Friday, August 26, 2011

The four horsemen of our apocalypse?

Racism, Poverty, Militarism, Materialism. The apocalypse reference may sound dramatic, but the current condition (and trajectory) of our society is looking pretty bad.

Cornel West reflects on Dr. Martin Luther King in his piece for the New York Times today, “Dr. King Weeps From His Grave.” Excerpts with my emphasis added:*
...[during the last years of his life] King’s dream of a more democratic America had become, in his words, “a nightmare,” owing to the persistence of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism.” He called America a “sick society.”...

MILITARISM is an imperial catastrophe that has produced a military-industrial complex and national security state and warped the country’s priorities and stature (as with the immoral drones, dropping bombs on innocent civilians) [our war history is HERE]. MATERIALISM is a spiritual catastrophe, promoted by a corporate media multiplex and a culture industry that have hardened the hearts of hard-core consumers and coarsened the consciences of would-be citizens. Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists.[e.g. see HERE]

RACISM is a moral catastrophe, most graphically seen in the prison industrial complex and targeted police surveillance in black and brown ghettos rendered invisible in public discourse. Arbitrary uses of the law — in the name of the “war” on drugs — have produced, in the legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s apt phrase, a new Jim Crow of mass incarceration [more on Alexander HERE and HERE]. And POVERTY is an economic catastrophe, inseparable from the power of greedy oligarchs and avaricious plutocrats indifferent to the misery of poor children, elderly citizens and working people...[see HERE and HERE]

...the recent budget deal is only the latest phase of a 30-year, top-down, one-sided war against the poor and working people in the name of a morally bankrupt policy of deregulating markets, lowering taxes and cutting spending for those already socially neglected and economically abandoned. Our two main political parties, each beholden to big money, offer merely alternative versions of oligarchic rule...**

Released nearly 29 years ago, Reagan’s “A Nation at Risk” launched the war against public education. Richard Rothstein wrote this in 2008 (“A Nation at Risk” Twenty-Five Years Later): 
In 1983, A Nation at Risk misidentified what is wrong with our public schools and consequently set the nation on a school reform crusade that has done more harm than good.

The diagnosis of the National Commission on Excellence in Education was flawed in three respects: First, it wrongly concluded that student achievement was declining. Second, it placed the blame on schools for national economic problems over which schools have relatively little influence. Third, it ignored the responsibility of the nation’s other social and economic institutions for learning...(READ THE REST!)

The educational “crisis” is propaganda whipped up in order to embed a specific mindset into Americans. That propaganda manipulates public concerns and supplies the justification for why our universal public education system should be dismantled and metamorphosized into one which is more restrictive and privatized. Even a report released in 1990 (Sandia Report) was suppressed to prevent the "crisis" premise from being challenged. From “Education at Risk: Fallout from a Flawed Report”(2007)

What "A Nation at Risk" claimed in 1983
  • American students are never first and frequently last academically compared to students in other industrialized nations.
  • American student achievement declined dramatically after Russia launched Sputnik, and hit bottom in the early 1980s.
  • SAT scores fell markedly between 1960 and 1980.
  • Student achievement levels in science were declining steadily.
  • Business and the military were spending millions on remedial education for new hires and recruits.

What the Sandia Report revealed in 1990
  • Between 1975 and 1988, average SAT scores went up or held steady for every student subgroup.
  • Between 1977 and 1988, math proficiency among seventeen-year-olds improved slightly for whites, notably for minorities.
  • Between 1971 and 1988, reading skills among all student subgroups held steady or improved.
  • Between 1977 and 1988, in science, the number of seventeen-year-olds at or above basic competency levels stayed the same or improved slightly.
  • Between 1970 and 1988, the number of twenty-two-year-old Americans with bachelor degrees increased every year; the United States led all developed nations in 1988.

In other words, there is no "educational crisis" in this country, but there is plenty of racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. The ed reform movement is a con.

