Friday, October 3, 2014

The Children's Crusade for Plutocracy

 One of the creepiest aspects of the predatory class's insidious takeover of public education is the way they're using little kids as human shields. To say that hordes of children dressed in sloganized shirts are reminiscent of the Hitler Youth movement isn't really all that hyperbolic. Fascism, be it Homeland-style or Fatherland-style, is still fascism.

Taking a page from the Koch Brothers' Tea Party playbook, the hedge fund billionaires' front group known as "Students First"  has co-opted struggling parents from poor neighborhoods, sending them and their kids out on forced unwitting marches in behalf of perpetual wealth disparity. The kids get free snacks and bottled designer water and nice outfits. They get off the streets for a longer, safer school-day. They are raised up into elite "scholars" who attend such snobbishly titled places as "Democracy Prep" and "Renaissance Academy"  -- rather than the mythical gang-infested grubby P.S. Elsewhere down the block.

And the filthy rich get richer capitalizing even more on the poverty and fear that they themselves have wrought. (Lee Fang of The Nation has an excellent piece detailing the putrid financial underbelly of the charter school movement.)

Exploiting hoi polloi as an innocent means to a nefarious end is the tried and true method of fascists everywhere: present your greed and lust for power as a grassroots social movement, and cloak it with all the accoutrements of populist protest: flags, signs, T-shirts, chants, demands for "freedom" from public school "prisons," secretly-funded media propaganda campaigns. Thomas Frank  describes these big-money, Koch-tastic public demonstration/co-optation techniques in his book "Pity the Billionaire."

The latest bizarre pseudo-proletarian uprising for oligarchic freedom was perfunctorily and turgidly described in Thursday's The New York Times:
The buses arrived in Lower Manhattan from Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn on Thursday morning, carrying thousands of charter school supporters who put on matching red T-shirts and came out to draw attention to what organizers called a crisis in the quality of New York City’s public schools. Some of the smallest protesters, squirming in T-shirts that stretched to their ankles, were less than four feet tall.
“The whole school came,” said Angela Sutherland, whose son, a student at Success Academy charter school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, stood quietly by her side.
The rally at Foley Square, which included speeches by politicians and a performance by the musician Questlove, was part of a coordinated campaign, organized primarily by charter school advocates, to put pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio as he and legislators in Albany develop their education agendas in the coming months.
On the south end of Foley Square, organizers distributed dozens of handmade signs, each painted with one of a few slogans, like “Great Schools Now” and “Don’t Steal Possible.” The buses, stocked with granola bars, fruit and bottles of water, had been hired to encourage parents and students from charter schools to participate.Many parents said the schools made calls, texted and sent their children home with fliers to ensure a strong turnout. Teachers made speeches on the buses to outline for parents the talking points of the day.Eva S. Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Academy charter network, delayed the opening of all 32 schools in her network so that children and their teachers could attend the rally. Children were required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian; those who could not make it had to make alternative child-care arrangements for the morning.
 Their "possible" is being stolen from them... which leads one to believe that not only are the charter school crowd dangerous predators who shouldn't be allowed within 100 yards of classrooms full of innocent children, they also have abysmal language skills in dire need of remediation.

Although Eva Moskowitz of the Success Academies charter school chain is the well-known public front-woman of Students First, its real financial mastermind is one Daniel Loeb, founder and CEO  of the multibillion-dollar Third Point LLC hedge fund.  The identities of the uber-wealthy investors in the charter school takeover of public education for private gain are kept largely secret, although Students First maintains close incestuous ties with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a plutocratic think tank which churns out one fatuous policy paper after another in the cause of profiting off the poor. Among the backers of the anti-public education movement are such corporate behemoths as G.E., the Walton Family, the Koch Brothers, and ExxonMobil. In other words, the usual oligarchic suspects running this show, now commonly known as "The Homeland."

Did I mention that Daniel Loeb sits on the board of AEI?

One of the AEI "scholars" who dreamed up the PR ploy of using using mainly minority parents and kids as social activist props in these fascistic spectacles is a young guy named Daniel Lautzenheiser. He's also helping tout the nifty idea of combining the fake protest marches of kids in identical garb with the elite "civics education" curriculum taught to the charter "scholars."

One of his AEI policy papers bears the sinister title "Charter Schools As Nation Builders." Its lede is eerily similar to the Times article linked above:
On a sunny Tuesday in June, the streets of Harlem, New York City, are filled with the usual midday crowd hustling in and out of subway stations and eating hurried lunches. One thing they are most decidedly not doing is voting. And this is a disappointment for a small army of schoolchildren dressed in bright yellow shirts.
The students in yellow attend one of the charter schools in the Democracy Prep Public Schools network and, with the help of their teachers and several parent volunteers, are waging a Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign. The occasion is the Democratic congressional primary for New York’s 15th Congressional District, which encompasses upper Manhattan (including Columbia University, Washington Heights, and Harlem) and surrounding locales. Congressional primaries are typically low-turnout affairs in which incumbents have a massive advantage.
It turns out that ethics-challenged Charles Rangel, a Democrat in Congress for about the last hundred years, was in some danger in his district. So the kids, dressed in identical yellow "Future NAACP Member" t-shirts, were getting a lesson in civics by being transformed into sidewalk automatons to get out the (Rangel) vote. 

