Charter Schools, racism, segregation, predators targeting ‘sub-prime’ kids and ‘Morning Joe’: essential commentary by Solomon Comissiong

The following article by Solomon Comissiong makes some very good points regarding a plethora of issues involving charter schools, educational privatization and institutional racism.  It also broaches the need for multi-racial community mobilizations not simply to stop the neo-liberal move towards privatization, but to confront the tremendous challenge we face in creating and orchestrating an authentic critical and creative thinking curriculum that is both relevant to students and teachers and rests on the bedrock of civic understanding and social and personal engagement for critical times.

The 1980’s saw the erasure of social science and civics from public education and corporate text books erased historical content and anorexic bulimic learning became the norm.  As a result, we have many children who have ‘grown up corporate’ with no understanding of the actual historical reality of their inner personal lives and this connection to the radical restructuring of the material conditions of life wrought by neo-liberalism.  Education, reduced to a 12 step program of schooling, has left our children bereft of social and personal responsibility, comprehension and understanding.

The article by Comissiong also references the ‘Morning Joe’ show, of which the author was a viewer (as was I) and gives the reader a sense of the arguments and the mendacious lying and institutional madness that surrounds the corporate-media-driven neo-liberal push for charter schools and like minded schemes.

The March 19th, 2010 ‘Morning Joe’ show, itself a creature of corporate public relations and infotainment propaganda, had former conservative Congressman, Joe Scarborough arguing for the privatization of education and lauding the new charter retail chains that are cropping up in black communities faster than Pay Day loans.

Scarborough was pointing to the chimera of charter schools as a panacea for what ails the black community.  Using the CREDO report issued by Stanford University last year on the failure of charter schools, a report I wrote about in many articles at www.dailycensored.com, Joe argued the report proved the efficacy of charter schools in black communities.  Obviously Joe didn’t read the report, for had he done so as Comissiong states, he would have seen that the report actually decimates the notion of charter schools as a workable plan for any communities.  The thoroughness of the report is overwhelmingly clear and its conclusions contrary to the morning show host’s assertions.  Never mind, simply repeat ‘talking points’ and claims as if they were truth while waving around a report that contradicts the claims is all part of the infotainment we call ‘news’.  Nor did Scarborough mention the recent UCLA report that concluded that charter schools exacerbate segregation in the United States.

Senator from NY (D) Bill Perkins was also present on the show; he stated quite firmly that he has come to the conclusion that interestingly, not only are charter schools are not something that are being promoted for the majority of suburban white communities by the same neo-liberal coin operated pundits who promote them for urban cities but the CREDO report shows, they don’t work for the communities they say they are designed to serve.

Of course the real issue is the close to twenty year experiment with charter schools and the countless reports that show absolutely no validity for positive claims privatizers and the courtesans peddle.  In fact, the opposite is true as I write in my new book: (Charter School Movement: History, Politics, Policies, Economics & Effectiveness, Second Edition, August, 2009, Grey House Publishing, http://www.greyhouse.com/charter.htm).

As I have written extensively, and you can see all my posts about the segregation aspects of charter schools (how segregation is done in myriad ways, from all male and female schools, to race, from gender and identity schools to segregation by the use of virtual charter schools), neo-liberalism, No Child Left Behind and countless secret and non-transparency measures.  See (http://dailycensored.com/2010/02/11/charter-schools-segregate-but-more-than-this-they-also-feed-into-societal-dis-association-disunity-and-work-to-vitiate-the-values-we-need-to-build-a-coherent-movement-to-challenge-corporatocracy/), (http://dailycensored.com/2010/01/08/transforming-education-right-in-front-of-your-eyes-get-ready-for-the-charter-school-revolution-and-the-race-to-the-top/), (http://dailycensored.com/2009/11/25/charter-schools-excacerbate-ethnic-racial-and-class-divisions-while-feeding-into-a-politics-public-meltdown/)

You can read, if you have not done so, at www.dailycensored.com about the tactics used by the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan and his various well-placed minions, in conjunction with the conservative right, that have and continue to operate under the ideology of market fundamentalism.  Placing low-income, predominantly students of color into feathered dungeons of despair known as ‘charter schools’ is the order of the day (http://dailycensored.com/2009/11/27/10582/).

