The Occupied Classroom

The New York Times ran an expose earlier this year showing that Bill Gates gave money to pretty much every educational reform organization out there, no matter their agenda. The goal was to get reformers of all stripes to push for parts of the Bill Gates vision for American education: the Common Core Standards, high stakes testing, charter schools, computerized learning and, of course, the destruction of the teachers’ unions. In fact, most of the reformers who push for this vision are hedge fund managers, CEOs and other assorted rabble of the 1% with far too much money and time on their hands. They are what Diane Ravitch calls the “Billionaire Boys Club” in her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System. The fact that Republicans and Democrats in Congress, not to mention Barack Obama and Rahm Emmanuel, support these things should be proof enough that the 1% is providing the marching orders on school reform. After all, Republicans and Democrats only seem to agree on things the 1% agrees on, like regressive taxes and deregulation.

Playing games with the education system is the 1%’s modern version of slumming. They have traded tinkering with neighborhoods in which they do not live for reforming schools their children will never use. When their facile reforms do not work they will simply go home, perhaps a little wealthier but none the wiser for the experience. They are driven by the same insipid sense of entitlement that drove Wall Street banksters to suck the wealth out of the economy. If one were to imagine asking Bill Gates what right he has to throw around gobs of money to enact school reforms he cooked up in his own brain (since it is patently obvious they are not backed by the preponderance of education research), one would probably be met by the same incredulous look that Lloyd Blankfein gave to Congress when asked why his company was selling products they were betting against.

Goldman-Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein looks quizzically at Senator Carl Levin after being asked if he thinks he should have told his customers that the products his company was selling them were crap.

“I’m rich and powerful and I do what I want. Why would you ask me such a silly question, peon?”

It is these bloodless suits who now want to determine how our children are educated. People who have no passion for the children of the 99%, and no responsibility to the communities in which those children are raised, now want to use the government’s compulsory child schooling laws to herd kids into a system of their design. It is yet another example of how we all get free markets while the 1% gets every benefit of the state. What is particularly despicable in the debate over school reform is how these 1% reformers talk about our children in terms of test scores. They boil education down to the same lifeless numbers found on their balance sheets. It is the only way the 1% can approach the children of the 99%. There is no way for them to relate to our children on a human level. They measure human growth by numbers we get on tests that we have never done well on to begin with. All the while they foist their barren ideals on us with an arrogance and obliviousness that rivals petty third world despots.

It is madness that we would even consider handing over our children to people with this outlook. Our public school system should be where the civic values of the next generation are instilled. We would be committing national suicide by sacrificing it to the same base value system that brought us things like obscene CEO bailouts, corporatist collusion with government and imperialist war. All of these things were brought about by a depraved sense of entitlement on the part of the super wealthy. The demonizing of the teachers’ unions in mainstream media is a subterfuge for the very real evil of the reformers themselves. It is not the teachers’ unions who are greedy, uncaring and entitled. It is the people who think they have a right to dictate how the rest of us get educated and who see our children as numbers and who throw around money to get their way who are destroying our future.

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