Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 27, 2011

Occupy the DOE!

Filed under: Education — louisproyect @ 1:20 am

10 Comments »

  1. I’d say that’s exactly what democracy looks like! I don’t have kids (and definitely don’t have the patience for them) but if I did I’d be all up in this dysfunctional, iniquitous educational system demanding major change. This scene reminds me of what the French revolution must’ve been like except they hadn’t thought of the “Peoples’ Mic”.

    Hell yea!

    This is just more evidence of how the stealthy ingeniousness of anarchist sensibilities combined with historic timing and organizational acumen prove that OWS sentiments amongst the toiling masses are not likely to become mere asterisks in the history of class struggle any time soon but rather this is a world historic political sea change in the making and the only dangers are reformism on the one hand and, should the movement escalate into a stage whereby capitalism as we know it is materially threatened, fascism on the other.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 27, 2011 @ 2:01 am

  2. Good to see the ISO at this one.

    Comment by Binh — October 27, 2011 @ 3:19 am

  3. This is beautiful and amazing – the spirit of solidarity moving to occupy, or rather, to reclaim every aspect of existence that hitherto had been occupied by the corporate state.

    Comment by joonsae — October 27, 2011 @ 3:30 am

  4. 1) Nothing was accomplished. It’s much easier to shut people up that to have them listen to you.

    2) The school district will act as mandated by law, even bad ones like No Child Left Behind, because money flow into the district is dependent on that, and *education* *is* *all* *about* *the* *money* *flow*.

    3) The mothers (“Helicopter Parents”) who hang around school all day “volunteering” and always demanding more and better for their children rarely consider the entire problem of school funding in any rational way (or anything related to their children in any rational way). Also, they are rarely tolerant of “other” populations of students whose needs may be seen as draining resources from their children, or “their” local school. After decades of experience with parents in primary schools (I’ve had 3 kids), I have to conclude that on balance it would be better to return to the good old days, when the schools taught, the parents parented, and ne’er the twain met, except twice a year on parent-teacher conference nights.

    4) Public school is broken because careerists are put in charge of a system the public does not want to fund generously so it can be staffed and equipped to high standards (e.g., Finland), and which is under public pressure to take the children of spoiled brat and dumb parents and magically transform them into Harvard scholarship-ready material with minimal effort on their part and while still keeping them as dumb as their parents (by not transgressing on the many parental taboos: evolution, religion, sex, socialism v. capitalism, the minefield of US history), and which are not permitted to “fail’ or “discipline” or speak “negatively” to any student. Parents “demand” that their child get the “best” education somebody else can pay for, so their child can get into a “good” college and “compete” successfully in gaining a high-paying career.

    5) It is amazing how good public schools are given the carp teachers have to put up with to do their work. Also, it is amazing that school administrators, careerist though they are, do as much as they do with the resources they get, in many cases. Despite many school administrators being schmucks, they are often sincerely committed to education; it would be pretty hard to stay in this work without some sincere interest in the children’s welfare (particularly in the lower, non-political echelons).

    6) Still, the system is designed to fail, because that is the political purpose of the No Child Left Behind law (George W. Bush’s and Ted Kennedy’s big education “reform”), to implode the public school system (because it and Social Security are the two biggest and richest socialist programs left in the USA), and drive the primary school “market” into corporate run (“private”) schools, and also break the Teacher’s Union (private and charter schools can be non-union). Teacher survival and administrator’s higher salaries depend on getting money to flow into their school district, nearly everything they do is geared to this end. *It’s* *all* *about* *the* *money*.

    7) Parent “activism” in education follows their kids’ progress through school. So as their kid “ages out” of primary school, the parents focus of whining shifts up to secondary school, etc. Administrators and teachers have learned that parents are just larger versions of the spoiled brats they are forced to deal with in the classroom (fortunately, many kids are delightful), they’ll whine and complained and demand so long as their kid is in that grade, or school, or district (teachers are highly “incentivized” to pass along your darling to the next grade, just to get rid of you). Parents are never reliable partners for political lobbying/activism on educational reform on the timescales necessary to effect real change.

    8) The best things a parent can do to help their kid get through school are:
    a) make sure the little darling gets enough sleep,
    b) limit TV and Computer (helps “a”, and accelerates reading),
    c) make sure the kid gets to school fed, and has a lunch,
    d) supervise the doing of homework every evening, verify completion,
    e) tutor as needed to help the student get the ideas in the homework,
    f) monitor progress by e-mail (to teachers) and/or web site at school (with grades and homework schedule),
    g) encourage the kids to read every day, go to the library regularly, get good books,
    h) ensure the kids gets physical exercise: play

    School can help a child become educated, but it cannot force that to happen. Ultimately, education is self directed. A parent’s role is to “pump the swing” until the little tike learns to pump for him/herself.

    If you are interested in learning how to REALLY change eduction, read Ivan Illich, in particular “Deschooling Society”.

    Homework, Testing and Stealth Apartheid in Education
    http://www.counterpunch.org/garcia04242009.html
    24 April 2009

    Comment by Manuel Garcia, Jr. — October 27, 2011 @ 5:01 am

  5. studying the”great cultural revolution”in China the pictures from New York immediately reminded me to this episode in the class struggle. (this struggle was a very honorable one,unfortunately lost)

    Comment by theo voelkl — October 27, 2011 @ 7:14 pm

  6. Interesting, there is a similar dynamic here in Oakland, where there was already angry resistance to the plans to close quite a few public schools, announced months ago. This resistance has not yet adopted OWS tactics, but they may soon converge, given the attempted repression of the Oakland OWS.

