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Education

1. Education and Capitalism

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.… | more…

Education and the Structural Crisis of Capital

The U.S. Case

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.… | more…

Another Education Is Happening

The mainstream media has created the myth that community people are waiting for Superman, the White House, or state-appointed Emergency Financial Managers to resolve the escalating crises in our schools.… The following article by Julia Pointer Putnam tells the story of how the deindustrialization of Detroit has made Dewey’s more democratic view of education an idea whose time has come. —Grace Lee Boggs

2. Lessons from the New Corporate Schooling

As the articles in this section indicate, the new corporate schooling in the United States combines many of the worst aspects of capitalist schooling in a period of economic stagnation, financialization, and militarization/securitization together with a strategy of privatization of the schools. Public education is being degraded, regimented, and increasingly racially segregated—while the resulting worsening conditions in the schools are used to justify the restructuring of the entire education system.… | more…

Testing, Privatization, and the Future of Public Schooling

Standardized testing occupies a central place in the ongoing reorganization—or demolition—of public education in the United States. The key question is not whether leading sectors of capital—major foundations from Gates on down, business groups including the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce, a near-endless array of think tanks and policy groups, major media, well-funded “Astroturf” (faux grassroots) groups such as Stand for Children, and leading forces in both major political parties at the state and national levels—promote standardized tests as a tool for making major, “high-stakes” decisions about students, educators, and schools. The better, and unanswered, questions are: Why are tests such an important weapon, What are the goals of the test-driven offensive, How does testing interact with other corporate school “reform” goals, and What can be done to turn this around?… | more…

Militarism and Education Normal

With the military’s ready and waiting personnel, infrastructure, and resources, no one should be surprised that the JROTC [Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps] is now offered as the alternative to physical education in urban school districts, or that the Department of Defense has responded to the educational crisis by opening and staffing public military schools. Currently, the military is education normal.… [P]ublic schools [have become] recruiting entities, and their targeting is not race, class, or gender neutral.… | more…

Reflections on the Racial Web of Discipline

One of the most powerful metaphors in critical education literature is “the school to prison pipeline.” The phrase conjures a vivid, unambiguous image, the meaning of which few would debate: poor and black and brown children being sucked into a vortex from mainstream educational environments and heaved onto a conveyor belt carrying them onto a one-way path toward privatized prisons, where the economic outcome of under-education and discipline is most evident.… Excessive discipline is often a critical first step out of schools for select youth—black boys, in this case—who disproportionately find themselves in prison. Being designated as disabled nudges the other foot out of the schoolhouse door.… | more…

The Culture of Poverty Reloaded

Although the student body in the United States is becoming more and more diverse, the teaching staff is strikingly homogenous… [W]hile many legislators may be unaware of the role of cultural competence, i.e., the ability to relate to diverse cultures, in teaching children in the United States, those who are on the ground in classrooms and schools everyday recognize its importance.… Education consultant Ruby Payne [—a self-proclaimed expert on the “mindset of poverty”—] represents one particular response to the culture clashes in the classroom. Her widespread success at once highlights the salience of race and class inequities, and speaks to the absence of practical educational strategies to confront them.… | more…

Inclusive Education, High Stakes Testing and Capitalist Schooling

This article is about our educational system and how it is working. I do not say how it is “failing,” because that would imply that it is not working. We need a different set of more nuanced questions. I want to ask: Working for whom? Working to do what? Failing whom? And failing to do what?… If we are concerned that we are failing to educate all children, or failing to prepare our future citizens, or failing some commitment to equity and social justice—then, yes, the system is failing. But one could also argue that our system is actually succeeding perfectly. It does a superb job sorting out the winners from the losers, perpetuating a highly-classed society, and creating the work force that our stratified, capitalist society requires.… | more…

3. Fight-Back: Education’s Radical Future

The Declaration of Independence says that we are all created equal and endowed with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, these lofty ideals can be realized only through struggle. They are incompatible with the logic of capitalism, but this logic can be and has been attacked by working men and women, and victories have been won.… | more…

Freedom’s Struggle and Freedom Schools

Throughout U.S. history, the “truths” [Thomas] Jefferson declared as axiomatic [in the Declaration of Independence] have hardly been evident in the lives of many “Americans,” certainly not in the lives of the two hundred or so slaves Jefferson held on his plantation.… [The recurring] contradiction between ideal and reality is the root of a continuing struggle over what the United States is to be as a nation.… For black people especially, this contradiction has been most persistent and destructive in “education.”… | more…

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