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The privatizers are busy at work. Unless you live under a rock (a tempting thought lately…) you probably feel like I do every time you turn on the news; the sensation of riding the Tilt a Whirl while taking ‘shrooms. It’s exhausting at best, and terrifying at worst; trying to untangle what is happening around us. Take Devos and her anti-Grizzly platform as the prime example of current insanity.

The most recent effort toward destroying public ed comes in the form of the Choices in Education Act of 2017. I live in Maryland along with Andy Harris (R) who is co-sponsor of this bill. (lucky me).

Many activists fighting against education reform are already on top of pushing back and calling for action against this bill, as well they (and we) should be. Like many of my friends and colleagues I am also strongly opposed to a voucher system for school funding and this bill.

But beyond an effort to reject this bill, I wonder —  what is the goal of the long game? and dare i ask …how much of a difference would this bill make whether it passed or not? I know that sounds jaded. The bill is a total shit shop. But let’s zoom out.

Take a deep examination of the larger chess board.

The agenda set forth in this Choice bill can be found in other iterations within the fine print of ESSA, a bill crafted by Lamar Alexander. which many public education advocates supported (I did not). I did not support ESSA because, despite all of its nice sounding promises, the devil was (as always) in the details. ESSA, like Choices in Education Act opens the flood gates for vouchers, charters, and other forms of privatization. So while I do oppose the Choices in Education bill…. We need to be fighting a much bigger game.

We cannot win this fight by shooting down every single bill they throw at us, because they have endless money, resources, and legal power to keep ‘em coming. How many letters and calls to representatives who are likely already sold out can we make? They could win simply by exhausting us… by having us chase every single bill they peel off the ALEC playbook. I suggest that we pause and zoom out and take a long look at what is to come and develop a long game strategy above and beyond our short game battles.

For example, the alt right agenda from Breitbart also opposes the Choices in Education bill.

You know you’re down the rabbit hole (as a progressive “leftist”) when are you are opposing the same bill as them! Breitbart folks are opposed to the governmental oversight (strings attached) of school choice that come with this bill. Conversely, progressive advocates for public education oppose this bill because it opens the flood gates for vouchers which are harmful to the support needed for public schools. So in swatting down this bill….do we win? Or, does the alt right? Can we both win at the same time when we want such dramatically different things?

This Choices bill both opens the portal for greater voucher schemes, yet keeps those religious and private institutions on a tighter leash of accountability. That’s the funny thing about words like accountability—it’s a double edged sword. If you are a left-leaning person, you might wish to see greater accountability for religious, charter, and other private institutions who want to replace science with creationism and engage in all types of exclusionary practices. We like accountability when it is in the name of ensuring equity of resources or quality. But accountability is a fickle creature-it turns on us and becomes NCLB and high stakes testing. So we find that the things in themselves are only as good or as bad, or something we support or not, to the extent to which they serve us and our interests.

Betsy Devos is a train crash. But the groundwork to privatize public education was laid well in advance of her hair- brained appointment. (30 years by my estimate). It was laid by a TWO party system.  As Glen Ford of The Black Agenda Report  says, “In their zeal to confront and delegitimize Donald Trump, the Democrats primp and posture as if in genuine opposition to President Cheeto’s governance-by-billionaires. But, charter school privatization, like U.S. wars, is a project of both wings of the ruling class duopoly.”

So we have been punched in the face by the likes of Devos and a corporate conservative agenda, but we have also been stabbed in the back by the pseudo-liberal Democrat efforts to roll out a “kids-for-profit” plan under the guise of “civil rights.” The tinder was laid. Betsy just needs to light the match.

Look at the long game. Whether we swat down every bullshit bill Devos or other representatives of ALEC put forward or not, the dismantling of public education might go on while we are otherwise distracted. The tentacles of a corporate agenda are so deeply baked into our public schools. Competency Based Education (CBE) does exactly the same thing that charters do- it puts public monies into private hands, and allows private interests to determine the educational outcomes for children. 

So the opposite of charter schools is no longer simply traditional “public” schools as they are now (infused with outsourced curriculum and assessments). ESSA both supports the open-faced goal of supporting more charters but it also promotes the close-faced goals of privatization under the guise of “public.” The corporate agenda has cornered the market in every conceivable direction.

They strategize by looking at the long game. So should we.

What do we want?

We can play whack-a-mole and knock out every bill they drop into the chute. But we need more. We need to clearly focus on what it is we want, and see how the corporate reformers play this game. Not only through blatant affronts to democracy via vouchers, but also through bait-and-switch, and through high jacked narratives (as was done once upon a time with testing and charters sold to us in the name of equity, though now we are largely wise to that game—we need to remember that tactic and learn from it).

ESSA and this Choice Act both are set up to deliver the same outcome.

They only look different from the outside, but read the details: philanthropic control via community schools (or) vouchers, pay-for-success, predictive analytics, online corporate outsourcing….they all lead to the same end. ESSA supporters promised that this policy would relieve us of the burden of annual standardized testing, but instead we got every day online assessments. Different delivery system-same outcome-corporate ownership of profits, curriculum and student data.

We need to focus efforts on the long game and see how deeply intricate the connections are intertwined. They exist beyond party partisan politics and plays on language (what’s the difference between “grit” and endorsement of socially/affective learning? Nothing…except a few vowels…and the child’s skin color). Forget the names – they are designed to sound good, like “personalized learning“:…. and look at the details. Are community schools truly community schools? Sometimes… but not always, and increasingly less so as privatizers have learned how to insert themselves like an odorless gas that cannot be detected in a house ready to explode.

What does “public” in public education mean? What constitutes its definition and purpose?

Historically, public education has failed to deliver on its promise for ALL children. Historically, many of the roots of public education are rooted in a neoliberal goal to manage the poor, the disenfranchised, the immigrants, the newly-freed enslaved and indigenous peoples. It’s not a noble history. But public schools retain a noble promise. And now we are faced with their dissolution. Public education SHOULD mean:  democratic, equitable, student-empowerment, freedom from corporate overlords, accessible, sustainable, community supported, anti-racist education for all children in support of the communities in which they live.

I believe this is possible -and the alternative unimaginable.

Although, apparently it’s not unimaginable to certain representatives crafting legislation to abolish the US. Dept of Education. How is this not on the radar of every proponent for public education as we speak? 


