The War On Teachers

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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby JackRiddler » Tue Jul 30, 2013 12:46 pm

mulebone » Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:38 am wrote:
The new standards were developed


Standards? What standards are they talking about?

My 15 year old entered public high school at the start of last year. In that year he learned that:

a. Slavery occurred during the Great Depression
b. The Great Depression occurred much earlier than the early 20th century.
c. That the spelling of words is fluid & spelling skills are something that they don't require potential teachers to master.
d. Angels are real.

Every day they have a prayer session in the cafeteria. Granted, it isn't mandatory but this is high school not church.

I've since discovered that the county I live in does not require a teacher to have a degree in the subject that they teach.

So, again, what standards?

& really, how do they expect children to care about school when the children are apparently smarter than the teachers?

As it stands now, I just tell my son that high school isn't necessarily about learning, it's more of a behavioral science experiment where they try to see how many pointless hoops you'll jump through & how much boredom you'll tolerate in order to get your diploma. This trains you for a lifetime spent on jobs where you will be bored senseless as you jump through an endless series of pointless hoops in order to get a paycheck.


This is in Central Pa., if I've understood correctly?
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby Luther Blissett » Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:40 am

http://www.citypaper.net/blogs/nakedcit ... osses.html
Philly schools consider suing Wall Street banks for fraud-induced losses

POSTED: MONDAY, AUGUST 5, 2013, 10:41 AM
The School District of Philadelphia is considering filing suit against Wall Street banks, City Paper has learned, for illegally manipulating a major interest-rate index underpinning complex derivatives that have cost cities and schools billions of dollars.

"The School District is currently in the process of analyzing whether or not the agency has a sufficient basis for pursuing claims against financial institutions which may have been involved in the manipulation of Libor," a district spokesperson wrote in a short statement issued to CP.

Philadelphia and other cities have filed similar lawsuits, contending that such "interest-rate swaps" — billed as a protection against rising borrowing costs — were tilted in banks' favor through the fraudulent rigging of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor.

The School District took out swaps with Wachovia (purchased by Wells Fargo in 2008), Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. But a lawsuit could name more banks as defendants. Philadelphia's lawsuit names banks that were direct counterparties and also those that are accused of rigging Libor, including Citi, JPMorgan, RBC, Bank of America, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, RBS and UBS.

It is unclear when the district, which is run by the state-controlled School Reform Commission, will decide whether to file suit, and what damages might ultimately be sought.* The city could seek tens of millions of dollars, says Quinn Emanuel attorney Steig D. Olson, one of the lawyers representing the city. The precise damages at stake — a matter of figuring out how particular Libor manipulations affected particular swap deals — will be determined through discovery.

The final damages will likely be contested. And profoundly complex.

A successful lawsuit, however, could provide sorely needed revenue to Philadelphia schools, which are experiencing the most recent and severe of recurrent fiscal crises. Budget cuts orchestrated by Gov. Tom Corbett have exacerbated historic underfunding, while rampant charter-school growth has siphoned money and students. The result is a "doomsday" budget gap of $304 million and the resulting layoff of 3,859 teachers and critical staff. This after 24 schools were closed for good in June. Only a small portion of that gap has been filled — and only tenuously so. Just a fraction of laid-off workers have been called back.

The District has also borrowed more money and sunk further into debt. As CP reported in May, Philadelphia schools debt service is ten times the national average.

Advocates have encouraged municipalities and school districts to take action against banks, which were saved by a taxpayer-funded bailout despite profiting from predatory financial transactions with public entities.

"I encourage the School District of Philadelphia to do everything in its power to punish big bank wrong-doing and find money for our kids," says Hanif Palmer, a parent and activist with the labor-backed organization Fight for Philly, which has pushed for action on swaps. "I hope they will also consider legal action against big banks for toxic swap deals that have also cost the school district and city millions of dollars."

Philadelphia schools lost $161 million from interest-rate swaps, according to a 2012 report by the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. Interest-rate swaps set borrowing costs for bond issuers (such as municipalities and school districts) at a fixed rate. The banks — and this is where it gets confusing — then pay the bond issuer based on a floating interest rate, determined by an index such as Libor.

Swaps protect public entities from rising borrowing costs. But after the federal government drove interest rates down to spur economic growth in the wake of the economic crisis, cities and school districts were stuck paying banks at a high interest rate even while banks paid public entities at a low one. Cities and districts often paid heavy termination fees to exit the costly agreements. One 2012 report from the Refund Transit Coalition finds that 1,100 swaps with public entities — including fiscally distressed SEPTA — cost taxpayers $2.5 billion each year.

But recently, the moral and political case against interest-rate swaps has gained a sharp legal edge: It was revealed that banks were manipulating the Libor, an index tied to $300 trillion in financial instruments set by banks with no external oversight. Banks report how much they would pay to borrow from other firms on a given day. On the honor system.

Britain's Barclays and RBS and Swiss UBS have, according to Reuters, paid about $2.6 billion in penalties to U.S. and British regulators over Libor manipulation. One estimate puts losses related to Libor fraud at as much as $176 billion.

The city's lawsuit alleges that banks employed "collusive and fraudulent manipulation of the key pricing terms in contracts ... in order to reap tremendous windfall profits at the expense of those governmental entities and U.S. taxpayers."

The banks sued by the city were all members of the British Bankers' Association, who allegedly colluded to set Libor rates in their own collective self-interest.

"Defendants in this case worked together to suppress Libor, which had the immediate effect of raising the amount paid by the municipal party" — the City of Philadelphia. And "in the event the swap was terminated, suppression of Libor inflated the termination payments that had to be made."

The city's lawsuit states that while "banks promoted" swaps "as a low-risk" borrowing strategy, "these instruments proved to be extremely risky, and have cost state and local governmental entities hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, depleting treasuries, ruining budgets, and hindering the delivery of public services."

The district is currently negotiating a new contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and is seeking $130 million in total labor givebacks. Meanwhile, Corbett has conditioned $45 million in one-time aid to the district, derived from federal and not state funds, on labor concessions. City teachers, who already make 19 percent less than some suburban counterparts but work in sometimes extraordinarily challenging environments, are resisting a salary cut.

*[Correction: It is possible that the School District of Philadelphia will not require authorization from the School Reform Commission (SRC) to file a lawsuit against the banks. CP is currently waiting for a clarification.]
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby mulebone » Tue Aug 06, 2013 5:14 pm

This is in Central Pa., if I've understood correctly?


Southwestern PA. 25 miles outside of Pittsburgh.

I also forgot that my son was told that St. Louis was in Louisiana, so geography isn't a teaching skill either.

BTW, he asks these questions because he knows there is a good chance that the teacher's answer will be amusing & entertaining, not because he doesn't already know the right answer before he asks it.
Well Robert Moore went down heavy
With a crash upon the floor
And over to his thrashin' body
Betty Coltrane she did crawl.
She put the gun to the back of his head
And pulled the trigger once more
And blew his brains out
All over the table.
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby mulebone » Tue Aug 06, 2013 5:59 pm

boy I bet that makes him jump out of bed in the morning


I don't really know what I could say to a 15 year old to make "jump out of bed" at 6:45 AM. Not really an ass beating kind of daddy.
Although I've found that bribery works wonders.
If he keeps his grades up & keeps his nose clean each quarter we swing by the 5 or 6 vinyl record stores in Pgh. & I buy him a couple hundred dollars worth of records. Seems to work. So far anyway.
Well Robert Moore went down heavy
With a crash upon the floor
And over to his thrashin' body
Betty Coltrane she did crawl.
She put the gun to the back of his head
And pulled the trigger once more
And blew his brains out
All over the table.
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby JackRiddler » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:44 pm

mulebone » Tue Aug 06, 2013 4:59 pm wrote:
boy I bet that makes him jump out of bed in the morning


I don't really know what I could say to a 15 year old to make "jump out of bed" at 6:45 AM. Not really an ass beating kind of daddy.
Although I've found that bribery works wonders.
If he keeps his grades up & keeps his nose clean each quarter we swing by the 5 or 6 vinyl record stores in Pgh. & I buy him a couple hundred dollars worth of records. Seems to work. So far anyway.