The large educational maintenance organizations (EMO’s) that promote charter schools are eager to target what I call the “sub prime kids”.  These are children, usually low-income, black and brown students that live in neighborhoods plagued with horrific unemployment, lack of basic services, militarized communities, no affordable housing, poor sanitation, and public neglect.

The EMO’s use the same predatory schemes employed by poverty pimps like Pay Day Loans, Check Cashing chains, car title shops, pawnshops, Rent-to Own store and of course Wall Street venture capitalists to target low-income communities, predominantly of color, for large scale financial gain.  We saw this in the sub-prime mortgage scandal and the ruthless forfeiture policies employed by bailed-out banks.  In the case of the charter hooligans the plan is even more insidious, involving land-use planning, gentrification, real estate schemes, junk bond financing, and whole sale asset stripping of public schools that are then turned over to the new investor class of turnover artists.

The Walmartization of education that is being proposed will bring with it regimented obedience in the guise of education and carceral punishment as school policy as charter schools increasingly adopt zero-tolerance policies designed to separate the ‘wheat from the chaff’. Many black and brown students will be sent on the conveyor belt to prisons, foster care, juvenile incarceration centers or given the bum’s-rush into the urban streets where life is cheap, brutish and short.  The privatizers will turn teaching into ‘crowd control’ and focus teachers on the tedium of minutia as they are slowly transformed into clerks or at worse, classroom managers and information dispensaries.

I have written extensively on these issues, the Arne Duncan/Al Sharpton’ Newt Gingrich alliance (See Counterpunch.com, three part series, http://www.counterpunch.org/weil08262009.html)), (http://dailycensored.com/2009/09/14/duncan-donuts-with-arne-gingrich-sharpton-and-duncan-do-education/) as well as the use of charter schools in poor impoverished areas to incarcerate young black and brown youth.

As ‘Morning Joe’ exemplified, the ‘War on Youth’ goes unabated as black and brown communities see nothing but school closures and neo-liberal messengers like Scarborough with low-expectations for a predominately black and brown surplus population now considered a waste disposal issue for the ruling elite.

For more on my articles on the issues of privatization and charter schools as well as the struggles on the part of many communities to stop the vicious privatization rampage, please see www.dailycensored.com. Simply go to the Homepage and then to ‘Author’s posts’ at the top; you will find my name, Danny Weil and can click on it and see the dozens and dozens of articles that attempt to disassemble the pernicious lies and genocidal policies of educational ‘de-form’ in an era of a human surplus population caused by neo-liberal economics and the resultant social policies that treat life and people as commodities.

In the interim, here is a very thought provoking article by Solomon Comissiong.

Charter Schools: The White Man’s Panacea for Education by Solomon Comissiong

March 25, 2010 by freemixradio , (http://www.voxunion.com/?p=2436)

The illusion that white liberals and conservatives seldom find common ground is farcical. It is a deceptively dangerous illusion that far too many believe in. It is important to understand that the perceived chasm that separates white people politically is, in all actuality, very small in regards to a number of social issues. When you can clearly identify your foes as well as your friends, it makes all ensuing battles that much easier. Most white liberals(noticeably different from a truly progressive oriented white person), as with white conservatives, have very little intention to progressively work towards eradicating the root causes of social issues that plague most black communities in America.

