First published on Schools Matter on May 24, 2016
“Worse, Clinton’s “boarding school” socialization and structure idea sounds more like assimilation than education. Shocking and scarily reminiscent of other U.S. ventures in segregating classes of “other” people. Native Americans were also thought to be in need of “education” to work differently in groups and to be in need of structure.”— Daun Kauffman
WikiLeaks released the Hillary Clinton Email Archive mid-March 2016. Many users were searching for terms like hedge fund manager, Goldman Sachs, or, as the example in the WikiLeaks boolean tutorial: "syria libya will show results…" I decided to search for familiar phases of the neoliberal corporate education reform camp. I struck pay-dirt on my first try with "charter schools." Note my excitement on the day of discovery
In one thread Clinton and her cabal talk about a colonial project to remake earthquake stricken Haiti's education system using disaster capitalism, much in the way author Naomi Klein describes what happened in New Orleans:
In sharp contrast to the glacial pace with which the levees were repaired and the electricity grid brought back online, the auctioning-off of New Orleans' school system took place with military speed and precision. Within 19 months, with most of the city's poor residents still in exile, New Orleans' public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools.
Before getting to the content of the email, it's important to contextualize the Clinton's relationship with the island nation. When not facilitating the orchestration of coups in Latin America, bombing the Near East and Africa into the stone age, or providing full-throated support for apartheid states, Clinton is meddling in Haiti. Lots of good pieces on the Clintons and Haiti in publications like Counterpunch and Black Agenda Report, but this excerpt from an essay by Shadowproof's Roqayah Chamseddine is an excellent summary:
In 2010, Hillary Clinton visited Haiti as part of a public relations stunt that allowed her to see firsthand the devastation wrought by the earthquake that killed at least 100,000. This performance was primarily meant to demonstrate solidarity and show the international community that the United States would be there to help in reconstruction efforts. Yet, her visit came less than a year after the U.S. State Department, then led by Clinton, had pressured the government of Haiti into denying laborers a wage increase of $0.62.
Dan Caughlin and Kim Ives of Haïti Liberté reported the U.S. Embassy in Haiti aggressively pressured “factory owners [in Haiti] contracted by Levi’s, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to block a paltry minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest paid in the hemisphere.” In statements reminiscent of the Clinton campaign’s recent charges against Sanders, Deputy Chief of Mission David E. Lindwall called the proposed $5 minimum wage for Haitian assembly zone workers one which “did not take economic reality into account” but that was meant to appeal to the “unemployed and underpaid masses.”
Haiti has long been a kind of pet project for the Clintons, and they’ve often spoken of “falling in love with Haiti” during their honeymoon. But the love isn’t mutual by any means, and Haitians across the U.S. have made this increasingly clear by way of protests spotlighting the catastrophe the Clintons have left behind. Dahoud Andre, a radio host who has organized protests in New York, is quoted by the New York Times as saying that “a vote for Hillary Clinton means further corruption, further death and destruction for our people.”
Since the email I'll be discussing is accessible here, and is somewhat long, I will not reproduce it in its entirety. Rather, I'll draw excerpts from sections and discuss them. Secretary Clinton forwarded the email in question to one of her assistants, Lauren Jiloty. It was written by neoliberal corporate education reform cheerleader David Domenici in response to Clinton's wanting suggestions on how to capitalize on the Haitian disaster. Charter school profiteer Domenici has no background in pedagogy, has never worked at a public school, "worked in finance", and is a Senior Fellow for the right-wing think-tank Center for American Progress. His biography reads like those of most of his ilk: "He felt that an understanding of the law coupled with his understanding of the financial world would help frame his sense of how best to generate positive social change." It is with this profound ignorance of education and pedagogy that Domenici crafted the Clinton Colonial Education Corps plan. That former Secretary Clinton relied on a venture capitalist for education policy advice speaks volumes, and foreshadows some very frightening prospects should she capture the Presidency.
From: Hillary Clinton
To: Lauren Jiloty
Date: 2010-01-18 19:23
Subject: HOPE YOU ARE WELL, WHERE EVER YOU GET THIS - - BELOW ARE IDEAS RE: EDUCATION CORPS FOR HAITI THAT YOU ASKED FOR
UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05772910 Date: 08/31/2015
RELEASE IN PART B6
From: H email@example.com
Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 7:23 AM
Subject: Fw: Hope you are well, where ever you get this-- below are ideas re: education corps for Haiti that you asked for
From: David Domenici
Sent: Monday, January 18, 2010 7:55 PM
To: 'Mills, Cheryl D'; 'Cheryl Mills'
Subject: Hope you are well, where ever you get this-- below are ideas re: education corps for Haiti that you asked for
UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05772910 Date: 08/31/2015
It's important to establish who was sending what to who.