Mulebone, you may be a pain around here some of the time, but based on this you're doing a great job with your son. Vinyl, he wants, really? Now that's a good bribe! And as you say, he already knows the answers before asking the questions... good work!
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby mulebone » Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:36 am

Vinyl, he wants, really?


Yep. His idea, not mine. Thankfully he isn't a classic rock kid. I doubt that I could stand hearing Rush or Lynyrd Skynyrd cranking above my head. I grew up in a neighborhood where Led Zeppelin & Skynyrd were rock gods, while I listened to The Residents & The Ramones & Pere Ubu & their ilk. I can turn on WDVE ( a popular local radio station) and time travel right back to 1980 for that if I wanted it although I'd rather listen to amplified lawn mowers than hear another sterile Pink Floyd tune.

At first I bought the kid one of those $100 digital friendly record players that just sucked it sound wise. So, one Saturday, I took him to an electronics store owned by an old guy who fixes up old stereo equipment & resells it. I got him an ass kicking little sound system for pretty much a song and 1/2 of a dance. Now he has hundreds of records & I've never once told him to turn it down. Most times I want him to turn it up so I can hear it better.

The old guys who run those vinyl stores love him. Or, more precisely, they love that he loves vinyl.

As a side effect of his hobby I've gotten back into vinyl & music. While his tastes can be outre as hell, mine revolve around old R&B, jump blues, psychotic rockabilly & old psychotic country music, surf & 60s garage punk. There is a veritable ocean of incredible music that has pretty much completely faded from mass consciousness. It's too bad really. I've discovered that the 70s punk ethos wasn't all that unique or new. You can trace the attitude back through the Sonics & The Sparkles to Hasil Adkins right to those old "race" records where those black folk were recording songs like Cocksuckers Ball & Don't Fuck Around With Love & raising their middle finger to staid & conservative white America.

Of course, we cross pollinate. I'll give him a Back From The Grave garage punk compilation to listen to & he'll slide me a Those Poor Bastards EP or some Sun Ra or some burning hot Arab blues guitarist to enjoy. It's all good.
Well Robert Moore went down heavy
With a crash upon the floor
And over to his thrashin' body
Betty Coltrane she did crawl.
She put the gun to the back of his head
And pulled the trigger once more
And blew his brains out
All over the table.
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby Elvis » Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:36 am

1912 eighth grade exam

What happened to US public education between then and now?
Ironically, there's a typo in the Spelling section.

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Postby wintler2 » Tue Sep 03, 2013 6:26 am

Not entirely on topic but well worth the read anyways, short speech made in 2001 by Oz author Shane Maloney to students of v.expensive & exclusive Scots College, Melbourne ..


"When I first received an inquiry about my availability to come and talk at this school, I was naturally reluctant. After all, this school has little to recommend it in the eyes of the wider community. Historically it has been simply a machine for the transmission of inherited privilege.

"It is a place where boys from middle-class backgrounds are sent to improve their material prospects and to reproduce the values of their class, or where the boys of insecure parents are sent to fulfil the distorted ambitions of their fathers.

"When I think of Scotch College, what comes immediately to mind are the values and actions of its most prominent Old Boys.

"I think of the scene I saw on television after Scotch old boy [& then State Premier] Jeff Kennett used his power and his philosophy to close down the only high school in the state specifically dedicated to the education of young Aboriginal people. How students from that school came here and stood at the gates and how your principal went out and told them to go away.

"I think of your old boy, David Kemp, the federal education minister, giving millions of dollars of public money to enhance the marketability of schools like this one - justifying his actions with statistics and arguments that he refuses to apply to the needs of the 70 per cent of Australian families who choose to educate their children in the democratic and equitable environment of government schools.

"I think, too, of the newspaper reports of the violent behaviour of some of your students - and the quick readiness with which these boys were defended and excused in the courts by their adult class allies.

"For these reasons, I was initially reluctant to come here.

"On the other hand, I thought, 'Well, all this is hardly the fault of the current crop of students.' It is not your fault, after all, that your families decided to institutionalise you. It is not your fault that your mothers and fathers elected to place you in the emotionally distorting and educationally deficient environment of an all-boys school.

"It is not your fault that your parents lacked sufficient confidence in your personal maturity and ability to respond to the opportunities offered by government school education - and Australia has one of the best systems in the world, by the way, despite the relentless propaganda to the contrary by the vested interest of the private-school lobby.

"Right now, you are the victims. Later, of course, society will be your victim, and will suffer from the attitudes with which you are indoctrinated here.

"But who knows? Just as prison does not always break the spirit of all who are incarcerated there, perhaps you will not turn out to be a burden to society.

"Perhaps when you leave here, some of you will even manage to contribute to the wellbeing of this country.

"I certainly hope so. But just to hedge my bets, I will be donating part of my fee today to the campaign for public education.

"Good luck with your studies and thanks for having me."


More info at http://shanemaloney.com/articles-and-sp ... h-college/
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby JackRiddler » Thu Sep 12, 2013 4:44 pm

Elvis, I think people psych themselves out completely when they look at these tests from the past. It's not all that remarkable, really, and a lot of it is just authoritarian passing of arbitrary knowledge, just like today.

Thanks to SLAD for following crosspost.

September 11? Chile 1973, Chicago 2013: 40 Years of Neo-liberal Attacks on Our Societies
By Kim Scipes

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


What do you think of when you hear the term “9-11”? A date. Does it remind you of the attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, or the attack on the Pentagon, or the attack that was frustrated by passengers in Pennsylvania?

It reminds me of all of these things but, more importantly, it reminds me of the FIRST 9-11, September 11, 1973, when the US helped overthrow the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile. This wasn’t the first time in the post-World War II period that the US Government had helped overthrow a democratically-elected government—the US had done that in Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, and Brazil in 1964, plus had supported dictators in a number of countries in the Caribbean and Asia by that time—but it was the first one that many of us who came to political consciousness in the “1960s” experienced directly.

Salvador Allende was an experienced Chilean politician who worked to gain the presidency. He won in 1970 with a plurality, and according to the Chilean Constitution was put into power legally. He was no radical; politically, he could be described as a social democrat, someone who sought some form of “socialism” but wanted to achieve it through electoral politics.

Allende realized that Chile was being raped of its natural resources—most importantly, copper—by US multinational corporations such as Anaconda. These multinationals had invested something like $800,000 in Chile, yet had taken over $5 billion out—and climbing. Allende realized that he could not successfully address the development problems in Chile—the poverty, the lack of nutrition for children, the slums—without nationalizing the US facilities, and using the profits from the copper operations for the good of the Chilean people. When he nationalized the US investments, he put himself on a collision course with the US Empire.

