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Historical malfeasance comparing Ravitch and Nixon... 'Billionaire Boys Club' front group called 'Democrats for Education Reform' (DFER) begins pre-publication attack on Diane Ravitch's new book 'Reign of Error' two weeks before publication

By 1971, Richard Nixon was President of the United States, easily the most powerful man on earth at the time. He was prosecuting several wars (air; Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand) as the Commander-in-Chief of the largest military on earth at the time. And as part of his domestic policies (secret at the time) he had an "Enemies List" that included major (and some minor) critics of his administration, his policies, and him. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis introduces historian Diane Ravitch at the March 12, 2011 forum sponsored by the CTU at the University of Illinois at Chicago to a standing room only crowd. Lewis is holding a copy of "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," which dozens of teachers and others purchased (and got autographed) that day. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Diane Ravitch is a historian, blogger and critic of the education policies of the current occupant of the White House, Barack Obama. Now in her 70s, she has averaged one book every few years for the past two decades or more. She has never commanded an Army, let alone the world's most powerful Navy or an Air Force capable of ending most life on Earth. So to compare her words with Nixon's works requires so feeble a grasp of history and reality as to be prime-time ready, a skit worthy of Saturday Nigh Live or the main state at Chicago's Second City. And considering that these people are the same ones pushing the so-called "Common Core," you've got to wonder what history they intend for our children to learn and be tested on.

So: Nixon (the Watergate guy) was President of the United States in 1971. Obama (the "Race to the Top" guy) is President of the United States in 2013. Why are some of the richest people on Earth in 2013 trying desperately to discredit Ravitch, suppress her words by comparing her with Nixon, and blunt her latest book-length critique of the Obama administration's corporate "education reform" policies?

You know you've got them when they go crazy attacking you. And the billionaires and hedge funders who are bankrolling corporate "education reform" have been prepping their cadre, acolytes, devotees, propagandists and others for the attack on Diane Ravitch's forthcoming book. But the book, "Reign of Error," hasn't had its official publication yet. Somebody's running scared. "Reign of Error" has a publication date of September 17, 2013, but DFER and others have been attacking it long before most people can even see the book.

DFER's sneak attack on Diane Ravitch is reprinted above. It is part of the toolkit that the panicky right wing leaders of corporate "education reform" are preparing in anticipation of the publication of Ravitch's forthcoming book, "Reign of Error." Ironically, DFER is providing those who want to know who are the enemies of real public schools. These same people and groups are usually Astroturf groups backed by big bucks without any true grass roots base among the people, a prerequisite in most democracies. Arne Duncan' a trust fund baby who was promoted into the ranks of "school reform" executives without any education, teaching, or administrative background, and Cory Booker, who has been a darling of the right wing since his first self-serving promotionals, are typical of how this process works. But, then, "Democrats for Eduction Reform" were neither Democrats (in the classical sense) or really interested in fixing public schools, so it figures. In fact, the group DFER has been sued by at least one branch of the Democratic Party in California for falsely using the party's name.Obviously stung when Ravitch nailed them in a pitch perfect metaphor ("the billionaire boys club") in her previous book, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," the people who own much of the earth — and think they should run it because of their pornographic but single minded obsession with wealth — are not waiting for "Reign of Error" to actually be available to the general public.

On September 6, 2013, DFER ("Democrats for Education Reform"), an Astroturf group funded by some of the wealthiest men and women on Earth, began to provide their cadre with the materials with which to attack Ravitch and the book even before they have bothered to read it. The DFER Enemies List this month features just one "enemy" of corporate "reform" -- Diane Ravitch. Most probably, the DFERs and their allies should be asked before they are allowed to comment: "Have you read the book?" That's always been a good stumper for guys like Arne Duncan on any day. (For those checking this report, go to DFER and read the "DFER News Roundup" published on September 6, 2013).

For years, those leading the attack on America's real public schools tried to remain mostly secret. Often, they have operated via remote control, funding individuals and groups to carry out their propaganda and political campaigns.

When Ravitch, in "The Death and Life..." first named the main members of "The Billionaire Boys Clubs" as Eli Broad, Blll Gates, and the Waltons (of Walmart wealth), only a few of us (for example, those of us who had been researching it or who had already on our shelves Susan Ohanian's "Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?" or were researching the issues locally here in Chicago to expose the Pitzkers, Crowns and Zells as enemies of public serives and public schools) knew what the billionaires were up to.

Advance Illinois Executive Director Robin Steans (left) and R. Eden Martin of the Civic Federation of the Commercial Club of Chicago testified as experts on "school reform" in Chicago before the Illinois House of Representatives special committee on Education Reform on December 10, 2010. The hearings, held at the Illinois Math Science Academy in Aurora, helped produce the notorious "SB 7" legislation, which Astrofurfers thought would prevent the Chicago Teachers Union from striking. Bragging to the Aspen "Ideas Festival" six months later, Astorturfer Jonah Edelman of "Stand for Children" claimed that by donating to a range of candidates, "Stand" had engineered a law in Illinois that would make it impossible for the Chicago Teachers Union to strike, because the union would never be able to get a 75 percent strike authorization vote from the members. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Few in Chicago knew the big money behind the local likes of Jonah Edelman ("Stand for Children") or Rebecca Nieves Huffman ("Illinois Democrats for Education Reform") or the millionaire heiress Robin Steans ("Advance Illinois") -- to name just three individuals and groups that get virtually all of their money from the billionaires, but then pretend to be "grass roots." But as more and more men and women (and children) joined the resistance, the knowledge spread quickly, and much of that spreading was aided and abetted by Ravitch, not only in her book, but in her energetic blogging and speaking. Between 2009 and 2013, the Gates, Broad, Pritzker, Crown, and Walton money -- and their puppets -- had been outed.

