I just ran across a great article from Education Week looking at the striking similarities between Obama's Department of Education and George W. Bush's.
The writer also interviews the always-awesome Alfie Kohn, teacher union officials, and some right wing policy people (Bush Administration, AEI, etc.). It's one of the best mainstream analyses of Obama's education priorities that I've seen in awhile.
The money quote is pretty early on in the article:
"He is operating almost in a straight line from President Bush," said Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University, who co-writes a blog for edweek.org. She has criticized core elements of Mr. Obama’s K-12 agenda, such as his enthusiasm for the charter sector and what she worries is an overreliance on standardized testing to judge schools and teachers.
"Obama is, in effect, giving George W. Bush a third term in education," said Ms. Ravitch, who served as an assistant secretary of education under the first President Bush.
The article is behind a barrier at edweek, so I've reposted it below the fold:
This is the second student protest to unseat Kerrey in five months, but the former Senator from Nebraska said he is resolved to keep his seat, "unless the quality of my life deteriorates."
Below is a good short essay by New School student Dave Shukla that places the latest occupation in the larger struggle to reclaim the New School. When he writes "imagine what we could do," that's exactly what he wants us to do.
What Are You For?
by Dave Shukla
Yet another occupation. The entire center of campus around Fifth Avenue cordoned off by NYPD. Videos of cops beating up students on YouTube. What next?
Let’s be clear. It is a mistake to fixate solely on Kerrey. Among the pressures on the New School over the past eight years, he is simply a vector. He has position, mass, velocity, and direction. The question is, which?
Since December, there have been grudging concessions. Under scrutiny by the Trustees, the administration has been forced to act on some basic concerns – student space, a functioning student senate, tuition and financial aid relief, graduate student work compensation, socially responsible investment. While the administration expends great effort in trying to constrain student input or decision-making, these reforms nonetheless provide an entering wedge into shifting the structure of power in the university. Along with changes in the Faculty Senate, Deans’ Council, and especially the Provost’s Office, there is momentum that belies the argument that “nothing can fundamentally change until Kerrey is gone”.
This latest student action on Good Friday forces some difficult questions: How much closer are we to Kerrey’s resignation or removal? How much closer are we to rewriting his job description, or that of Murtha, Millard, Moskowitz, Gartner, Adams, Reimer or any of the rest of the administration that actually design and run the current business model of the university? How much closer is the New School to replacing these people, and repairing the damage they have done to the New School over the past eight years? How effective has student organizing and activism been over the past four months? Are we living our values, and is doing so yielding tangible results? What are we learning from?
Imagine that Kerrey is on his way out. Imagine that Murtha, Millard, all the rest are on their way out too. With them, the intense corporatization of the New School over the past eight years is at an end, and socially responsible financial practices provide us with long-term stability. Imagine what we could do.
Do you want a say in what student space is created in the new building at 65 Fifth Ave, or do you want another mess like the 16th St. building? Do you want a Starbucks on campus, or do you want work-study jobs to run a food co-op that serves healthy low-priced food? Do you want some of the most expensive dorms in the city, or do you want the costs cut in half by creating cooperative student housing? Do you want more tuition relief and financial aid? Do you want student representatives on the Board of Trustees? Do you want them to have the voting power that forces them to be taken seriously when fighting for student concerns? Is all of this news to you? If so, would you want a newspaper that was funded and staffed sufficiently to come out every week and cover every division?
In short, we all know what we are against. But what are we for?
Reports started flooding in early this morning, as a large group of New School students occupied and locked down the campus building at 65 5th Avenue. This action has seemingly come out of the blue, and it's hard to nail down a lot of specifics about what's going on. Whereas just the cafeteria in the building was taken last December, this occupation is aiming to control the entire building. The occupying students aren't affiliating themselves with either rival New School radical student group (Radical Student Union and New School in Exile), but I think it's safe to say there's a ton of overlap.
Cops are on the scene, and there are conflicting reports as to whether they've gotten inside the building at this point. The occupiers have a blog going:
UPDATE: The occupiers are reporting both teargas released inside and four supporters arrested outside. I'm hearing that New School President Bob Kerrey told the NYPD they could do whatever they deemed necessary in removing the occupiers.
UPDATE: Aaaaand, it's over. All the remaining occupiers (19 in all) have been arrested and taken to the 6th Precinct. A call for people to rally there has been put out. Via a CBS affiliate.
