Sunday, December 28, 2014

K12NN Wire: American anti-intellectualism more popular than ever, and why not?

First published on K12NN Wire on December 28, 2014

"The capitalists, from the start, complained that universities were unprofitable. These early twentieth century capitalists, like heads of investment houses and hedge-fund managers, were, as Donoghue writes "motivated by an ethically based anti-intellectualism that transcended interest in the financial bottom line. Their distrust of the ideal of intellectual inquiry for its own sake, led them to insist that if universities were to be preserved at all, they must operate on a different set of principles from those governing the liberal arts." — Chris Hedges

American anti-intellectualism more popular than ever, and why not?Last week I came across a two year old essay written by Professor Patricia Williams for The Guardian. I recall reading her piece some time ago (the Arizona book bannings being covered by Schools Matter as well), and reposted it on facebook with a bit of my own commentary. The post received a few interesting comments. A teacher posted the link and my commentary to the "Badass Teachers Association" (BATs) page, and to my surprise it garnered over 180 "likes" and more than 55 comments.

I believe that this is because this is a critical conversation we should be having publicly, over and over. I'm going to reproduce my commentary here, and rather than expand on it, I'll leave it to readers to add their own thoughts.

We see this anti-intellectualism in Marshall Tuck, Tom Horne, and John Huppenthal's shuttering of Ethnic Studies programs and book banning. We see it in the proliferation of adjunct professors in higher education, and the spreading infestation of predatory, for-profit schools. We see it in corporate curricula like Common Core State Standards (#‎CCSS), and the proliferation of the K-12 privatization project embodied in charters and vouchers. The war on tenure at all levels of education is further evidence. It isn't just right-wing, religious reactionaries fueling anti-intellectualism, as the demands of neoliberalism require that both critical thinking, and the institutional memory of the working class be squelched. Anti-intellectualism is a prelude to the unchallenged dominance of the plutocrat class and their corporate state. — Robert D. Skeels

Two quick things. My compañero in struggle, Jose del Barrio, had commentary I felt worth reproducing here:

"There has been an unfortunate uptick in academic book bannings and firings, made worse by a nationwide disparagement of teachers, teachers' unions and scholarship itself. Brooke Harris, a teacher at Michigan's Pontiac Academy for Excellence, was summarily fired after asking permission to let her students conduct a fundraiser for Trayvon Martin's family." — Jose del Barrio

Lastly, a perfect example of anti-intellectualism. Here's a direct quote from a racist that has been trolling me on twitter: "Professors are failures at life, thus they teach"

Yet Eli Broad, the Walton fortune heirs, Bill Gates, David F. Welch, Charles and David Koch, Richard M. DeVos, and their ilk aren't waging a war against teachers, professors, and intellectuals?


Hend addresses the repugnant "Does torture work?" question

This might be the most important tweet I've seen in 2014:


Friday, December 26, 2014

Schools Matter: Manhattan Institute extremists credit anti-racist activists with Marshall Tuck's defeat

First published on Schools Matter on December 23, 2014

"Robert D. Skeels, writing in L.A. Progressive, rips Marshall Tuck for closing down ethnic studies programs and heritage language studies programs while running the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. He reviews Tuck’s record at Green Dot charter schools and the Mayor’s Partnership and renders a scathing judgment." — Professor Diane Ravitch

Manhattan Institute loved Marshall Tuck's support of right-wing ideas including charter schools and public school choiceRight-wing reactionary Ben Boychuk's profound disdain for public education is somewhat legendary, and his tenures at the fringe-right think-tanks Heartland Institute, and now Manhattan Institute are testament to that. When he's not cheerleading for book banning, hosting privatization forums with the Walton Foundation funded Parent Revolution and its former Executive Director Ben Austin, or solidifying the vile Parent Trigger as ALEC template legislation, he's writing political analysis for his fellow baggers, birchers, and neoliberal corporate education reformers.

Last month Boychuk penned a postmortem on Wall Street banker Marshall Tuck's failed bid in California to join Arizona's Tom Horne and John Huppenthal as an ideologically charged non-educator holding a Superintendent of Public Instruction seat. Amidst his anti-union screed Boychuk admits, somewhat surprisingly, that Tuck's wrongheaded championing of plutocrat David F. Welch's Vergara lawsuit was a major misstep. Boychuk then makes a statement that is breathtaking inasmuch as he places the blame for Tuck's loss squarely on the anti-racist crowd. My commentary to follow, but let's look at his statement and my November comment in response.

The teachers’ unions and their surrogates, such as Diane Ravitch, used Tuck’s charter school ties to paint him as a racist, a bigot, and a tool of “the power elite.” Their attacks bordered on defamation, but they worked.

Addressing his misinformed and churlish assertions regarding defamation, I responded thusly:

Robert D. Skeels November 13, 2014 at 2:47 PM
There was no need to 'paint [Marshall Tuck] as a racist, a bigot, and a tool of “the power elite”', since an honest account of his actual record did just that by itself. No one was more forthcoming about Tuck's record than I was, because as a law student I am well aware that truth always serves as an affirmative defense to defamation, and every statement I made about Tuck was a well documented truth.