So, in the past couple of years, groups like ALEC have been exposed, too. The remote controlled privatization attacks have been exposed -- often as soon as they are launched.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis introduces historian Diane Ravitch at the March 12, 2011 forum sponsored by the CTU at the University of Illinois at Chicago to a standing room only crowd. Lewis is holding a copy of "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," which dozens of teachers and others purchased (and got autographed) that day. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Chicago got an example of this process in 2010, the year CORE and Karen Lewis were elected to lead the Chicago Teachers Union. By December 2010 "Stand for Children" had poured a half million dollars into election campaigns (November 2010) even though at the time Stand for Children didn't have a Chicago office or an Illinois phone number. The money was well spent, from the point of view of those attacking public education. The Illinois House of Representatives had established an ad hoc but fully official "House Education Reform Committee" under joint Republican and Democratic chairmanship, and that committee held hearings that featured testimony from three of the main groups pushing the propaganda of public school "failure" and the need for corporate reform. The groups were Stand for Children, Advance Illinois, and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago. All of them might as well have been represented by one of those Monopoly characters with the top hat and the dollar sign, since all were organized to preach the same gospel. When I asked, the chairmen of the "Reform" committee didn't even know that Stand for Children had no roots in Chicago, and had never heard of Chicago groups whose grass roots stretched back decades. "Stand for Children," "Advance Illinois," and the Civic Committee got the top billing to testify against the Chicago public schools, in favor of corporate "school reform."

One result was "SB 7", legislation that forced the Chicago Teachers Union to get a 75 percent vote of all the union's membership to approve a strike. A few months later, Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children bragged about how "Stand" (as they call it) had bought the legislative clout in Illinois. He also noted that research by "Stand" had shown that the CTU had never in its history gotten more than a 75 percent vote for a strike. Confident that the union was effectively barred from striking, the three "reform" groups went back to repeating over and over the teacher bashing and union busting talking points of their paymasters.

All the money Stand for Children poured into the election came from Chicago billionaires, including eight Pritzkers (and Pritzker spouses), each of whom wrote a check for $50,000. Since then, Stand for Children has been exposed time and again for its phony "grass roots" isms. This week, they are sending around messages promoting Common Core and attacking those who are critical of Common Core.

But Stand for Children is far from alone among the Astorturfers.

Despite the fact that her organization, "Advance Illinois," has no grass roots base among parents, teachers, or in the community (it is completely supported by what Diane Ravitch called the "billionaire boys club"), Advance Illinois Executive Director Robin Steans (above, second from right) is regularly quoted in the media and brought to various public events as an expert on school reform in Illinois. Above, Steans appeared at Chicago's Schurz High School in September 2011 with (left to right) Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Mike Jacoby. The event was part of a bus tour by Duncan promoting the slogan "investing in our Future" as the new school year began, as if public education had to be viewed, in Duncan's version, from a purely business point of view. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.On of the examples of how much money is being poured into the astroturf (phony grass roots) groups that promote corporate "school reform" is DFER. In their monthly newsletter, the DFERs work state-by-state promoting the corporate agenda, from charter schools to the old game of "bad teacher." Their newsletter includes a "Hero of the Month" for example, and a gabble of right wing Op Ed pieces that you will probably be seeing, for example, in your local newspaper. The Chicago Sun-Times, for example (currently owned by a group of hedge funders allied with Mayor Rahm Emanuel) has dumped most of its real reporters (except in the Sport Department, where they would generate a rabid mutiny if they ever got a story wrong), all of its photojournalists, and much of its local news reporting in favor of...

...more than 20 daily columnists who spout opinions without bothering to gather facts. And in addition to the spouting whales of the punditocracy, the Sun-Times regularly imports cheap Op Eds from their fellow right wingers, including the likes of the DFER crowd. DFER's sneak attack on Diane Ravitch is reprinted above. It is part of the toolkit that the panicky right wing leaders of corporate "education reform" are preparing in anticipation of the publication of Ravitch's forthcoming book, "Reign of Error." Ironically, DFER is providing those who want to know who are the enemies of real public schools. These same people and groups are usually Astroturf groups backed by big bucks without any true grass roots base among the people, a prerequisite in most democracies. Arne Duncan' a trust fund baby who was promoted into the ranks of "school reform" executives without any education, teaching, or administrative background, and Cory Booker, who has been a darling of the right wing since his first self-serving promotionals, are typical of how this process works. But, then, "Democrats for Eduction Reform" were neither Democrats (in the classical sense) or really interested in fixing public schools, so it figures. In fact, the group DFER has been sued by at least one branch of the Democratic Party in California for falsely using the party's name.In their September 6, 2013 DFER News Roundup, they published a scurrilous attack on Ravitch in the form of a cartoonish graphic. It is reproduced here.

