Wed, 15 Aug 2007
PBS is running a three day Merrow Report on NCLB. Today, the second day, the report focused on San Diego.
While I hope others will chime in, and while it would take a book to refute all the nonsense that Merrow tossed in (right in line with Monday's report which used a muddled middle-school track and field metaphor to investigate NCLB) , here are a few things that come right to mind.
One has to put this report, and what really is National Corporate Broadcasting, in context, that is, rising inequality, the promise of perpetual war, deepening racism and nationalism, and a population still behaving as people usually behave in pacified areas, that is, as voluntary servants. The context, then, is the emergence of fascism. Sometimes I surprise myself with my own naivete, but I expected more from PBS. What I got was the same level of disinformation that I get from the network on Iraq, which may be why the competing Judge Judy is so much more widely watched.
To the program on San Diego:
The ex-superintendent so nicely presented by Merrow, Alan Bersin, is :
(a ) liberal Democrat of the Clinton stripe and very close to the Clintons,
(b) married to a very wealthy woman who is the daughter of a big local developer
(c) the former US Attorney here who took credit for constructing the massive border fence and then went directly to become SD schools boss
(d) the promoter of the Blueprint, his project that first caused the dismissal of every classroom aide in SD, thus cutting the only line of communication many teachers had with kids and parents and, later, wiped out nearly everything from the curriculum but math and reading, each topic rigidly structured with scripted formats overseen by low level bosses with clipboards who lorded over classroom teachers making sure the best of them left, and the others were on script
(e) poured money into his corrupt out of town pals who made millions from doing bogus training for SD educators, slime like Tony Alvarado, a thief who initiated his work in NYC
(f) carried on a phony war with the SDEA teachers union which rolled over and over for him while he carried on a real war with honest school board member Francis Zimmerman, a courageous and persevering woman whose insight was key to maintaining a modicum of sanity in the system---Bersin helped organize a $`1/2 million dollar campaign to drive her off the board (he lost)
(G) went on to become the Boss of Education in CA, under the Gropenfuhrer, and later quit to become part of the San Diego Airport Board here which is designed to ram through a new airport on behalf of developers, an airport the mass of citizens rejected in a recent vote by about 2/1.
Alan Bersin is a fascist in every sense of the word. He made his stake in creating borders between people based on nation, wealth, race, and achieved it by heaping one lie on the next, while profiting handsomely. And he is a very hard worker.
Carl Cohn, the new boss of the SD school system, chose not to interview, but he is seen as a good fellow and the union likes him as he opposes charters, talks to them cordially, etc. Cohn, last school year, was behind a week long "Support Our Troops Surge" in the SD city schools, holding demonstrations, ice-cream parties, and forcing teachers to have kids fill out "support our troops," cards, underwritten by war profiteers. SD teachers delivered thousands of those cards---to my house, somehow lost in the system. Cohn is the velvet glove over the iron fist of fascism. He recently appointed a former Navy boss to run the school system's accounting system, to oversee the lawns and gardeners, to look after the busses---and run special ed.
It is true that Gompers School and Keiller School (now Keiller Leadership Academy) were terrible schools. I visited them both, often, during my time at SDSU (the provider of most teachers in the area, really a mediocre community college as reflected in the policies and programs where racism, ignorance, opportunism, and cowardice guide the devotion of the university to market forces). I met with a lot of teachers in both schools. In addition, I still know people in those schools, and people who have subbed there as well. One very experienced sub said to me, "Keiller is the worst school I have ever entered and I will never go back." That was before the charter.
It is true that some teachers in those two schools were terrible teachers, working just for the paycheck, racist to the core. It is also true that their classes often had 40 plus kids in them, that the schools were completely segregated, the kids living not in what Teach For America calls "Under-resourced Areas," but in super-exploited communities hit by racism and the birthright that produces: no capital. It is true that books and supplies were problems. It is correct to say that fights on the campus of Gompers were routine, that each campus was incredibly overcrowded and kids roamed, hoods up, in what looked like seething masses throughout the day.
Today, with the cooperation of many people in the community, parents, and teachers, those schools are much more highly regimented, uniforms are inspected, kids sometimes march between classes (typical in all of CA's poor schools as far as I have seen), and order is maintained. Test scores went up, a bit, but it is far too early to say, by the measures of elites, that anything has happened at all regarding pedagogy or substance---except that kids and parents are deeply involved in creating their own oppression, and liking it--another aspect of fascism. But Merrow says this is success.
It may be true that the younger teaching force at Gompers and Keiller are more dedicated than their predecessors. We shall see about that in, say, five years. Note that very few teachers in Gompers have taught more than three years. As most of them would be untenured, it would have been very hard, in my experience, for Merrow to find open dissenters. Gompers remains completely segregated, 3 percent white. You can get a good education in a completely segregated school? For what?
It is reasonable to say that the younger Gompers teaching force, many of the SDSU or CSU grads, probably is much less prepared to know their social context than their predecessors. California schools have steadily collapsed for twenty years and more. That means one generation of teachers is likely to be making the next generation dumber.