President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger were personally involved in developing a strategy and providing resources to members of the Chilean military high command to help overthrow President Allende. [Also involved, unfortunately, was the leadership of the AFL-CIO, who were operating behind the backs of American workers and without their knowledge through an organization they had created for such purposes, AIFLD (American Institute for Free Labor Development).] Nixon and Kissinger did all they could to cut off development aid to Chile, both by the US government, but also by multilateral development institutes like the Interamerican Development Bank and the World Bank, while increasing aid and training to the Chilean military.

When the military attacked on September 11, 1973, it was very carefully planned and resolutely followed out. La Moneda, the Presidential Palace in Santiago, was bombed, shelled by artillery and then invaded by troops. President Allende was found dead, with a weapon by his side.

Initial reports were that over 30,000 people had been killed in the first few days, although current estimates are that between 3-5,000 died. (Many bodies were hidden, buried in mass graves, or flown out over the Pacific where they were dumped out of aircraft and were fed to the sharks, never to emerge.) Thousands “disappeared,” some after being confined in the National Stadium, or were killed while in the stadium. (Two Americans—Frank Teruggi and Charles Horman—were among those killed. The movie “Missing,” starring Jack Lemon, was an account of Horman’s father’s efforts to find out the fate of his son.)

The military took over after the coup, and later General Augusto Pinochet became the “main man.” Pinochet invited a group of economists trained at the University of Chicago to advise on reviving the economy. They implemented a program that would later go by the name of neo-liberal economics to remove any government regulation of the economy that had been implemented by the Allende administration. The only value they projected positively was profit-making; if something made a profit, it was good—if not, it was bad—and it didn’t matter at what cost to the people the profits came. And trade unions and any pro-workers organizations were disbanded, and their leaders tortured and killed. And social programs that fed the poor, provided services to the mentally disabled, or supported working class families were ended at first opportunity.

Pinochet also smashed anyone or any organization that challenged the coup or his rule. His rule was all-but-absolute, and was not overturned until the early 1990s.

Although we’ve yet to have the violence of the Pinochet dictatorship in the United States, our leaders—beginning particularly with Ronald Reagan and continuing today under Barack Obama—have been carrying out neo-liberal economic policies since the early 1980s and, just like in Chile, they have been a disaster for most of the people. The United States is the most economically unequal of all of the so-called “developed” countries—in fact, we are more unequal that some of the poorest countries in the world, such as Bangladesh, Uganda and Vietnam—and we have the highest imprisonment rate in the world. I could go on and on. When profitability is the only acceptable value, it empowers the wealthy and those who operate for them, while devastating then social reality we call “society.”

At the same time, the US Government has put massive amounts of money into building its war machine; over $10 trillion dollars, conservatively, between 1981 and 2010. We spend more money each year than our 14 closest military competitors combined! This is money than cannot be put into education, health care, rebuilding our infrastructure, addressing global climate change, or taking care of our people. We can try to dominate the world, or we can try to take care of our people, but we cannot do both.

(For an in-depth look at the changes in the US economy since World War II, and the social impact of these changes, please see my 2009 article, “Neo-liberal Economic Policies in the United States: The Impact of Globalization on a ‘Northern’ Country” at http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/21584. The developments I report are prior to the Great Recession and, thus, were not caused by the recession.)

This brings us to Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel is on a “mission from god,” to destroy the Chicago Public Schools, and replace them with charter schools. Besides any ideological animosity to public education that might come from this graduate of one of the most expensive private colleges in the country, Sarah Lawrence—and his kids are in the private, and very expensive, University of Chicago Lab School—Emanuel wants to turn public education into a “for profit” venture. Key to doing this is to break the Chicago Teachers Union.

Now, Emanuel will complain about the high cost of a unionized work force—and they do get paid more than non-union teachers, for sure—but the real issue is power. Emanuel wants no one to challenge his plans, and certainly wants no one to have the power to stop them and tell the public that the Emperor is naked, which the CTU did in the 2012 teachers’ strike. He cares not for the students, the parents, the teachers, or Chicago: it’s his way or the highway. Ultimately, he has this delusion of becoming the President of the United States, and he’ll throw anyone necessary under the bus to get his shot.

I’m sure, in his private moments, he wishes he could use the Pinochet option.

Think I’m exaggerating? Guess who closed down much of the South Loop in May 2012, and mobilized over 3,000 police—including state troopers—to defend a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the greatest war-killing machine in the history? (Wait until you see the new movie, “Four Days in Chicago,” which can be found at http://www.fourdaysinchicago.com.)”I didn’t get the Mayor’s last name, but it sure sounded like Pinochet.

Kim Scipes, Ph.D., is a former Sergeant in the US Marine Corps, who now is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Purdue University North Central in Westville, IN. He lives in Logan Square, Chicago. He focuses on the coup in Chile as a case study in his recent book, AFL-CIO’s Secret War against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010 hardback; 2011 paperback.) His web site is at : http://faculty.pnc.edu/kscipes.



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WATCH THE TRAILER



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[/quote]
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Texas Religious Conservatives Mad

Postby Allegro » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:20 pm

Highlights mine.

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Texas Religious Conservatives Mad About Climate Change and Evolution in School Books
Conservatives on a review panel criticized books that don’t challenge Charles Darwin.
AlterNet, Alex Kane | September 10, 2013

    Conservatives have their sights set on textbooks in Texas that don’t challenge the theory of evolution. The Dallas Morning News reports that religious conservatives on a review panel dedicated to voting on the textbooks in Texas have criticized books that don’t challenge Charles Darwin.

    The review panel is now urging the Texas State Board of education to reject the textbooks unless they add disclaimers on evolution.

    “This is a theory,” said one reviewer, Texas A&M University’s Karen Beathard. “At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent and grandparent, I feel very firmly that creation science based on biblical principles should be incorporated into every biology book that is up for adoption.”

    Texas has a lot of influence over school textbooks, since it is one of the biggest purchasers in the nation.

    The president of the Texas Freedom Network, Kathy Miller, told the Dallas newspaper that “culture warriors” were putting Texas schoolchildren “at risk of becoming a national laughingstock on science education. What our kids learn in their public schools should be based on mainstream, established science, not the personal views of ideologues, especially those who are grossly unqualified to evaluate a biology textbook in the first place.”

    Religious conservatives are also objecting to the coverage of global warming in the books, saying that questions remain about the impact of climate change.

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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby MacCruiskeen » Sat Oct 19, 2013 12:15 pm

Strike Out - The Film
Posted by Peter Cleall on October 18, 2013, 1:23 pm

[posted to: Media Lens Message Board: http://members5.boardhost.com/medialens ... 98996.html ]

Islington Community Theatre makes innovative, brave new theatre with and by young people from one of London's most diverse and challenging boroughs.

Yesterday morning 25 of our members, mostly aged 12-16, chose to come and join us at 9am in support of the London-wide teachers' strike.

They could have stayed in bed, but instead they spent a whole school day researching the reasons for the teachers' strike and exploring what great teaching means to them. They worked with ICT Associate Artists Emily Lim and Guy Jones, trainee directors Ibrahim Shote and David Gibert and the playwrights Alexandra Wood and Ben Ellis.

We wanted to spend the last 90 minutes of the day making something we could show to others. We wanted to make something positive that celebrated our teachers.

And with the extraordinary help of Mattia Pagura, we made this short film - one of the fastest pieces of work we've ever made - based on all the work and conversations that we'd been involved in during the day.