March 25, 2010

by Solomon Comissiong

White liberals, on the other hand, love to profess how liberal they are on “civil rights” issues, but when it comes to taking an aggressive approach towards things like institutional racism, or even the military industrial complex, they are silent. And as the Bard (Black Agenda Report) has written, “Silence speaks consent.” If they were surgeons their solution to fixing a six inch gash in your arm would be to give you a band-aid rather than disinfecting the wound, dressing it, and sufficiently wrapping it. So when it comes to “complex” issues that black and brown youth face, failing schools for instance, their approach is to provide a little patchwork here and a little patchwork there. Their approach is never to admit that if these schools were white they would never be allowed to fail in such a manner as many schools of color are failing, largely based on the fact that they are under-supported and socially neglected.

Neither liberals nor conservatives would not suggest some of the same “remedies”, to predominately white schools, that they often recommend to black and brown schools. And yes, with the re-segregation of today’s school systems, which are much like those of the 1960s, in terms of racial makeup, we can refer to them as black, brown or white. As a matter of fact, it is very important that we do this since a great many black and brown schools do not even receive half of the governmental support and funding as do many of their white counterparts.

Jonathan Kozol, author of The Shame of a Nation and Savage Inequalities (and a relatively progressive white man), has spent much of his career outlining the institutionally racist nature of America’s failing public school system within both books. Failing to delineate the racial makeup of these predominately black and brown schools, which are systemically neglected by the US government, only confuses the issues. Failing to identify the racial disparities prevents us from properly identifying the racist and white supremacist roots in these problems. And just like failing to identify the root causes of any physical malady will prevent a physician from properly diagnosing the sickness of  a patient and therefore subsequently leading toward a recovery, so too is the case for most social issues. The institutionally unequal disparities between black schools and white schools are logically no different.

On March 19, 2010 I witnessed an “interesting” debate surrounding education and charter schools on the vastly mainstream oriented MSNBC morning program, “Morning Joe”. The last 20 minutes of the program featured New York State Senator Bill Perkins ((D) 30th Senate District). Bill Perkins, jurisdiction (within Harlem) is predominately black, as is he. He was engaged in a charter school debate with the conservative blow hard host of the show, former republican congressman Joe Scarborough. Perkins was arguing to the point that Charter Schools (which are mostly publicly funded but privately run) were not the answer towards adequately improving educational standards within Harlem, as well as in the rest America’s communities of color.

The always smug and overtly disingenuous Scarborough continually claimed that charter schools were the best answer for black communities to get the education they deserve (we can only imagine what the means). He tried to back up his claims up by selectively picking pieces out of a recent Stanford study on the effectiveness of charter schools. When Perkins pointed out that the same Stanford study contradicted his (Scarborough’s) assertion that charter schools were the panacea to solving the education problem, Scarborough rudely spoke over him.

The Stanford study clearly stated charter schools, in general, do not out perform public schools. Almost half of all charter school kids perform at the same level as children enrolled in public schools. And close to 40 percent (37 percent) do worse than public school kids. These are important facts that Joe Scarborough conveniently omitted from his on-air baseless diatribe. Scarborough then, in a clear act of desperation, started to reference people like John Legend and Al Sharpton as individuals who thought that charter schools were a good idea. This was a feeble and asinine way of trying to prove his point. When did they become experts on public education? That crap may work on legions of corporate media’s most faithful viewers but not on the author. I am no fan of corporate “news’ nor am I a fan of programs like “Morning Joe”. Using the playground debate tactics that Scarborough employed he might as well have arbitrarily thrown a couple more random black luminaries to prove his specious argument.

Al Sharpton has clearly shown his willingness to climb into bed with the likes of Arne Duncan (Secretary of Education) and Newt Gingrich (former rightwing congressman) in order to curry favor with Obama and his misguided charter school agenda. One can only imagine what deals were struck behind closed doors to bring that motley crew together. The New York state senator (Perkins) made the most profound statement on “Morning Joe” when he alluded to the fact that white people, in general, are not willing to prescribe charter schools to their own children in their own communities.

