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.
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.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.
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
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 things. Young 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.
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