Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The politics of disaster -- loot & burn

Bush leaving the cupboard bare

But make no mistake: the goal is the same as it was for the defeated Portuguese--a final frantic looting of the public wealth before they hand over the keys to the safe. –Naomi Klein, author of Shock Doctrine.


Bush/Cheney and the neocons saw 9/11 and an opportunity to invade Iraq. Right-wing economist and godfather of school vouchers, Milton Friedman referred to Hurricane Katrina as, “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system.“ For New Orleans schools boss Paul (“Now no one can tell me what to do”) Vallas, Katrina was a godsend, allowing him to privatize the system and bust the teachers union.

For the disciples of the ownership society, disasters, no matter how devastating, are always “opportunities” to loot & burn, erode public space and democratic decision making and to impose draconian top-down “reforms” on the public.


One current shock-doctrine disciple is Tom VanderArk. You should remember VanderArk from his days at the Gates Foundation where he shifted the fund’s agenda from trying for fix broken schools to one of “closing 1,000 schools.”

Now VanderArk wants to use the current economic crisis to punish schools, eliminate public school boards, whack education budgets, and tear up union contracts. He’s Michelle Rhee squared. It’s a model, he says was pioneered by the Brit’s Tony Blair.

While far from easy, states with courageous governors could use this crisis to make a radical change: cut the budget by 10% and send the money directly to schools. Every school would get a three year performance contract (i.e., charter) and would be required to join a support network (which could include what used to be a school district, a university, a non-profit like New Tech Foundation, a charter management organization like Green Dot, a for-profit like Edison Learning, or a self-organized coop).

The short list

The word I get is that Time Magazine has it all wrong. Obama’s Sec. of Ed shortlist is down to these five:

Colin Powell, Democratic Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Chicago schools chief executive officer Arne Duncan, former South Carolina schools superintendent Inez Tenenbaum and Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond.

Looks like New Yorkers are stuck with Joel Klein for a while. Sorry about that.

More bad news for the Gates Fund

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet has committed more that $30 billion to the Gates Foundation, making it by far, the largest of the new class of power foundations in the world. But huge losses in the market for Buffet’s company, Hathaway, could mean big cuts for Gates school reform grantees over the next few years.

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