THIS BLOG POST IS NOW A CHAPTER IN THE BOOK United We Stand Divided We Fall: Opposing Trump’s Agenda – Essays on Protest and Resistance. New York, NY: Garn Publishing

The psy ops tactics used to get Donald Trump elected to the U.S. Presidency (still having gag reflex) are the same ones being used in public schools, using children as their “data” source. Given the power they had on influencing the electorate, imagine what they could do with 12 years of public school data collected on your child.

What data? And how was it used?

A psychologist named Michael Kosinski (see full report) from Cambridge developed a method to analyze Facebook members, using the cute little personality quizzes or games. What started as a fun experiment resulted with the largest data set combining psychometric scores with Facebook profiles ever to be collected. Dr. Kosinski is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data-driven sub-branch of psychology. His work is grounded on the Five Factors of Personality theory which include something called OCEAN: openness, conscientiousnessextraversionagreeableness, and neuroticism.

So many people volunteered their personal information to play these games and take these quizzes that before long Kosinski had volumes of data from which he could now predict all sorts of things about the attitudes and behaviors of these individuals. He applied the Five Factors (Big Five Theory) model (well-known in psychometric circles) and developed a system by which he could predict very personal and detailed behaviors of individuals on a level deeper than had been accessed by prior models or systems.

Enter Cambridge Analytica (CA),  a company connected to a British firm called SCL Group, which provides governments, political groups and companies around the world with services ranging from military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting. CA indirectly acquired Kosinksi’s model and method for his MyPersonality database without his consent.

Then, CA was hired by the Trump team to provide “dark advertising” that would sway undecided people toward a Trump vote. CA was able to access this data to search for specific profiles: “all anxious fathers, all angry introverts, for example—or maybe even all undecided Democrats.” See

Steve Bannon sits on the board for Cambridge Analytica.

“We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump’s extraordinary win,” Alexander James Ashburner Nix was quoted as saying.  According to Motherboard, “His company wasn’t just integral to Trump’s online campaign, but to the UK’s Brexit campaign as well.” In Nix’s own words, it worked like this: “At Cambridge,” he said, “we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America.”

The report continues, “according to Nix, the success of Cambridge Analytica’s marketing is based on a combination of three elements: behavioral science using the OCEAN Model, Big Data analysis, and ad targeting. Ad targeting is personalized advertising, aligned as accurately as possible to the personality of an individual consumer.” Then these same consumers receive “dark posts”-or, advertisements specifically devised for them, and that cannot be viewed by anyone else other than that person.

Where did the Big Five Theory come from?

Dr. Raymond Cattell is regaled in Western culture for his so called notable contributions to the field of intelligence assessment (IQ and personality work). Despite his direct and profound relationship to the eugenics movement and his recognition by the Nazi Party for the birth of The Beyondists, his work is benignly promoted in scholarly circles. But the fact that he is professionally legitimized does not make him any less the racist he was. And his contributions toward racist practices live on. He has two notable theories of personality development and measurement entitled The Big Five Theory and the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF).

The way that OCEANS Five Factors personality data from our students can be used:

The recent trend toward a “grit narrative,” hailed by Angela Duckworth and others, has been gobbled up by school districts around the country. The OCEANS model is used widely by schools and other institutions internationally.

“The grit measure has been compared to the Big Five personality model, which are a group of broad personality dimensions consisting of openness to experience (aka openness), conscientiousnessextraversionagreeableness, and neuroticism.”

(citation: Cattell, R. B.; Marshall, MB; Georgiades, S (1957). “Personality and motivation: Structure and measurement”. Journal of Personality Disorders19 (1): 53–67. doi:10.1521/pedi. 15899720.

There is a growing emphasis on the “affective” learning of students.  Some examples include: “ETS’ SuccessNavigator assessment and ACT’s Engage College Domains and Scales Overview … the broader domains in these models are tied to those areas of the big five personality theory.”

Also see Empirical identification of the major facets of Conscientiousness 

While “grit” has been exposed for the racist narrative it is, it’s also a direct by-product of the same OCEANS framework used to control, predict and manipulate voters. If this data can sway major national elections and change the global trajectory of history, imagine what such data, gathered on children, day after day, year after year, could yield for corporations and government interests.

Watch the video from Jesse Schell, gaming CEO, to see exactly where this can go.  As Schell says “your shopping data is a goldmine” and it’s only a matter of time before gaming companies and gaming behavior interface with our daily consumer and behavioral choices. You can get points for simply brushing your teeth long enough when product brands partner with gaming systems.”

We now have, thanks to perpetual assessments of children’s knowledge affective “grit” or personality, “the concept of the ‘preemptive personality,” the endlessly profiled and guided subject who is shunted into recalculated futures in a system that could be characterized as digital predestination.”

The role of education technology (aka “personalized learning”):

According to a report entitled Networks of Control: “Jennifer Whitson (2013) argues that today’s technology-based practices of gamification are ‘rooted in surveillance’ because they provide ‘real-time feedback about users’ actions by amassing large quantities of data’. According to her, gamification is ‘reliant on quantification’, on ‘monitoring users’ everyday lives to measure and quantify their activities’. Gamification practices based on data collection and quantification are ‘leveraging surveillance to evoke behavior change’ … While self-quantification promises to “make daily practices more fulfilling and fun” by adopting ‘incentivization and pleasure rather than risk and fear to shape desired behaviours’, it also became ‘a new driving logic in the technological expansion and public acceptance of surveillance’.

(See Wrenching The Gears for more readings on this issue)



A re-posting from

GET WOKE, White People!

