alternet.org — The end of the Chicago teachers' strike was but a temporary regional truce in the civil war that plagues the nation's public schools. There is no end in sight, in part because -- as often happens in wartime -- the conflict is increasingly being driven by profiteers. The familiar media narrative tells us that this is a fight over how to improve our schools. On the one side are the self-styled reformers, who argue that the central problem with American K-12 education is low-quality teachers protected by their unions. On the other side are teachers and their unions who are cast as villains. The conventional plot line is that they resist change, blame poverty for their schools' failings and protect their jobs and turf. It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class.
thenation.com — When Mitt Romney said he’d reduce the federal budget deficit in last Wednesday’s debate, PBS was one of only two programs he mentioned cutting by name. Romney has gone after PBS before, touting its elimination as a “major” potential savings for the American people. There’s an annual $445 million congressional subsidy to public broadcasting that might seem to support Romney’s claim—until you realize that it represents approximately one hundredth of one percent of the entire federal budget. So why does Romney speak as if Big Bird were one of the top two obstacles to national solvency? The reason is simple: he hopes to score a few easy political points. By eliminating funding to PBS, Romney and the Republicans could indeed win some support from radical conservatives, but tens of millions of Americans will lose out, especially poor children struggling to get access to a good education.
alternet.org — Drastic changes are being made to American college and university life -- changes that are fundamentally altering the ecology of higher education in this country and undercutting the very mission of the college experience as we know it. A growing culture of reform has turned the campus quad away from preparing students for citizenship -- that combination of “intelligence plus character” the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. once famously described. In its place, we now have campus environments that hold certain aspects of student life hostage to corporate interests, molding students into consumers at the same time the voices and opinions of the student body are increasingly silenced. As a result, higher education, often noted as the best insurance policy toward social mobility, is now no such thing (at least good insurance policies pay their claims). Here’s a look at some disturbing changes taking place on campuses across the country.
tomdispatch.com — It was the greatest education system the world had ever seen. Hundreds of college campuses, large and small, two-year and four-year, stretching from California's emerald forests in the north to the heat-scorched Inland Empire in the south. Each had its own DNA, but common to all was this: they promised a “public” education, accessible and affordable, to those with means and those without, a door with a welcome mat into the ivory tower, an invitation to a better life. Then California bled that system dry. California's public higher education system is dying a slow death. The promise of a cheap, quality education is slipping away for the working and middle classes, for immigrants. And don't think the slow rot of public education is unique to California: that state's woes are the nation's.
aljazeera.com — As a superpower, no one expects China to simply accept a list of demands handed to them by the U.S. president. Inevitably there is a negotiation process and if the U.S. gets concessions on the value of the currency, it will almost certainly come at the expense of progress on other demands.This means that if Mitt Romney or any other president were to crack down on China over its currency, not only would he be forced to first overcome the opposition of the firms that directly profit from the over-valued dollar, he would also have to overcome the objections of many powerful corporations who want their own issues with China to be given priority. Romney can certainly blame President Obama for not taking the tough stand against U.S. corporations in his first term. The question is whether there is reason to believe that Romney would be any tougher on his friends and former business partners.
dailykos.com — The campaign against teachers is special, and worth paying attention to. It's not like workers in general get much respect in our culture, at least not beyond vague lip service that only ever applies to the individual, powerless worker not asking for anything. But right now, teachers are the subject of a campaign heavily funded and driven from the top down to take a profession that has long been respected by the public at large and make the people in the profession villains and pariahs, en route to undercutting the prestige, the decision-making ability, the working conditions, and, of course, the wages and benefits of the profession as a whole. What we're watching right now is a specific front in the war on workers, and one with immense reach through our culture—and coming soon to a movie theater near you if it's not already there, in the form of the poorly reviewed parent trigger drama Won't Back Down.
tomdispatch.com — Five big things will decide what this country looks like next year and in the 20 years to follow, but here’s a guarantee for you: you’re not going to hear about them in the upcoming presidential debates. Yes, there will be questions and answers focused on deficits, taxes, Medicare, the Pentagon, and education, to which you already more or less know the responses each candidate will offer. What you won’t get from either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is a little genuine tough talk about the actual state of reality in these United States of ours. And yet, on those five subjects, a little reality would go a long way, while too little reality (as in the debates to come) is a surefire recipe for American decline. So here’s a brief guide to what you won’t hear this Wednesday or in the other presidential and vice-presidential debates later in the month. Think of these as five hard truths that will determine the future of this country.
dissentmagazine.org — “You know those mothers who lift one-ton trucks off their babies?” says Jamie Fitzpatrick, a working-class mom (played Maggie Gyllenhall), in a confrontation with a corrupt union rep in Daniel Barnz’s edu-drama, Won’t Back Down. “They’re nothing compared to me.” It’s a “you-go-girl” moment. But real moms can’t lift trucks. And just about everything in this movie is as wildly fantastical as that image. Won’t Back Down is liberal Hollywood’s second blast of gas on what was once a bugbear of the Right: the badness of public schools and teachers’ unions, and the magic bullet of hope offered by privatization. The first was Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for Superman.
boldprogressives.org — This Friday, the film Won’t Back Down will premiere in theaters nationwide. Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, the movie is about a group of parents who feud with what are portrayed as uncaring unionized teachers. The parents, led by Gyllenhaal, succeed in enacting a “parent trigger,” a policy tool advocated for by corporate front group ALEC, that allows for a public school to be turned into to a privately-managed charter school. But the movie is already being blasted in early reviews and many education advocates are questioning its unfair portrayal of teachers unions and dogmatic advocacy for charter schools. But the film was never meant to be an honest portrayal of America’s education system. It is being produced and promoted by Walden Media, an entertainment company owned by right-wing billionaire Phil Anschutz. Here are a few facts you should know about Anschutz and his long history of advocacy for the far-right.