My new article in Tikkun just came out, and given all the struggles going on from my old home in Wisconsin to my current home of Oakland, it couldn’t be more timely. The piece is about grassroots education activists vs. corporate “reformers” a la Waiting for Superman. Here is a taste:
The Real Education Reformers:
Why Chicago Mothers and Teachers Are Doing More than “Waiting for Superman”
Want to meet the leaders of the growing movement in defense of public education? You might be surprised where to look. While the corporate media focuses on Washington, D.C., and President Obama’s Race to the Top policies, or on Hollywood and its controversial documentary Waiting for Superman, you can find America’s true grassroots education reformers in the post-industrial heartland of Chicago, Illinois. And as with any great movement, mothers are at the forefront.
In October 2010, a group of primarily Latina mothers from Whittier Elementary School on the near west side of Chicago staged a sit-in at the school to stop the Chicago Public School system from tearing down the school’s field house to become a soccer field for a neighboring private school. After forty-three days of protest that garnered national media attention, the school system agreed to the activists’ demands, pledging to build a much-needed library and community center on the site instead. The mothers thus won more than just a place for their kids to learn their ABCs: they won both increased funding and the right for their school to be a site for community engagement and action.
Just six months earlier, Chicago’s progressive education movement scored another victory. In May 2010, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), an insurgent slate of activist teachers, won a hard-fought election to take leadership of the powerful Chicago Teachers Union. The teachers union, like others across the country, had come under criticism for its bureaucratic, paternalistic relationship with parents and even its own members. CORE won the election on a theme of social justice unionism and democratic education, and in its first year in leadership it has taken a more aggressive stance on issues like smaller class sizes, equitable funding, deemphasizing standardized tests, and reducing union officials’ salaries to bring them in line with what an actual teacher makes.
And tomorrow night, I’ll be performing at Tikkun’s 25th anniversary celebration at UC-Berkeley. They’re honoring Judge Richard Goldstone, who wrote the controversial, brutally honest UN human rights report on Gaza. It should be a memorable, powerful night. There’s still room, if you want to come through…
Monday, March 14
Tikkun’s 25th Anniversary!
UC-Berkeley, Pauley Ballroom.
With Justice Richard Goldstone (author of the UN report on Gaza), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), C.K. Williams (Pulitzer prize-winning poet), Josh Healey (Youth Speaks spoken word poet), and more.