Schooling and the Rise of The Authoritarian

 Schooling and the Rise of The Authoritarian

Today it was announced that the designated secretary of the US Department of Education is a person with no experience or affiliation with public education.  Her principle connection to education is the HUGE amounts of money and influence donated to further the privatization of public schools. She is an arch advocate of vouchers and charters.  In fact her efforts have resulted in the decimation of many public schools districts in Michigan.

Appointed by The Authoritarian** who won the electoral college, but lost to the people by more than 2,000,000 votes and rising, she fits the mold of the other appointees, and that is to dismantle, stoke fear, and remove the vestiges of a democratic society.

**I do not want to use his name on my blog; instead in this post he is The Authoritarian to be chosen by the Electoral College, but not the voters.

That said, I turn my attention to the writing of Ed Johnson, the most prolific and astute critic of privatization and school turn around policies.

In this guest post, Ed Johnson asks us to look at what has driven education in the past three decades and how this might have contributed to the rise of The Authoritarian.

Schooling and The Authoritarian’s rise

Want to understand a bit of why perhaps the authoritarian is the POTUS-elect?

Then simply consider the miseducation school choice proponents got from schooling that had no or limited concern with civil society, namely: civics, citizenship, fellow citizens, democracy, the common good, cooperation, hard-won freedoms and civil rights, representative government, ethics, mores, and such. Consider their miseducation has given them a worldview that serves corporatists’ and corporate school reformers’ always profits-driven, free-market global competition ways of thinking and behaving.

However, for deeper insight into why The Authoritarian got elected POTUS, consider America’s Schools Could Be Partly To Blame for The Authoritarian’s Rise.

This report also offers insight into how currently serving Atlanta school board members and superintendent – most of whom are millennials and African-Americans – contributed to The Authoritarian’s rise, à la their School Turnaround Strategy compounded with selfie culture.

After all, one has only to critically consider the vision and mission the board and superintendent imposed upon Atlanta public schools sans the public’s consensus:

Mission: With a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every student will graduate ready for college and career.

Vision: A high-performance school district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage, and the community trusts the system.

Where in their Vision and Mission for APS is there any core concern for civil society, expressed or implied? Where is there any concern with the purpose of Atlanta public schools that represents public interests and consensus? Well, there is none. Instead, there is only concern with “college and career,” in an amoral sense.

The currently serving Atlanta school board members have demonstrated time and time again that holding to and fulfilling civil society responsibilities is something they do not do in any overarching sense. Instead, time and time again they have shown they mainly serve to represent the superintendent’s school turnaround ambitions, hence corporate school reformers’ machinations to privatize public schools, hence The Authoritarian’s rise.

Consequently, all that Atlanta school board members and superintendent have done, and are likely to ever do, amounts to costly tampering with the structure of APS void of leading and providing for teachers and others to develop for APS requisite systemic, sustainable internal capabilities to continually improve pedagogic practices grounded in purposes that support civil society rather than tear it down. Clearly, what they do reveals they believe they need only install and reinstall, as necessary, omniscient school turnaround “sparkplugs” in order to gain requisite capabilities, jackrabbit fast.

The point, though, is that what Atlanta school board members and superintendent do and why and how they do it should come as no surprise. Indeed, few, if any, of their whys, whats, and hows come as a surprise to the civil society-minded.

Nor does The Authoritarian’s rise.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA
(404) 505-8176 |


Let’s Privatize American Education Even If There Is Little to No Research to Support School Choice

The new administration-elect in Washington has a plan. Take $20 billion from public education, possibly destroying a core idea of democracy, and then distribute it as vouchers that could that could be used at a host of private institutions, especially charter schools.

You might say that this seems like a democratic way to education our youth.

However, its my view that education needs to be in the public domain, and citizens need to fight to make sure that the slow creep of privatization does not turn into an avalanche. The democratic values that are the centerpiece of our society have been under assault, especially with the rise of the extreme conservative movement that began with Barry Goldwater, and continues today with the take over of the Republican party by extreme right-wing ideologues, who took the White House on November 8, 2016.

Although we don’t know if Twimpie* (I’m using George Lakoff’s sound symbolic renaming of the president-elect) will follow through with his campaign ideas (he’s backed off some, but then he hasn’t appointed anyone for his cabinet).

Privatizing public education will be a big push of Twimpie’s administration, even if the research on privatization of education tends either to show that private ventures such as charter schools do not outperform public schools, or that the research is rather limited, such as when we look at virtual schools.

School choice has been around, but accelerated after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling (1954), when white parents wanted to continue with the segregation of schools by sending their children to private schools.

None of these initiatives is as effective or more so than public schools in boosting student achievement on standardized tests. And the research on some forms of choice, such as home schooling and virtual schools is meager.

