Letter to the Editor of San Diego Union-Tribune
November 9, 2004
“Lynching Alan Bersin,” stands as one of the most vile misuses of a metaphor that I have encountered in 30 years as an educator. Since the post-Reconstruction era, the term “lynching” has been reserved for the vigilante violence of racist mobs, directed overwhelmingly against oppressed black people, but against other oppressed minorities as well–usually using a noose.
To apply that term to Alan Bersin, a lawless bully backed by some of the most powerful interests in the US, from developers to rich foundations, is an odious perversion
Alan Bersin illegally fired more than a dozen principals and laid off hundreds of classroom aids, often the direct connection of school to community, just to show his muscle at the start.
Alan Bersin is hardly the victim of the noose. He employed it. First, he pounced to the front of Operation Gatekeeper, creating a Mexican Bantustan, causing the deaths of more than a thousand people seeking work in what may well have once been their land. Then he noosed the school curricula, regimented what is known and how kids come to know it. He demolished the basis of good judgement in the classroom, a foundation of teaching, by wiping out teachers’ freedom with a goon squad of outsiders, paid hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been spent to just clean classrooms.
Bersin and his “experts,” openly blamed teachers for what are indeed social problems that his wealthy backers often created, by demanding tax cuts that stripped the schools of books and supplies. He proclaimed that hungry kids could learn, if they just got the right orders and marched. But he let rich LaJolla out of the Blueprint noose. He needed their test scores.
Bersin noosed the other teachers and kids together with bogus high-stakes tests which measure little but parental income and race–widely recognized by scholars as racist and anti-working class tools. Then he noosed the school board, contemptuously manipulating a three to two voting edge; not reaching out to opposition, but trying to smash it.
He noosed the teachers’ union leadership, so cowed that they repeated begged to reason with a thug to whom reason is falsified to be just another weapon for domination.
It may or not be that things have changed. But with even the slightest hint that Bersin might lose a single vote, the UT drags out this inverted and wretched use of “lynching,” portraying SDEA as a ruthless mob. The gentle educators I know are not a mob. Indeed, they care more about their kids than Bersin does, or they would have been on strike years ago.
Bersin should indeed go. And when he does, it will not be a mob that drove him off, but extraordinarily patient, hard-working people who wearily just said, “No,” to a lynching that the UT didn’t notice for years.
Associate Professor of Education
San Diego State University