers, above. That's a tidy sum.
These relatively good salaries, in comparison to the crash of industrial wages and jobs, served as a bribe to educators, winning them to conducting the child abuse that is high-stakes exams and regimented curricula, for example.
But, as economic break-downs caused by overproduction, stagnation in industry and finance, and war dissolved at least some of the ability to make the pay-off--and as school workers became more and more alienated from each other, their communities, and students, through those same processes-the bribes and jobs began to vanish-as we witness today.
Proof of the bribe? Since 2001, the nation’s largest union, the National Education Association, held yearly “Representative Assemblies.”
NEA is, I believe, the most small-d, democratic, union in the US. Certainly, rank and file members are gulled, time and again, by top officials, but the ranks still have a secret ballot and, on some issues that the tops considered vital, like merging the NEA and AFT together with the AFL-CIO, the members voted “No.” (http://clogic.eserver.org/2-1/gibson.html)
Year after year at the NEA RA’s, concerned members brought forward motions “to discuss the wars.”
Year after year, they were voted down, 95% to 5%. The vote on the floor is not “to discuss,” but on a peculiar NEA rule, “Object to consider,” nowhere in Roberts’ Rules. It means that the assembled educators might become collectively upset. (http://www.richgibson.com/neavoluntary.htm)
That is the bribe from the empire, a bond of opportunism and imperialism.
Don’t discuss the wars, which destroy your students’ future in every way, killing some, and cause your salaries to vanish. It may be a chimerical bribe, but a payoff it is.
Militarized schooling is segregated by class and race, with the Marines, Army, and Navy on the hunt in community colleges and less prestigious universities, while intelligence agencies, the Air Force, and mercenary operations are all over the ivy leagues, Georgetown, American University, Michigan, the University of California system, etc.
There is, in schools unlike most factories, a tension between elites' desire for social control and profitability. This can be seen in the contradictions within elite groups about the privatization of schools.
It can also be seen in the liberal and unionist response to the current school milieu: “Defend Public Education!”
This is to defend a myth, on the one hand, to wish to harken back to non-existent halcyon days of schooling when it was not teaching lies, not segregated, and truly public.
On the other hand, the false demand is designed to treat schools like middle class job banks, to lure school workers into attempting to tax the rest of the working class to “win,” the further mis-education of their children-as did the California Teachers Association in 2009 with a ballot measure that failed, deservedly, by 2/3rds.
In the midst of what can be described as a mass hysterical conversion crisis, who really wants the American public, busy ratifying war, segregation, superstition, and inequality while deluded by spectacles, to control the schools in the absence of a class conscious social movement that would give meaning and purpose to education?
Better to “Transform Schooling!” or “Rescue Education from the Ruling Classes!”
More answers to why have school:
Skill and ideological training. Under skill training we might list, of course, “the three R's,” along with music, art, athletics, theater, science, etc. That list comes fast and easy in classroom dialog.
But ideological training is another thing. Ideological grooming would include nationalism (the daily salute to the flag, school spirit, etc.) as well as the training in viewpoints established by teaching distinct curricular substance in the segregated schools, using different methods.
Beyond nationalism, one clear purpose of most schooling is to make the system of capital and empire natural, almost invisible, and to present it as the highest, last, stage of human development.
Nobody howled when failed General William McRaven, former leader of the Joint Strategic Operations Command, an assassination squad featured in the film, “Dirty Wars,” was appointed to lead the prestigious University of Texas system. Disgraced General David Petraeus' “surge” in Iraq, a counter-insurgency scheme, was, “Bribe ‘em or kill ‘em.” That, predictably, fell apart when the bribes stopped. He is a professor in New York (serving on many corporate boards) and not in prison for giving his paramour, Paula Broadwell, top secret classified information. And, to beat this live horse more, former Homeland Security boss, Janet Napolitano, whose job was rooted in segregation, is now the chancellor of the University of California system.
Further, students must become so stupefied that they see no real contradiction between nationalism and the other central tenet of capitalist thought: individualism. Me! Education, necessarily a social effort, becomes an individual commodity, often in the form of test scores, used as a weapon for merit pay and, by Realtors, to fix home values.