* Did the NY Times change Cornel West's original title because it was too provocative? See what's embedded in the article's link:

** Not terribly keyed into politics until the past several years, it took observing how President Obama has functioned (Arne Duncan and school privatizing pals, the friendliness to Goldman Sachs and others, even the choice of the purebred Bo, etc.) to demonstrate this oh-so-clearly to me. This morning I got a phone call from Obama 2012 and let the caller know why I've withdrawn my support. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The rise of the corporate state and the “Death of the Liberal Class”

“The danger when a liberal class breaks down is that there becomes no mechanism anymore by which mounting rage and anger can be expressed within the system.” (Video below @ 28:53)

From “Death of the Liberal Class” by Chris Hedges (2010): 

Inside cover excerpt:
For decades the liberal class was a defense against the worst excesses of power. But the pillars of the liberal class—the press, universities, labor movement, culture, Democratic Party, and liberal religious institutions—have collapsed as effective counterweights to the corporate state. In its absence the needs of the poor, the working class and even the middle class, no longer have a champion. The death of the liberal class has permitted the rise of a new and terrifying political configuration.

Back cover:
Liberals conceded too much to the power elite. The tragedy of the liberal class and the institutions it controls is that it has succumbed to opportunism and finally to fear. It abrogated its moral role. It did not defy corporate abuse when it had the chance. It exiled those within its ranks who did. And the defanging of the liberal class not only removed all barriers to neofeudalism and corporate abuse but also ensured that the liberal class will, in its turn, be swept aside.

Excerpts from pp. 9-13:
The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of citizens, that the constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty have become irrelevant, and that the phrase consent of the governed is meaningless, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality. It has lent its voice to hollow acts of political theater, and the pretense that democratic debate and choice continue to exist.

The liberal class refuses to recognize the obvious because it does not want to lose its comfortable and often well-paid perch...

The media, the church, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions—the pillars of the liberal class—have been bought off with corporate money and promises of scraps tossed to them by the narrow circles of power...

The death of the liberal class means a new and terrifying political configuration. It permits the corporate state to demolish, without impediment, the last vestiges of protection put into place by the liberal class. Employees in public-sector unions—one of the last havens from the onslaught of the corporate state—are denounced for holding “Cadillac health plans” and generous retirement benefits. Teachers’ unions in California and New Jersey are attacked by corporate pundits and politicians who portray teachers as parasites thriving at taxpayer expense. The establishment of charter schools will help hasten the extinction of these unions. The increasing restrictions imposed on public-sector employees, despite their ostensible union protection, are draconian and illustrate the corporate state’s final attack on unionized workers. In turn, labor organizations (for the diminishing number of workers who still have unions) facilitate the disempowerment and impoverishment of workers...

Here's Hedges speaking about his book at The Sanctuary for Independent Media on October 17, 2010. If you have limited time, start at 20:45 where Hedges says, “And so we end up with a Democratic Party that speaks in a voice of such flagrant hypocrisy that it has killed its own credibility.”

And @ 32:50: “...what’s happened as we are propelled down this road towards an oligarchic or neofeudal society is that we are creating a permanent underclass, a permanently enraged underclass.”

Explore Hedges’s message and see if your gut picks up on the truth of it. Mine did, and I can see that the United States of America is marching toward a terrifying future. 

And as Hedges states, all resistance will be need to be local.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Arne Duncan has to go

Thousands came to DC from all across the country on behalf of our nation’s public school system. Arne Duncan has to go.

Tourists sitting atop double-decker buses hollered with thumbs up as we walked from Metro stations to the event. Arne Duncan has to go.

The near record-breaking heat was close to overwhelming, even dangerous for some, but still they came, and still they marched. Arne Duncan has to go.

Tons of drivers honked horns to show their support. Arne Duncan has to go.

Never has our public school system been so betrayed by its very own leader. Arne Duncan has to go.

People are sick of his doubletalk, his bribes and manipulation. Arne Duncan has to go.

Power to the People. Bless them with much strength and the numbers to rise up against these sick, misguided policies. Arne Duncan has to go.

Expect next year’s event to be bigger and louder and angrier. More and more people are catching on. Arne Duncan has to go.

Save Our Schools: The March to the White House on July 30, 2011.

The rebellion against Chile’s privatized education: Estimates of up to 60,000 people on the streets in Chile protesting to demand an end to privatized education. The system has placed generations of students deep in debt.*

*Read Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” (first edition published Sept. 2007) to learn how what happened in Chile is well underway here. The book’s introduction explains the privatizers' grab of New Orleans’ public schools. Things don't bode well. Arne Duncan has to go.