You can see the whole [three-minute] film at the top of our homepage:

http://www.islingtoncommunitytheatre.com/


- Or at: http://vimeo.com/77188015

The film's only 3 mins 35 secs long, but (imo) too much of that scarce time is taken up by a solo song plus lots of pointless silence and "theatrical" paper-passing. It's well worth watching from 1:40 to 2:55 when the kids actually address their favourite teachers (in their absence).
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby MacCruiskeen » Sun Nov 03, 2013 6:34 pm

Jack, and anyone else who speaks German* -- catch this new documentary by Erwin Klagenhofer if you possibly can: Alphabet: Love or Fear:



Image

It's a brilliant film about learning and living in the last days of neoliberalism, with a few great twists in the tale. Just saw it in a movie theatre this evening.

*In fact it features speakers in five languages: German, Chinese, English, French and Spanish. There must be an English-subtitled version soon.
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby wordspeak2 » Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:41 pm

So today here in Colorado we have a vote on Amendment 66, which would raise taxes, mostly on people in the 75K+ income bracket, in order to better fund the K-12 public schools. A lot of specific programs, such as music and art classes, would get the funding. Teachers' unions around the country have poured millions into the campaign. As far as I know (and maybe I'm wrong), this is the first time the ballot initiative process has been used in quite this fashion, to directly fund schools. But the Legislature just cuts and cuts every year.
Will it pass? I doubt it, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed, because maybe if it does other states with the ballot initiative process could try to follow suit.
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby JackRiddler » Tue Apr 29, 2014 8:54 am

(Re the last post from months ago: I see Amendment 66 failed with 900,000 votes against and 500,000 for.)

The policy of No Child Left Breathing / Rats to the Top now culminates in Washington State - every public school is a failure.


http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/04/29?print

CommonDreams.org
Published on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 by Common Dreams
Arne Duncan Has Labeled Every School in Washington State a Failure. Cue the Revolt.
by Jesse Hagopian

The ultimate absurdity of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has been visited upon my home state of Washington.

One of the many outlandish propositions of NCLB was that 100 percent of students at all schools in the United States would be fully proficient in reading and math, as registered by student test scores, by 2014—all without adding the resources needed to support our children. Because no state has been able to achieve 100 percent proficiency, nearly all of the states have already received a federal waiver from NCLB—on the condition that they implement policies that reduce teaching and learning to a test score.

Now, because our State Legislators did not move to mandate that standardized test scores be attached to teacher evaluations, Washington has become the first state in the country to lose its waiver from the many requirements of the No Child Left Behind act. The U.S. Department of Education posted a letter about the status of Washington’s waiver on Thursday April 24th. The loss of this waiver means that every parent in the state should expect a letter informing them that their child attends a failing school. It also means that that school districts will lose control of how they spend a portion of the federal funding they receive—some $40 million statewide. As well, any number of schools could be forced into state takeover and made to replace most of the staff.

And so the absolute farce of federal education reform policy marches on, again without input from educators or parents, in an effort to destabilize the public schools, label them as failing, and then open up space for privatized charter schools.

"The failure is on the part of politicians and their corporate sponsors who have slashed education budgets across the country, and then overused test scores to blame educators for the nation’s problems."

This time they have gone to far.

My school is not a failure. Garfield High School, where I teach, is home to one of the best jazz bands in the country. I dare you not to shake your booty when you hear the Garfield drumline, the premiere percussionists of the Northwest. If Arne Duncan had been there to see Garfield’s drama department’s production of West Side Story this year, he would have been too busy humming “Maria” to withdraw the waiver. And I really wish Duncan could have been in my classroom to see my students research and reenact the Montgomery Bus Boycott–during the time of the schools’ MAP test boycott last year–to see how learning in the service of solving societal problems is coming alive at Garfield.

More than this, none of our schools are failures. The failure is on the part of politicians and their corporate sponsors who have slashed education budgets across the country, and then overused test scores to blame educators for the nation’s problems.

Labeling us all as failures will only create solidarity among all the teachers, parents, and students across the state in a struggle to stop Arne Duncan’s mad testing machine. We at Garfield High School learned the power solidarity in our victorious MAP test boycott last year. If you think the struggle to “scrap the MAP” was impressive, imagine the size and scope of a struggle that unites every school in the state to honor our hardworking educators and students, rather than testing and punishing.

Now is the time to build the largest grassroots civil rights movement to defend our schools that our state has ever seen. Who will join me?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Jesse Hagopian teaches history and is the Black Student Union adviser at Garfield High School, the site of the historic boycott of the MAP standardized test. Jesse is an associate editor for Rethinking Schools magazine, a founding member of Social Equality Educators (SEE), and recipient of the 2013 “Secondary School Teacher of Year” award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. Follow Jesse on his blog at www.iamaneducator.com or on Twitter: @jessedhagopian
more Jesse Hagopian

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Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/04/29
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Re: The War On Teachers

Postby JackRiddler » Thu May 22, 2014 9:20 pm


http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13367 ... nt&print=1

Henry A. Giroux

The War Against Teachers as Public Intellectuals in Dark Times

Monday, 17 December 2012 08:22 By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed


A little learning is a dangerous thing.
- Alexander Pope


The tragic deaths of 26 people shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., included 20 young children and six educators. Many more children might have been killed or injured had it not been for the brave and decisive actions of the teachers in the school. The mainstream media was quick to call them heroes, and there is little doubt that what they did under horrific circumstances reveals not only how important educators are in shielding children from imminent threat, but also how demanding their roles have become in preparing them to negotiate a world that is becoming more precarious, more dangerous - and infinitely more divisive. Teachers are one of the most important resources a nation has for providing the skills, values and knowledge that prepare young people for productive citizenship - but more than this, to give sanctuary to their dreams and aspirations for a future of hope, dignity and justice. It is indeed ironic, in the unfolding nightmare in Newtown, that only in the midst of such a shocking tragedy are teachers celebrated in ways that justly acknowledge - albeit briefly and inadequately - the vital role they play every day in both protecting and educating our children. What is repressed in these jarring historical moments is that teachers have been under vicious and sustained attack by right-wing conservatives, religious fundamentalists, and centrist democrats since the beginning of the 1980s. Depicted as the new "welfare queens," their labor and their care has been instrumentalized and infantilized; [1] they have been fired en masse under calls for austerity; they have seen rollbacks in their pensions, and have been derided because they teach in so-called "government schools." Public school teachers too readily and far too pervasively have been relegated to zones of humiliation and denigration. The importance of what teachers actually do, the crucial and highly differentiated nature of the work they perform and their value as guardians, role models and trustees only appears in the midst of such a tragic event. If the United States is to prevent its slide into a deeply violent and anti-democratic state, it will, among other things, be required fundamentally to rethink not merely the relationship between education and democracy, but also the very nature of teaching, the role of teachers as engaged citizens and public intellectuals and the relationship between teaching and social responsibility. This essay makes one small contribution to that effort.

The War Against Public School Teachers

Right-wing fundamentalists and corporate ideologues are not just waging a war against the rights of unions, workers, students, women, the disabled, low-income groups and poor minorities, but also against those public spheres that provide a vocabulary for connecting values, desires, identities, social relations and institutions to the discourse of social responsibility, ethics, and democracy, if not thinking itself. Neoliberalism, or unbridled free-market fundamentalism, employs modes of governance, discipline and regulation that are totalizing in their insistence that all aspects of social life be determined, shaped and weighted through market-driven measures.[2] Neoliberalism is not merely an economic doctrine that prioritizes buying and selling, makes the supermarket and mall the temples of public life and defines the obligations of citizenship in strictly consumerist terms. It is also a mode of pedagogy and set of social arrangements that uses education to win consent, produce consumer-based notions of agency and militarize reason in the service of war, profits, power and violence while simultaneously instrumentalizing all forms of knowledge.

