Against Ravitch

Rich Gibson

March 2010


Nothing significant is going to happen if it takes place behind the leadership of the vacillating reactionary Dianne Ravitch and the union bosses who lionize her.

Still a patriot, still a nationalist, still god-blessing everything in sight, still favoring the exploitation that is at the root of capital and its state, as well as the empire's wars, there is a reason why she is hugged by unionite heads like the presidents of the NEA and AFT who allowed the militarization of schooling, helped create the No Child Left Behind Act and its Democratic inheritor, the Race to the Top, who poured millions of dollars and volunteer hours into electing the easily recognized demagogue, Obama, and who now oversee the wreckage of teachers wages, benefits, and their very jobs.

The core issues of our time are:

            *US capitalism in a real crisis of finance and industry,

            * imperialism (lost and losing two wars and starting a new one),

            *growing imperial competition,

            *and the now-existing corporate state which is running the schools in its own interests.


The rapid emergence of the US corporate state, a key prop for fascism, taking power in somewhat new garb, but retaining its core aspects, including a government that is in reality an executive committee and armed weapon of the rich. Within that committee they iron out their differences (finance vs industrial capital, for example, and minor differences too---all at play as capital's values of "me first" meet the need for class rule) then turn on the mass of people with a vengeance, inside and outside the US.


While American public education has always been a myth (forever segregated by class and race, always promoting lies like nationalism), that is especially true now. Some Substance writers have been the most prominent critics of the demolition of whatever there was of public education, and the turn to capitalist schooling–within the corporate state.


What is defensible about the key aspects of capitalist schooling: the regimentation of the curricula and eradication of history, racist and anti-working class high-stakes testing, and militarization in poor or working class areas?


But Ravitch wants to “defend public education,” not because she has changed sides, but because she is a reactionary defender of empire and exploitation, just like the union bosses who hug her.

The pap that drifts out of the treacherous Ravitch deserves critique, not applause. Her march is to the voting booth. Those who think they can vote the rich out of their money and weapons should silence themselves and get busy  with writing self critiques about how they influenced others to vote for the current demagogue, and their take on fascism, in schools and out.

Working solely behind Ravitch’s lead, for example, backing Democrats, as she and her unionite backers urge, BREEDS fascism.

The more people buy into the legal system:

            *where the Supremes, millionaires in black robes, rule, abolishing civil rights and labor laws,

            *into the Constitution, written to protect the rich and their properties,

            *into holograms of democracy like unions which are not democratic nor unions in any sense of solidarity or resistance,

            *the more they give up (eager to make concessions in Wisconsin in order, only, to preserve dues check off) ,

            *the more people "Defend Public Education" (an indefensible distortion),

            *the more people “Fight Privatization,” when the key issue is corporate-state schooling,

            * the more the people see the Democrats as "lesser evils,"

            *the more they ratify evil, and the sharper become the attacks from capital as capital in crisis, as it is, MUST attack.


To urge reliance on the capitalist, corporate, state, means to allow in and quicken the emergence of fascism.

Elites in the US successfully divided and ruled working people (including school workers) for two centuries and more. Since the Vietnamese' victory, elites attacked the weakened sectors of the working class, almost one at a time, with some overlap.

*The mentally ill, thrown out of institutions, into the streets (Carter),
* Reagan (Patco, industrial workers, and welfare recipients, ends war on poverty, begins sham war on drugs)
*Bush I (initiates oil wars, expands attacks on industrial workers---with union cooperation).
*Clinton (abolishes the welfare system, with the help of liberals, sets up Nafta and Cafta, demolishing both the working class in the US and Latin America--plus parts of Canada), driving poor peasants off the land into cities, fighting other poor people for jobs. Massive system of incarceration of poor people, black and brown, accelerates.
*Bush II (eradicates even the limited rights remaining as Supremes wiped out civil rights and labor laws after Vietnam, plus Patriot Act engages in "preventative" war crimes; border fence drives the poor to the desert, or places them in cages.)
*Obama (extends war, doubles down on immigration raids and incarcerations--sells the RaTT with Bush3).

Throughout this period, racism resumed its respectability, perhaps under cover terms like "Convict." or "Illegal," and school segregation sharpened. What school union tops spoke out and raised hell? Where was Ravitch on this? She was working on good terms with official gutter racists and spies. And the union tops and Ravitch backed the wars where children of the poor on all sides kill children of the poor on behalf of the rich in their homelands. The bill for war is always sent to workers, hence the current gutting of school funds.

All through this period we saw the systematic effort to regain control of capitalist schools, control in part lost during the Vietnam era. Nation at Risk to NCLB to Ratt. Every move supported by Democrats and Republicans together, a hugathon of, for example, killer millionaire drunk Teddy Kennedy and Momon Orin Hatch.

During the post-Vietnam period, teachers enjoyed the empire's bribe, fairly good pay, health benefits, pensions, tenure. While I have no doubt that most school workers do work hard, and earn those vacations (when they often go to school themselves), it remains that hardly a peep came from individual school workers, or their unions, as a full scale assault was mounted on the rest of the working class.

Did teachers, really school workers, actually take a bribe from the empire? Anecdotal evidence was the decision at the 2010 NEA representative assembly when the delegates voted, overwhelmingly, not to discuss the wars. Not to discuss.


Not resisting the war on knowledge and reason in schools, and not rejecting imperial warfare outside schools, school workers knotted their own nooses–the logical step-by-step process of alienated work.

Instead, the school workers and their unions sidled up to Democrats, worked for them, often were pivotal in electing them. In this context, it’s not much of a stretch to see the demand, “Save Public Education,” becoming, “Save My Job and I will do Anything to Kids to Keep It.”

Now, that all blows back on them as Democrats (who oversaw the destruction of whatever they may have been of urban education in the US) press ahead with the bipartisan wars and financial grifts that demolished the economy. But the unionites and others want, once again, to reward Democrats, strip teachers, parents, and community people of their power to control their work and workplaces.

This is the kind of unconscionable forgery that sets up maneuvers from Ravitch who has not changed sides, not in essence: does she want to end the rule of the rich?

Surely not. She sits on the board of the Albert Shanker Institute, named for one of the most vile, reactionary, unionites in history. Shanker and his AFT pals coined what, later, the NEA called "New Unionism," which is not new at all, but it means the unity of corporations, government, and labor misleaders "in the national interest." It is corporate state unionism. Patriotic unionism. Imperialist unionism. This means that what people think of as unions, are not unions.

With her on the Albert Shanker board are some of the most corrupt union bosses in the US as well as people directly connected, via the National Endowment for Democracy, to US intelligence agencies.

The core issue of our time is the real promise of perpetual war connected to booming inequality met by the potential of mass, class conscious, activist resistance.


Ravitch, NEA boss Dennis Van Roekel, AFT boss Randi Weingarten, and all the other sponsors of counterfeit social democracy want none of that.


Let me invert this. If George Schmidt, Susan Ohanian, Jean Anyon, Pauline Lipman, Carole Edelsky, Patrick Shannon, Peter McLaren, or other exemplary education scholars who have noticed the role of social class in schooling–if any of them sought to take a leadership role in the Albert Shanker Institute, would its board members not only offer them a seat, but fete them?

This is, at base, a fight, not a chat between reasonable people. Rivers of blood have already been spilled. At issue now: Whose?

Good luck to us. Nearly every one. Not Ravitch.