When I was 16, in October 1963, a week after my best friend in high school murdered his abusive father and then put the shotgun into his own mouth and pulled the trigger, I had a dream. I dreamt President Kennedy had been shot by a rifle, and wounded, in the backyard of the White House. A month later, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, by a rifle.
As they did to the cursed Cassandra in Greek mythology, snakes seemingly have licked my ears to give me the awful gift of foresight about some things — especially about public education, the system I believe in, more than anything, to engender hope for the human race.
And now public education is suffering a slow death by suffocation at the hands of the psychopathic corporate-based reform movement, just as, like a canary in a mine (cough, cough), I’ve been predicting for a decade.
Nationwide, the heavily funded reform movement has been behind what former-reformist Diane Ravitch has called the “largest transference of public money into the private sector in history.” In other words, reformists have not really been interested in education and children, but rather in the power and the money. While incessantly demonizing teachers, these corporate-minded careerists have orchestrated, through sleight-of-hand, the takeover of public funding for education, in subtle ways not dissimilar to the Mafia infiltrating legitimate businesses back in the day.
Bottom line: Most reformist thugs know little about education. But they do know about cooking the books, cheating and diverting money from where it actually should go. Their goal has been nothing short of the global hegemony of corporate greed — with huge sums of cash being siphoned out of kids’ classrooms into the coffers of computer monopolies, testing companies, education reform groups, expensive but ineffective online learning programs and nebulous charter schools.
In Nevada, to protect this devious movement, outsiders have been suspiciously placed in public education’s top three positions — State Superintendent of Schools James Guthrie; Washoe District Superintendent Pedro Martinez; and Clark County District Superintendent Dwight Jones.
However, some of the luster has started to fade on the façade of these fakers. For example, Guthrie has been ludicrously spouting some gibberish that high school teachers need to start mentoring students to help them graduate, as if he just invented public education. But teachers have mentored kids thusly since the time of Socrates.
For his part, Martinez’s bizarre academic game plan allegedly has called for an “initiative of the day” — or new reform, daily, to keep the reformist shell-game in perpetual motion.
Locally, to bolster Jones’ bold claims of our district’s improved passing and graduation rates, principals have allegedly been telling teachers to pass students even if students have exceeded, often egregiously, the district’s policy on unexcused absences. Plus, the Review-Journal recently reported how Jones cooks the books to make himself look good. With his contrived, confusing five-star system for rating schools, not one school, including 63 in which performance declined in the past year, has been downgraded academically. Oops.
An insightful critic of mine has said my education writing in CityLife sometimes sounds “shrill” — like a crazy man on his front lawn, drunk, in his underwear, shouting epithets. I certainly hope so. It ain’t easy being Cassandra in the modern world, snakes and all.
CHIP MOSHER is a simple classroom teacher