Student organizers with the Student Power Party screened a portion of the high-budget porn/satire "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" last night, after a panel discussion on censorship and free speech.
The film was originally to be screened last week in the theater of the student union in conjunction with a talk about safe sex - but once Maryland state legislators in heard about it, conservative lawmakers headed by State Senator Andrew Harris threatened to pull all $400+ million of state funding to the school if it went ahead with the screening. UMD Administration was all too happy to comply, all the while insisting that they did it of their own accord.Baltimore Sun:
Linda Clement, vice president for student affairs at Maryland, said the decision to cancel the film was her own and based on a variety of factors.
"I think people were concerned about portrayal of women, concerned about violence, concerned about our students and decision-making processes," she said. "We were losing sight of the educational value that might come from some kind of exercise like this, so it just seemed like the best thing to do."
Clement said it was appropriate for state lawmakers to be debating what films a university shows on campus. "I think state legislators have the right to weigh in on many, many issues regarding state agencies," she said.
As Marc Fisher of the Washington Post put it, "At the University of Maryland yesterday, the school's top brass faced a classic test of their allegiance to the ideals of open inquiry, freedom of speech and academic independence. They flunked big time."
While the UMD bureaucrats were scrambling to kiss rings in Annapolis, student organizers seized on the moment to give everyone an object lesson in freedom of speech and student power. Members of the Student Power Party reserved a large room and screened the first half hour of Pirates II, after a rousing panel discussion by UMD professors and a lawyer for the ACLU.
This was certainly a victory for student power and direct action - "you won't screen the film? Then we will!" And this was also a great example of the Streisand Effect: that is, attempts to censor something often only result in many more people hearing about and seeing it. Student organizers also did a wonderful job with messaging and media strategy. If Student Power Party members win the UMD student government elections going on today and tomorrow, this may be a hint of what an energized, aggressive SGA will look like.
State Sen. Harris, who despite his best efforts is left with egg on his face, is now arguing that the Regents should come up with a policy regarding pornographic movie screenings on campus. Of course, he's clear as to what he wants that policy to be. As the Washington Post reported, "Harris said the university pornography policy should require that 'you can't have university-sponsored XXX entertainment on campus.'" Thankfully as a Republican he doesn't have a lot of legislative clout in the legislature, and everyone involved knows that University funding isn't in jeopardy. It's telling, however, that the group of people most aware of this fact, the Administration, were also the first to abandon free expression on campus. And from the start that's what this controversy has always been about: it hasn't been about pornography itself (which I'm sure most everyone has strong opinions regarding), but about how deep into campus affairs government officials can reach and meddle.
I was just forwarded a great post by Marc Bousquet, where he links the adjunctification of higher ed faculty, the increased institutional reliance on student-workers, and the economic stimulus bill. He writes:
If things get worse, as seems likely, and if—as seems possible—education labor gets its act together, what is actually needed will become clear: full employment for educators and restrictions on student labor.
Is anyone who’s attended a faculty meeting in the past two decades will have observed: higher education is a lead “innovator” of the lousy forms of employment that have gutted the economy—permatemping of the faculty, outsourcing the staff, and myriad ways of extracting un- and under- compensated labor from students: internships, assistantships, financial aid, partnerships with local employers, service learning, etc, etc, etc. Thanks to quality management, it’s Nickel and Dimed everywhere you look–but especially on campus.
On campus and throughout the economy, un- and under- compensated student labor has been aggressively substituted for permanent waged positions with benefits. That’s millions of real jobs, cut into pieces and parceled out as low-wage positions for students, many of whom take on between two and five “part-time” positions annually in order not to get whacked upside the head with debt.
Eighty percent of college students work an average of 30 hours a week, triple the figure most studies say is appropriate for optimal learning. This inappropriate workload bears directly on absurdly low persistence and graduation rates.
It also bears on the immiseration of the American workforce, on campus and off.
Graduate students can’t get jobs as faculty after studying for a dozen years—because all of the positions they have “prepared” for are being filled by other students, or former students working on a part-time basis.
Similarly, undergraduates are now doing journalism as service learning—replacing paid positions for staff reporters—and many will find that the jobs they want upon graduation have been converted to “internship opportunities.”
