Monday, October 10, 2016

Slavery Prohibited, BUT...

You may generally disregard everything and anything preceding the word but. The important part comes afterward. When your supervisor says he liked parts of your lesson but, you're likely as not facing one of those much-coveted ineffective ratings.

Netflix has a real must-watch documentary on right now. I've cited the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, the one that prohibits slavery, when my members haven't gotten paid by the DOE. But this amendment is no joke, and the prohibition against slavery is far from total. People who are incarcerated can be compelled to work for little or no compensation. That's convenient for companies who want to get around those pesky sweat shop laws, and also for people who need that eight-dollar pair of jeans from JC Penney.

You don't get to see arguments like these on popular venues like Netflix all that frequently. The whole law and order mantra through the 70s and 80s has resulted in an explosion of the number of US prisoners, composed largely of people of color. We've gone from 300K back in 1970 to over 2 million today. Much of this was enabled by laws pushed by ALEC, a partnership of corporations and politicians it bought and paid for. We all know there's an explicit connection between tax cuts for the rich and reduced services for most Americans

You see the usual suspects like Nixon, Reagan and Bush. It shows that Bush one's people were explicitly aware of the message they were sending. It shows the participation of the Clintons, who've since stepped back a little. Bill Clinton was brilliant in reversing the perception that Democrats were soft on crime, helped to remove judicial discretion, and pushed the awful and simplistic three strikes you're out law, imitated by states. He's since backed up on this, but the damage is done. Trump has actually amped up the message, and wants to push us further into this quagmire. He still pushes not only the law and order message, but urges further tax cuts for the likes of himself.

When people are afraid, they buy guns and bullets. And one of the reasons to keep people afraid is so they'll do just that. Walmart makes a ton of money selling weapons. That's one reason Walmart was a member of ALEC. And that's why, even though they dropped out for PR reasons, members of the Walmart family still quietly contribute.

A portion of this film addresses the way immigrants are criminalized, warehoused in inadequate facilities that benefit only the ALEC members (or former ALEC members) who run them. In fact, Part 154 deprives New York immigrants direct instruction in English. What on earth are people supposed to do if they aren't even supported in their quest to speak the dominant language?

ALEC is painted as a great evil in this, an insidious organization that dispenses with any vestige of common decency in order to create profit for its members. If millions of people have to be virtual slaves to support its needs, so be it. But we who focus on education have heard of ALEC before.  Indeed, ALEC does not simply push laws like Stand Your Ground, the one that allowed George Zimmerman to get away with killing Trayvon Martin (even after authorities instructed Zimmerman to stop following him).

ALEC supports privatization of not only prisons, but also schools. Corporations that had supported ALEC, like Microsoft and Walmart, are still pushing for that, only via other means. Not a day goes by that I don't read fawning coverage on how the charters are working miracles with children we, the unionized teachers, are neglecting. Gates and Walmart don't give money to charter-loving Chalkbeat just for the heck of it. (Full disclosure--I was recruited to write for Chalkbeat, but my POV did not fit in with their agenda.)

Rahm Emanuel can fire unionized teachers and hire TFA members. He can close 50 public schools, dump all their students into those remaining, and still pump cash into charters. In Detroit, the conditions in public schools are horrendous. And if you need a downside of charters, that's a good please to look. Nonetheless, media regularly trumpets the story that charters are the silver bullet, and it doesn't matter if they abuse children, falsify graduation rates, expel inconvenient students, pick and choose who they accept, or even dismiss entire cohorts.

School closings are yet another symptom of the privatization push. If you think the ATR was created just for fun, think again. We've got maybe a thousand teachers running around from school to school, week to week. This does awful things to people, and it's probably intended to. If it rids them of a few unionized teachers it works. Replacing them with disposable temps cuts less into the all-important profits.

Our school system is directly affected by all the same people who've poisoned our prison system. Voucher supporter Corey Booker, in the Netflix documentary,  can talk about how prisons enable institutional racism, but that hasn't prevented him from taking money from the very people who push such things.

The scourge of poverty, studiously ignored by all the reformies, is what we'd be studying if we really wanted to improve education. How on earth can we reasonably discuss educational equity when more than half of our children live in poverty? ALEC's agenda includes the decimation of union, as personified by members like Scott Walker. How do worsened working conditions and fewer opportunities help our children? Your guess is as good as mine, and you'd better believe that charters don't want or support union.

Don't miss this important documentary. If you don't have Netflix, visit someone who does and watch it together. And while you do, bear in mind that the same people who've enabled this horror in our public prison system are actively in process of using our children for even more profit. They're not assigning them to forced labor just yet, but they're substituting test prep for learning and tedium for reading.

Reforminess may not be placing our kids in literal prison, but it's an atrocity nonetheless. 
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