Research on School Choice

According to G. Miron and J.L. Urschel, research on school choice needs to improve, as well as how it is interpreted. In their chapter on the impact of school choice on school achievement published in Learning From the Federal Market-Based Reforms (Library Copy), they survey the research on the effect of the following types of school choice on student achievement:

  • Vouchers
  • Home schooling
  • Interdistrict, Intradistrict and Magnet schools
  • Charter schools,
  • Virtual schools.

Considering the quality of the research (the authors analyzed each study using a weighting scheme) and effect on achievement, the researchers found that overall, the effect on learning was mixed, and in some cases (virtual schools) almost nonexistent. The the impact on achievement and the quality of the studies was lowest for home schooling, and mixed for vouchers, inter-intra-magnet, and charters.

Of the types of choice, charters and virtual schools are more apt to be pushed on public schools as a way to privatize and thereby weaken public education.

The new administration is sure to push vouchers, charters and virtual schools on American public schools. However, they will face fierce resistance as evidence by two ballot initiatives in Georgia and Massachusetts. In these case, the people of these two states rejected overwhelmingly initiatives which would have established recovery type charter schools for struggling public schools. In Georgia, for instance, 2,369,476 voters rejected Amendment 1 representing 60.2 of the electorate.

It’s at this level that the resistance to the privatizers will take place. It will be fierce, and it will involve a lot money from corporations and private school operators who are waiting for the flood gates to open. We need to stick a finger somewhere.

*I will not use his real name, if I can help it. My reasons for this are outlined here.

Fighting the Good Fight: Georgia and Massachusetts Defeat Charters

For many of us, the 2016 election was a horrific and bitter defeat.  Although he was elected, he will face a powerful opposition from lots of folks.

On the other hand, the election for millions of people was a triumph.  In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to establish a New Orleans style recovery (Opportunity) school district was defeated solidly by a margin of nearly a million votes.  The defeat of the amendment was a blow to charter school venders who were chomping at the bit to set up at least 20 new charter schools per year around the state.

In Massachusetts, an authorization to enable charter schools to be expanded throughout the state went down to defeat.  As in Georgia this was a bitterly fought campaign funded largely by outside charter organizations especially those in New York who also were chomping at the bit to invade my home state.

In each case, Georgia and Massachusetts citizens,  led by state teachers, teacher organizations, and grass root groups fought a fierce battle to prevent further erosion of Public schools. 


However, as you may know there will be a robust attempt to further dismantle public education in the U.S. by the new administration that takes hold of the Federal government in January.

Their plan is to force “choice” on American school districts by mandating that every child be allowed to use the dollars allocated to the local school district to attend any school: public, private, religious, and even home schooling. 

The fight to preserve public education is going to be a war fought between those who value public education, and those want to privatize education, and in so doing make huge profits off the backs of most families in the U.S., including the ones that voted for him.

Now Is the Time to Be Vigilant, Observant and Active

There is a lot of writing, reporting and protests in journals (Truthout, Mother Jones, The Nation), by bloggers, and by brave activists in cities across the country mad as hell about the outcome on Tuesday.

Cathy O’Neil, a mathematician and blogger at Mathbabe, wrote a powerful post entitled “It’s time to smell the Shit.”

She suggested critically important sensory actions that we must take.  She wants us to document every expectation that goes unmet that was promised to people who bought his promises. We need to look out for “people who embraced hate.”  As she said,

they have been empowered and could be truly dangerous, especially when the shit first gets smelled. Nor can we rely on those people who don’t think of themselves as racist but who ignored the hate. They are willing to remain passive in the face of hatred, exactly what we cannot do. People, we need to protect one another, and in particular we need to protect the most vulnerable among us. (Mathbabe, November 10, 2016).

You can read her full post here.


How Could We?

How Could We?

Like many of you I’ve spent the day after mourning for our country and the people who have been abused and threatened by the man who was elected over one of the bravest women that we could have had for our President.

How could we?

How could we elect the bully?

How could we enable  the press to rarely call him out and hold him accountable for stiffing the American people about his taxes, fraud, sexual assault charges, racist beliefs and actions, and his outrageous attitude toward women, and his endless lies?

How could we allow the far right into the White House through possible cabinet appointees?  It will be a rogues gallery of has-been politicians and corporate raiders.

How could we turn our backs on children and families?

How could we elect a person who thinks climate change is a hoax and will seek to remove the environmental protections that have been put in place since “Silent Spring?”

How could we enable the privatizers of public education to have a voice at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue?

How could we not overcome the racism and bigotry that drove his campaign and turned his rallies into assemblies without hoods?

How could we open the door to the White House to a man who has assaulted countless scores of women, insulted and threatened people who have religious beliefs different from many of us, insulted Mexicans who seek a better life, and riled up the worst in Americans by threatening to build a wall along the Mexican/American border?

How could we?