The increasing militarization of reason and growing expansion of forms of militarized discipline are most visible in policies currently promoted by wealthy conservative foundations such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute along with the high-profile presence and advocacy of corporate reform spokespersons such as Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and billionaire financers such as Michael Milken.[3] As Ken Saltman, Diane Ravitch, Alex Means and others have pointed out, wealthy billionaires such as Bill Gates are financing educational reforms that promote privatization, de-professionalization, online classes, and high-stakes testing, while at the same time impugning the character and autonomy of teachers and the unions that support them.[4] Consequently, public school teachers have become the new class of government-dependent moochers and the disparaged culture of Wall Street has emerged as the only model or resource from which to develop theories of educational leadership and reform.[5] The same people who gave us the economic recession of 2008, lost billions in corrupt trading practices, and sold fraudulent mortgages to millions of homeowners have ironically become sources of wisdom and insight regarding how young people should be educated.

Attesting to the fact that political culture has become an adjunct of the culture of finance, politicians at the state and federal levels, irrespective of their political affiliation, advocate reforms that amount to selling off or giving away public schools to the apostles of casino capitalism.[6] More importantly, the hysterical fury now being waged by the new educational reformists against public education exhibits no interest in modes of education that invest in an "educated public for the culture of the present and future."[7] On the contrary, their relevance and power can be measured by the speed with which any notion of civic responsibilities is evaded.

What these individuals and institutions all share is an utter disregard for public values, critical thinking and any notion of education as a moral and political practice.[8] The wealthy hedge fund managers, think tank operatives and increasingly corrupt corporate CEOs are panicked by the possibility that teachers and public schools might provide the conditions for the cultivation of an informed and critical citizenry capable of actively and critically participating in the governance of a democratic society. In the name of educational reform, reason is gutted of its critical potential and reduced to a deadening pedagogy of memorization, teaching to the test and classroom practices that celebrate mindless repetition and conformity. Rather than embraced as central to what it means to be an engaged and thoughtful citizen, the capacity for critical thinking, imagining and reflection are derided as crucial pedagogical values necessary for "both the health of democracy and to the creation of a decent world culture and a robust type of global citizenship."[9]

This is clear by virtue of the fact that testing and punishing have become the two most influential forces that now shape American public education. As Stanley Aronowitz points out,

Numerous studies have shown the tendency of public schooling to dumb down the curriculum and impose punitive testing algorithms on teachers and students alike. Whether intended or not, we live in an era when the traditional concepts of liberal education and popular critical thinking are under assault. Neo-liberals of the center, no less than those of the right, are equally committed to the reduction of education to a mean-spirited regime of keeping its subjects’ noses to the grindstone. As the post-war "prosperity," which offered limited opportunities to some from the lower orders to gain a measure of mobility fades into memory, the chief function of schools is repression.[10]


Instead of talking about the relationship between schools and democracy, the new educational reformers call for the disinvestment in public schools, the militarization of school culture, the commodification of knowledge and the privatizing of both the learning process and the spaces in which it takes place. The crusade for privatizing is now advanced with a vengeance by the corporate elite, a crusade designed to place the control of public schools and other public spheres in the alleged reliable hands of the apostles of casino capitalism.[11] Budgets are now balanced on the backs of teachers and students while the wealthy get tax reductions and the promise of gentrification and private schools.[12] In the name of austerity, schools are defunded so as to fail and provide an excuse to be turned over to the privatizing advocates of free-market fundamentalism. In this discourse, free-market reform refuses to imagine public education as the provision of the public good and social right and reduces education to meet the immediate needs of the economy.

For those schools and students that are considered excess, the assault on reason is matched by the enactment of a militaristic culture of security, policing and containment, particularly in urban schools.[13] Low-income and poor minority students now attend schools that have more security guards than teachers and are educated to believe that there is no distinction between prison culture and the culture of schooling.[14] The underlying theme that connects the current attack on reason and the militarizing of social relations is that education is both a Petri dish for producing individuals who are wedded to the logic of the market and consumerism and a sorting machine for ushering largely poor black and brown youth into the criminal justice system. There is no language among these various political positions for defending public schools as a vital social institution and public good. Public education, in this view, no longer benefits the entire society but only individuals and, rather than being defined as a public good, is redefined as a private right.

Within this atomistic, highly individualizing script, shared struggles and bonds of solidarity are viewed as either dangerous or pathological. Power relations disappear and there is no room for understanding how corporate power and civic values rub up against each other in ways that are detrimental to the promise of a robust democracy and an emancipatory mode of schooling. In fact, in this discourse, corporate power is used to undermine any vestige of the civic good and cover up the detrimental influence of its anti-democratic pressures. It gets worse. A pedagogy of management and conformity does more than simply repress the analytical skills and knowledge necessary for students to learn the practice of freedom and assume the role of critical agents, it also reinforces deeply authoritarian lessons while reproducing deep inequities in the educational opportunities that different students acquire. As Sara Robinson points out,

In the conservative model, critical thinking is horrifically dangerous, because it teaches kids to reject the assessment of external authorities in favor of their own judgment - a habit of mind that invites opposition and rebellion. This is why, for much of Western history, critical thinking skills have only been taught to the elite students - the ones headed for the professions, who will be entrusted with managing society on behalf of the aristocracy. (The aristocrats, of course, are sending their kids to private schools, where they will receive a classical education that teaches them everything they'll need to know to remain in charge.) Our public schools, unfortunately, have replicated a class stratification on this front that's been in place since the Renaissance.[15]


As powerful as this utterly reactionary and right-wing educational reform movement might be, educators are far from willingly accepting the role of deskilled technicians groomed to service the needs of finance capital and produce students who are happy consumers and unquestioning future workers. Public school teachers have mobilized in Wisconsin and a number of other states where public schools, educators and other public servants are under attack. They have been collectively energized in pushing back the corporate and religious fundamentalist visions of public education, and they are slowly mobilizing into a larger social movement to defend both their role as engaged intellectuals and schooling as a public good. In refusing to be fit for domestication, many teachers are committed to fulfilling the civic purpose of public education through a new understanding of the relationship between democracy and schooling, learning and social change. In the interest of expanding this struggle, educators need a new vocabulary for not only defining schools as democratic public spheres, students as informed and critically engaged citizens, but also teachers as public intellectuals. In what follows, I want to focus on this issue as one important register of individual and collective struggle for teachers. At stake here is the presupposition that a critical consciousness is not only necessary for producing good teachers, but also enables individual teachers to see their classroom struggles as part of a much broader social, political and economic landscape.

Unlike many past educational reform movements, the present call for educational change presents both a threat and a challenge to public school teachers that appear unprecedented. The threat comes in the form of a series of educational reforms that display little confidence in the ability of public school teachers to provide intellectual and moral leadership for our youth. For instance, many recommendations that have emerged in the current debate across the world either ignore the role teachers play in preparing learners to be active and critical citizens or they suggest reforms that ignore the intelligence, judgment and experience that teachers might offer in such a debate. At the same time, the current conservative reform movement aggressively disinvests in public schooling so as to eliminate the literal spaces and resources necessary for schools to work successfully.

Where teachers do enter the debate, they are objects of educational reforms that reduce them to the status of high-level technicians carrying out dictates and objectives decided by experts far removed from the everyday realities of classroom life. Or they are reduced to the status of commercial salespersons selling knowledge, skills and values that have less to do with education than with training students for low-wage jobs in a global marketplace. Or, even worse, they are reduced to security officers employed largely to discipline, contain, and all too often, turn students who commit infractions over to the police and the criminal justice system.[16] Not only do students not count in this mode of schooling, teachers are also stripped of their dignity and capacities when it comes to critically examining the nature and process of educational reform.

