WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 30 — At a rally and march to the White House today sponsored by Save Our Schools (SOS), some of the 3,000 angry and enthusiastic teachers, parents and education advocates vigorously took up the chant started by a PLP member: “Obama and Duncan, you can’t hide! We charge you with Education genocide!” Duncan is Obama’s Secy. of Education.
SOS’s reform demands included: 1) Equitable funding of all public schools; 2) An end to high-stakes testing; 3) Local curriculum development; and 4) Teacher/community leadership on policy questions.
Participants were rightfully outraged by ongoing school “deform,” an effort by ruling-class billionaires like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg to replace public schools with charter schools, cut resources for education and maintain the most severe racial segregation since the 1960s. “Deform” would coerce millions of teachers to abandon serious education by threatening bad evaluations and loss of employment unless they “get with the program” and do little more than test preparation, all year, every year.
In just an hour’s time, 50 people took CHALLENGE with serious interest, clearly understanding — after a brief discussion — that it stands for communist politics and the fight against racism. Some gave contributions.
One of the keynote speakers, Diane Ravitch, who served in the Bush administration — while now opposing No Child Left Behind (which she previously supported) — failed to challenge the central tenet of Obama’s “Race to the Top”: an effort by U.S. imperialism to maintain its lucrative and bloody empire, in part, by out-competing its rivals to train large numbers of top engineers, scientists and mathematicians. This international competition and rivalry is the basic cause of imperialist war and massive human devastation.
Ravitch’s 2010 book, “The Life and Death of the Great American School System,” upholds her earlier essentially anti-communist attacks on those who view public schools, in her words, as institutions “devised by scheming capitalists to impose ‘social control’ on an unwilling proletariat or to reproduce social inequality” — which is precisely what they are. Though capitalists claim their public schools are “the door to equal opportunity,” they recreate the profit system’s class structure — rich and poor, bosses and workers — in each new generation, while maintaining massive racist segregation.
A vivid example of what they want taught is contained in one state’s 2011 high-stakes test, which must be passed to graduate. The question was asked about the purpose of the International Monetary Fund. The “right answer” was “to help and support people in developing nations.” In reality, the IMF’s basic policy of “structural readjustment” prioritizes profits for the rich, spawning soaring food prices and expanding intensification of hunger. This test question and answer represents a purely capitalist point of view.
Such test questions will be part of a national curriculum, known as the Common Core Standards. In upcoming years, teacher evaluations and jobs will be tied to their students’ scores on tests, based on that kind of curriculum. As the U.S. ruling class prepares for more and bigger wars with their international rivals, beyond Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, they will tighten their ideological control of what gets taught, and intensify their efforts to propagandize for unthinking wartime loyalty to the needs of capitalist rulers.
As we build a multi-racial movement to fight school “deform,” we must strive to defeat the capitalist class and its dead-end ideology and win students to participate and play an active, leading role. This requires the spreading of PLP’s ideas to win masses to see the need for communist revolution and to join our Party. That’s the only way to establish a society in which there are no rich exploiting poor but only a working class free of bosses and profits, sharing collectively the value that our class produces.