The world-wide outpouring of rage immediately following the inauguration of Donald Trump was dazzling and heartening. Women in the lead, connections and intersectionality in the air, humor, art, determination, solidarity—the people rising, the popular opposition on display. I loved so many signs waving in the streets of Washington: “Fight like a girl!”; “If my uterus shot bullets it would have more protection than it does now;” “If it’s not intersectional, it’s not my feminism;” “I love my nasty mom.”
We can and we must build a broad social movement in fierce and effective opposition to Trumpism, and for a world in balance.
It’s time to organize a powerful resistance.
And that means in part getting smart, paying attention, waking up in new ways.
White folks need to get over the illusion of innocence.
I remember years ago watching a sequence from the documentary, “Shoah.” The film maker was standing in a public square in formerly occupied France within sight of a station where Jews were loaded onto trains and transported to death camps. interviewing a villager. The film maker kept asking what the villager thought at the time. We didn’t know, he said. We didn’t know about the camps. But you knew they were rounded up. Yes, but we didn’t know why. Well, you could see them packed into box cars. Yes, but we didn’t know…
The question is, what do you need to know in order to know? Or, from another angle of regard, when is the claim of innocence simply a fraud and a lie?
Here in the US, if you look you’ll see that the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex are institutions of congealed violent white supremacy; if you open your eyes, you can see that African Americans living in racially isolated communities of concentrated poverty is the result of cold-blooded federal policy.
Gather your classmates or your fellow workers or your neighbors. Talk about this moment and where we are on the clock of the world. Discuss what you are willing to do collectively to resist the shredding of civil liberties, and to protect vulnerable populations.
Start a reading group, and go deep to understand the world we live in. Start here: Angela Davis; Keeanga Taylor; Jeff Chang; Ta-Nehisi Coats; Junot Diaz; Saffire; Allison Bechdel, Fun Home; Sandra Cisneros; Sherman Alexi; Claudia Rankine; Jesmyn Ward.
And be agile: When Trump lies and the press somehow at last summons the courage to call him on it (Trump Advances Two Falsehoods, says the NY Times), and the administration threatens to “hold them to account,” create a brigade of fact spreaders.
When Trump promotes an “America First” agenda, note the facsist echoes from the early Twentieth Century.
When a page on the new White House website announces that “The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration,” and adds that “Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community” is a top priority and that “President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.” It continues that “Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.”
This is a threat to the Black Lives Matter movement.
What do you need to know, to know?
(Educationalchemy additions) — Some additional ideas that warrant our attention in order to Get Woke:
  1. In her reporting of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker, which evolved into Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), Hannah Arendt coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe the phenomenon of Eichmann. She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction.

2. The Milgram Experiment – “(Milgram) concluded people obey either out of fear or out of a desire to appear cooperative–even when acting against their own better judgment and desires. Milgram’s classic yet controversial experiment illustrates people’s reluctance to confront those who abuse power.”


In honor of the announcement by Merriam Webster Dictionary that “surreal” was the word of 2016 I am re-posting a older piece I wrote for United Opt Out almost one year ago. Now… more relevant than ever. Annual standardized testing has given way to Competency Based online delivery systems, all…the…time. Race to the Top has been replaced with ESSA.

And the socio-political climate against which we are fighting? Well…it speaks for itself.

Merriam Webster site states: “Surreal is often looked up spontaneously in moments of both tragedy and surprise, whether or not it is used in speech or writing. This is not surprising: we often search for just the right word to help us bring order to abstract thoughts, emotions, or reactions. Surreal seems to be, for 2016, such a word.”


“Struggle is par for the course when our dreams go into action. But unless we have the space to imagine and a vision for what it means to fully realize our humanity, all the protests and demonstrations in the world won’t bring about our liberation” (Robin D. G. Kelley)

Let me begin with an important premise. Education reform is:

  • Carceral (feeds the school to prison pipeline). The fear and punish surveillance systems we have in place in the name of “accountability” would impress even Jeremy Bentham.
  • Corporeal (regulation and ownership of the body). Visit page 44 of this document to understand how grit and tenacity will be measured on our children’s bodies.
  • Colonizing (through global outsourcing of PUBLIC education products and services to PRIVATE interests). Most notably but not limited to, charter schools.
  • With Citizens United and ALEC, we have private/corporate control of every facet teaching and learning: curricula, materials, assessment, and staffing.

I have to situate myself in this struggle as a white middle class mother and teacher who cannot claim to have lived or experienced the inequities and violence faced by so many others. I, with many others of racial and economic privilege have been asking, “How can we bring communities of color and indigenous peoples into the opt out revolution? What are the connections we need to make? What are we missing?” There are a lot of critical and complex ways we must deconstruct those questions and tirelessly examine responses from multiple perspectives.

Ceresta Smith’s “Why People of Color Must Reject Market-based Reforms  provides a compelling argument supported by factual evidence why organizing resistance and ultimately effecting change from the standpoint of people of color is necessary. No doubt they must take a militant stance and become full participants in the resistance movement to end corporate reform; but to expand further on her argument, I present the following.

We must re-frame the opt out revolution as a global effort- with our brothers and sisters in other counties like Spain, Mexico, Liberia, Puerto Rico. Colonization, neo-colonization, and neo-liberal economic policies have impacted the way educators teach and children learn. The history of the Black Radical Imagination emanates from those places; spaces where ultimate dreams, visions, and end goals of freedom are articulated, visualized and specified via artistic mediums, inspirational dialogues, and theatrical resistance.

I am thinking of notable artists and art theorists such as bell hooks, David Stovall, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and the surrealist artist Aimee Cesare (and a thanks to Bettina Love whose 2016 AERA conference presentation snapped this into focus for me). They argue for a radical imagining of “the possibilities of relational, transitive, and creative solidarity as a strategy for recasting not only human relations but also the very notion of what it means to be human” which is “crucial for decolonization” (Gatzambide-Fernandez, 2012). Also, see P.L. Thomas notable scholarship on James Baldwin. These artists created, and stemmed from, the surrealist movement which was largely a radical and political response to fascism and colonialism of the 19th century.

Why the framing of the radical (surrealist) black imagination for the future of the opt out movement? Because “surrealism is not an aesthetic doctrine but an international revolutionary movement concerned with the emancipation of thought” (Kelley, p. 5).

Resistance requires application of the radical black imagination and indigenous people’s frameworks for radical democracy—resistance MUST draw from historical narratives that are rooted in their understandings of freedom and opposition to oppression and spring forth visions of where we want to be. The surrealists’ art of this movement spoke to the idea that, “it is not enough to imagine what kind of world we would like; we have to do the work to make it happen” (Kelley, p. 187). Resistance to oppression is something that marginalized (and enslaved) communities have lived for centuries, and therefore their imaginations, their wisdom, their lived experiences told through works of art allow us to imagine actions that will open “new possibilities in unlikely places” (Kelley, p. 189). This way forward has a long rich history of resistance rooted in the imagination and in love—two things indispensable to our movement. Kelley writes, “(R) enegade black intellectuals/activists/artists challenged and reshaped communism, surrealism, and radical feminism, and in doing so produced brilliant theoretical insights” … which can and must push our movement in new directions.