To show his appreciation, Rangel sent 80 lucky Democracy Academy kids on an all-expenses paid junket to Korea, the trip funded by the usual anonymous suspects. And thanks to another $9 million grant from the Obama Department of Education, Democracy Academy is expanding its operation to another 15 schools over the next seven years.

Lautzenheiser continues explaining the charter movement's "liberal" activist approach to indoctrination civics education:
Though scholars have unpacked civic education in a number of ways, we distinguish between two basic strands. Students are taught abstract citizenship: how our system of government works, what rights and responsibilities US citizens share, and an understanding of significant issues, events, and turning points in American history. Abstract citizenship is most often taught in the classroom; it teaches students about being a citizen and why it is important.

Operational citizenship, on the other hand, teaches students how to be an active citizen. This side of civic education relates to the behaviors and attitudes expected of American citizens, such as following rules, respecting others, performing community service, and making one’s voice heard via voting, rallying, or testifying. Operational citizenship is often learned through experience, some of which can be gained in school but much of which takes place outside of the classroom.
"... teaches students how to be an active citizen." Another indication that the creative destruction crusade of the plutocrats also applies to grammar. Lautzenheimer, incidentally, came to his pro-student activism Eureka moment relatively late in his 20-something life. As a "scholar" at the University of Virginia in 2006, he editorialized against a different student rally which called for a living wage for the school's janitorial staff. Protesters were guilty, he fumed, of "disrespecting" university administrators by standing up for poorly paid custodians. And horror of horrors, they had the chutzpah to deface school sidewalks with the "10.72" wage .... in chalk, of all thingsYoung Lautzenheimer made sure to go to the school administrators to personally apologize for his rowdy socialist peers and assure readers that the earned income credit was a worthy substitute for a living wage.

No wonder he got hired by AEI immediately upon graduation. No wonder he was chosen to subvert leftist student protest movements to his oligarchic bosses' own ends. He follows the rules.

Re$pect Our Rule$


Denis Neville said...

Karen, describing the predatory class's insidious takeover of public education, writes that “to say that hordes of children dressed in sloganized shirts are reminiscent of the Hitler Youth movement isn't really all that hyperbolic.”

While at first glance that may seem jarring, it isn’t that farfetched as Karen says.

David Blacker, The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame, says neoliberal, disaster, casino capitalism has resulted in the implicit adoption by plutocratic elites of ‘eliminationism.’

The term ‘eliminationism’ has been used to define the attitude of the Nazi leadership to European Jewry in World War II. At first, it was the policy of the Nazis to impose forced labor on the Jews. Only later, transitioning from a mode of exploitation to one of "elimination," did it become extermination.

What does this have to do with analyzing today’s education policy?

Blacker writes that today’s “elites no longer find it necessary to utilize mass schooling as a first link in the long chain of the process of the extraction of workers’ surplus labor value. It has instead become easier for them to cut their losses and abandon public schooling altogether.”

In other words, it is the adoption by today’s plutocracy of the attitude of ‘eliminationism.’

Neoliberals no longer need nor desire many educated professionals with a commitment to the public sector culture; nor a working class, now useless to capital, with high expectations and at risk of needing to be contained. Current government education policies undermines the enjoyment of education, both for pupils and teachers. By burdening students with crippling debt, public funding of higher education will shrink significantly.

“There is almost no escape from this iron cage that has been carefully refined by our banking overlords and puppet politicians ... a system of government-backed mass peonage, a kind of debt bondage with copious historical analogs.”

“What capitalism gave, capitalism also hath taken away. Just as the era of universal schooling began with massive changes in the plate tectonics of capitalism, it is now beginning to recede in accord with further changes within those same tectonics.” - David Blacker, The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame

Denis Neville said...

"We run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put up a façade to prevent ourselves from seeing it.” - Blaise Pascal

The enormous chasm between what the plutocrats and their minions in Washington are in fact doing and what the sheeple think they are doing is one of the great propaganda accomplishments of our dominant political mythology.

“In societies that worship money and success, the losers become objects of scorn. Those who work the hardest for the least are called lazy. Those forced to live in substandard housing are thought to be the authors of substandard lives. Those who do not finish high school or cannot afford to go to college are considered deficient or inept.

No system in history has been more relentless in battering down ancient and fragile cultures, devouring the resources of whole regions, pulverizing centuries-old practices in a matter of years, and standardizing the varieties of human experience.

Official Washington cannot tell the American people that the real purpose of its gargantuan military expenditures and belligerent interventions is to make the world safe for General Motors, General Electric, General Dynamics, and all the other generals.