Here are some quick thoughts on re-building school infrastructure in Port-au-Prince. Feel free to share with whomever you'd like.
I have little idea of the larger context here — how many schools/kids are we looking at, but one thing we've learned in the US in the last 5 years is that good teachers are the #1 lever of change in education. If we got 1,000 really great teachers into Port-au-Prince (w/ even a modicum of support and materials), they'd make a big difference and touch the lives of 30,000-60,000 kids.
Here Domenici perpetuates the most common falsehood from the reformers' talking point list, that good/great teachers are the number one factor affecting students. He's dead wrong, and this misrepresentation of fact needs correction.
It's not that teaching isn't important—quite the contrary, but teaching is a minority factor in group of factors impacting students. Even more so in the abject conditions of post-earthquake Haiti, which was already an impoverished nation due to U.S. economic imperialism. It's doubtful that Domenici or Clinton have actually read about this outside their small insular world of edreform, where policy papers are passed off as research. However, depending on which study we rely on, teachers at most comprise 10 to 20 percent of factors for achievement outcomes. The distinguished Dr. Paul L. Thomas has written on this, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has funded major studies, edreform darling Eric A. Hanushek has documented it, as have many others. Some selected sources:
Di Carlo: But in the big picture, roughly 60 percent of achievement outcomes is explained by student and family background characteristics (most are unobserved, but likely pertain to income/poverty). Observable and unobservable schooling factors explain roughly 20 percent, most of this (10-15 percent) being teacher effects. The rest of the variation (about 20 percent) is unexplained (error). In other words, though precise estimates vary, the preponderance of evidence shows that achievement differences between students are overwhelmingly attributable to factors outside of schools and classrooms (see Hanushek et al. 1998; Rockoff 2003; Goldhaber et al. 1999; Rowan et al. 2002; Nye et al. 2004).
Rothstein: The 2/3 — 1/3 breakdown between family background and school influences was the core finding of the 1966 federal study, the “Coleman Report.” But this interpretation of the report overstates its finding about the influence of schools, because Coleman and his colleagues considered the influence of a child’s schoolmates (“peer effects”) to be a school factor, not an out-of-school factor. (Coleman, James S., and Ernest Q. Campbell, Carol J. Hobson, James McPartland, Alexander M. Mood, Frederic D. Weinfeld, and Rober L. York, Equality of Educational Opportunity, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Government Printing Office, 1966.) Yet the only way to affect the composition of peers in the neighborhood schools he studied would be to change the composition of neighborhoods, with housing integration policies, for example. Of the in-school influences, the Coleman Report identified teacher quality (defined by teacher characteristics such as their educational attainment and experience) to be most important.
In the context of post-earthquake Haiti, understanding that we cannot rely on teachers alone to make up for the crushing poverty, multiple traumas, and lack of infrastructure, is critical. While we certainly want all children in Haiti to have access to education, the idea that we can ignore the rest of the issues they're facing reeks of colonialism and callousness.
I think this is totally doable, in short-order, in a magnificent way that could set the foundation for a well-educated generation of Haitians who could lead the country out of poverty, to self-sustainability, self-governance and openness.
Never mind that Haitian poverty is a result of U.S. transnational corporations depressing wages (cf Secretary Clinton's intervention in Haiti's attempt to raise minimum wage discussed supra). Pay no attention to the blatantly racist and colonialist notion that but for U.S. intervention, there would never be a "well-educated generation of Haitians". Ignore the fact that every attempt by Haitians to create self-sustainability and self-governance has been thwarted by U.S. interventions. Corporate education reform will correct all these things in "short-order" under the new Clinton Education Corps plan.
There were four goals listed for the Clinton Colonial Education Corps plan. Domenici enumerates them as:
- Goal 1: Human Capital
- Goal 2: Build a robust curriculum and teacher instruction program
- Goal 3: Build high quality, durable schools that entice families, children into education
- Goal 4: Create family, community impetus for all school age children to be in school
Goal 1: Human Capital:
Create Haiti Teacher Corps. Model loosely off of Peace Corps/Teach for America, CityYear Teacher corps (US): Recruit, train, and place 500-1000 teachers from US this spring and summer. We can do this.
* * *
o Language/culture training: TDB — find the best folks out there to train in French/Creole, and Haitian culture, current socio-political situation — 50% of the training program.
o Academic training: We'll work w/ TFA and others and develop 8 week intensive teacher training program for other 50% of program.
