Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Naomi Klein discussing school privatization and union busting

Obama is also involved in attacking labor rights with his pushing of charter schools and draconian budget cuts. — Naomi Klein

[click if you can't view this video]

Naomi Klein on Anti-Union Bills and Shock Doctrine American-Style: "This is a Frontal Assault on Democracy, It's a Kind of a Corporate Coup D'Etat"

As a wave of anti-union bills are introduced across the country following the wake of Wall Street financial crisis, many analysts are picking up on the theory that award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein first argued in her 2007 bestselling book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In the book, she reveals how those in power use times of crisis to push through undemocratic and extreme free market economic policies. "The Wisconsin protests are an incredible example of how to resist the shock doctrine," Klein says.

One thing I wanted to come back to that I was starting to get at earlier about why what's happening in Wisconsin is happening in Wisconsin and what we need to take from it is that when bad things are happening, it's helpful to have a bad guy. And Scott Walker is a good bad guy. And he has galvanized progressives. And people have, you know, an enemy to organize around and to point out these disparities. It hasn't happened at the federal level, despite the fact that Obama is also involved in attacking labor rights with his pushing of charter schools and draconian budget cuts. He's not a good bad guy for progressives. So, we're still in a situation where Obama is getting away with, in my opinion, shock doctrine-style tactics, because people don't--still don't want to believe that Obama is doing it, too. So, when you have an easy bad guy, a Republican governor who's obviously trying to be the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, you can mobilize the left. But it won't just work if we are only going after the Republicans and if this is fought along just partisan lines, as opposed to being fought based on principle. No matter who is doing it, we need to be mobilizing, if it's Obama, if it's Scott Walker. [1]

[1] Emphasis mine.



Angie said...

I totally respect Naomi Klein. I would like to make a few points.
One-Charter Schools have been around for almost 15 years now, prior to the most recent Union Busting.
Two-Charter Schools are not private, they are public schools, some of which do have union teachers working in them.
Three-Not all charter schools can be lumped into the category of "Privatized" and the two best examples I know of who are making a difference are New Country School and Northwest Passage High School both from Minnesota.
My beef is with people who make generalizations about charter schools- the message that they are all corporatized. They are not. I think choice is healthy and forces large traditional schools to examine their model of school design and content delivery.
I support unions, but I support the creation of more choice, for people who can not afford private schools (yes I am aware of the vouchers issues, that is another post in itself) but as a resident living in a very rural community, we choose to homeschool. Not everyone can even choose that as an option

I belong to a group of PARENTS who have organized to try to start a Charter School. We have no corporate sponsors involved. We are just parents organizing and it is forcing our school district to look in the mirror. We have been turned down (in Wisconsin, permission to start a Charter School is given by the School District the Charter would be housed in). Tell me, what are parents to do?

By the way, our Charter School concept can be found on Facebook. Our page is called Quaking Aspen Field School. We are patient. W won't give up.

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

I beg to differ on your assertion that charter schools are public schools. Receiving public funds alone doesn't make something public.

Are Charter Schools Really Public Schools?

I could easily increase that list and flesh out the points, but progressives agree that public isn't a word that should be associated with charters.

I'll grant occasionally some well meaning people want to, or even start, a charter school with good intentions, but eventually they end up subverting democratic processes and drain funds from public schools. Moreover, charters have made it too easy for corporations (often in the guise of 501C3s) to engage in widespread privatization.

While sounding good on the surface, choice is a bad and discredited Ayn Rand / Milton Freidman idea that has never "force[d] large traditional schools to examine their mode.l" In the end all they do is exacerbate the problems with schools, concentrate segregation, and take the power out of a community's hands.

Charter schools have been part of the privatization push and union busting during almost their entire existence. Your state, the cradle of charters, has so many corrupt charters that "75% [of charter schools] had a least one irregularity noted in their financial audit." — Minnesota 2020".

I agree that we need to find ways of allowing community and parents to participate in decision making changes in their schools. I don't agree that charter-voucher schools are the way to achieve that goal.

Julie said...