Through the critical imagination, we can find the language for systemic freedom and equitable alternatives. “Surrealists have consistently opposed capitalism and white supremacy” (Kelley, p. 192). While the resistance to privatization  has been framed as a “white middle class thing” (a paradoxical statement both sort of true…and largely manufactured), we can concede that to some extent we have been using middle class tactics and grounding our message in “indignation” (such as, “How dare you treat my kid this way!”), which is a White person’s version of experiencing injustice. Honestly, it amazes me that more parents of color, who have lived centuries of damage done to their children at the hands of the racist system, don’t look at us, roll their eyes and yell, “Well, duh!” … because they have lived it globally and systemically in ways that parents of White and middle class privilege are only recently beginning to get a glimpse. Garon (quoted in Kelley) says, “Human freedom depends not only on the destruction and restructuring of the economic system, but on the restructuring of the mind” (p. 192).

While racial and class privilege enables some of us to work more easily within the existing system of power, the radical imagination shows us how to shatter that system and imagine a new one. Kelley says: “Without new visions, we don’t know what to build, only what to knock down. We not only end up confused, rudderless and cynical, but we forget that making a revolution is not a series of clever maneuvers and tactics, but a process that can and must transform us.” And he adds, when we talk about structural change, we’re not tweaking a system, but completely destroying it and replacing it with something new.” (see Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination.)

If we find the power to imagine new schools that represent us: schools of anti-racism, equity, democracy, and love (where there is no space for billionaire control), we might get bold and imagine new societies in that same image (and where there is no space for billionaire control).

Our solidarity must come from the guidance of the radical black and brown artists who knew that imagination was the core of revolutionary action. “The idea of revolution of the mind has always been central to surrealism as well as to black conceptions of liberation” (Kelley, p. 191). When we, all of us, embrace radical black voices of imagination as the guiding principles for the opt out movement and create real solidarity, it will be “game, set, match, OVER” for the corporate elites. And they know it! To water down – or de-fang – the this revolution  mirrors the historical recasting of the Middle Passage as the Triangular Trade Agreement or Rosa Parks as little more than a sweet middle aged lady who was “just tired.”

What does the education revolution using radical imagination as its center look like? It could be surrealistic “Revolutionary graffiti painted in bold strokes across the great tests of Western civilization” (or Pearson tests) … “it is a hand grenade tossed with deadly accuracy, clearing the field” of the neo-liberal takeover of public education … “so we might write a new history with what’s left standing” (p. 181). This effort must be nothing short of this. And, if it is, then it needs to re-route to the right direction. Our resistance and transformation  (RBI style), “is the exhalation of freedom, revolt, imagination and love …. (I)t is above all a revolutionary movement ….Beginning with the abolition of slavery, it advances to the creation of a free society in which everyone will be a poet—a society in which everyone will be able to develop his or her potentiality fully and freely” (Chicago Surrealist Group, 1976). And isn’t this what we WANT for ALL children?

“Surrealism recognizes that any revolution must begin with thought, with how we imagine a New World, with how we reconstruct our social and individual relationships” (Kelley, p. 193). True solidarity in this movement as an effort of social justice will be evidenced not when white middle class moms go to jail to protect their own children, but when they (we) go to jail to protect other people’s children too.


Kelley, R.D.G. (2002). Freedom dreams: The black radical imagination. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Featured (top) image by Tom Feelings

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In May of 2016 I officially resigned as an administrator for United Opt Out a group I help create in 2011 along with Peggy Robertson, Tim Slekar, Ceresta Smith, Shaun Johnson, and Laurie Murphy. Since then, Shaun and Laurie rolled off, and we added new admins like Michael Pena, Rosemarie Jensen, Ruth Rodruigez and Denisha Jones.  Very recently, other admins rolled off as well. There’s been a lot of myth-making and rumor-milling about the roll off of admins and the UOO event taking place this fall in Houston.

People keep asking me “What happened?” To quote a scene from a Northern Exposure episode entitled Burning Down the House in which one character -a famous golfer- attempts to explain how or why it was he “blew the Masters” because of a simple putt, he says, “You want to know what happened? ….  I don’t know what happened.” In other words, perhaps some things cannot be reduced to simple answers even though such oversimplification might suit the self- serving motives of others. If you want to know why anyone one admin decided to retire from UOO, the best course of action is to ask them directly, because there are five different people and five different sets of personal and/or political reasons anyone might have for stepping down. There is no “one” reason. Yet the responses within the movement to the changes in UOO has created a dangerous space (within our movement) which French philosopher Jaques Daignault refers to as being “between murder and suicide”. And that is what this post attempt to respond to. Why? Let me explain. According to Pinar et al (1995):

Daignault argues that to know is to kill (1992a, p. 199), that running after rigorous demonstrations and after confirmations is a hunt:  literally (1992a, p. 100) … To know is to put to death….To know is to kill, to rely on death….The reason of the strongest is reason by itself.  Western man is a wolf of science (1992a, p. 198).  Knowledge — understood poststructurally as the reduction of difference to identity, the many to the one, heterogeneity to homogeneity — is violence.  This violence results from competition between ideologies or doctrines, and from the radical transformation of what exists in conformity with what we believe it ought to be (quoted in Hwu, 1993, p. 132).  For Daignault, as for Serres, to know is to commit murder, to terrorize.  Nihilism refers to the abandonment of any attempt to know.  It is the attitude which says anything goes or things are what they are.  It is to give up, to turn ones ideals into empty fictions or memories, to have no hope.  Daignault (1983) calls for us to live in the middle, in spaces that are neither terroristic or nihilistic, neither exclusively political nor exclusively technological.

We are experiencing the contested terrain of the in-between where we need to consider that taking a stand does require taking “a side”— nor does taking sides mean you are taking a stand.

I am choosing to take a stand by not taking sides.

Again Daignault suggests:

The only way to avoid this fate is to allow thought to think itself, to go beyond or to disrupt dualism, and to think the difference between them.  It is to introduce paradox.  It is not to stop defining, but to multiply the definitions.  It is to invite a plural spelling, to experiment, to problematize. 

Call me milquetoast if you must –but I believe in Guevara’s idea that the “true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love” (not self righteousness, not anger, not fear, not ego….love). This love requires empathy and forgiveness- and a capacity to see things from perspectives we might not fully understand ourselves but are willing to concede are real and matter to others.

Sometimes the “truth” of any course of events is simply too complex…because it just is. It is possible in deep and genuine relationships between spouses, friends, and colleagues to have wildly different understandings of a shared event. These are opportunities to learn more than we think we already know about ourselves and each other.

I am not declaring kumbaya and asking for group hugs.

I have all the sentimental qualities of a rock.

I thought The Notebook was stupid.

