A few weeks ago, in post about the complete dismantling of public education as we know it in Philadelphia, I quoted a publication called the Black Agenda Report. The article that I’d excerpted, as you may recall, dealt primarily with the curious silence of black civil rights leaders. Here, for those of you who might have missed it, is that excerpt again.
…The black political class is utterly silent and deeply complicit. Even local pols and notables who lament the injustice of local austerity avoid mentioning the ongoing wars and bailouts which make these things “necessary.” A string of black mayors have overseen the decimation of Philly schools. Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous and other traditional “civil rights leaders” can always be counted on to rise up indignant when some racist clown makes an inappropriate remark about the pretty black First Lady and her children.
But they won’t grab the mic for ordinary black children. They won’t start and won’t engage the public in a conversation about saving public education. It’s not because they don’t care. It’s because they care very much about their funding, which comes from Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation, from Wal-mart and the Walton Family Foundation, from the corporations that run charter charter schools and produce standardized tests.
To name just one payment to one figure, Rev. Al Sharpton took a half million dollar “loan” from charter school advocates in New York City, after which he went on tour with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Newt Gingrich extolling the virtues of standardized testing, charter schools and educational privatization. Bill Gates delivered the keynote speech at the latest gathering of the National Urban League. And the nation’s two big teachers’ unions, NEA and AFT have already endorsed Barack Obama’s re-election, and will funnel him gobs of union dues as campaign contributions, despite his corporate-inspired “Race To The Top” program which awards federal education funds in proportion to how many teachers are fired and replaced by inexperienced temps, how many schools are shut down, and how many charter schools exempt from meaningful public oversight are established and granted public funds…
The reason that I mention this is that someone just sent me a link to a YouTube video in which Glen Ford, the executive editor of the Black Agenda Report, goes even further on the subject, suggesting that conservative think tanks, like Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation, have been working since the mid-1990s to cultivate a cadre of young, black, Democratic leaders, who, while outwardly appearing progressive, promote the wedge issue of school privatization. Their goal, he contends, is clear. They want to destabilize the Democratic base, which has historically fought for worker rights, increased workplace safety, environmental protection and any number of other causes that negatively impact the corporate bottom line. And, they’ve identified school privatization as the holy grail of wedge issues. As Ford points out, the privatization of public schools not only further enriches corporate America, but it also breaks unions, which have historically formed the base of the progressive movement. And, perhaps most importantly, the end result is that poor, overwhelmingly-Democratic populations are less educated… Here, with much more, is Ford.
So, what do you think? Is this the stuff of conspiracy theories, or does Ford have a point? Is school privatization, as he suggests, an astroturf issue, created in a conservative think tank, in order to drive a wedge between African Americas, who legitimately feel as though public schools aren’t meeting the needs of their families, and their historic allies in the teachers union? And, is Ford right when he portrays Newark Mayor, Cory Booker, as a black Manchurian candidate?