This was a statement to which Joe Scarborough had no clear rebuttal. He had no significant response because it all boils down to the fact that Joe Scarborough could not give a damn about black youth in America’s socially neglected communities. He could not give a damn about the very real and predatory “school to prison pipeline” strategically set up in many predominately black and brown schools. Scarborough could give a damn about black boys that are routinely (and unjustly) profiled and harassed by the police. And he certain could not give a damn about the prison industrial complex which is destroying black families and communities!

All of the aforementioned are irrefutably institutionally racist and have direct and indirect impacts on schools in black and brown communities. He (Scarborough) pushes charter schools for the same reason Arne Duncan (who was appointed by Barak Obama) does; they represent the privatization of public schools as we know it. This is where the neo-liberal agenda romantically converges with the neoconservative agenda regarding education.

While serving as the CEO of Chicago’s public school system Arne Duncan made a name for himself by turning over the control of predominately black and brown public schools to the military. This is certainly a move he would never try with predominately white schools.  Rather than to recruit the expert, experienced pedagogues of our country he fell into the historical trend of bringing on more “muscle” to control blacks and browns…not unlike the managers of slave plantations of yore. His blueprint is to control by dispassionate force rather than to inspire by skilled, empathetic pedagogy.

Endorsing charter schools is the easy way out instead of putting the money and requisite resources into revamping, rebuilding, and adequately funding public education in this country. Privatizing American schools and excluding the masses of black and brown children is simply another way of keeping the institutionally racist status quo in tact. The measures of adequately funding schools are only viable in white “well to do” communities where property taxes and capitalist values play a major role in public school funding, never mind that property tax financing of schools is one of the great injustices hovering over this topic of public education.

If this country had even an once of equity, when it came to all children, it would make sure that all public schools, regardless of where they were located, would get equal funding and support. However, since America is firmly situated on a foundation of capitalism, social injustice and racism; the U.S. will continue to place superficial “band-aids” on the deep wounds of an institutionally racist public educational system that plagues black and brown communities.
The dreams of Brown v. Board of Education are just that, dreams.

Separate and unequal still rule the day within America’s failing public school system. Failed policies such as No Child Left Behind and unqualified government officials (Arne Duncan who has never spent a minute as a classroom teacher) are continually given the reigns to decide the future of millions of youth of color. Even Diane Ravitch, a former George HW Bush Assistant Secretary of Education, explicitly states the failings of NCLB and the myths of charter schools in her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. She has hand an epiphany late in life, but an epiphany nonetheless. Public schools in America need to be approached in a radically different manner that involves more emphasis placed into critical thought as well as comprehension, and not just regurgitation of material that is forced down students’ throats in order to pass statewide standardized tests. An educational system that espouses memorization without comprehension and rote learning without critical thinking only produces robots that will continue to accept whatever it placed before them rather than to question, consider and decide for themselves.  But perhaps that is the intent of millennium public education. Robotic thinkers will not challenge and actively resist that same system that makes them robotic in the first place.

The curriculum in public schools needs to be revamped and made more culturally relevant, especially in communities of color but likewise among their white counterparts lest millennium white students continue being culturally disadvantaged.  And yes, more money needs to be placed into these schools. Its funny that liberal and conservative white politicians will claim that you cannot simply throw money into education and expect it to magically pay off, however when it comes to placing their children in expensive private schools or well funded public schools they have no issue with that.

These disingenuous cretins systemically throw trillions of dollars into military aggression that ultimately kills people, however when it comes to investing in the lives of millions of youth, they can’t seem to find any good reason to do so. And now they have a brown skinned man in the White House willing to do their bidding. Obama’s commitment, like his dim witted predecessor (Bush), is to his military expenditure, Wall Street and his corporate handlers. Unfortunately far too many of us cannot see through the façade. The Change You Can Believe In campaign has quickly become The Beliefs You Can Change administration.

Solomon Comissiong is an educator, community activist, author, public speaker and the host of the Your World News radio program. He may be reached at: sunderland77@hotmail.com.