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'Public' broadcasting follows the corporate propaganda line... Why do teachers trust NPR and PBS so much?

(SAN DIEGO, August 16, 2007). Here is my response to the bogus Merrow report #2, swiped from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) website.

In August 2007, PBS ran a three-day “Merrow Report” on No Child Left Behind. The Merrow Report airs during the News Hour with Jim Lehrer and has won numerous awards over the more than ten years it has focused on education.

On the second day of the NCLB series, August 15, the report focused on San Diego and specifically on the “restructuring” of two San Diego schools into charter schools. Having taught at San Diego State University in the teacher training program, I was familiar with much of what the San Diego report covered.

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 the first day’s report on Monday August 14 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.

The program on San Diego.

Much of the narrative was framed by Alan Bersin, former San Diego schools chief. Bersin, like Chicago’s Paul Vallas and a handful of other school chiefs around the country, is one of the leading proponents of the complete reorganization of public schools and part of the attack on public education. Using him as a major source required, at the last, some clarification.

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, like Tony Alvarado, one of an endless stream of pedagogy procurers who initiated his hustle in New York City

(f) carried on a phony war with the San Diego Education Association (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 and the Broad Foundation helped organize a half 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 two-to-one.

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 with Merrow, but he is seen as a good fellow and the union likes him as he opposes charter schools, 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 education.

Now to the schools PBS chose to put into its show.

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 a few 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 California’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 and PBS to find open dissenters. Gompers remains completely segregated — three 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.

After all, CSU liberal studies grads never encounter a history class that takes them beyond 1912 unless they can afford the time and money to take electives. Moreover, SDSU grads operated within a university system that is racist to the core (“Aztecs?”). They move through the Teacher Ed program in segregated blocks where, in the words of one block leader, “we do not allow newcomers as they might interrupt the social norms and trust of our group.” The policies and programs of Teacher Ed look like training for advanced slave overseers, or to stick to a better metaphor, for the nuns and priests of Capital. Still, a few current grads land on their feet, maintain some ideals, and try to teach.

Merrow then goes to the question of money and charters, demonstrating that charters take money from “public,” schools. But San Diego’s charters are public schools, and the public schools of San Diego, while more orderly than Detroit’s, are abject failures, even those in rich Lajolla, simply the other side of the segregation coin. Racist schools are terrible schools.

But schools which systematically teach lies to kids (we are all together with common interests in this nation, for example), using methods so obscure that the tactics of learning become impossible to unravel, and hence kids learn not to like to learn, are the norm in San Diego as well as in the US, and that is even worse.

I believe that some charters, like Susan Harmon’s “Growing Children” in Oakland — now shut down (by racist test scores) — could really do some vital work, but the Left, what of it there is, has failed to recognize this likely to be brief opening. In any case, the dispute between San Diego Charters, and the District, is simply a falling out among thieves.

What did Merrow really see at Gompers and Keiller? He saw ORDER. Unless he is incredibly obtuse, he could not possibly suggest that there is better teaching, that scores are up, that kids care more about learning. What he saw was uniforms, an absence of unruliness, fewer kids expelled or suspended from what are really missions for the system of Capital — factories for lies: order with grins. That, he likes.

So, what Merrow saw as progress, for the most part, was the emergence of fascism. What else should I expect from PBS?

On to a new school year, full of hope. No kidding.

www.rouge forum.org (what is fascism? http:// www. pipeline.com/ ~rgibson/ fascism.html). 



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