But I am a pragmatist. I want this movement to succeed. We face global annihilation of democracy at the hands of corporate privatization otherwise. We are up against something awful and enormous. I want to do what’s right for others more than doing what’s right “for me.” Because that is what we stand for.

In difficult moments I try to ask myself, when engaging in an argument or “calling someone out”: does this serve the greater good for the movement? What will change for the better as a result of my engaging in this disagreement? How much of this is my own fear? My own ego? My own desire to create a certain appearance to others? Or a fear of what others might think of me? How much of these negative interactions are a waste of our time?

In this movement we do experiences differences and disagreements that are very real and necessary. For example I adamantly and publicly opposed support of ESSA, while many other in the resistance did not.  UOO many years ago was one of the first groups willing to launch vigorous critique of the national unions and demand they take a real stand against reform (and at the time we were roundly criticized for doing so.) There are necessary spaces and times for disagreement within the movement. However, social media character attacks and cannibalism that I witness at times would do the reformers proud. I’m not sure this behavior is what Guevara had in mind.

It’s easy for any of us to proclaim what we believe others “ought” to do, or not to do…it’s easy to reframe one another’s identities (or motives) according to our own interpretation and pronounce the failings we see in others as true. How many of us are willing to turn the mirror on ourselves?

Maybe we’d be better off spending more time looking at our own roles in the problems this movement is facing and less on the roles of others. That’s what I am trying to do at least. Because if we are looking for “blame” as to how and why things happen (for good or for ill) there’s always a heaping scoop of blame to go in everyone’s bowl.

There have been, and continue to be, incidents of hijacking and co-opting of our movement by various forces, especially more notably now with the authorization of ESSA.

We have become a wary, weary, and angry group of people.

However, because of our heightened emotions, sometimes we lose the grey line between courageous critique and a Salem Witch trial. Do the leaders of national unions warrant our critique and mistrust? Hell, yeah. But we also have members of unions who are vigilant leaders who earn nothing but our trust and respect such as Karen Lewis, Michelle Gunderson, Gus Morales, and Barbara Madaloni. So…where is the truth about unions? Somewhere on the in-between. Between murder and suicide.

How do we move forward in times of profound disagreement? What is the way out? We must avoid murder on the one hand and suicide on the other. Are we willing to move forward and remain in a complex in-between space that necessitates discomfort because it asks of us generosity, empathy and humility while also maintaining critical vigilance to our refusal to negotiate or compromise or sell ourselves out? I think we can.

I conclude with Daignault:

Do not expect me to know what I am talking about here; I am trying to think.  That is my best contribution to the composers creativity (p. 4).

“Career and College Ready?”

(image link)

Pearson, of course, was ahead of the pack as usual… developing a school- to -labor pipeline that suites the corporate masters.  As this blog explains, Competency Based Education becomes the framework for “badges” instead of credit hours and prepares students for career and college which is code for the new “gig” economy. According to Pearson: “Alternative learning credentials including college coursework, self-directed learning experiences, career training, and continuing education programs can play a powerful role in defining and articulating solo workers’ capabilities. Already badges that represent these credentials are serving an important purpose in fostering trust between solo workers, employers, and project teams because they convey skill transparency and deliver seamless verification of capabilities.”

I could -at this point -just say ’nuff said.

But I won’t.

CBE 101

First, a brief background: Competency based education (or CBE) has been a rapidly developing alternative to traditional public education. While proponents tout it as “disruptive innovation” critics examine how disruptive translates into “dismantle”, meaning that CBE is a system by which public schools can, and will be, dismantled. This is not ancillary. It was designed to create a new privately-run profiteering model by which education can be delivered to “the masses.” Think: Outsourcing.

CBE delivers curriculum, instruction and assessments through online programming owned by third-party (corporate) organizations that are paid for with your tax dollars. Proponents of CBE use catchy language like “personalized” and “individualized” learning. Translation? Children seated alone interfacing with a computer, which monitors and adjusts the materials according to the inputs keyed in by the child. See Newton’s Datapalooza here.

So gone are the days of “credit hours” earned by spending a certain amount of hours in a classroom. Instead, children move at an individual pace detached from the larger group or collaborative learning experiences which CBE pimps try to warn us are ‘keeping certain kids back” from their “true potential.”

The immediate advantages of control and profits for the neoliberal privatizers is quite evident and well documented. See Talmage for more on CBE history and my own summary here.

Let’s summarize what the outcomes of the CBE paradigm of public schools will be:

  • Disenfranchises teachers who are replaced by computers and third party providers (now LEA’s with access to student private data). This erodes a unionized teacher workforce.
  • Eliminates collaborative interactive learning activities in favor of individualized one-on-one learning with a computer program
  • Course credit will no longer be counted by credit hour but by completion of a series of exercises, tasks or data driven curriculum which provides the student with a “badge of completion” (see Pearson).  The amount of time spent in a classroom experience is no longer a determining factor in evaluating success.

In their own words, The Business Round Table explained how Career and College ready objectives are designed in the likeness of their corporate sponsors. The Common Employability Skills paper states: “Educators and other learning providers will also have an industry-defined road map for what foundational skills to teach, providing individuals the added benefit of being able to evaluate educational programs to ensure they will in fact learn skills that employers value.”


The industry road map today in 2016 leads to a gig economy.

What’s a Gig?

Meet the gig economy. What exactly is a gig economy? It’s what CBE becomes when it’s all grown up and graduated. According to gig economy critic Stephen Hill: The gig economy is “….a weird yet historic mash-up of Silicon Valley technology and Wall Street greed”  which is being thrust  “upon us (as) the latest economic fraud: the so-called ‘sharing economy,’ with companies like Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit allegedly ‘liberating workers’ ’to become ‘independent’ and ‘their own CEOs,’ hiring themselves out for ever-smaller jobs and wages while the companies profit”.

If the history of public schools in America is the history of labor production and preparation (i.e. 19th c factory model schools for a factory society) it holds true that we are now trying to create gig-driven schools to prepare children for the new gig economy. Just as factory model schools prepared children for factory jobs, it’s no coincidence that the CBE framework is a “mini me” of the gig economy itself. And the CBE framework was developed and is funded by the same corporations and organizations like iNACOL and ALEC who are the profiteers of a new gig economy. Just think of how the gig-driven culture reflects the long awaited goals of ALEC model legislation which dismantle collective bargaining, living wages, and other labor rights.