While the political and ideological climate does not look favorable for the teachers at the moment, it does offer them the challenge to join a public debate with their critics, as well as the opportunity to engage in a much needed self-critique regarding the nature and purpose of schooling, classroom teaching and the relationship between education and social change. Similarly, the debate provides teachers with the opportunity to organize collectively to improve the conditions under which they work and to demonstrate to the public the central role that teachers must play in any viable attempt to reform the public schools.

In order for teachers and others to engage in such a debate, it is necessary that theoretical perspectives be developed that redefine the nature of the current educational crisis while simultaneously providing the basis for an alternative view of teacher work. In short, this means recognizing that the current crisis in education cannot be separated from the rise and pernicious influence of neoliberal capitalism and market driven power relations, both of which work in the interest of disempowering teachers, dismantling teacher unions, and privatizing public schools. At the very least, such recognition will have to come to grips with a growing loss of power among teachers around the basic conditions of their work, but also with a changing public perception of their role as reflective practitioners.

I want to make a small theoretical contribution to this debate and the challenge it calls forth by examining two major problems that need to be addressed in the interest of improving the quality of "teacher work," which includes all the clerical tasks and extra assignments as well as classroom instruction. First, I think it is imperative to examine the ideological and material forces that have contributed to what I want to call the deskilling and commodification of teacher work; that is, the tendency to reduce teachers to the status of specialized technicians within the school bureaucracy, whose function then becomes one of the managing and implementing curricular programs rather than developing or critically appropriating curricula to fit specific pedagogical concerns and the particular needs of students. Second, there is a need to defend schools as institutions essential to maintaining and developing a critical democracy and also to defending teachers as public intellectuals who combine scholarly reflection and practice in the service of educating students to be thoughtful, active citizens.

Devaluing and Deskilling Teacher Work

One of the major threats facing prospective and existing teachers within the public schools is the increasing development of instrumental and corporate ideologies that emphasize a technocratic approach to both teacher preparation and classroom pedagogy. At the core of the current emphasis on the instrumental and pragmatic factors in school life are a number of important pedagogical assumptions. These include: a call for the separation of conception from execution; the standardization of school knowledge in the interest of managing and controlling it, the increased call for standardized testing, and the devaluation of critical, intellectual work on the part of teachers and students for the primacy of practical considerations. In this view, teaching is reduced to training and concepts are substituted by methods. Teaching in this view is reduced to a set of strategies and skills and becomes synonymous with a method or technique. Instead of learning to raise questions about the principles underlying different classroom methods, research techniques and theories of education, teachers are often preoccupied with learning the "how to," with what works or with mastering the best way to teach a given body of knowledge.

What is ignored in this retrograde view is any understanding of pedagogy as a moral and political practice that functions as a deliberate attempt to influence how and what knowledge, values and identities are produced with particular sets of classroom social relations. What is purposely derided in conservative notions of teaching and learning is a view of pedagogy, which in the most critical sense, illuminates the relationship among knowledge, authority and power and draws attention to questions concerning who has control over the conditions for the production of knowledge. Pedagogy in this sense addresses and connects ethics, politics, power and knowledge within practices that allow for generating multiple solidarities, narratives and vocabularies as part of a broader democratic project. As Chandra Mohanty insists, pedagogy is not only about the act of knowing, but also about how knowledge is related to the power of self-definition, understanding one’s relationship to others and one’s understanding and connection to the larger world.[17] In the end, pedagogy is not, as many conservatives argue, about immersing young people in predefined and isolated bits of information, but about the issue of agency and how it can be developed in the interest of deepening and expanding the meaning and purpose of democratization and the formative cultures that make it possible.

Technocratic and instrumental rationalities are also at work within the teaching field itself, and they play an increasing role in reducing teacher autonomy with respect to the development and planning of curricula and the judging and implementation of classroom instruction. In the past, this took the form of what has been called "teacher-proof" curriculum packages. The underlying rationale in many of these packages viewed teacher work as simply the carrying out of predetermined content and instructional procedures. The method and aim of such packages was to legitimate what might be called "market-driven management pedagogies." That knowledge is broken down into discrete parts, standardized for easier management and consumption and measured through predefined forms of assessment. Curricula approaches of this sort are management pedagogies because the central questions regarding teaching and learning are reduced to the problems of management, regulation and control. While such curricula are far from absent in many schools, they have been replaced by modes of classroom instruction geared to a pedagogy of repression defined through the rubric of accountability. This approach works to discipline both the body and mind in the interest of training students to perform well in high-stakes testing schemes. It defines quality teaching through reductive mathematical models.[18]

Pedagogy as an intellectual, moral and political practice is now based on "measurements of value derived from market competition." [19] Mathematical utility has now replaced critical dialogue, debate, risk-taking, the power of imaginative leaps and learning for the sake of learning. A crude instrumental rationality now governs the form and content of curricula, and where content has the potential to open up the possibility of critical thinking, it is quickly shut down. This is a pedagogy that has led to the abandonment of democratic impulses, analytic thinking, and social responsibility. It is also a pedagogy that infantilizes both teachers and students. For instance, the Texas GOP built into its platform the banning of critical thinking.[20] Not too long ago, the Florida legislature passed a law claiming that history had to be taught simply as a ledger of facts, banning any attempt at what can loosely be called interpretation.

The soft underlying theoretical assumption that guides this type of pedagogy is that the behavior of teachers needs to be controlled and made consistent and predictable across different schools and student populations. The more hidden and hard assumption at work here is that teachers cannot be intellectuals, cannot think imaginatively and cannot engage in forms of pedagogy that might enable students to think differently, critically or more imaginatively. The deskilling of teachers, the reduction of reason to a form of instrumental rationality, and the disinvestment in education as a public good is also evident on a global level in policies produced by the World Bank that impose on countries forms of privatization and standardized curricula that undermine the potential for critical inquiry and engaged citizenship. Learning in this instance is depoliticized, prioritized as a method and often reduced to teaching low-level skills, disciplinary-imposed behaviors and corporate values. Neoliberal disciplinary measures now function to limit students to the private orbits in which they experience their lives while restricting the power of teachers to teach students to think rationally, judge wisely and be able to connect private troubles to broader public considerations.

Public schools have become an object of disdain, and teachers labor under educational reforms that separate conception from execution, theory from practice, and pedagogy from moral and social considerations. As content is devalued, history erased and the economic, racial and social inequities intensified, public schools increasingly are hijacked by corporate and religious fundamentalists. The effect is not only to deskill teachers, to remove them from the processes of deliberation and reflection, but also to routinize the nature of learning and classroom pedagogy. Needless to say, the principles underlying corporate pedagogies are at odds with the premise that teachers should be actively involved in producing curricula materials suited to the cultural and social contexts in which they teach.

More specifically, the narrowing of curricula choices to a back-to-basics format and the introduction of lock-step, time-on-task pedagogies operate from the theoretically erroneous assumption that all students can learn from the same materials, classroom instructional techniques and modes of evaluation. The notion that students come from different histories and embody different experiences, linguistic practices, cultures and talents is strategically ignored within the logic and accountability of management pedagogy theory. At the same time, the school increasingly is modeled as a factory, prison or both. Curiosity is replaced by monotony, and learning withers under the weight of dead time.

