Adrienne Rich is the author of more than sixteen volumes of poetry and five nonfiction prose books, including A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society (Norton). Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010 was published in 2011.
The solitary and isolated figure of Robinson Crusoe is often taken as a starting point by economists, especially in their analysis of international trade. He is pictured as a rugged individual—diligent, intelligent, and above all frugal—who masters nature through reason. But the actual story of Robinson Crusoe, as told by Defoe, is also one of conquest, slavery, robbery, murder, and force. The contrast between the economists’ Robinson Crusoe and the genuine one mirrors the contrast between the mythical description of international trade found in economics textbooks and the actual facts of what happens in the international economy.… But international trade…is often based on a division between superior and subordinate rather than a division between equals; and it is anything but peaceful. It is trade between the center and the hinterland, the colonizers and the colonized, the masters and the servants…Because it is unequal in structure and reward it has to be established and maintained by force, whether it be the structural violence of poverty, the symbolic violence of socialization, or the physical violence of war and pacification.
Cuba has found oil in its part of the Gulf of Mexico and is about to start drilling. Even if the results are moderate, Cuba will become energy independent and eventually a net exporter. This will have an incalculable impact on its economy, and will send the U.S. sanctions policy into the dustbin of imperial miscalculations. This has brought out Miami’s congressional assault team led by the fanatical Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who essentially wants to criminalize drilling in Cuba’s section of the Gulf. But caught between a commitment to maintaining the embargo and an understanding of the necessity of Cuba cooperation lest there be another BP-style disaster, the Obama administration has remained largely passive. Will Cuban oil help change the balance of power in the Americas in the near future?
This article appears in two parts. “The Story of Khalil Gibran International Academy” is Debbie Almontaser’s account of the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hysteria that was whipped up when she helped found the first Arabic Dual Language public school in New York City. Instead of backing her against the attacks, the Department of Education turned on Almontaser and forced her to resign. However, she fought in the courts, who in the end ruled in her favor. Donna Nevel’s “The Campaign of Resistance” describes the organizing campaign that emerged in support of Almontaser, which was a coalition of Arab, Muslim, Jewish, immigrant, labor, and peace groups. They engaged in extensive outreach and mounted a media-intensive counterattack in defense of the school and its principal.
It starts with a knock on the door. FBI agents threaten to put journalist Will Potter’s name on a terrorist watch-list for leafleting. They want him to inform on his friends in the environmental justice community. They threaten to show up at his work, to ruin his career, his education, and make other threats. Potter refuses to collaborate, and never hears from the agents again, but the incident leaves him changed. “I do not know it right now, but this experience will mark the beginning of both a personal and a political journey. After the initial fear subsides, I will become obsessed with finding out why I would be targeted as a terrorist for doing nothing more than leafleting”…. Potter chronicles his journey, attempting to unravel why the non-violent animal rights and environmental movement is the federal government’s number one domestic terrorism priority. From the front lines of an activist campaign in New Jersey to the halls of Congress and beyond, Potter documents how this movement is persecuted by law enforcement and legislative action for its political and moral beliefs in defense of animals and the environment.
For MR this [special issue] represents only a starting point and we hope to continue to address the education question in future issues—not only in relation to the United States but also globally. Except for the crucial, concluding essay on Cuban education, provided by Ricardo Alarcón (President of Cuba’s National Assembly of Peoples’ Power), which points to what can be achieved in the realm of education once the barriers represented by capitalist society are removed, all of the articles in this special issue are concerned with the changing context of schooling in the United States. This is not meant, however, to ignore the rest of the world, but to constitute a warning of what may be in the offing for much of the global population—since the United States is the fountainhead of neoliberal policy.… It is clear…that education is under fire within much of global capitalist society.… Yet, the global struggle in this area is only just beginning and remains undetermined. The final outcome will depend to a considerable degree on the actions we take now.
Education at the beginning of the twenty-first century is in crisis and contestation. The economic instability of capitalism—reflected in the slowdown in the economic growth trend since the mid-1970s, worsening financial crises, and the growth of draconian neoliberal policies—has had the effect of further compromising a capitalist educational system already beset with problems.… The conflict over the agenda of the powerful with respect to schools is increasingly apparent. On the one side we find: privatization; drastically lowered expectations for students and families; the demonization of teachers; zero-tolerance as a cat’s paw for surveillance and control; sort-and-punish curricula; a culture of obedience and conformity; and narrowing definition of learning as job-training and education, i.e., as a product to be bought and sold in the market. On the other side we find: a growing fight-back based on the principle that all human beings are of incalculable value and that life in a just and free society must be geared toward and powered by a profoundly radical idea: that the fullest development of all human beings—regardless of race or ethnicity, origin or background, gender identity, ability or disability—is the necessary condition for the full development of each person; and, conversely, the fullest development of each is the condition for the full development of all.
Schooling in the twenty-first century United States is not the product mainly of educational philosophies and resources—together with whatever imagination and initiative that teachers, students, parents, and communities can bring to bear. Instead, it is dominated by the changing demands of capitalist society for an increasingly stratified and regimented workforce. In the first article in this section, John Bellamy Foster analyzes the political economy of education in capitalist society; the relation of this to the evolution of U.S. schools from the early twentieth century on; and the current corporate reform movement aimed at the restructuring and privatization of education—symbolized by the Bush No Child Left Behind and the Obama Race to the Top programs.
Today’s conservative movement for the reform of public education in the United States, and in much of the world, is based on the prevailing view that public education is in a state of emergency and in need of restructuring due to its own internal failures. In contrast, I shall argue that the decay of public education is mainly a product of externally imposed contradictions that are inherent to schooling in capitalist society, heightened in our time by conditions of economic stagnation in the mature capitalist economies, and by the effects of the conservative reform movement itself. The corporate-driven onslaught on students, teachers, and public schools—symbolized in the United States by George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation—is to be explained not so much by the failure of the schools themselves, but by the growing failures of the capitalist system, which now sees the privatization of public education as central to addressing its larger malaise.
We are reprinting this essay by Grace Lee Boggs from the September 1970 issue of Monthly Review with only slight editing because of the historical perspective it offers and what we regard as its direct importance to the present struggle over public eduction.