The upshot of capitalist schooling is that many students, surrounded by the unsystematic, incoherent, mystical world-views of both the curricula and most teachers, come away learning not to like to learn.
Curiosity, a birthright of all children, is crushed. Parallel to that dubious success, children in exploited areas learn they cannot understand or alter the world. Instead, depending on birth class, many students learn little but loyalty and obedience: the ethics of slaves. So, people in pacified areas become instruments of their own oppression.
Nevertheless, the nearly innate value, “That’s not fair,” persists, if muted over time.
Baby-sitting and warehousing kids. Babysitting is a key role played by capitalist schools. One way to find out, “Why have school?” is to experiment: close them.
In our case, teacher strikes serve as a good test subject. In school strikes (no sane union shuts down a football program), the first people to begin to complain are usually merchants around middle schools-who get looted. The second group is the parents of elementary students, quickly followed by their employers. (These realities can help demonstrate to elementary educators their potential power--along with setting up kids' entire worldviews).
The baby-sitting role is funded by an unjust tax system and serves as a sizable boon to companies that refuse to provide day care for their employees-but are able to duck taxes as well.
Schools fashion hope: Real and false.
On one hand it is clear that societies where hope is foreclosed foster the potential of mass uprisings: France in the summer of 1968 is a good example of what can happen; uprisings starting in school and quickly involving the working classes nearly overthrew the government.
Real hope might be found in showing kids we can comprehend and change the world, collectively, and teaching them how. Ask, "Why are things as they are?" every day. Or, in demonstrating that we are responsible for our own histories, but not our birthrights. Must we be lambs among wolves? Does what we do matter?
False hope might be the typical school hype: Anyone can make it, all you must do is work hard. Trumpery. Inheritance is, more than ever, the key to understanding social mobility, or immobility.
Embedded in any capitalist venture: violence—truancy laws. Come to school or face the penalties available to the corporate state.
What, after all, cannot be taught in most schools?
Rational knowledge beginning with the Enlightenment’s: “People make gods. Gods do not make people”;
Labor and exploitation. Neither the labor movement nor the kernel reality of exploitation can be taught because both lead straight back to Marx. It is illegal to teach favorably about Karl Marx in California, and many other capitalist state schools;
Love and sensuality as sex is commonly taught, again by law, as a matter of fear and repressed desire–disease!;
Freedom--as without practice, freedom is meaningless and there is very little if any freedom in capitalist schools.
These, importantly, are central issues of human life. Outlawed.
To the contrarian: there is nothing unusual about elites picking off children of the poor, educating them, and turning them back on their birth-communities as a form of more gentle rule. Obama would be one example of such a success. Or the multi-culturalism of Bishops around the world. Skanderberg, the Albanian rebel trained by the Turks, would be a failure.
Schools create the next generation of workers, warriors, or war supporters–or the indifferent. Automatons or rebels, or something in between, a process with some witting direction.
Those workers need to be taught to accept hierarchy, to submit, to misread realities like class war, have faith in the sanctity of private property, and endorse nationalism (school spirit) or racism (products of segregated schooling). They need to accept their lot, to be unable to notice why things are as they are; why some live in abundance while others have no work-when there is plenty of work to do-why drudgery is so much part of most jobs. Why do empty homes outnumber the homeless?
The core project here: obliterate the possibility of class consciousness.
What of the resistance?
People will fight back because they must. But the traditional organizations of resistance failed both the pedagogical project at hand, that is, teaching people why things are as they are, how to develop strategy and tactics on their own, and the practical project of direct action, control of work places and communities.
While people must resist, it is vital they grasp: Why? Absent that reasoning, losses pile up.
Let us make another tick-list, this time about the school unions:
No leader of any major union in the US believes that working people and employers have, in the main, contradictory interests, thus wiping out the main reason most people think they join unions. The bosses (for that is what they are) of the two education unions (the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-AFL-CIO-by far now the largest unions in the USA) openly believe in what former NEA president Bob Chase called “New Unionism,” the unity of labor bosses, government, and corporations, “in the national interest.” There is nothing new about company unionism, nor the corporate state. Company unionism produces spectacles like the AFT, the smaller of the school unions, inviting Bill Gates, dead-set on capitalist schooling, to be the key-note speaker to the 2010 AFT convention.
