My MLK Post: An Assignment for Test-Driven Reformers
On this day dedicated to the memory of a remarkable man who gave his life (literally) for the sake of civil rights and social equity, I expect that education privatizers will use the opportunity to promote themselves as “overcoming” opposition to their self-serving, destructive policies.
They might even go so far as to imply that Martin Luther King, Jr., would endorse corporate reform.
(Why, here’s one by New York State Education Commissioner John King in which he distorts MLK’s message into support for the Common Core State Standards [CCSS].)
Such grandiose, corporate reformer self-titling is nothing new. Beginning with former President George W. Bush in 2002, reformers have been proclaiming themselves as civil rights saviors.
Bush used the “civil rights ” term during the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend at the outset of his No Child Left Behind (NCLB) years:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend under way, President Bush on Saturday called education “the great civil rights issue of our time” and took the opportunity to highlight his agenda for change.
Regarding Bush’s “agenda for change”: This current year presents a particular irony since Bush proclaimed “100% proficiency” by 2014.
It’s 2014. As education historian Diane Ravitch notes in her January 16, 2014, Bedford, NY, speech, 100% proficiency was an unattainable goal, one that no nation has ever achieved.
Interesting how those advocating test-driven reforms still consider themselves as “leaders” who “shall overcome” instead of privatizing pushers who “have failed” to meet their No Excuses 100 Percent Proficiency Goal.
However, as long as the philanthropic cash continues to flow, to those on the mega-bucks receiving end, there is no test-driven-reform failure.
As evidence of their warped vision for “overcoming” the democratic process in education decision making, in the spring of 2013, the pro-reform nexus, Philanthropy Roundtable (read more about PR in this post), has selected five “K 12 reform donors” as their “overcomers.”
As Dissent magazine writer Joanne Barkan reflects:
Philanthro-ed-reformers have been chanting the mantra “Education is the civil rights issue of our time” for years, and they’ve appointed themselves leaders of the reform movement. The largest stakeholders in public education—students, educators, and parents—have no role to play except as recipients of donor-designed reforms. When they question the charitable largesse, they become part of the opposition that the philanthropists shall overcome. They shall overcome, not we. Solidarity doesn’t figure in. [Emphasis added.]
And so, this is where we find our nation on this 2014 Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Corporate reform continues to live in its own exploitative world.
Perhaps the problem rests in confusion about what Martin Luther King, Jr., actually said.
So, for the sake of reformers who themselves might still be reformed, I offer this opportunity to compare King’s original “I Have a Dream” speech with the reformer-lived version.
Enter Schneider the Teacher.
To any and all corporate reformers: Here is your Uncommon Core Schneider Standards assignment, should you have the chutzpah to accept it:
Read the original version of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (Text One, below). Then read the test-driven-reform, modified version (Text Two, also below).
Ask yourself, “Do I want to be remembered as one who contributed to the twisting of King’s dream (Text One) into the dehumanizing, self-serving, destructive, self-aggrandizing so-called education reformer version (Text Two)?”
If not, what do you plan to do about it? Consider breaking ranks by returning the reform-earmarked cash in your possession and publishing an op-ed on your change of heart.
Text One: What Martin Luther King, Jr., actually said:
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
Text Two: What Martin Luther King, Jr., did not say (but what corporate reform has twisted into a so-called “civil rights issue”):
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still envision an education marketing opportunity. It is a strategy deeply rooted in the privatizers’ coffers and philanthropists’ arrogant boredom.
I have a traditional public school fiscal reduction goal that one day on the red hills of Georgia federal funding will be conspicuously cut as Georgians decide they cannot afford the price tag of PARCC, and that Georgia public schools will be “chronically underfunded” for over a decade.
I have a networking strategy that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, underregulated, profit-driven charters and insufficiently-trained, Teach for America temporary teachers will threaten the quality of education for Mississippi’s children.
I have a vision of pervasive standardized test score manipulation today.
I have a public-to-privatized conversion goal that one day right there in Alabama, the public schools can be undermined as its funding is siphoned off to private schools in the name of “school choice.”
I have a risky school turnaround plan ready for national dissemination today.
Who will be first to return the philanthropic reformer money and write a change-of-heart op-ed?
Will there be more than one who does so?
Will there be a widespread attack of reformer conscience?
One can only dream.