BAR columnist michael hureaux perez is a writer, musician and teacher who lives in southwest Seattle, Washington. He is a longtime contributor to small and alternative presses around the country and performs his work frequently. Email to: [email protected].
by BAR columnist michael hureaux perez
Barack Obama has as much right as his predecessors to dispense bromides to children. “But there is a profound falsehood being told when he claims the families of public school students, or teachers have done 'everything we can' to make sure that kids have what they need to succeed in school.”
Eshu’s blues: The president holds forth on education
by BAR columnist michael hureaux perez
“The speech was no more than the usual blather young people in public school are treated to by their parents, teachers, school administrators, various politicians, etc.”
Out in the great nut orchards of the United States, Glenn Beck and his fellow neo-feudalists worked nonstop to convince people that the President’s recent speech on education was a form of socialist indoctrination. And be very sure, there are many socialists who earnestly wish that building socialism were as easy as indoctrinating people with bass stucco relief on the walls of Rockefeller Center, or handing young people little pink hymnals, as the toxic Beck would have it. Fortunately, most socialists who think that way eventually find their proper homes in the ranks of the U.S. right wing, which never met a personality cult it didn’t like.
Obama’s speech on education, far from being the call for the formation of soviets, was the usual company line dreck associated with corporate ideas on education. In the space of its roughly 3000 words, the speech intended for the president’s audience of young Americans is yet another didactic sermon that features apocryphal tales of personal hardship, exhortation to personal morality, work ethic, etc. It is no more than the usual blather young people in public school are treated to by their parents, teachers, school administrators, various politicians, etc, every hour of every day for as far back as anyone can remember. Barack Obama is a politician, and he has as much right to exercise Richard Nixon-style rhetoric as any other occupant of the White House. Which means he has a perfect right to offer up bromide such as the following, which appears towards the end of his address:
“The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war, who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms, and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down—don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.”
“The President and his Secretary of Education have unveiled a national education plan that is a social Darwinist nightmare.”
This is the sort of “socialist” rhetoric that has the jock straps of the righties in a knot. Personally, if I had a kid in school, I’d be less alarmed about the president possibly imparting communist ethics to my children then the fact that Big Bird and the late Captain Kangaroo even on their very worst days made more coherent statements about public education then the last several presidents of the United States.
I’m not suggesting that President Obama should deliver to an audience of young people, or the country, for that matter, a discourse on pedagogical theory. But there is a profound falsehood being told by President Obama when he claims the families of public school students, or teachers have done “everything we can” to make sure that kids have what they need to succeed in school. It is not true.
The President of the United States and his Secretary of Education have unveiled a national education plan (“Race to the Top”) that is a social Darwinist nightmare. State school systems, already struggling to ensure comprehensive education, are now compelled to compete for $5 billion in federal bribes for kow-towing to Obama administration policies favoring charter schools, promoting high stakes testing, and eliminating teacher security. And every year, this country invests not a few billion dollars, but hundreds of billions of dollars in pursuit of a war which every decent person in this country knows is nothing more than a crime against humanity.
“Big Bird and the late Captain Kangaroo even on their very worst days made more coherent statements about public education then the last several presidents of the United States.”
So no, ladies and gentlemen, we’re not doing everything we can to ensure the academic success of our young people. At this point, most of us would rather sit back and rest on our laurels rather than take on a racketeering state that robs not only our citizenry, but the world, and not only of education, but of public health and every other form of public infrastructure, and this for the sake of the enrichment of a sheltered few. The youth of the urban areas and the working poor of the world will just have to bear down, like we all did. That’s the common mythology. Heck, we elected the first Black President of the United States. And what a charmer he is. End of discussion.
Barack Obama, having massively frittered away his credibility, is intent on ignoring the most fundamental needs of his most dedicated supporters. The real question facing an anti-imperial, pro-education movement, is how to regain its bearings after having tailed behind this man Obama. The terrible Mao Tse Tung addressed the issue most eloquently:
“People must adapt their thinking to the changed conditions. Of course no one should go off into wild flights of fancy, or make plans of action unwarranted by the objective situation, or stretch for the impossible. The problem today, however, is that rightist conservative thinking is causing mischief in many spheres and preventing the work in these spheres from keeping pace with the development of the objective situation. The present problem is that many people consider it impossible to accomplish things which could be accomplished if they exerted themselves.”
Time to go back to school, for a political refresher.