Union bosses recognize their own opposing interests to the rank and file. The union tops, after all, earn a lot more than school workers. Past NEA president, Reg Weaver, took in $686,949, in his last year of office. Past president, Dennis Van Roekel, made $465,000. Current president Lily Garcia surely got a raise. Power in the unions is vertical, top-down, perfectly clear in the structure of the AFT, somewhat disguised, but every bit as real in NEA.
These mis-leaders who move up fairly slowly through a hierarchy learn a variety of strategies to manipulate people and, “protect the contract,” the well-spring of dues income. These maneuvers, like grievance procedures, move workers away from the locus of their power, the work place, to geographically distant spaces where “neutral” arbitrators decide on vital issues.
The unions rarely file cases to arbitration and, nevertheless, lose about 2/3 of the cases they file.
Union bosses also divert member action to the ballot box-any place away from the job site-where, in the words of one top NEA political action specialist, “if voting mattered, they wouldn't let us do it.”
But electoral work keeps member volunteers busy and it reinforces false notions school workers have about professionalism (professionals set their own hours and wages, they determine the processes of work-teachers typically are called professionals by people asking the workers to buy textbooks for their kids), allowing educators to win vacuous “respect,” the chance to dress up and rub elbows with Important People, away from school.
As noted above, but repeated for emphasis, corruption is everywhere in the AFT where a steady stream of leaders have been jailed, not only for looting the treasury (Miami, D.C.) but also for child-rape (Broward, Florida). NEA hasn't suffered the kind of dramatic jailings AFT suffers, but, for example, my own boss in Florida, where I worked as an NEA organizer, was convicted of embezzling about $1/4 million from the union.
The school unions draw on a member base that is about 85% white and reflect the racism that such a base inherently creates. Rather than fight to integrate the teaching force, the unions urge more and more “education” classes, adding on expenses for students, meaning those with the least get shaved out with razor sharp precision-by class and race.
Colleges of education, typically commanded by incompetent gatekeepers who value form over substance and promote “multi-culturalism” as a veneer for nationalism and their own structural racism, weed out many of the best candidates who realize it may be impossible to keep their ideals and still teach.
The unions, like all US unions, do not unite people, but divide them along lines of job, race, years of tenure, staff and leaders from rank and file, that is, down to the narrowest interest-capital's favorite question: What about me?
Since the mid-1970's, union bosses have supported every measure that elites used to regain control of schools which were, in many cases out of control. The NEA and AFT bosses today support curricular regimentation, high stakes racist exams, the militarization of schooling, merit pay, and charter schools (a key new source of dues income).
The AFT organized the decay and ruin of urban education in the US, while the mostly suburban NEA let urban schooling be devastated, failing to recognize the truth of the old union saw, “an injury to one only goes before an injury to all.” That both unions steeped themselves in volumes of forms of racism (racist exams, racist expulsions, racist segregation, etc) should not go unnoticed or excused.
The education unions serve to peddle the wage labor of education workers as a commodity to employers and to guarantee labor peace. In this context, there is a direct trade off: no strikes or job actions in exchange for guaranteed dues income--the check-off. That is precisely the historical origin of the agency shop. It is also a big reason why union bosses obey court injunctions against job actions; threats to the union's bank account, that is, the union staff salaries.
School unions attack the working class as a whole. For example, in May 2009, the California Teachers Association and the NEA initiated a series of ballot propositions that would have dramatically raised the taxes of poor and working people while leaving corporations and the rich off the hook, again. NEA and CTA combined spent more than $12.2 million dollars on the campaigns, and lost overwhelmingly. CTA-NEA demonstrated to poor and working families that organized teachers are enemies-yet those same people are educators' most important allies.