Following the publication of "Reign of Error," the real battle for public perception will begin. Already some of us in CORE in Chicago are preparing to add "Reign of Error" to our regular "Book Clubs" (along with some background material on the reports and books that track back to "The Manufactured Crisis" in exposing the predations Diane is reporting about every day on her blog and in her book.

DFER's sneak attack on Diane Ravitch was circulated on September 6. Ironically, the "Ravitch Enemies List" is a useful one, since it provides the reader with a quick summary of the enemies of public education in the USA in 2013.

DFER is providing those who want to know who are the enemies of real public schools. These same people and groups are usually Astroturf groups backed by big bucks without any true grass roots base among the people, a prerequisite in most democracies. Arne Duncan is a trust fund baby who was promoted into the ranks of "school reform" executives without any education, teaching, or administrative background. Cory Booker, like Barack Obama, Adrian Fenty, and a dozen others, was groomed carefully by the ruling class with scholarships and sponsorships in order to provide diversity to the right wing and neoliberal attacks on democracy and public institutions and union. All have been darlings of the right wing since his first self-serving promotionals, and are typical of how this process works.

By the time of the February 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, the Astroturf groups had added "DFER Illinois" to the ranks of Advance Illinois, the Civic Committee, and Stand for Children to promote corporate "education reform" and the privatization and union busting programs of the billionaire boys club. Above, Rebecca Nieves Huffman, who claimed to have children in Chicago public schools, told her support for charters while wearing a charter wrap at the Board meeting. By the time of the September 2012 Chicago Teachers Strike, she was feted as a spokesman for Chicago parents opposed to the strike in the Op Ed pages of the Chicago Sun-Times. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Cory Booker, Adrian Fenty, Barack Obama, and the others have provided a diversity cover for the neoliberal attacks on democracy in the USA in the 21st Century. And thanks to groups like "Democrats for Eduction Reform" and its funders, they will continue. DFER has been challenged since its founders were neither Democrats (in the classical sense) or really interested in fixing public schools. In fact, the group DFER has been sued by at least one branch of the Democratic Party in California for falsely using the party's name.

For those who don't have the time to research the 1971 Nixon "Enemies List", there is an enormous amount of information on line. In this case, even Wikipedia has it pretty close to accurate:

"The official purpose, as described by the White House Counsel's Office, was to "screw" Nixon's political enemies, by means of tax audits from the Internal Revenue Service, and by manipulating "grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, etc." "In a memorandum from John Dean to Lawrence Higby (August 16, 1971), Dean explained the purpose of the list:

"This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies..."

Steinmetz High School newspaper adviser and journalism teacher Sharon Schmidt (above right) got an extra copy of Diane Ravitch's "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" before Ravitch spoke to the CTU forum at UIC on March 12, 2011. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Anyone who would compare a veteran historian with the men and women of the Nixon White House is obviously unfit to lead the nation's public schools. But it's doubtful that DFER and all the other Astroturfers now preparing to attack "Reign of Error" will be exposed, at least at once. But five years ago, ALEX was virtually unknown to the general public. Most people are busy with their lives and families (and surviving in a world designed to increase the wealth of the Billionaire Boys Club at the expense of everyone else) to learn about the likes of ALEC, DFER, "Stand," "Advance Illinois" and the rest until they need to know. And now we do.

And thanks to DFER's preparations to attack "Reign of Error," we all have a handy list of all the ALEC types out there trying to destroy public education, unions, and the last vestiges of democracy in the United States of America.



Comments:

September 9, 2013 at 11:15 AM

By: Caroline Grannan

Astroturfing

As a longtime observer of "reform" operations, I would say that Democrats for Education Reform probably doesn't count as Astroturf, since it has never really pretended to be a grassroots organization, or a membership organization at all (a pretense that StudentsFirst makes, by contrast). DFER's big deceit is in the deliberate inclusion of "Democrats" in the name.

A strange twist in the "reform" campaign is its ongoing, deceptive effort to portray a right-wing movement -- one based on attacking public institutions, unions and workers -- as coming from liberals. The strategy has included the buying of many unprincipled people with liberal credentials, backgrounds and connections, as we can see daily if we follow the twists and turns of "reform." Those people continue to pose as liberals and progressives while pushing a conservative agenda funded by the far right. I can't think of another movement that has operated in such a way.

Stand for Children is unusual in that it DID begin as a true grassroots organization, led by the son of revered children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman. Jonah Edelman quietly but brazenly sold the organization, and his soul, to the billionaire-funded "reform" sector. His speech at the Aspen Institute a few years ago about paying off legislators to defang the teachers' union put a sudden spotlight on the sellout.

September 17, 2013 at 2:50 AM

By: Theresa D. Daniels

Another fine expose in Substance

A fine expose here in Substance on many fronts, and wonderful photos as well. Love the "Enemies" graphic attributed to Ravitch.

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