Teachers as Public Intellectuals

In what follows, I want to argue that one way to rethink and restructure the nature of teacher work is to view teachers as public intellectuals. The category of intellectual is helpful in a number of ways. First, it provides a theoretical basis for examining teacher work as a form of intellectual labor, as opposed to defining it in purely instrumental or technical terms. Second, it clarifies the kinds of ideological and practical conditions necessary for teachers to function as intellectuals. Third, it helps to make clear the role teachers play in producing and legitimating various political, economic and social interests through the pedagogies they endorse and utilize.

By viewing teachers as public intellectuals, we can illuminate the important idea that all human activity involves some form of thinking. No activity, regardless of how routinized it might become, can be abstracted from the functioning of the mind in some capacity. This is a crucial issue, because by arguing that the use of the mind is a general part of all human activity we dignify the human capacity for integrating thinking and practice, and in doing so highlight the core of what it means to view teachers as reflective practitioners. Within this discourse, teachers can be seen not merely as "performers professionally equipped to realize effectively any goals that may be set for them. Rather [they should] be viewed as free men and women with a special dedication to the values of the intellect and the enhancement of the critical powers of the young."[21]

Viewing teachers as public intellectuals also provides a strong theoretical critique of technocratic and instrumental ideologies underlying educational theories that separate the conceptualization, planning and design of curricula from the processes of implementation and execution. It is important to stress that teachers must take active responsibility for raising serious questions about what they teach, how they are to teach and what the larger goals are for which they are striving. This means that they must take a responsible role in shaping the purposes and conditions of schooling. Such a task is impossible within a division of labor in which teachers have little influence over the conceptual and economic conditions of their work. This point has a normative and political dimension that seems especially relevant for teachers. If we believe that the role of teaching cannot be reduced to merely training in the practical skills, but involves, instead, the education of a class of engaged and public intellectuals vital to the development of a free society, then the category of intellectual becomes a way of linking the purpose of teacher education, public schooling and in-service training to the principles necessary for developing a democratic order and society. Recognizing teachers as engaged and public intellectuals means that educators should never be reduced to technicians, just as education should never be reduced to training. Instead, pedagogy should be rooted in the practice of freedom - in those ethical and political formations that expand democratic underpinnings and principles of both the self and the broader social order.

I have argued that by viewing teachers as intellectuals we can begin to rethink and reform the traditions and conditions that have prevented teachers from assuming their full potential as active, reflective scholars and practitioners. I believe that it is important not only to view teachers as public intellectuals, but also to contextualize in political and normative terms the concrete social functions that teachers have both to their work and to the dominant society.

A starting point for interrogating the social function of teachers as public intellectuals is to view schools as economic, cultural and social sites that are inextricably tied to the issues of politics, power and control. This means that schools do more than pass on in an objective fashion a common set of values and knowledge. On the contrary, schools are places that represent forms of knowledge, language practices, social relations and values that are particular selections and exclusions from the wider culture. As such, schools serve to introduce and legitimate particular forms of social life. Rather than being objective institutions removed from the dynamics of politics and power, schools actually are contested spheres that embody and express struggles over what forms of authority, types of knowledge, forms of moral regulation and versions of the past and future should be legitimated and transmitted to students.

Schools are always political because they both produce particular kinds of agents, desires and social relations and they legitimate particular notions of the past, present and future. The struggle is most visible in the demands, for example, of right-wing religious groups currently trying to inject creationism in the schools, institute school prayer, remove certain books from school libraries and include certain forms of religious teachings in the curricula. Of course, different demands are made by feminists, ecologists, minorities, and other interest groups who believe that the schools should teach women's studies, courses on the environment or black history. In short, schools are not neutral sites, and teachers cannot assume the posture of being neutral either.

Central to the category of public intellectual is the necessity of making the pedagogical more political and the political more pedagogical. Making the pedagogical more political means inserting schooling directly into the political sphere by arguing that schooling represents both a struggle to define meaning and a struggle over agency and power relations. Within this perspective, critical reflection and action become part of a fundamental social project to help students develop a deep and abiding faith in the struggle to overcome economic, political and social injustices, and to further humanize themselves as part of this struggle. In this case, knowledge and power are inextricably linked to the presupposition that to choose life, to recognize the necessity of improving its democratic and qualitative character for all people, is to understand the preconditions necessary to struggle for it. Teaching must be seen as a political, civic and ethical practice precisely because it is directive, that is, an intervention that takes up the ethical responsibility of recognizing, as Paulo Freire points out, that human life is conditioned but not determined.

A critical pedagogical practice does not transfer knowledge but create the possibilities for its production, analysis and use. Without succumbing to a kind of rigid dogmatism, teachers should provide the pedagogical conditions for students to bear witness to history, their own actions and the mechanisms that drive the larger social order so that they can imagine the inseparable connection between the human condition and the ethical basis of our existence. Educators have a responsibility for educating students in ways that allow them to hold power accountable, learn how to govern and develop a responsibility to others and a respect for civic life. The key here is to recognize that being a public intellectual is no excuse for being dogmatic. While it is crucial to recognize that education has a critical function, the teachers’ task is not to mold students but to encourage human agency, to provide the conditions for students to be self-determining and to struggle for a society that is both autonomous and democratic.

Making the political more pedagogical means treating students as critical agents; making knowledge problematic and open to debate; engaging in critical and thoughtful dialogue; and making the case for a qualitatively better world for all people. In part, this suggests that teachers as public intellectuals take seriously the need to give students an active voice in their learning experiences. It also means developing a critical vernacular that is attentive to problems experienced at the level of everyday life, particularly as they are related to pedagogical experiences connected to classroom practice. As such, the pedagogical starting point for such intellectuals is not the isolated student removed from the historical and cultural forces that bear down on their lives but individuals in their various cultural, class, racial and historical contexts, along with the particularity of their diverse problems, hopes, and dreams.

As public intellectuals, teachers should develop a discourse that unites the language of critique with the language of possibility. In this instance, educators not only recognize the need to act on the world, to connect reading the word with reading the world, but also make clear that it is within their power individually and collectively to do so. In taking up this project, they should work under conditions that allow them to speak out against economic, political and social injustices both within and outside of schools. At the same time, they should work to create the conditions that give students the opportunity to become critical and engaged citizens who have the knowledge and courage to struggle in order to make desolation and cynicism unconvincing and hope practical. Hope in this case is neither a call to social engineering nor an excuse to overlook the difficult conditions that shape both schools and the larger social order. On the contrary, it is the precondition for providing those languages and values that point the way to a more democratic and just world. As Judith Butler has argued, there is more hope in the world when we can question common sense assumptions and believe that what we know is directly related to our ability to help change the world around us, though it is far from the only condition necessary for such change.[22] Hope provides the basis for dignifying our labor as intellectuals; it offers up critical knowledge linked to democratic social change, and allows teachers and students to recognize ambivalence and uncertainty as fundamental dimensions of learning. As Ernst Bloch insists, hope is "not yet in the sense of a possibility; that it could be there if we could only do something for it."[23] Hope offers the possibility of thinking beyond the given - and lays open a pedagogical terrain in which teachers and students can engage in critique, dialogue and an open-ended struggle for justice. As difficult as this task may seem to educators, if not to a larger public, it is a struggle worth waging. To deny educators the opportunity to assume the role of public intellectuals is to prevent teachers from gaining control over the conditions of the work, denying them the right to "push at the frontiers, to worry the edges of the human imagination, to conjure beauty from the most unexpected things, to find magic in places where others never thought to look,"[24] and to model what it means for intellectuals to exhibit civic courage by giving education a central role in constructing a world that is more just, equitable and democratic in dark times.