Check out the rest of the post here - it's well worth reading. It was written before the final stimulus bill was passed. The bill, while raising the Pell Grant maximum by just $500, adds a whopping $490 million for Federal Work Study. $490 million, in most cases doled out in minimum-wage-sized chunks, means your tax dollars are greasing the wheels of downsizing and the casualization of higher ed.
Though “Take Back NYU!” (TBNYU) has raised legitimate concerns regarding the conduct of the NYU administration, we, the undersigned believe that these concerns should be expressed in a more constructive manner within the avenues that NYU has established for student advocacy.
Many NYU students support budget disclosure, financial aid reform, greater sensitivity to student concerns, and increased openness and transparency. However, we believe that:
1) TBNYU’s tactics are confrontational and disrespectful in a manner that alienates sympathetic students and prevents the university from constructive and respectful engagement.
2) TBNYU’s demands are too disjointed. Broader student support can only be achieved if demands are coherent and focused.
3) TBNYU’s conduct is not appropriate to the gravity of the situation and does not encourage the thoughtful discourse necessary.
We urge that the NYU administration not dismiss the concerns of TBNYU and continue to pursue an amicable end to the situation. Should they be raised in a more constructive and appropriate manner, whether by TBNYU or any other student group at NYU, we hope the administration will not close the door to future discussion on the issues.
We, the undersigned:
NYU Students Organizing for America
Students of Color and Allies
NYU College Democrats
NYU College Republicans
Political Union & Review at New York University
"Golly gosh! Can't we win a better university without ruffling any feathers? What if we just kept asking nicelyurging NYU to open its books and for the Administration to cede power to democratic structures?"
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, TBNYU activists and allies can easily determine the mental status of their fair weather friends.
At around 2pm today, members of Take Back NYU! left the Kimmel Center for University Life, ending a 40 hour+ occupation. Their action made national and international news, and showcased the real power of the new student movement sweeping the globe.
No doubt NYU will begin attempting disciplinary action, but no suspensions, expulsions or arrests can contain what began in the last two days. This fight will carry on in the hands of the dozens of people who made it inside, and the hundreds more who came out to support the occupation. NYU showed its irrational need to defend secrecy and its exclusive hold on power, and that alone will drive this movement forward.
For everyone showing support: the real lesson here is that you can act and you can make a difference. Take the lessons from the occupation on to your own struggle, and begin to act yourself. Onward.
Word from is that NYU Administration is "allowing" the occupiers to stay the night. I say "allowing" because at this point NYU isn't in a position to allow or disallow anything - hundreds of students both in and outside the building are the ones in control right now.
After an exciting and eventful night, the NYU occupation continues into the morning. Negotiations are expected to take place all morning and likely into the afternoon.
NYU has cut off internet and power to the students. There is a call out for a massive support rally at Noon; media vans are there and we should show them what solidarity looks like!
Speaking of media, it's high time that we supporters of Take Back NYU! make our presence known - we've practically lost the messaging war when it comes to online media. While yes, it's "only" blogs, and the comment threads of newspaper articles, that's where a lot of our age group gets its information and arrives at opinions from.
NYU should call in the NYPD. throw in some tear gas, clear them out, then send them to rikers for a week or two to think about it. these spoiled kids are preventing hard working people from earning a living by occupying portions of the school. it is also a fire hazard and against the law. no sympathy can be shown.
You're going to get violent, right-wing psychos nomatter what you post online, but it's a tragedy (and really fucking demoralizing) if they're the only voices we see.
NYULocal is a good example - they've got some of the most comprehensive covering of what's going on at the occupation, but the writers and their commenters are just dripping with contempt and hostility for the occupiers. Variations on "love it or leave it" and the inaccurate and hyperbolic "these are only rich kids whose parents pay their tuition" abound (as an aside, I love how it's only in these scenarios that right wingers magically obtain some kind of class analysis).
Now one of their writers is questioning whether or not a student Senator (Caitlin Boehne) should be participating in the occupation -- are they kidding?? The real outrage is that only one of them is! And of course, irony of ironies, they wrap their objection and petition for her recall in democratic language, and that she's "misrepresentative of the CAS [College of Arts and Sciences] Student Body". Elected students should first and foremost be willing to stand up for their fellow students in the face of the Administration. Caitlin’s doing exactly that.
The left has always had problems getting a fair hearing in the press - but thankfully on the internet we can help level the playing field.
People are always asking what they can do to help, even though they're hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away.