The Shock Doctrine hits Public Education

The Shock DoctrineIn Naomi Klein’s bestselling “The Shock Doctrine” we find the thesis that shocks have been used to push through unpopular free market decisions, mostly privatization and deregulation, generally against the will of the people but always to the advantage of large corporations, the wealthy upper class, and corrupt governments. Klein shows how conservative icon, Milton Friedman, consistently took advantage of economic crisis to move an anti-government agenda forward. What Friedman realized was that a society that suffers a trauma—a natural disaster, an economic meltdown, a war—is initially so stressed in its wake that if ideologues move quickly enough, they can ram through “reforms” at what amounts to the political speed of light. Ergo, “the Shock Doctrine,” with its insidious privatization of formerly public property, elimination of social programs, the busting up of worker groups, and the suspension of minimum wage laws. “Crises are, in a way,” Klein writes, “democracy-free zones—gaps in politics as usual when the need for consent and consensus do not seem to apply.”

There is no doubt that California public education is in a free-fall with respect to funding, now ranking 47th in state spending. I never thought that Louisiana or Mississippi would be in better shape than we in supporting public education. But here we are and the Shock Doctrine is upon us. Last week I wrote in Conservative Education Foundation to Train Teachers in the CSU system that the California State University, home to over 70% of teacher and administrator credentialing and training, has announced a partnership to close the achievement gap with the right wing pro-business group, California Business for Education Excellence (CBEE). 

The new director of the CSU CBEE Center is Jim Lanich, CBEE”s former executive director. If that weren’t enough, here’s where it gets really scary. Dr. Lanich is a frequent co-author of so called educational research with Dr. Lance Izumi, senior research fellow with the pro voucher, global warming denying, anti-health care reform, Clarence Thomas loving Pacific Research Institute.

If Lance Izumi’s name sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because our governor has appointed him president of the board of the California Community College system. Yes, that’s right. Lance Izumi, whose career is based on bashing public education, is the president of the nation’s largest community college system which provides public education to over 2.5 million students.

In a New York Times Opinion piece in September, 2008, Dr. Izumi strongly criticized candidate Obama for only supporting charters and not vouchers. “School-choice programs like vouchers, however, give decision-making authority to parents. In his speech before the American Federation of Teachers, Mr. Obama criticized Mr. McCain’s “tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.” He believes that vouchers are unfair to poor parents. But he’s wrong: the heart of Mr. McCain’s case for greater school-choice options, which includes vouchers, is fair and respectful of parents’ rights.”  In an interview  about vouchers and the separation of church and state at the Heritage Foundation, Izumi stated that a system where parents have a choice about schools, the tax dollars follow the student and the government doesn’t decide so a buffer would be created between church and state.  I don’t quite get the man’s logic, but there should be no doubt what this man’s intentions are.

And his intentions may get truly heinous. Here’s what he said about education for undocumented students: “We should challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Pyler v. Doe requiring the states to provide public education at the elementary and secondary levels to illegal immigrant children.”

In California’s ongoing budget crisis, rising education costs represent the biggest problem. To a large extent, the bloated education bureaucracy is at fault. Still,  it makes no sense that California taxpayers are forced to finance the education of children who are in our country illegally.”

But Izumi isn’t even close to being finished.

Lance Izumi has produced a cleverly manipulative “documentary” called “Not As Good As You Think-the myth of middle class schools,” which tells middle class parents that their kids who attend local public schools are not performing well on standardized tests and that they are being ripped off by the special interests (e.g. teachers, administrators, secretaries, bus drivers, janitors, PTA, boosters) who run the schools. The only solution is parent choice, the conservative euphemism for vouchers. Izumi kicked off his documentary, produced by the PRI’s Sally Pipes, a frequent “health care expert” on Fox News, at the Heritage Foundation last May and is currently on a national tour with someone who is also part of California’s Shock Doctrine, Jorge Lopez.  Gee, we’ve heard of him too. Mr. Lopez, the volatile principal of a charter school with 150 cherry-picked students, is the newest appointee to the policy making body for all k-12 schools, the California State Board of Education.

What you’ll find interesting in the trailer is that there is an Orange County connection. The middle class schools highlighted are framed in reference to the Capistrano Valley school board recall which involved allegations of a take-over by conservative hardliners. At any rate, the documentary says this is an example of a middle-class district that has deceived tax-paying parents and therefore all public schools are ripping us off so we should support vouchers.


De-segregation, separation of church and state, public education be damned!

So wake up California.  Wake up silent, reasonable, common sense Americans who care about our future and our public schools. This is a call to stop the Shock Doctrine being implemented before our eyes and on our children. Ask your elected official, school board member, community college trustee, union rep, or CSU president to hold the system accountable to the people. Whatever we do during this economic crisis, we must not suspend our Democracy.

  8 comments for “The Shock Doctrine hits Public Education

  1. Steve
    August 17, 2009 at 11:24 am

    I read the book and I largely agree with Klein’s thesis. That said, and on a topic other than CA education, does not the current administration’s agenda, in the wake of the “shock” of the crash of Sept. 08, bear a striking resemblance to the Shock Doctrine at work?