Charter schools sometimes are the ONLY thing that will force a traditional school to look at their model. Charter schools may well not be perfect, but I could say the same for public schools. If you think that a community has any influence on a school district outside of charters you are wrong. You have very little influence on your school. You can be on the school board, be on the PTO go to all the meetings, volunteer and you will still have little to change the inherent problems of school districts. Charter schools are the definition of democracy because they give the people a voice and a name in there community. The ONLY people who have a say in their school are the people who are paid to work there and even in that the teachers are stunted as how to contribute in the way they feel is best for children. Sure. You have corporations eating up charters but I'll give you a heads up, they are going to be running public school districts in the not so near future. Charter schools I admit can pull the cream of the crop and maybe even close a school but maybe then that is a democracy in action. Charters were created to serve underserved kids. The kids who have special needs and do not learn in the traditional environment of what is the public school. These kids and their communities are poor! The families can not send them to rich public schools or Private schools. Sure it is fine for you to say communities should help their schools change but what can a community member do when they are working all day or shooting up heroin? Maybe some schools deserve to be closed. You live in LA. Can the poor people afford private schools? What kind of schools do the wealthy communities in contrast to the poor? You don't think this is segregation? like it does not exist outside of Charters. Charter schools are funded publicly for the public. They are run by community members for their community for a choice in education when they are left in the ditch. They are given so that, have you ever been the the inner city of the SouthWest side of chicago?, Those kids can be given a choice in not being shot in the playground. Wake up! It is nice for you to sit there and not really know the reality of small rural communities and inner city ones and what Charters are to giving families children and communities a real choice in education when they are poor. If you have money it is never an issue. You can always move to Beverly Hill or the North side of Chicago. 85% of schools are UNION in Wisconsin and at least charters have the democratic choice of being a Union. Believe it or not some schools and teacher do not want to be union and it is their right as an American living in a democracy. Or should we all be dictated in that department? Why don't you come to my community in Northern Wisconsin and see how much influence you can have over my public school.Charters may not be perfect but they are democracy in action. With out them you are left with little more than a dictatorship if you are poor.

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

I'm not in a union, nor do I work for one, so I'll ignore your obvious anti-labor, anti-worker slight towards unions. Only right wing extremists try to create a false dichotomy between the hard working women and men that are educators in our communities, and the communities themselves. The poverty you discuss and schools that are closing in your area are a result of the deplorable class divide in this country, in which the wealthy are getting more wealthy by the day, while our neighborhoods languish in abject poverty. You've been duped if you think schoolteachers and the modest organizations that protect them are the cause of our education problems. Your attentions and frustrations would be better turned towards those that have caused the problem, here's a good place to start:

I advocate for public schools that are controlled by the community. Except for a few rare and unscalable cases, charter schools are not controlled by communities. In large cities like mine (Los Angeles) 97% of charter schools are controlled by corporate CMOs or 501C3. The definition of the word charter belies the fact that they are not public. A charter is a contract between the state (ie. government) and a private entity (hence privatization). We need to find a way to provide options to have community controlled public schools as a way to have something to counterpose the privatization that is charter schools. I would support you efforts if you were trying to create a community controlled public school.

You speak of segregation, but were you aware of both the recent UCLA and North Carolina Studies that both conclude charter schools exacerbate segregation? Granted the problem of segregation is also rampant in the public sector too, but there's still a chance to change that. Privatized charter-voucher schools allow no mechanism to seek a remedy. In fact, some of charter-voucher's staunchest supporters, like the right wing Whitney Tilson, RiShawn Biddle, and Newt Gingrich, have the unmitigated gall to suggest that segregation is a good thing. This flies in the face of all academic research which proves that integrated schools (racial and class integration) improve the academics of all students enrolled.

You speak of special needs children, who, by and large, are discriminated against the most by the lucrative charter-voucher industry. In Los Angeles, their treatment of those children is so dismal that the Office of the Independent Monitor found the outright discriminating. From one of my articles:


Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

[continued from above]

Modified Consent Decree exposing corporate CMO charter-voucher school discrimination and exclusivity. Very telling is the statement that children with disabilities are "significantly underrepresented" at CMO run charter schools. The executive summary of the report (, and the data tables from the report ( Charter school operators are concerned special education programs for children cut into the massive salaries for their executives. Until these corporate run schools are obligated legally, ethically, and morally to educate every child they shouldn't get a penny of our taxes or the buildings we paid for! As social justice activists, public school advocates, and progressives, we implore charter schools and other outsiders to stop putting EXECUTIVES and CEOs before children!

I live, organize, and volunteer in an impoverished inner city neighborhood. You need not lecture me on poverty, I don't need to imagine it, I work to solve it. Privatizing schools is not the answer to our problems, although in some cases, like yours, it seems an attractive solution.

One last thing, you speak vouchers as if they are somehow a different form of privatization than charters. The only difference between charters and vouchers is who hands public money over to a private entity. In the former case it's the district, in the latter it's the parents.

I wish you the best in your efforts to keep a school in your area.

However, since charter schools are an anathema to democracy and community, on principle, I could never support charter schools.

Anonymous said...

Robert-brilliant explanations, descriptions and examples.

Corporations write the standardized tests that teachers are compelled to administer in public schools. At the same time, corporations are offering seed money to charter schools that are exempt from the same testing constraints and posit to teach the children who were failing the standardized tests that most public school teachers don't find to be a worthwhile measure of either student or teacher achievement. These good charter school entrepreneurs really don't get that they are being sucked into the free market that got public schools and poor communities into the place we're in now. The free market can't reap anymore from the public schools due to unions so charters are the next business plan of the entrepreneurial spirit of the free market capitalists who really don't care about the kids. It's about competition and it's about BUSINESS. They are looking towards future profits and why they are willing to watch charter schools open and close. The survival of the 'fittest' for profit.