    On that, I paid a visit on the night of the 26th, my third visit. The cops had obviously beat an organized tactical retreat, leaving behind threats to enforce a 10PM curfew and to move against “encampments”, it seems they really are anxious to roll back this “encampment” thing, for obvious reasons that this makes this a chronic political crisis. Thus last night was entirely peaceful, with at least 1,000 participating in the general assembly “group speech’ a la this video, but here carrying on a fairly intricate discussion on a proposal to call for a Oakland general strike. In fact they have: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-15481506 A bit too early, IMO, but why not a sustained campaign around this?

    Outside the general assembly, on its periphery, were further thousands milling about, coming and going throughout the day and night. The crowd was overwhelmingly – as in 95% – young people in their teens, 20s-30s, and was heavily white with a smattering of non-white faces. One can assume a significant student contingent given the general financial crisis in higher education.

    If one wants to give a particular ideological attribution to OWS, “anarcho-syndicalist” rather than pure “anarchist” – they are very different – would be more appropriate. The consistent communal mode of organization has had the wonderful effect of suppressing the proclivities for individualist violence by the real anarchists, who are also a part of the OWS effort, but now a relatively passive part.

    The anarco-syndicalist character of OWS not only appears to take up where the New Left left off – and the New Left really was largely petite-bourgeois individualist regardless of ideology, this limitation being its downfall – but it also evokes and engages with something older, what I see as the primary, traditional, and ultimate level of “class” consciousness ever attained by the U.S. working class, a consciousness which has been essentially anarcho-syndicalist since its inception in the momentous class struggles from the late 1870’s until the early 1890’s. Unlike the Paris Commune, which marked the violent end of what had been the dominant anarcho-syndicalist tradition in France, anarcho-syndicalism was never drowned in blood despite the occasionally extreme violence of that period.

    Instead this tradition was transformed and crystallized around two poles: the conservative, craft union, member-exclusivist tradition of the AFL, for the degenerative side of anarcho-syndicalism is devolution towards a hidebound, exclusive community of interest while “anarchic” relations are projected upwards into the space of relations between the various “communities” – hence the peculiar U.S. tradition of inter-union membership predation, etc. The radical pole was that of organizations such as the IWW, a classic anarcho-syndicalist revival that gave Eugene Debs quite a few headaches. The industrial union movement embodied in the CIO, despite its impressive gains, ultimately failed to overcome *this* limit, a failure enshrined in the unification of the AFL-CIO in the 1950’s, leaving the AFL in a hegemonic position within the trade union movement as a whole. But the continuing material social basis for the existing level of consciousness lay in the now government-subsidized prospect that a working class family could accumulate their own petty little pile of “capital” in ownership of their home, including, of course, the tiny plot of land under it – this in an age when existence as an economically independent productive household, previously possible in the 19th century, had been – oftentimes literally – foreclosed historically.

    It is this “American Dream” that is coming to an end. It is this that has thrust young people, saddled with homeless mortgages on their future, into struggle, where they have spontaneously taken up again the old forms of class consciousness, at the point where this had been left off. It is naturally the historic task now to move, finally, beyond our traditional level of class consciousness. And, without making the mistake of a literal mechanical application to our own time and situation, it was very much this sort of conjuncture that is described, analyzed and, of course, polemicized against in What Is To Be Done.

    -Matt

    Comment by Matt — October 27, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

  7. Why, who should be up there defending the old fucking hup ho but my old pal Shael Seransky, who was vice principal of Bread And Roses High School back in the day but who seemingly finds his new role as vice chancellor -read vice piggie- quite comfortable. Old Smiley Shael. Scratch a fucking postmodern, find a company man.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux Perez — October 28, 2011 @ 2:09 am

  8. The main thing to remember about the leaders of our education system is how frightfully dumb they are, and how hostile they are to learning. Take Arnie Duncan for instance – does anyone think he has ever tried to learn something that wasn’t for a test or for his job ?

    This is why they yammer on about fine arts classes increasing math test scores. They literally can’t imagine any other reason to learn. Philistine would be to polite a term.

    Comment by purple — October 28, 2011 @ 5:35 am

  9. re: #4 by Manuel Garcia: there is a lot i agree with here, but his comment 2 is clearly not correct. not every school district ‘likes’ nclb (and thanks for the reminder of kennedy’s complicity here). mine, for one, does not and there are many others. will they do what is mandated? yes, but not because they ‘like’ it – it’s because they are well-trained believers in abstract ‘law.’

    i like the list of how to prepare your child to be educated – i’ll add that to me, socialization by tv is not just one more problem, but a huge problem. aside from the reasons given, it is directly functionary in ‘outsourcing thinking’ by the general population.

    i would add too that a parent should model critical thinking to their children – except that demonstrating critical thinking is a very good way for kids to get their teachers to hate them.

    Comment by jp — October 28, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

  10. @#9

    “2) The school district will act as mandated by law, even bad ones like No Child Left Behind, because money flow into the district is dependent on that, and *education* *is* *all* *about* *the* *money* *flow*.”

    Meaning: even bad laws like = such as No Child Left Behind. NO school district anywhere “likes” NCLB, because it is horrible. I called it “stealth apartheid” in my article (of 2009). Your first reading of #2 was not what I intended.

    Comment by Manuel Garcia, Jr. — October 28, 2011 @ 7:23 pm


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