  2. Claudia Keith
    August 18, 2009 at 9:50 am

    The CSU Center to Close the Achievement Gap is focused on the successes – not the failures of public education. The partnership between business and public higher education will allow the center to respond to both the economic and civil rights aspects of the achievement gap. CBEE has no relationship with “national right-wing organizations” cited in recent blog postings. CBEE collaborated with the Pacific Research Institute on a research paper in 2006 that identified problems with the Academic Performance Index in addressing the achievement gap. Several of the recommendations outlined in that paper were incorporated by the State Board of Education. CBEE’s Jim Lanich did praise Oakland Charter Academy as a school that is outperforming expectations for minority students. At the same time, CBEE also honored 910 other California schools (vast majority not charter) that were also performing well. CBEE has never advocated for vouchers. They have consistently advocated for only those schools raising student academic achievement and closing the achievement gap.

  3. August 18, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Thanks Claudia for setting the washing machine on “Spin Cycle.”

  4. August 18, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    How could Claudia say that CBEE has no relationship with “right wing organizations” and then mention that by the way CBEE collaborated with the Pacific Research Institute on reseaarch. The Pacifc Research Institute (PRI) IS a national far right organization (denys global warming, pro-voucher, anti-health care reform, anti-tax, pro-privatization). Also, Claudia failed to mention that there is a more recent collaboration, dated March 31, 2009 announcing a partnership between CBEE and PRI (check out CBEE website). Oh and finally, it would be helpful to know that Caludia Keith is the CSU Public Affairs Officer and can be reaced at (562) 951-4800.

  5. CSU Faculty / Public School Parent
    August 19, 2009 at 7:29 am

    I appreciate Claudia trying to do her job here…but this is no excuse to misinform. In addition to the connections listed on the blog…the CBEE runs a school finance website developed in partnership with the Pacific Research Institute and Just for the Kids-CA, that purports to provide school finance data for California schools. For anyone who knows school finance this website clearly misinforms the public as they use a simple formula to calculate per pupil expenditure by aggregating all revenue (Restricted and Unrestricted) and dividing it by overall enrollment. A gross misrepresentation which presumes all federal and state revenues, which include Special Education funds, can be used for all students. The overinflated account than of per pupil expenditure, when combined with student test score data as is done on this website gets used as a measure to critique public education as inefficient furthering the call for privatization idealogues. Additionally, Mr. Lanich is a regular at the ultra-conservative Little Hoover Commission and regularly cites, and is cited by, conservative pro-voucher researchers in his articles/reports. Lastly, CBEE and Mr. Lanich primarily (if not solely) views “achievement” based on Standardized Exams in English Language Arts and Math which thoughtful educational researchers understand as having had deleterious impacts on an education. These are but a few examples…CBEE then appears to either quite naive as the context of their work or at worst conscious collaborators in using the “achievement gap” crisis to implement a shock therapy of privatization. CBEE may then serve as the “legitimizing” agent here as Klein so adeptly describes the need for “legitimate” collaborators of the shock doctrine. I think Klein’s thesis is playing out quite clear here and we need be reminded that she adeptly describes how “the shock doctrine” is implemented not only explicitly but also through the infiltration of legitimate “trusted” institutions…we must not allow our CSU to become that legitimatizing vehicle in California Public Education.

  6. Big Oaktown
    August 28, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Liberals have ruined public education. You people live on cloude. Have you vistes East Oakland? Not a tourist spot. Cherry pick? Damnd!!shows just how much weekend warrior liberals who pimp the black and brown kids are disconnected. Oakland has a 42% dropout rate, Latinos are 61%

    If Oakland Charter can somehow magically pick the smartest Latino kids(OCA is 95% Lation and 98% freed and reduce lunch) then other should copy them!

    Liberals get a clue, put down the bullhorns, and go to the burbs and mess up your own!

    No Love in Oakland!

  7. CSU Faculty / Public School Parent
    August 31, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    We have lots of love for Oakland! Go Raiders! The problem Big Oaktown is not that liberals have ruined public education. Policy researchers have clearly pointed out that educational achievement gaps were shrinking dramatically in the 1970s. Then the “Reagan Revolution” hit and education was gutted at the federal level. This, combined, with the conservative push for Prop 13, wherein in conservatives managed to scare voters to retreat completely from investing in public education, decimated any progress made. We now have funding levels equal to southern states such as Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi…states that have been run by conservatives and who have quite low educational achievement. What is most troubling Big Oaktown is not charter schools per se, but rather how conservatives have divested from our once great public education system, gutted common sense education-centered policies, and then come in as white knights to “save those poor black and brown people” from themselves. Give school districts adequate funding per the California Constitution, allow for flexibility in curriculum and instruction (e.g. let educators do what we trained them to do), and support a strong data system with multiple indicators–its not about liberal or conservative its about truly investing in the national interest–our children!

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