In 2015 the ALEC Commerce Task Force “Celebrated the ‘Gig’ Economy” at an event in which they held workshops on the “Gig Economy” and “What’s Next for the ‘Sharing Economy’–A Discussion on Principles on Best Practices,” which will likely lay the groundwork for further efforts to undermine worker protections. Naturally, their model bills sponsored by the Education task force members directly intersect with the model bills put forth by the Labor task force as well.

In response to this 2015 event, ALEC bragged in their own website that, “With new policies ranging from reducing the income tax burden, to deregulating the ‘gig economy,’ to pension reform, good news in Arizona is plentiful.”

The National Network of Business and Industry Associations, calls itself “an innovative partnership that joins 25 organizations focused on better connecting learning and work.” Their goal is to develop tools that:

  • articulate the common employability skills required for workers across all career fields;
  • rethink how various professional organizations build credentials to help workers move easily between professions (think: Open Badges); and
  • increase the use of competency-based hiring practices across the entire economy (Pay for Success).

One can begin to see how easily CBE fits in with the BRT goal in their Common Employability Skills document where they write: “This model can take its place as the foundation for all industries to map skill requirements to credentials and to career paths.” They add that educational institutions will be EVALUATED based on their ability “to ensure students will in fact learn skills that employers value.”

So let’s summarize ….

In a gig economy, gone is the routine 9-5 work hours by which traditional salaries are determined. Instead gig jobs are paid by the completion of tasks regardless of the hours.

In a freelance world, where jobs are merely a series of gigs strung together, the new ESSA “pay for success” framework fits right in.

Pay for Success is a gig framework for education.

So when jobs are free lanced there is little opportunity for a unionized workforce and there are no benefits (thanks ALEC). There is no collective work space or shared workforce experience. Most work can be done independently, online, and from home. After 12 years of schooling under this framework the future workers of America will be primed to fall right into their pre-ordained place in the gig economy, where they will now feel right at home.

Just as “manufacturing companies and Silicon Valley have begun increasingly to rely on private contractors to hire temps and freelancers” (Hill, 2016)  so have public schools, with the advent of the new ESSA bill, increasingly use private contractors to provide public education (temps being TFA and freelancers represented by Pearson, K12 Inc and the like).

Gig proponents might call it “independent” labor which “frees” workers from the messy attachment to brick and mortar workplaces and money tied to work hours. It’s the mirror image of CBE proponents advocating for students to be “freed” of credit hours tied to hours spent in brick and mortar classrooms.

The gig advocates mantra of “We don’t have to hold on to the model of the 40-hour workweek for a corporate employer” eerily reflects the CBE reform mantra of “students should not have to hold on to credit hours for a traditional model of education.”

Just as CBE has become the bastion of cost-effectiveness in education for profits to CBE delivery systems in a world of austerity (neoliberal capitalism on steroids), so the gig economy streamlines the costs to corporations- who can now eliminate messy expenses like your 401k, health insurance, unemployment insurance.

This project-to-project freelance society (as opposed to long term consistent employment within one organization) will not trouble a student who has freelanced their way through school, from Open badge to Open badge, with no sense of collaborative or collective sensibilities in their learning experiences, or familiarity with relationships between time and place representative of stability or community. In this freelance society and freelance education system, people cobble together a string of independent “gigs” in which they work independently at their own pace. Gig workers are never really “on the clock” because they are never “really off the clock” either–just as CBE students are never focused on time in learning, but are focused on pushing through each module of the CBE framework in order to accumulate “credits” as quickly as possible.

Another way of conceiving of Pay for Success is the “Learning is Earning” framework, which outlines how CBE and the gig economy work together.

According to Pearson:

“A decade from now, when solo workers comprise the majority of the American workforce, I think it will be common for all of us to point to digital credentials and badges as a better way to talk about our own expertise and the know-how of others. Trusted digital credentials will strengthen the new economy by removing some of the high-frequency friction and inefficiencies of project work. Digital, verifiable credentials owned by each worker will ease employer uncertainty while forming project teams. And at the same time, badges will help each of us to identify relevant new work projects and navigate toward just-in-time (aka “gig”) learning opportunities.

Also read about LinkedIn, CBE and gig economics here.

Gig employers and CBE policy makers tout this  as “freedom”—freedom from stability and security, for sure.

Nunberg, in his NPR commentary suggests, “If “gig” suggests the independence you get when you’re not tied down to a steady lifetime job, then just think of the freedom we’ll all enjoy when the traditional job is consigned to the scrap heap of history, and the economy is just gigs all the way down.”  I fear that public education, no longer tied down to time or place, like stable jobs, will too be consigned to the scrap heap of history.

“Venture philanthropists have transformed the educational terrain, significantly tilting it in a neoliberal direction, often using their expressed desire to help hard-hit communities to support their interests in changing the face of public education” (Spence, 2016, p. 96).

There exist many powerful organizations and leaders who, while they claim to want education change, will avoid any effort which actually disrupts the existing power structure. No plea to legislation, petition, or review panels on testing or equity will do much of anything except expend another decade of energy while the push to privatize rolls forward. We do not have that kind of time. Decades of neoliberal polciies like ESEA since 1965 (NCLB, RtTT, now ESSA) pay lip service to change, equity and quality, while doing the precise opposite behind closed curtains and beyond the eye of public scrutiny. Legislation of ESSA is directly manipulated by corporate interests and it’s going to serve the free market ideology before it serves the common good.

My task here is not to claim to have created some new idea…but to draw together shared ideas of three brilliant radical authors (and a specific book from each). Together they create a triumvirate case for the necessity of systemic and wholesale collective ideological shifts in thinking and behavior in order to fight for ourselves, our schools and our planet.

Chris Hedges (2015): Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt

Naomi Klein (2015): This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate

Lester K. Spence (2016): Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics

I hope to distill their ideas in juxtaposition with one another, making a case for the necessity of their suggestions. You might read each of their books for yourself, but here I summarize key points, arguing that these three great authors are all saying similsr things though separate from one another, and that what they have to say warrants our attention.

What they (and I) argue for is a complete transformation of the existing system if we are to truly develop sustainable equitable and democratic public schools. They, like I, believe that anything short of that is merely rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. This is because we are up against something deeply insidious; global, systemic and nearly invisible in its reach and influence: a global neoliberal paradigm which pervades every institution, as well as our social behaviors and understanding of what is “ethical.” The mechanism of control for a neoliberal paradigm is centered on the control of ideas — making public education the Ground Zero of the neoliberal agenda.