I, for one, think it's wonderful that the fringe-right wants to credit anti-racists with Marshall Tuck's defeat. Even more so because corporatist Tuck would have defended, in Boychuck's words, "charter schools and public [sic] school choice." While Boychuck uses Professor Ravitch's name, it's irresponsible and inaccurate to say that she made all the comments that he credits her with. What is true, and the link he provides is a good example of it, is that Professor Ravitch was sure to disseminate all of the wonderful essays and articles about Tuck that weren't going to be published in the corporate media. The RedQueeninLA, Ellen Lubic, Cheryl Ortega, Dr. John Fernandez, Jose del Barrio, and many other social justice activists wrote about Tuck's abject record, bigotry, and veritable crimes against students.

I too wrote a bit about Tuck. In exposing his bigotry and myriad failures, I had to put up with abuse from his obtuse Hollywood supporters, some profoundly ignorant rich white guys, and even had to block some abusive Tuck supporters on twitter. One of the more intriguing critics of my work was Conor P. Williams of the right-of-center think-tank New America Foundation. My friends at PESJA forwarded me this tweet by Williams, in which he took issue with an excerpt from one of my polemics against Tuck.

Neoliberal corporate eduction reform apologist Williams rarely has anything substantive to say when confronted by facts, and here when the PESJA folks grilled him he went into derailment mode. I'd challenge him to an honest debate in which he could try to make the case that shuttering Ethnic Studies, Heritage Language Programs, and Dual Language Immersion Programs isn't racist, but he isn't the type to engage in actual debate. For example, his laughable straw man arguments against Corey Robin's brilliant 2012 essay. I would hope that Williams would be astute enough to know that Robin's point speaks to the attitudes of the type of well-heeled folks that fund Williams' employer. Williams' big paychecks (despite his persistent whining about still paying student loans), are, of course, derived in large part from the anti-public education plutocracy. By making everything about himself, he effectively deflects the conversation about the neoliberal corporate elite he works for.

Many of us worked tirelessly to keep Marshall Tuck from being elected. My first semester of law school suffered mightily until, ostensibly, after the election. With money flowing in from the wealthiest white men in the world, Tuck had every advantage except the truth. We told the truth about Tuck, and if Tuck's fringe-right supporters like the Manhattan Institute want to say that "worked", then it makes it all worth it.

2014 was a wonderful year in which bigots Marshall Tuck, Tom Horne, and John Huppenthal all lost their elections.

2014 was a wonderful year in which bigots Marshall Tuck, Tom Horne, and John Huppenthal all lost their elections.


Schools Matter: Dick Cheney's Nina Rees and the US Chamber of Charters wish you a White Christmas

First published on Schools Matter on December 20, 2014

Dick Cheney's Nina Rees and the US Chamber of Charters [aka The National Alliance for Public [sic] Charter Schools] wish you a White Christmas

"Public-sector employment, where there is less discrimination in hiring and pay, has traditionally been an important venue for creating a black middle class." — Professor Carol Anderson

Arch-reactionary Nina Rees was a long-time deputy assistant to Dick "rectal feeding" Cheney. Rees was tapped for the US Chamber of Charters (aka The National Alliance for Public [sic] Charter Schools—NAPCS) a few years back, when the lucrative charter industry needed someone adept at the same kind of public relations that spins torture as "enhanced interrogation."

Some time ago the Chamber of Charters put me on their mailing list, meaning I'm subjected to their propagandistic press releases including a recent one spinning the Ohio charter debacles as a positive. This month they've been shilling hard to get folks to attend their big June trade convention at the site where all public schools have been razed—New Orleans. Their trade show will feature Wall Street darling Geoffrey Canada, the vile individual that sacrifices entire classes of students to avoid upsetting the sensibilities of the wealthy bankers on his board.

Amid propaganda releases and advertisements, Rees sent a "holiday card" featuring, apparently, the Chamber of Charters' well-heeled executives and staff. First thing glaringly obvious in the photograph is the decided lack of melanin among its subjects. If you squint really hard, you might make out one or two persons of color in the very back of the crowd, reminding us that tokenism is still the norm in the lucrative nonprofit industrial complex (NPIC). I've included Rees' wishes for a "white" holiday above, and I may have taken some liberties to make minor edits to their text.

While there's no shortage of self-colonized types dabbling in respectability politics who are willing to work for NPICs like the Chamber of Charters, there are rarely good positions persons of color in that sector overall. Typically the top NPIC positions in the neoliberal corporate education reform project are held by wealthy whites, to wit: Rees at the US Chamber of Charters, Jed Wallace at the California Chamber of Charters (aka California Charter School Association), and Ben Austin at Parent Revolution (aka Los Angeles Parents Union). A notable exception to this rule was the snarling Teach for America alumnae who is currently married to the "hands on" Mayor of Sacramento.

Ironically, the tiny fraction of persons of color employed by the charter industry are making things worse overall in that through the aggressive privatization of public schools, they are eliminating the few remaining public sector jobs mentioned in the Professor Anderson quote at the beginning of this piece. A very White Christmas indeed from Nina Rees and the wealthy white billionaires funding the US Chamber of Charters.