Thursday, November 10, 2011

Public school privatization potentiated by a racial dynamic

"...privatization justified by identity politics."

Ramsin Canon is politics editor for Gapers Block, a Chicago-centric news and commentary web publication. This is from his piece “How & Why a Democratic President Privatized Our School System” (emphasis mine).
Barack Obama is presiding over the beginning of a process that will inexorably result in the privatization of our school system. That doesn’t mean of course that all of our schools will be owned by big corporations; rather it means that within the next five to ten years, our largest school systems will be enmeshed with the private sector, and the regulatory framework that encourages same will be defended vociferously by a new and fierce network of rent seekers. Within a generation, “public schools” will be public only in the sense that they will rely on primarily on government money–similar in that way to the defense industry...

...How this [privatization] has happened is pretty straightforward. An originally far-right idea, that the government had no business running anything, including schools, worked its way into the Democratic Party consensus at precisely the rate that the left-wing, as represented by autonomous labor unions and working-class advocates were pushed out (i.e., the rise of the “left neoliberals”).

More specifically, those industrialists and Randite funders of school privatization efforts–in the form of vouchers originally, and eventually charters–created alliances with big city Democratic Party institutions. Here was an issue where the market-logic obsession could be easily masked by concern for “the children,” which is not necessarily insincere. Mayors like Daley, Bloomberg, Fenty and others loved this new alliance because it played into the big media obsession–Democrats who were weren’t stuck in “special interest” politics, who subscribed to the New Economy/Silicon Valley ethos that venture capitalists and their hired gun technocrats could solve every problem, whereas working class people representing themselves were too dumb/myopic to actually affect change (besides, if they’re so smart, why aren’t they rich!?)

A hop, skip, and a jump. In Chicago, the Democratic Party establishment absorbed this ethos by Mayoral fiat. Chicago’s Democratic Party infrastructure was dissimilar from past “Machine” iterations because it was hard-wired through the person of the Mayor; his mid-90s rapture into the VC/technocrat stratosphere trickled down to those in the party who had ambitions outside of Cook County politics. People like Barack Obama, whose institutional ties to the University of Chicago, where he lectured and which he represented (in a sickeningly self-gerrymandered district) almost required those kinds of allegiances.

Bashing teachers unions has a pedigree among black nationalists that made it ideal for Machine Lite-style politics. For big city Mayors it was great; and for state Senator Barack Obama, it was perfect. He could deepen his ties to major identity-focused organizations like UNO and The Woodlawn Organization that supported charters and attend fundaraisers [sic] and cocktail parties with the Steans’ of the world. Noted career failure Arne Duncan grabbed hold of his coattails, and you have the Chicago model ascending to the national stage: privatization justified by identity politics...

Yes, privatization justified by identity politics.

Ramsin Canon discusses the politics of Chicago's public schools in this June 10, 2010 interview HERE.

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