What role might public school teachers play as public intellectuals in light of the brutal killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School? In the most immediate sense, they can raise their collective voices against the educational influence of a larger culture and spectacle of violence and the power of the gun lobby to flood the country with deadly weapons. They can show how this culture of violence is only one part of a broader and all-embracing militarized culture of war, arms industry and a Darwinian survival of the fittest ethic, more characteristic of an authoritarian society than a democracy. They can mobilize young people to both stand up for teachers, students and public schools by advocating for policies that invest in schools rather than in the military-industrial complex and its massive and expensive weapons of death. They can educate young people and a larger public to support gun regulation and the democratization of the culture industries that now trade in violence as a form of entertainment; they can speak out against the educational, political, and economic conditions in which violence has become a sport in America - one of the most valuable practices and assets of the national entertainment state. The violent screen culture of video games, extreme sports, violent Hollywood films, television dramas and other cultural productions do not just produce entertainment, they are mainly teaching machines that instruct children into a sadistic culture in which killing is all right, violence is fun and masculinity is defined increasingly through its propensity to make celebrities out of killers. This is a culture that serves as a recruiting tool for the military, makes military force rather than democratic idealism the highest national ideal and war the most important organizing principle of society.

Public school teachers can join with parents, churches, synagogues, Mosques and other individuals and institutions to address the larger socioeconomic and ideological values and practices that legitimize a hyper-masculinity fueled by the death-dealing assumption that war and a primitive tribalism make men, irrespective of the violence they promote against women, gays, students and people with disabilities. America is obsessed with violence and death, and this fixation not only provides profits for Hollywood, the defense industries and the weapons industries, it also reproduces a culture of war and cruelty that has become central to America’s national identity - one that is as shameful as it is deadly to its children and others. The war on public school teachers and children has reached its tragic apogee with the brutal and incomprehensible killing of the young children in Sandy Hook. What kind of country has the United States become in its willingness allow this endless barrage of symbolic and material violence to continue? Why has violence become the most powerful mediating force shaping social relations in the United States? Why do we allow a government to use drones to kill young children abroad? Why do we allow the right-wing media and the mainstream press to constantly denigrate both teachers and young people? Why are the lives of young people one of our lowest national priorities? Why do we denigrate public servants such as teaches, who educate, nurture and safeguard young people? What kind of country betrays its teachers and denigrates public education? How does the violence against teachers and students destroy the connective tissue that makes the shared bonds of trust, compassion and justice possible not only in our schools but also in a democracy?

[1]
Adam Bessie, "Public Teachers: America’s New ‘Welfare Queens," Truthout (March 6, 2011). For a list such humiliations, see VetGrl, “Here are your Parasites and Terrorists, M*therf*ckers,” Daily Kos (December 15, 2012). Online: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/1 ... herf-ckers

[2]
Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford University Press, 2010); Henry A. Giroux, Against the Terror of Neoliberalism (Boulder: Paradigm Press, 2008); David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

[3]
Diane Ravitch, "The People Behind the Lawmakers Out to Destroy Pubic Education: a Primer What you Need to know about ALEC," CommonDreams (May 2, 2012).

[4]
See Henry A. Giroux, Education and the Struggle for Public Values (Boulder: Paradigm, 2012); Ken Saltman, The Failure of Corporate School Reform (New York: Palgrave, 2012); Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System (New York: Basic Books, 2011); Alex Means, Schooling in the Age of Austerity (New York: Palgrave, 2013).

[5]
In the corruption of Wall Street, see, for example, Jeff Madrick, Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present (New York: Vintage, 2011); Charles Ferguson, Predator Nation (New York: Crown Business, 2012); Henry A. Giroux, Zombie Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism (New York: Peter Lang, 2010).

[6]
I am not just talking about right-wing Republicans but also about the Obama administration policy on education, which has reproduced the worse dimensions of the former Bush administration’s policies on educational reform, which are as reactionary as they are detrimental to the quality, if not future, of public education in the United States.

[7]
Mustafha Marruchi, "The Value of Literature as a Public Institution," College Literature 33: 4 (Fall 2006), p. 176.

[8]
Sara Robinson , "How the Conservative Worldview Quashes Critical Thinking - and What That Means For Our Kids' Future," AlterNet, (May 20, 2012). Online: http://www.alternet.org/education/15546 ... age=entire

[9]
Martha C. Nussbaum, "Education for Profit, Education for Freedom," Liberal Education, (Summer 2009), p. 6. Also see, Martha C. Nussbaum, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs The Humanities, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010)

[10]
Stanley Aronowitz, "Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy: Not Mainly a teaching method," in Robert Lake and Tricia Kress, Paulo Freire's Intellectual Roots: Toward Historicity in Praxis (New York, NY: Continuum, 2012).

[11]
Noam Chomsky, "The Assault on Public Education," TruthOut, April 4, 2012.

[12]
Les Leopold, "Hey Dad, Why Does This Country Protect Billionaires, and Not Teachers?" AlterNet, (May 5, 2010).

[13]
Ken Saltman and David A. Gabbard, eds. Education as Enforcement: The Militarization and Corporatization of Schools, 2nd edition (New York: Routledge, 2010); David A. Gabbard and E. Wayne Ross, eds. Education Under The Security State (Defending Public Schools) (New York: Teachers College Press, 2008).

[14]
Henry Giroux, Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability (New York: Palgrave, 2009).

[15]
Ibid., Robinson , "How the Conservative Worldview Quashes Critical Thinking - and What That Means For Our Kids' Future."

[16]
There is a great deal of literature written about zero-tolerance policies. For a brilliant academic discussion, see Christopher Robbins, Expelling Hope: The Assault on Youth and the Militarization of Schooling (New York: SUNY Press, 2009); Julianne Hing, "The Shocking Details of a Mississippi School-to-Prison Pipeline," Truthout, (December 3, 2012); Donna Lierberman, "Schoolhouse to Courthouse," The New York Times, (December 8, 2012).

[17]
Chandra Mohanty, "On Race and Voice: Challenges for Liberal Education in the 1990s," Cultural Critique (Winter 1989-1990), p. 192.

[18]
See, for example, Sam Dillon, "Formula to Grade Teachers’ Skill Gains in Use, and Critics," New York Times (August 31, 2010), p. A1.

[19]
Michael Collins, "Universities need reform – but the market is not the answer", openDemocracy, (November 23, 2010).

[20]
Danny Weil, "Texas GOP Declares: ‘No More Teaching of ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ in Texas Public Schools," Truthout (July 7, 2012).

[21]
Israel Scheffler, Reason and Teaching (New York: Routledge, 1973), p. 92.

[22]
Cited in Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham, "Changing the Subject: Judith Butler’s Politics of Radical Resignification," JAC 20:4 (200), p. 765.

[23]
Ernst Bloch, "Something’s Missing: A Discussion Between Ernst Bloch and Theodor W. Adorno on the Contradictions of Utopian Longing," in Ernst Bloch, The Utopian Function of Art and Literature: Selected essays (Cambridge, Mass." MIT Press, 1988), p. 3.

[24]
Arundhati Roy, Power Politics (Cambridge, Ma: South End Press, 2001), P. 1.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.
Henry A. Giroux

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and is a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books include: On Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011), Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm 2012), Disposable Youth: Racialized Memories and the Culture of Cruelty (Routledge 2012), Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future (Paradigm 2013), America's Educational Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education (Haymarket 2014) and The Violence of Organized Forgetting (which will be published by City Lights in 2014). Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His website is http://www.henryagiroux.com.
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