Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
corporate education reformA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Testing and charters – that's all President Obama's team has to offer, says the head of the American Federation of Teachers. Both are, essentially, part of the corporate strategy to privatize public schools from within, and to make teachers the villain in the education debate.
On Education, Obama's First Term Is Bush's Third
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The Administration is wielding a $4 billion fund like a whip.”
The nation’s teachers seem to be awakening to the fact that they are in a holding pen, awaiting execution as a social force in the United States. The executioner isn’t wearing a hood, but a world-famous smile. President Obama’s education scheme, cleverly titled “Race to the Top,” is a continuation of a 30-year effort to reshape public education in the corporate image – that is, to run schools like a business, in the service of business. And we all know that business would rather not have to deal with unions.
Teachers unions are finally coming to grips with the fact that Obama and his union-buster education secretary, Arne Duncan, are busy putting targets on teachers’ backs – much like the Republicans but without the name-calling. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Wiengarten called Obama’s reworked version of No Child Left Behind “Bush III,” after the president that imposed it seven years ago. “It looks like the only strategies they have” for improving public education “are charter schools and measurement,” said Wiengarten, referring to the regimen of high stakes testing that now defines American public schools.
Secretary Duncan, who fired entire school staffs when he ran the Chicago system, terminating Black teachers disproportionately, is no more nor less imaginative than any other corporate executive intent on squeezing the last drop of labor from every employee – and then blaming the workers and their union when corporate goals are not met. This is a fundamental and well-understood conflict in the private sector – and a relationship between labor and management that corporate forces are attempting to impose on public education. What we are witnessing is the privatization of public education from within, through the imposition of corporate management methods and measurements. This corporatizing process has been both obscured and facilitated by decades of unrelenting propaganda that posits teachers as the main obstacle to educational improvement.
Obama's 'Race to the Top' is a continuation of a 30-year effort to reshape public education in the corporate image.”
Corporate managers attempt to treat educational failings as “productivity” problems, wherein the schools are not getting enough bang for the buck from either teachers or students. Unremitting testing is the corporate management attempt to measure and reward productivity in the educational workplace. Since the testing regime is essentially a management technique, testing inevitably becomes the overarching focus of school leadership, and a whip in the hand of the bosses. Bosses do not easily give up their whips, which is why they cling so tightly to the high stakes testing regime.
The Obama Administration is wielding a more than $4 billion fund like a whip to coerce school systems into firing teachers based on test scores, and to force expansion of charter schools. The aim is to break the unions, pure and simple. It is a logical progression of George Bush’s corporate-inspired policies, which is why the teachers union president calls it “Bush III.”
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at



Direct download: 20090930_gf_Teachers.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:49am EDT