Being a business-finance type, Domenici is quite at home writing about how to make other people do work. This is the longest section of his piece, so only small portion will be addressed here. The most frightening thing is that he pushes the Teach for America (TFA) model, which at best is a paternalistic, colonial model. Clinton's advisor then outlines his program for "training" that is eight weeks long. At first blush, this is a vast improvement over TFA's woefully deficient standard five week model. That is until we take into account that they want these recruits "to train in French/Creole, and Haitian culture" simultaneously. While the self-congratulatory reformsters all consider themselves "elite", it's somewhat absurd that eight weeks is all that's allotted for all this content. To contextualize, at its shortest point, clown college was eight weeks. In essence, Clinton's cabal feel that the best Haitian students deserve is people with no more training than clowns.
Haiti-based: Less clear what the teacher-leader pipeline is like...but we can figure out and get whoever we can.
Clinton's advisor Domenici consistently speaks of the Haitian people as somewhat of an afterthought. They are someone you do "for" or "to", but never "with". That this wealthy, white male consistently leaves the agency of Haitians out of the equation is completely in line with the white supremacist lens that both he and Hillary Clinton see the world through.
Much of the rest of this section deals with how cheaply they'd like to see all the labor paid. Interestingly, this is in line with how Clinton's State Department kept Haitian wages low in order to sate corporate capital. Domenici asserts that there's plenty of young charter school types that are willing to make the sacrifices that neither he, nor any of his peers would ever make. The finance capitalist then turns his attentions to the next goal.
I am not a curriculum expert, but I think this is really doable, as well, so long as we get the right team […]
Clinton's fellow corporate reformer is refreshingly honest here. Not only is he not a "curriculum expert", he's not even a novice. When we look at his notions of "Backwards Mapping" and "clusters and in modules that can be swapped in and out", it's clear that Domenici is pushing what Paulo Freire termed "the banking model of pedagogy", that is, that students are vessels into which corporate reformers pour knowlege into. This model works well for maintaining oppression, and would serve to perpetuate the United States' existing historical relationship with Haiti.
Reading this section reminds one of just how profoundly ignorant neoliberal corporate eduction reform types are. This may be the one individual less knowledgeable than Arne Duncan or John King on education issues, which would likely mean a potential Clinton administration would tap him to head the Education Department. If Domenici is one thing, he's buzzword compliant. Every phrase and term for the reformy canon is on display in his missive to the Wall Street funded Presidential candidate who spent many years on Walmart's board of directors.
Consider technology and technology infrastructure as a part of the initial construction plan so it's not add-on later.
Hillary Clinton and Cheryl Mills' education "expert" would be remiss if he wasn't providing profit vectors for Reed Hastings, Bill Gates, and Pearson, PLC. The rest of his section for goal three is quite reminiscent of the Naomi Klein quote supra, where she discusses destroyed infrastructure being ignored in favor of school privatization happening with "speed and precision". Domenici does disaster capitalism with the best of them.
The corporatist's final section suggests wrap-around services, something that those of us in the social justice camp are certainly in favor of. However, Clinton's confidant can't seem to keep his paternalism in check. He asserts that if his plan is followed, that it will "be a catalyst for socio-political change". We discussed above how Haiti's problems are due to U.S. economic imperialism, and seemingly endless interventionism in the country's affairs. To suggest that their problems stem from a lack of education is that special kind of victim blaming that corporate reformers are so adept at. It also smacks of how neoliberal Democrats, as Thomas Frank so succinctly puts it, "see every economic problem as an educational problem".
Domenici is an elitist from the finance capital sector, and had been asked by a Secretary of State whose Wall Street ties are like no other to advise her on educational policy for Haiti. So it's no small wonder that he ends his email with:
Gotta run. See you shortly.
It's no surprise that the woman who refers to children of color as "super-predators", insisting that "we have to bring them to heel", would search out such a racist education plan to inflict on a Haitian population decimated as much by the Clintons' free-trade deals as by natural disasters. Like the distinguished Professor Michelle Alexander says, Hillary Clinton uses "racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals." While Haiti was spared this horrific, colonial charter school plan hatched by Clinton and her corporate advisors, we can expect more of the same if she somehow comes to power again. We need to organize and prepare to fight against her racist penchant for neoliberal corporate education reform.
While not Hillary Clinton specific, Jesse Hagopian has an excellent piece entitled: Shock-Doctrine Schooling in Haiti: Neoliberalism Off the Richter Scale