What sets their solutions (to racism, capitalism and climate change) apart and what they share in common is that each has the notion that in order to have real sustainable alternatives, the existing systems of power cannot be negotiated with anymore; we must have an entire systemic/paradigmatic shift that is economic, political, cultural and social. Hedges reminds us that we “live in a system that is incapable of reforming itself” (p. 87).  We therefore must reject its continued legitimacy in favor of largescale seismic change.

Rather than continuing with strategies like “Tell you state representative you oppose XYZ” or, “Sign this petition to ask your state representative to do XYZ,” the ONLY thing we should be telling our state representative is to “GET THE F)$& OUT OF OUR WAY before we run them over” (merely as a common courtesy really) because THEIR days in power are numbered.

This is a people’s movement, not a “mother may I” movement.

There exist many powerful organizations and leaders who, while they claim to want education change, will avoid any effort which actually disrupts the existing power structure. No plea to legislation, petition, or review panels on testing or equity will do much of anything except expend another decade of energy while the push to privatize rolls forward. We do not have that kind of time. Decades of neoliberal policies  like ESEA since 1965 (NCLB, RtTT, now ESSA) pay lip service to change, equity and quality, while doing the precise opposite behind closed curtains and beyond the eye of public scrutiny. Legislation of ESSA is directly manipulated by corporate interests and it’s going to serve the free market ideology before it serves the common good.

Currently we rely on others with power and money to change things. We appeal to our legislators. We advocate for piecemeal adjustments to existing laws (ESSA) and tell ourselves compromise is necessary, that change is slow, and that we can’t expect too much. It’s time to discredit these power dynamics. We don’t have time to be polite. Let’s stop bringing a dust broom to do battle with zombies. The neoliberal paradigm influences not only how we do business but how we perceive ourselves and the world, and “replaces the democratic with the free-market, assuming that individuals making market-oriented rational decisions generates better decisions (and individuals) than individuals engaged in politics-voting, debating, protesting, collectively acting in the public” (Spence, 2016, p. 114).

Why do we pay credence to Relay Graduate School “trainers” who come into our schools and tell us how to teach? Why do we follow Pearson scripted lesson plans even when they suck? Why do we administer meaningless tests that bring children to tears? Somewhere along the lines we forgot about our OWN power. Reclaim it.

Klein says it best: “The process of taking on the corporate-state power nexus that underpins the extractive economy is leading a great many people to face up to the underlying democratic crisis that has allowed multinationals to be the authors of the laws under which they operate …. What is a democracy if it doesn’t encompass the capacity to decide, collectively, to protect something that no one can live without?” (p. 361). But how might we begin? With the help of these three radical notable scholars, I will attempt to outline a way out of our MC Escher-like dilemma.

Here are some “take aways” I found consistent across each book

Reject a Seat at the Table: Nothing renders a radical movement less radical than by giving it a seat at the table of existing power. It is clear to many of us that organizations (even who may support a radical grass-roots democratic ideal), find themselves subsumed by the system of powerful elite and therefore are often at best rendered toothless. Hedges referring to environmental issues says “The Big Green environmental groups that worked within the legal parameters were largely ineffectual and often complicit in the destruction of ecosystems they claimed to protect.” Klein states this same thing. This is true of educational systems as well. Whether we are referring to the NEA or the NAACP, power can be attractive and can be a seductive way to silence real dissent when a seat at the table is promised.  Hedges, citing Camus, writes, “every revolutionary (who achieves power) ends up becoming either an oppressor or a heretic” (p. 93).

As with environmental policy, education laws such as ESSA, “are not designed to protect (students). The laws are designed to, at best, regulate (educations) continued exploitation” (Klein) at the hands of the edu-tech and data mining industries. The national leadership of large education institutions, like the Big Greens have, “entered partnerships with fossil fuel companies (never mind The Nature Conservancy, with its’ own Texas oil and gas operation” and this eerily reflects AFT and NEA partnerships with efforts funded by Eli Broad and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations (or Weingarten’s buddy buddy relationship with Hillary Clinton). National union leadership (like the Big Greens) can bought off and influenced by large donations to look and sound as if they are doing something to help address the problems but in fact do very little to disrupt the power structure driving those very problems.

Connect the Dots: IT’S ALL CONNECTED: The corporate interests that are driving privatization and global control of health services, access to food and water, and management of other public institutions (i.e. prisons) are the SAME corporations, using the same playbook, to dismantle public education.  And this issue is GLOBAL.  The existing structure is, as Klein illustrates (p. 48), hierarchical (top down) whether by government or by corporations (since the latter owns the former), and highly “individualistic” (think, CBE as the new model for individualized learning at one’s own pace and interests, aka computer-based learning).  The same ideological interests in big coal and oil support the ALEC agenda to eliminate public education. Think-tanks and corporate sponsored researchers work diligently to influence public education policy with questionable data.

Labor rights and ecological issues are deeply tied with education issues. We need to reach beyond our silos and work together across issues. Also realize that WE are connected to each other.  Many of us might still enjoy good quality public schools. But we should care nonetheless. Klein sites Thomas Paine who wrote, “It is the good fortune of many to live distant from the scene of sorrow.” We must start caring about Others because the pillaging usually reserved only for the marginalized and poor (closing schools in NOLA for example) is coming home to roost in increasingly privileged communities and schools. This affects ALL of us.

Make strategic distinctions: The difference between the neoliberal “progressives” and the radical left is not in identifying the concerns (hunger, poverty, opportunity, equity)….one of the hallmarks of neoliberalism is how it hijacked the narrative about concern for humanity. So we cannot fight neoliberalism on that front. Socially leaning corporations can easily state that they “are fighting the causes of hunger” or “seeking solutions to create a more just peaceful and verdant world” (to quote an ad from NPR).

Where the radical can distinguish itself from neoliberal progressive rhetoric is in identifying the causes and solutions to these concerns. We need to publicly highlight these arenas as well to generate public awareness. Whenever we say “We are for equity” or “we are for ending poverty” the neoliberal philanthropic billionaires can simply point out “We are too! And we have the money to make it happen.” Our strategy must focus on PROCESS of change (who are the decisions makers) and what will change look like once it’s happened? Neoliberal efforts force all thinking and behavior in public institutions towards market ideals.

A radical people’s movement dismantles market values in public spaces in favor of humanistic and shared values rather than competitive human capital. Such change (unlike that framed by neoliberal philanthropists) rests on an idea of public good or public space as “the idea that there is a community interest that benefits all of its individual members and with ‘the commons’ or the idea that shared community resources which cannot and should not be hoarded or made private” (Spence, p. 7).

