Tags: charter schools, chris christie, david sirota, de-funding education, education, high-stakes testing, private schools, public education, rahm emmanuel, roger hollander, sidwell friends, tom boasberg
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America’s Dangerously Removed Elite
Last week, my local Twittersphere momentarily erupted with allegations that Denver’s public school superintendent, Tom Boasberg, is sending his kids to a private school that eschews high-stakes testing. Boasberg, an icon of the national movement pushing high-stakes testing and undermining traditional public education, eventually defended himself by insisting that his kids attended that special school only during preschool and that they now attend a public school. Yet his spokesman admitted that the school is not in Denver but in Boulder, Colo., one of America’s wealthiest enclaves.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel (Photo: AP/Reuters)
Boasberg, you see, refuses to live in the district that he governs. Though having no background in education administration, this longtime telecom executive used his connections to get appointed Denver superintendent, and he now acts like a king. From the confines of his distant castle in Boulder, he issues edicts to his low-income fiefdom — decrees demonizing teachers, shutting down neighborhood schools over community objections and promoting privately administered charter schools. Meanwhile, he makes sure his own royal family is insulated in a wealthy district that doesn’t experience his destructive policies.
No doubt this is but a microcosmic story in a country whose patrician overlords are regularly conjuring the feudalism of Europe circa the Middle Ages. Today, our mayors deploy police against homeless people and protesters; our governors demand crushing budget cuts from the confines of their taxpayer-funded mansions; our Congress exempts itself from insider-trading laws and provides itself healthcare benefits denied to others; and our nation’s capital has become one of the world’s wealthiest cities, despite the recession.
Taken together, we see that there really are “Two Americas,” as the saying goes — and that’s no accident. It’s the result of a permanent elite that is removing itself from the rest of the nation. Nowhere is this more obvious than in education — a realm in which this elite physically separates itself from us mere serfs. As the head of one of the country’s largest urban school districts, Boasberg is a perfect example of this — but he is only one example.
The Washington Post, for instance, notes that it has become an unquestioned “tradition among Washington’s power elite” — read: elected officials — to send their kids to the ultra-expensive private school Sidwell Friends. At the same time, many of these officials have backed budget policies that weaken public education.
Outside of Washington, it’s often the same story; as just two recent examples, both Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have championed massive cuts to public education while sending their kids to private school.
In many cases, these aristocrats aren’t even required to publicly explain themselves. (Boasberg, for example, is never hounded by local media about why he refuses to live in Denver.) Worse, on the rare occasions that questions are posed, privacy is the oft-used excuse to not answer, whether it’s Obama defenders dismissing queries about their Sidwell decision, Christie telling a voter his school choices are “none of your business” or Emanuel storming out of a television interview and then citing his “private life” when asked about the issue.
This might be a convincing argument about ordinary citizens’ personal education choices, but it’s an insult coming from public officials. When they remove themselves and their families from a community — but still retain power over that community — they end up acting as foreign occupiers, subjecting us to policies they would never subject their own kin to.
Pretending this is acceptable or just a “private” decision, then, is to tolerate ancient, ruling-class notions that are no longer sustainable in the 21st century. Indeed, if this nation is going to remain a modern republic, it can’t also be a Medieval oligarchy — no matter how much America’s elite wants to keep governing from behind the palace walls.
Yet More “Plus ça change…” You Can Believe In March 29, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About Pakistan, About War, Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan escalation, afghanistan government, afghanistan occupation, Afghanistan War, Barack Obama, foreign policy, gates, hillary clinton, jones, mullen, obama bush, obama militarism, pakistan, pakistan government, Petraeus, plus ca change, rahm emmanuel, roger hollander, stockholm syndrome, w.e.b.du bois, war
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Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com, March 29, 2009
“Good morning. Today, I am announcing a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“This marks the conclusion of a careful policy review that I ordered as soon as I took office. My Administration has heard from our military commanders and diplomats. We have consulted with the Afghan and Pakistani governments; with our partners and NATO allies; and with other donors and international organizations. And we have also worked closely with members of Congress here at home. Now, I’d like to speak clearly and candidly to the American people. “
These are the opening sentences in Barack Obama’s March 27 speech in which he announced the escalation of the U.S. occupation and agression in Afghanistan. Note the list of people and institutions with whom the President consulted before coming to a decision about his policy: military commanders and diplomats, Afghan and Pakistani governments, partners and Nato allies, donors and international organizations, members of Congress. There is one glaring omision: THE AMERICAN PEOPLE . Not to mention world public opinion. Note that Obama has a tendeny to speak down people rather than listen to them. As with his excluding from consideration a single-payer national health plan, which is favored by a vast majority of Americans, for President Obama a peaceful and diplomatic solution in Afghanistan/Pakistan which for most Americans is a fervent hope, is “off the table.”
The lead in a Time Magazine article covering the speech suggested that George Bush must have left an old speech lying around in his desk.
When Obama was criticized from the left prior to his inauguration for retaining the key members of the Bush team of militarists and war profiteers (Gates, Petraeusl, Mullen, Jones) and adding Hawks such as Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emmanuel, he countered by declaring that he would be making the decisions and not his advisors (Obama the Decider). Well, if Obama ever was indeed a peacenik, he surely has since succumbed to the Stockholm Syndrome in a big way.
Yet More “Plus ça change…” You Can Believe In.
“There was a day when the world rightly called Americans honest even if crude; earning their living by hard work; telling the truth no matter whom it hurt; and going to war in what they believed a just cause after nothing else seemed possible. Today we are lying, stealing and killing. We call all this by finer names: Advertising, Free Enterprise, and National Defense. But names in the end deceive no one; today we use science to help us deceive our fellows; we take wealth that we never earned and we are devoting all our energies to kill, maim and drive insane men, women, and children who dare refuse to do what we want done. No nation threatens us. We threaten the world.” (italics added)
These words could have been written today, but they weren’t. They appeared forty one years ago in the Autobiography of the Afro-Aerican activist and historian, W.E.B. Du Bois. Plus ça change… plus c’est la même chose. I despair to say it, but our nation’s first Afro-American president is turning out to be a traitor to his heritage.
Question: is there any difference at all between the foreign policy of President Obama and his predecessor? Only if you believe that the part’s of Obama’s speech on Afghanistan/Pakistan that spoke of investment in non-military programs constitute more than window-dressing. I don’t. I believe that with respect to the militaristic policies of peace candidate Barack Obama, the more things change, the more they stay the same.