Monday, October 22, 2012

PEJAM Education Forum with Glen Ford - Oct. 27, 2012

Glen Ford, the Executive Editor of The Black Agenda Report (, will speak this coming Saturday at the University of Minnesota in the Carlson Building on the West Bank Campus.  Ford will discuss the on-going attack on public education, carried out by politicians of both parties, championed by front groups with misleading names like “Students First,” and funded by billionaire philanthropists, hedge-fund managers, and corporate foundations. 

Ford has carefully detailed the history of the corporate reformers as they have carried out their neo-liberal agenda aimed at privatizing our system of public education.  This effort to put corporations in control of the almost $600 billion spent on public education in the United States has led the so-called reformers to justify their cause by cloaking it in the language of the Civil Rights Movement.  The privatization reforms are being carried out with the argument that “education is the Civil Rights issue of our time.”  By extension, the billionaires, hedge-fund managers, bankers, and CEOs are claiming the title of Civil Rights leaders!

This is not just a Republican led effort, as Glen Ford has pointed out,  “on education, Obama’s first term is Bush’s Third.”  Ford explains, “Obama has advanced the corporatization of the public schools beyond Bush’s wildest dreams, methodically constructing a national, parallel system of charter schools that, in practice, undermine and subvert the traditional public schools. In some places, they have replaced, or soon will replace, the public schools. The hedge funds and billionaires are ecstatic!”

Come to the PEJAM forum this Saturday to hear more from Glen Ford.  This forum will include a member of the Chicago Teachers’ Union to explain how the education reforms have played out in Chicago, and we will wrap up with a Q and A for both guests.

WHAT:  PEJAM Eduation Forum Featuring Glen Ford
WHEN:  Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012,  from 1 pm to 3 pm.
WHERE: Carlson Building on the West Bank Campus of the U of MN.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lessons from Finland and Chicago: Fighting Back Against the Corporate Education Reformers.

Today I went to hear a talk by Diane Ravitch at the Education Minnesota Professional Conference, and then heard Pasi Sahlberg at the Minnesota History Center.  The two of them made a clear case against the education "reforms" that dominate the discussions on public education, and for reforms that actually lead to educational equity.  I will present the arguments of each in the next couple of posts, but I'd like to share a couple of key details now.

Two important points from Diane Ravitch: Value Added Assessments (VAM) should never be used to evaluate teachers, and "reformers" simply ignore the actual data/research that overwhelmingly shows there ideas do not improve education.

From Pasi Sahlberg, I noted a couple of key quotes:
"Many Finnish teachers believe the enemy of creativity is standardization."
"Too many people are trying to do the wrong thing righter."

The second quote from Pasi, rang particularly true in Minneapolis in a very ironic way.  The main sponsor for Pasi's talk was The Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools, an organization created by my own union (the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, local 59), with a grant from the Innovation Fund of the AFT (the Innovation Fund was created in part with a grant from the Gates Foundation).  The Guild is trying to start "teacher-led" charter schools to out-complete other charter schools.  This effort feeds the competitive, free-market approach to education that, as Pasi pointed out, Finland has rejected.

We will not create a truly equitable, democratic, and socially-just system of public education by playing the games of the neo-liberal, corporate reformers, or trying to "out-compete" them, as too many of our own teacher union leaders are doing.  We need to listen to the information presented by Pasi Salhberg, Diane Ravitch, and we need to follow the model laid out out by the Chicago Teachers' Union.

Tomorrow, I will hear from, and talk to, Karen Lewis, the President of the Chicago Teachers' Union.  She is one of the few union leaders who have taken a courageous stance against the corporate reformers.  Also, next Saturday, October 27th, Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report will be in Minneapolis to give a full history and analysis of the damage done in the past few decades by the education 'reformers."

Posted by: Rob Panning-Miller