In Naomi Kleinâ€™s bestselling â€œThe Shock Doctrineâ€ 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 traumaâ€”a natural disaster, an economic meltdown, a warâ€”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 zonesâ€”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).Â
The new director of the CSU CBEE Center is Jim Lanich, CBEEâ€s former executive director. If that werenâ€™t enough, hereâ€™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 Izumiâ€™s name sounds somewhat familiar, itâ€™s because our governor has appointed him president of the board of the California Community College system. Yes, thatâ€™s right. Lance Izumi, whose career is based on bashing public education, is the president of the nationâ€™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. â€œSchool-choice programs like vouchers, however, give decision-making authority to parents. In his speech before the American Federation of Teachers, Mr. Obama criticized Mr. McCainâ€™s â€œtired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.â€ He believes that vouchers are unfair to poor parents. But heâ€™s wrong: the heart of Mr. McCainâ€™s case for greater school-choice options, which includes vouchers, is fair and respectful of parentsâ€™ rights.â€Â In an interviewÂ 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 doesnâ€™t decide so a buffer would be created between church and state.Â I donâ€™t quite get the manâ€™s logic, but there should be no doubt what this manâ€™s intentions are.
And his intentions may get truly heinous. Hereâ€™s what he said about education for undocumented students: â€œWe 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.â€
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,Â it makes no sense that California taxpayers are forced to finance the education of children who are in our country illegally.â€
But Izumi isnâ€™t even close to being finished.
Lance Izumi has produced a cleverly manipulative â€œdocumentaryâ€ called â€œNot As Good As You Think-the myth of middle class schools,â€ 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 PRIâ€™s Sally Pipes, a frequent â€œhealth care expertâ€ on Fox News, at the Heritage Foundation last May and is currently on a national tour with someone who is also part of Californiaâ€™s Shock Doctrine, Jorge Lopez.Â Gee, weâ€™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 youâ€™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.Â 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.