The worst forms of tyranny, or certainly the most successful ones, are not those we rail against but those that so insinuate themselves into the imagery of our consciousness, and the fabric of our lives, as not to be perceived as tyranny.

The guiding principle of ruling elites was - and still is: when change threatens to rule, then the rules are changed.” - Michael Parenti, Land of Idols

Too many people believe the hucksters in charge. The result is that crony capitalism, the melding of politics and finance, has rigged the game: socialism for the rich and free enterprise (public liability for any losses their casino capitalism creates) for the masses.

"War is madness. Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction. In today's world, behind the scenes, there are interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms. And these have engraved on their hearts, 'what does it matter to me?'” - Francis I, Memorial of the Hundred Thousand at Redipuglia, September 13, 2014

We exist; we just don't matter in the halls of power anymore. Their rising tide is sinking many boats without any lifeboats for the rest of us.

"Most of them became wealthy by being well connected and crooked. And they are creating a society in which they can commit hugely damaging economic crimes with impunity, and in which only children of the wealthy have the opportunity to become successful. That’s what I have a problem with. And I think most people agree with me." - Charles Ferguson, Predator Nation

But, how are we going to get people to join a revolution if we can't even get them to vote for the Green Party?

"The ritual of our existence is based on the strong getting stronger by devouring the weak. We must face up to this. No more than right that it should be this way. We must learn to accept it as a law of the natural world." - Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

This essay is disturbing on so many levels.

The first thing that pops into my mind is in charter schools, teacher like me either won't be hired or will be silenced. Issues such as social justice, the economic benefits of buying locally, conservation, the responsibility and strategies for taking part in our democracy, global warming and stewardship of the environment will all be outside the parameters of the curriculum . . . translation, not to be taught. Sure I teach these ideas through literature History and Science but I have some control as to how I teach the curriculum. There will be a lot more uniformity in charter schools.

I am saddened as I watch all those poor minority families fighting for charter schools. They want schools that will keep the rabble out . . . they just don't realise that they might be considered the rabble one day because of the colour of their skin or their ethnicity. Woe to anyone with a child with learning disabilities. These students are very expensive to educate and therefore will not fit into the budgets of their neighborhood charter school . . . that is unless that child is accompanied by big government bucks in which case their child will be a cash cow. I think these parents are rightly frustrated with the system as it stands. These innocents still believe an education is a way out of poverty and that it is the universal equalizer. They don't want their kids in classes with thugs and teachers who can't control them. They want their children in "good" schools. It is hard to blame them for their dream. Just so sad they are prime for exploitation.

Marie Burns posted this video link a couple of years back on what happens when for profit corporations contract work that used to be done by government employees (in this case the Military but it will be teachers and teacher aides in the charter school scenarios)

I don't think you are far off with your Hitler Youth analogy, Karen. These kids will be taught a pro corporate mindset and that anyone who doesn't succeed deserves to eat crumbs from the table of those more successful. They will learn to despise their parents in some cases and certainly will strive to be different. It is not wrong to want a better life for your children. And it is not wrong for children to aspire to even higher heights than their parents. But I fear the propaganda taught at these schools will turn child against parent.

I already see so much in our schools. Kids (and most young teachers) don't read anymore and therefore are ripe for propaganda. That is why so many people quote the dumbest comments taken straight from FOX News. They haven't been taught to analyse and think critically as to whether something is true and rational or not. How much worse will it be when teachers like me are silenced? We are already a dying breed. Maybe that is why people don't see charter schools as a threat.

I wonder how many teachers these schools will hire. At first, everything will be wonderful. Teacher to student ratio will be smaller. But like the seats on an airplane, charter schools will realise with smaller desks, they can fit in even more children in a classroom, and then even more.

I find the whole thing so depressing.

Jay - Ottawa said...

What is so pitiful about the chapters of propaganda and self delusion that describe the West’s history is not so much the vicious application of oppression at home but the enthusiasm with which whole populations allow themselves to be duped and destroyed.

Corrections are too complicated for a word at the water cooler, an encounter in the locker room, or greetings on the steps of a church. Elsewhere, most of the time, political talk would be socially gauche. Why upset the easy sociability of a family gathering? Didn’t work last time, we remind ourselves. And so we stick to the weather and other light issues. How real is the elephant no one sees?

Today’s news informs us the latest variety of Occupy, about ten days old in Hong Kong, just petered out. There are reports the police engaged criminal gangs to do a little dirty work in the streets.

The aware are totally spent. Much less is demanded of the ignorant, and so they outlast us in their race to the cliff’s edge.

The plutocrats turning crowds into accomplices remind me of guards who trick prisoners into digging their own graves before they’re shot. I have to keep asking myself whether what I’m doing is digging beside them.

Pearl said...

Just watched 60 minutes and a discussion with Leslie Stahl about the high cost of cancer drugs. Beyond shocking.

The cost of cancer drugs