LOS ANGELES, Nov. 12 — Last week at the L.A. teachers union House of Representatives (HR), anti-racists fought for the union to support the struggle of the ‘Jena 6’ (six black youth victimized by legal lynching); to condemn the racist immigration raids sweeping the country; and to join the struggle to re-open King/Drew Trauma Center, the only public hospital in south L.A. PL’ers distributed leaflets exposing the imperialists’ plans to use school reform to build patriotism for widening wars. One-fourth of the delegates received CHALLENGE. Teachers won $1,000 for the ‘Jena 6’ defense, but only lip service for supporting the struggle to re-open the hospital. The union leadership guaranteed no debate on these questions, trying to reduce these important issues to pieces of paper.
What was so important to prevent discussion of the immigration raids sweeping our city and terrorizing our students, or the lack of emergency medical care for black and Latino workers here? “School reform,” of course. The bosses are using the unions to win teachers to “restructure” the schools to prepare students politically and technologically for war.
The HR agenda included pages about charter schools. Instead of fighting them, the union leadership tried to make an accomodation with them, as Randi Weingarten did with “Green Dot” (charter-schools company that allows a union) in New York. Their main aim is collecting union dues from charter-school teachers. Merit pay — paying the teachers most effective in pushing the bosses’ patriotic agenda more — is not yet on the table, but it’s coming.
The main HR discussion offered the carrot and the stick in reorganizing inner city schools. On the one hand, the superintendent is threatening to put all junior and senior high schools with low test scores into a “Transformation Division” under his scrutiny; to lengthen school days; to institute teacher-proof scripted lessons; to place more arbitrary authority in principals’ hands; and reduce team teaching.
The “carrot” is the Innovation Division, supposedly allowing teachers and parents to “restructure” their “own” schools. The union leaders tried to sell this option not as the “lesser evil” but to get the teachers’ support for school reform — to do the bosses’ work for them. The ruling class needs the passion and energy of the thousands of teachers who work in the inner city schools and are committed to serving their students. The Innovation Division is the bosses’ plan to win these teachers to school reform and to the “diverse” patriotic agenda.
School reform is part of the U.S. ruling class’s preparation for what Foreign Affairs magazine calls the “inevitable confrontation” with China and a larger war in the Middle-East. The bosses must re-industrialize the U.S, particularly armaments production. They realize they must compete or risk decisive losses. Therefore, they need school reform: to win teachers and students to patriotism and to refit the schools to train young people to develop, produce and use the latest high-tech weapons. After decades of pushing racist terror, drugs, social neglect and mass incarceration, the capitalist class finds it absolutely necessary to change its educational plans and train a significantly larger sector of its inner city youth.
But, as Karl Marx said, capitalism creates its own grave-diggers. Teachers fighting to serve their students and to resist arbitrary, racist principals and superintendents can unite with their students in rejecting the bosses’ agenda of patriotic loyalty to the rulers and their wars. Teachers need to teach the truth about capitalism, to prepare students — who will be in crucial positions in society as industrial workers, soldiers and teachers — to fight to finally destroy this system and its wars for profit. As the school-reform struggle develops, teachers must build CHALLENGE networks to win students and their families to join the Progressive Labor Party and lead the working class to counter capitalism’s racist, imperialist wars with communist revolution.