 Change the language: Try using the word “neoliberalism” in line at the grocery store and see how far that gets you. Even medical professionals try to use non-medical terms like Lou Gehrig’s Disease instead of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis when speaking to non-medical people. So can we call neoliberalism something else? The influence of Occupy was effective in coining the term “the 99%” or “the 1%”. Most people now understand what is meant by those terms. The effects of neoliberalism are certainly real enough. People feel it every day. They see it. But we need a way to articulate it so as to develop an education/awareness framework that people can grab on to. Even “privatizers” is too erudite. But if we refer to the neoliberal agenda as “corporate greed” or how reform puts CEO interests before those of children or communities…those are ideas most people can wrap their heads around.

One of the most powerful tools of the neoliberal arsenal is their ability to hijack language. For example, a favorite term du jour is personalized learning which in reality is little more than a strategy of maximizing Human Capital.  Spence illustrates, “These neoliberal ideas radically change what it means to be human, as the perfect human being now becomes an entrepreneur of his own capital, responsible for his personal development. These ideas also radically change what it means to be free-freedom is redefined as the ability to participate in the market unfettered” (p. 113). Wolin (2008) echoes this statement saying:

“The achievement represents the removal of the barriers that make Superpower’s empire possible: the conquest of space and the compression of time …the tyranny of efficiency and the subversion of democracy’s requirement that time be defined by the requirements for deliberation, discussion, reconciliation of opposing viewpoints, all of which suddenly seen ‘time consuming’” (p. 233).

Personalized learning is sold on the idea that siting is a room learning with others in a waste of time and a waste of money. Personalized learning pits learner against learner, seeing who can garner greater personal human capital through badges or certificate earned in the quickest amount of time. If we though grades and test scores were malignant motives which turned children into little more than letters or numbers, wait until they are earning badges.

Neoliberalism hinges on a distorted narrative of “personal freedom” really embodied by little more than consumer choice. Hedges points out that “the vast distance between perceived reality and the official version of reality is characteristic of totalitarian systems” (p. 55). Gone is a narrative (and reality) of shared public responsibility or freedom of thought or behavior outside the bounds of what can quantified as a form of capital gain or loss. Technology is spun as a necessary fundamental component of 21st century learning despite the lack of ANY evidence to suggest it actually promotes greater or richer or deeper learning for children. The push for technology to wholly replace public schools as we know them exemplifies the power of global corporations (free market on steroids) to “continuously innovate and expand” (Wolin, p. 138) [1].

In contrast to this, Hedges suggests that resistance “is first about learning to speak differently and abandoning the vocabulary of the ‘rational’ technocrats who rule” (p. 70).

Short and Long range: How do you get people to operate against their own short-term interests in favor of their long-term interests? This is a struggle against human nature. We struggle with the idea of pain now for benefit later (which we may never see) such as saving money for retirement or eating for long-range health benefits (instead of that plate of fries). But this was what Montgomery bus boycotters did in the 1960’s. The majority of boycotters were those most affected by the boycott—those who relied on the buses to get to work and thus were risking loss of employment (more so than those boycotters who owned cars or had alternatives). Similarly, in the testing refusal movement, students of color in lower-income urban communities may face greater consequences from refusing the tests than do their white suburban peers, but it is equally true that they suffer more greatly at the hands of reform if and when they DON’T refuse.  We must frame what we do as civil disobedience and nothing less. We must examine long-range change versus short-range consequences.

Focus on the Local Common Spaces: We need to move forward “bird by bird” as Anne Lamott [2] would say. Change must be local if it is meet the criteria of the other items listed above in any genuine or viable sense. “Sustainable organizing is more likely to occur in response to a local issue” (Spence, p. 143); one that affects people directly. When we talk about making long-range goals, the next question should be: who is defining those goals?  Spence also writes that, “It requires a politics attuned to the type of long-term institution building that builds the capacity of individuals to govern and devise alternatives themselves.” (p. 146). This speaks back to the idea of long-range versus short-range visions. If our efforts are dedicated to communities, then action and solutions must be generated on a local level as well. What is needed in Baltimore will not be the same as what is needed in Detroit when it comes down to specific action plans.

Corporate and state ownership have ceased to be viable options that benefit the average human being (the 99%). We must re imagine ways to provide public services as a common good. As Klein says, “All of this is why any attempt to rise to the climate challenge (I add, education challenge) will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of world views, a process of rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect” (p. 460).

Hope is Possible. Are we Ready for It?

“The only route left to us, as Artistotle knew, is either submission or revolt” (Hedges, p. 66).

We cannot rely on the powers, institutions, and organizations that brought us this neoliberal jumping off point to pull us back from the cliff of extinction. We must look toward more radical notions of local, collective and rhizomatic democratic practices that allow us to look toward each other, rather than at power brokers, for solutions that serve us. We must create new alternative systems of economic and social justice that move beyond the reach of the existing system. We must think subversive and radically about how to protect education as a public good that provides for the needs of all our children. Don’t think for one minute that legislative or institutional adjustments within the existing framework will do this. Think of how “less testing” in ESSA was a Trojan Horse for Competency Based Education.

How do you know if an education reformer is lying? His or her lips are moving.

I’ll conclude with the authors own conclusions to their books (with my own insertions in italics):

Klein: Because these moments… (of crisis which create opportunities to seize change)… when the impossible seems suddenly possible are excruciatingly rare and precious. This means we must make more of them. The next time one arises, it must be harnessed not only to denounce the world as it is, and build fleeting pockets of liberated space. It must be the catalyst to actually build the world (…and public education) that will keep us all safe. The stakes are simply too high, and the time too short (…and our children and democracy matter too much), to settle for anything less.

Spence: “We already have the seeds for a new institutional framework that re-roots the economy in politics and in the public interest. To show that we are not alone, and that a number of people recognize another way of life is possible. There aren’t as many of us as we’d like, but there are far more of us than we think” (p. 147).

Hedges: “The fight for life goes somewhere—the Buddhists call it karma—and in these acts we make possible a better world, even if we cannot see one emerging around us” (p. 226).

[1] Wolin, S. (2008). Democracy Inc: Managed democracy and the spectre of inverted totalitarianism. Princeton, NJ; Princeton Press.
[2]  “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my  brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.'”  (Lamott, A. [1995] Bird by bird: Some instructions on writing and life)