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Friday, March 14, 2014

So, Will We Be a Democracy or Not?

Now Out of Print?

The educational deformers chant:  "This is not a democracy!"   As D.C. Chancellor, Rhee said, "I'm not running this district by consensus or committee.  We're not running this school district through the democratic process."  She seemed to do everything in her repertoire, short of taping mouths shut in D.C., to reinforce this principle.  In N.Y.C., Bloomberg's 2004 Monday Night PEP Massacre did as much as anything to show his disregard for democracy.  When two Bloomberg appointees refused to vote his line, they were fired and replaced by lackeys who apparently needed no brain, only a rubberstamp. 

As recently as March 1, the Chicago Tribune offered an editorial stating "A school is not a democracy" in reference to the refusal of two schools to administer the ISAT, or Illinois Standards Achievement Test.  The test is a vestigial reminder of No Child Left Behind, soon to be phased into oblivion.  The test eats up parts of eight instructional days; it does not align with the curriculum of the Chicago Public schools, nor does it hold any stakes for students, teachers or their schools.  In the words of the editorialist, "state law requires that the test be given to elementary school children in the state.  All children.  No exceptions."  Yet, the irony is bitter.  MANY EDUCATIONAL DEFORMERS SEND THEIR KIDS TO FANCY PRIVATE SCHOOLS WITH RICH CURRICULUM AND TEST EXEMPTIONS; in this way, they opt their kids out of a repressive system mandated only for others who cannot afford their options.  Public-school children alone are the guinea pigs of state law.

First Intermission:  "Re-examine all that you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul" (sponsored and paid for by Walt Whitman!).

According to some Chicago parents who opted their children out of these tests, students were told to call their parents and ask permission to take the test.  Twenty-five parents then filed a complaint with the ACLU.  According to one parent who opted her child out of the test, Rhoda Rae Gutierrez, "I find this absolutely reprehensible, as it puts our young child, and other children, in a position of having to decide whether or not to listen to the teachers and administrators she trusts" (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-04/news/ct-chicago-testing-isat-met-20140303_1_isat-selective-schools-spokesman-joel-hood).

If public education is not democratic, then what is it?  Is it monarchial?   Is it dictatorial?  Where are the local school boards of the past?  There is a war being waged against them by forces for whom democracy holds little appeal.  Education has been co-opted by powerful persons with pocketbooks, but little real experience in classrooms.

Second Intermission:  "There is no week, nor day, nor hour, when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance" (a public-service announcement brought to you by Walt Whitman).

According to Joel Klein following Bloomberg's Monday Night PEP massacre, "The mayor says when he runs for re-election that he should be held accountable.  That is the democratic way."  If politicians all but own the media with their millions and an elaborate PR team, the democratic way may be threatened.  We should remember Klein's words, however, and know that it is time to spread the word about the accountability of politicians.  They are accountable to the people!  We should remember that Rhee helped pull down Mayor Fenty; the voters sent him packing along with Rhee.  We should remember that Mayor De Blasio was elected on a platform that included many principled stands against Bloomberg's policy.   De Blasio started his term by doing the unthinkable:  choosing a seasoned educator as the City's Chancellor of schools.  Imagine that!

There are other politicians out there in many states who seem to hold democracy in low regard.  They do not seem to believe that the system runs on the voices and the votes of the people.  It must be a bitter brew, indeed, to first taste democracy by being voted out of office!  Whitman, I am sure, would remind us to be ever vigilant.  Some who lose office are still in the game.  They have millions behind them, dollars, not people.  They still see a price tag on public policy and they will hammer at the Mr. Smiths in Washington, or wherever.  Yet, there are millions who favor democracy and, I'm sure, there must be some millionaires among them.  But, even if there weren't, the power of millions will always outweigh the power of a few millionaires.  Lesson to be learned in the Twilight Zone of Educational Deformity!

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