These are the empire's unions. Top leaders are fully aware that a significant portion of their sky-high pay (that $465,000 and expense account) is made possible by the empires’ adventures.
NEA and AFT bosses work with a variety of international organizations on behalf of US imperialism. These adventures are frequently deadly as with the AFT's unwavering support for Israeli Zionism, support for the recent oil wars, and, precisely to the point, work throughout the world with the National Endowment for Democracy, a Central Intelligence Agency front, in wrecking indigenous leftist worker movements.
While the AFT has been the spearhead of US imperialism inside the wholly corrupt “labor movement,” NEA has also been deeply involved. There is a long history to this, back to World War I and the AFL's support for that horrific war. The theory behind it: US workers will do better if foreign workers do worse.
Unlike the private sector where less than 10% of the people belong to unions, school workers are the most unionized people in the country. It follows that it is important for change agents to be where the people are. But one must keep one toe in and nine toes out of the unions.
There are some indications that rank and file resistance inside the unions, and out, is rising.
In Chicago, an election three years ago threw out the past, sold-out, union leadership. The “CORE caucus” organized for months, inside schools but, importantly, in communities among students and parents. But new president Karen Lewis failed to serve as a beacon for future union reformers. She succumbed to the temptations of office, the hierarchical union structure, the patch-work nature of the CORE foundations, and the full-scale attack that was launched from without by Obama’s Goebbels, now Chicago mayor, Rahm Emmanuel.
South Africa, a true class battle that includes the entire public work force (educators too) versus the Quisling African National Congress government might serves as an inspiration, if any US media covered it. They do not. Word, however, does slip out.
On March 4th, 2010, masses of students, school workers, and community people organized under banners that said, “Educate! Agitate! Organize! Strike! Occupy! Teach-in!” Their actions, which included building seizures, express-way sit-downs, walk-outs, rallies, marches, and freedom schooling, varied from area to area but the connection of capitalism/war/racism/class war was made in every case I saw.
The organizers then called for similar actions on October 7th and a national conference in San Francisco in late October.
In the interim, the expert dis-organizers from the unions, the Democratic Party, and the usual sects showed up. As I write, with radical students only now returning to campuses, the movement veered from its radical beginnings to the reactionary call, “Defend Public Education,” and mobilizing to get out the vote-rather like urging people into church where they know their children will be raped, where they are expected to tithe, but it's all for the common good-some day.
The same process ensnared Occupy Wall Street, as it probably will Black Lives Matter.
What can be done now? Connecting Reason to Power.
What defeats men with guns?
People can be told that this is capitalism--exploited labor;
That there is a connection between capitalism and imperialism;
Imperialism is the relentless, necessary, search for cheap labor, raw materials, markets, and regional control–hence war;
That the key reasons for the attacks on working people and schools are rooted in those two;
The education agenda is a class war agenda and an imperialist war agenda;
That the government is an executive committee and armed weapon of the ruling class and within it they work out their differences, allowing us to choose which one of them will suppress us best;
That the overwhelming majority of union bosses have chosen the other side in what is surely a class struggle and the union hacks gain from the wars and capital by supporting those wars, winning high pay and benefits, and betraying workers, they're a quisling force;
That we can build a social movement that rejects the barriers US unionism creates, from job category to industry to race and sex and beyond.
The core issue of our time is the reality of endless war and rising inequality met by the potential of mass, active, integrated, class conscious resistance.
We can fight to rescue education from the ruling classes.
It's not fair!
Everything negative is in place for a revolutionary transformation of society (distrust of leaders, collapse of moral suasion from the top down, financial crises, lost wars, massive unemployment, booming inequality, imprisonment of only the poor, growing reliance on force to rule, eradication of civil liberties, corruption and gridlock of government at every level, etc.)
What is missing is the passion, reasoning, generalization, organization, and guiding ethic to make that change.
Time is short.
Innocence lost. Schools dis-covered. Blood and money, or reason.
Rich Gibson (Rg@richgibson.com) is a former organizer for the NEA and other unions. He is professor emeritus at San Diego State University and a co-founder of the activist, education-based, Rouge Forum.