Advocate PDF 2016

Pre 2012 Archives

Weapons of Mass Destruction? How about Corporate Greed…

By Bob Shimabukuro, PSARA Executive Board member and Associate Editor of the Retiree Advocate 

To U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: I’ve got some questions for you.

It is Monday: Mom has two cans of corned beef. One large head cabbage. Maybe a bottle of milk. Some fruit from our yard, and some vegetables, some tofu, shoyu, spices bought by increasing credit from a friendly family store across the street. We’ve already spent advances on my Dad’s pay, so there’s not much coming in the next payday. How she goin’ feed one family of nine for the rest of the week? 

Big Sister has a date. She forgets and eats some kim chee before her date. She is mortified. Number 4 boy goes to the store across the street, with a short shopping list, has 50 cents from his mom. He wants to get some Dentyne gum for Big Sister so that her breath won’t smell bad from the kim chee. Turns out the total will be more than 50 cents. What Numbah 4 boy goin’ do? 

Try hard for dis one, okay Arne? If no can understand, ask your boss. ‘Tink maybe he can help you, yah? He grew up Hawaii, you know.

Numbah tree boy wen get bit by scorpian. We wen live wit lotsa animals. Kakaroches. Lizards. Rats. But scorpian real bad. Was infected. Give Numbah tree boy lockjaw almost. My Faddah and Oncle take him emergency. Da guy say, “He’s in real serious condition, but we think we can save him. It’ll be real expensive. Can you afford it?” My Faddah have one meltdown.

Why faddah have meltdown? What choo tink faddah and oncle should do? 

This high stake test for you, Arne. You get one wrong, go back Harvard. You get two, go back high school. All three, I’m afraid you need to go back to intermediate school. Maybe all the way back to preschool. Hope you don’t flunk your preschool test.

* * *

While the Washington State news coverage about education and high stakes standardized testing has focused mostly on the Garfield High School parent/teacher/student boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, there has been little reporting about Common Core, a curriculum guide for public schools to “ensure” that our “broken” public school system can once again be the best in the world. What may be surprising is the speed by which it has become the official education policy in over 45 states. But it’s easy to see why. We need to back up a bit.

The previous federal program, Bush’s No Child Left Behind, has created a nightmare. Teachers, even those who had been recognized as best teachers, have been ridiculed, fired, and in some cases, publicly humiliated into committing suicide because their students had not achieved higher test scores.

After No Child Left Behind fizzled, Arne had a much better idea. Let’s have a competition, he said. Race to the Top (RTTT), which pits school districts against each other for big federal dollars, had some conditions. Districts had to accept, among other things, Common Core, Charter Schools and Test-Based Teacher Evaluation. It didn’t guarantee any RTTT grant money, but districts received extra points in their application if it did. Most of the States fell in line.

Everyone knows competition breeds excellence. That’s what all coaches say. That’s what a lot of business leaders say. What do the rest of us say? Competition breeds nothing but a few winners (the 1%), a lot of cheaters, and many, many losers. What a waste of human potential. And it’s almost impossible to win, because the 1% winners control the rules of engagement.

Informed educators/teachers have been writing about the attack on the public school system, the corporate greed and the utter absurdity of it all. (If you want more comprehensive information check with Rethinking Schools, Wayne Au, Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error, Stan Karp, Jersey Jazzman. They can also lead you to more sources.)

But I don’t think enough has been written about “knowledge,” who controls the “knowledge bank” of the US and the whole world for that matter, and how that all connects to jobs, health, environment, quality of life.

The knowledge bank of a boy born to poverty in Hawaii is vastly different than the knowledge bank of a boy growing up in South Side Chicago. But both have knowledge banks equally as important as the child of a $70 billion man who is now telling us what we need to know in order to ”just maybe possibly” work for him.

When there is so much concentration of wealth and high unemployment in this country, it’s very tiring to hear the 1% continue to place the blame on the schools, or the teachers. They never hold themselves responsible, despite the great inequities which exist today. That they can dictate the terms of educating our children, 25% of whom are living in poverty, is really offensive.

That they can claim they will help us reach their status by doing what they want us to do is laughable, when they’ve been consolidating their wealth and power for the last 40 years. And when we ask that they pay a fraction of the wealth they have stolen from workers’ pension funds, obscene government contracts, and shutting down factories and schools so that they can build expensive high rises, they scorn and tell us, “tough sh.., learn our culture, only then can you join our country club.” I don’t want these robber barons deciding what should be taught, what should be tested and what the correct answers are.

We don’t want to live by silly words and remarks as “competition breeds excellence,” and “let’s teach the poor how to live like us by adding value to their lives.”

We know that corporate greed, left unchecked, will eventually destroy us. It is destroying us already. It’s time for the 1% to learn how the rest of us deal with our basic needs, and how poor folks (especially poor kids) can blossom, if given the opportunity.

* * *

So what does all this have to do with Arne’s test? Plenty. Those three vignettes happen to be true. They make a lot of sense to me. And to others who have had the privilege of growing up in Hawaii and/or as poor as my family was. As I said, our knowledge base is as important to our survival as is the knowledge base of the child of the “$70 billion man.” The common core approved by the $70 billion man discredits (or is the correct word “devalues”?) what it doesn’t understand, and elevates principles which dehumanize all.

If we allow the 1% to establish their standards and monocultures as the “correct” one, all of ours will die and, eventually, so will theirs. All humanity dies. It’s time to fight back. Embrace common sense, reject Common Core.

For those who, perhaps like Arne, don’t understand the stories or the questions, stay tuned. There’s more to come.

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