The Right’s Long Crusade Against “Government Schools”

Have You Heard Episode #22: The Right’s Long Crusade Against “Government Schools”: a Conversation with Historian Nancy MacLean

Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: the Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, is one of the most buzzed about books of the summer. But her book is also about public education, and the Right’s long crusade to privatize what they call “government schools.” You can read a transcript of the entire interview here. MacLean’s book is fantastic, and I hope that this interview encourages you to read it. Just don’t blame me if you need to sleep with the lights on! Note: if you’re wondering what happened to Have You Heard’s other half, Jack Schneider, he’s been traveling and will be reappearing in episode #23.

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‘I Quit!’

Have You Heard Episode #21: Teachers Are Leaving and They Want to Tell You Why 

In this episode of Have You Heard, we hear from teachers who left their jobs – and wanted to tell the world why. Some left *kicking and screaming,* as was the case with Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Shawn Sheehan. Others shared powerful emotional appeals with the world to object to everything they feel is wrong with public education. These very public resignations are a form of activism, a way for teachers to articulate how and why teaching needs to change. Warning: this episode should be rated *p* for powerful! You can read the transcript of the episode here.

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Putting the ‘i’ in School

Have You Heard Episode #20: Personalized Learning and the Disruption of Public Education

Fantastic news, listener. The cure for what ails our long failing public schools has finally been found and it’s personalized learning! Except that as our special guest, Bill Fitzgerald, breaks down for us, a more accurate term for this miracle cure-all is *algorithmically-mediated learning, which is about as appealing as it sounds.This episode of Have You Heard looks at what’s behind the huge push to reshape public education along *personalized* lines, why disrupters like Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates and Reed Hastings would do well to revisit the history of #edtech, and the strange bedfellows aligned behind personalized learning, including advocates of religious education (see DeVos, Betsy) who seek to control the content of what kids learn. It’s Have You Heard #20! Note: complete transcript of the episode is available here.

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No Clean Hands

I’m responsible for the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Are you?

By Alicia
18th century political and moral philosopher Joseph de Maistre said every country gets the leader it deserves.  More recently, professor and public intellectual Tressie McMillan Cottom pointed out there are no innocent parties in the expansion of market-based education. That’s over two centuries of wisdom firmly identifying us, *We the People,* as just as responsible for the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education as President Donald Trump.

How are you or I responsible for the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education?

It was President Trump who picked her, which makes sense, as his own for-profit education company defrauded thousands of students. But you and I also helped DeVos get to her position. We’re implicated too, despite our protest of the selection of a woman who has used her financial and social capital to undermine public education. My contribution to Betsy DeVos’ appointment is that I consistently failed to pay attention to what was occurring in public education. Continue reading →

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Labor Pains

I talk to veteran union critic Mike Antonucci about what’s next for unions, whether charter school teacher organizing is *a thing,* and whether he has any advice for teacher union heads Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia…

Image result for janusJennifer Berkshire: You’ve been predicting that it’s only a matter of time until the Supreme Court delivers a crushing blow vs. public sector unions. This interview has barely started and your powers of prediction are already being borne out. What happens next?

Mike Antonucci: Essentially agency fees [which require public employees who choose not to join a union to instead pay a fee to the union] will be banned regardless of what state you’re in. There’s no question it will be momentous change, but as long as there is collective bargaining it won’t be *the end of unions,* as some have claimed. I’ve used Florida or Nevada as the model for what public sector unions will all look like post-agency fee. Heck, before their recent problems, the Alabama Education Association was the dominant force in that state’s politics. So I don’t want to downplay it, but I think both sides are somewhat overstating the effect it will have externally. Internally there will have to be belt-tightening. That’s where we’ll see the real fireworks.

Berkshire: I want to dwell for a moment on the name of the gentleman at the heart of the case that now appears to be headed to the Supreme Court. It’s Janus, which is also the Roman god whose two faces look to the past and the future. This strikes me as a perfect metaphor for the state of unions right now: both stuck in the past, unable to adjust to the changing nature of work and workplaces, yet in many ways more necessary than ever.

Antonucci: The unions that we have now haven’t changed in any significant way since the late 70’s, and this is especially true of the public sector unions. They’re working in a world that no longer exists. I’ve written a lot about the lack of input from younger teachers and millennials in the teachers unions. The union is sincere about wanting to get more of those members into the leadership, and yet the paradox that I always see is that those teachers have different priorities, different ways of looking at things and different things that they want from the union. Some people are going to want to set up their own conditions of employment. They feel comfortable setting a value on their own labor and going to an employer and saying: *this is what I’m worth and this is what I want.* A lot of the economy works that way now. Other people are going to need representation of some sort, whether it’s a union or some other kind of agent. Some of them will bond together to make a larger group with unified interests so that they can negotiate as one to get what they want. All of those things will continue to be true into the future. Continue reading →

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