Save Our Schools and Vietnam War Protests

save our teachersHow the Struggle Against Corporate Education Reform Resembles the Movement Against the War in Vietnam

The struggle against Corporate Education Reform has chilling similarities to the struggle against the Vietnam War. Like Test Driven School Reform, the escalation of the Vietnam War initially had great bipartisan support. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed by 414 to O in the House of Representatives, and 88 to 2 in the Senate. And like supporters of Education Reform, proponents of US military involvement in Vietnam claimed this intervention was motivated by democratic ideals.

But over time, as the destructive consequences of the war were revealed, and its fundamentally undemocratic nature became clear, a protest movement began to emerge, starting slowly with teach-ins at universities, moving to large public protest marches, then to draft resistance, campus takeovers, and mutiny and revolt within the US military. By the early 70s, it became politically impossible to sustain the war and a Republican president began the process of withdrawl.

The same is taking place in education. As the most favored reform policies — school closings, universal imposition of high-stakes testing, teacher evaluations based on those tests, attacks on teachers unions, and the replacement of public schools by charter schools — fail to improve school performance, widen test score gaps based on race and class, and create fear and stress among teachers, students and parents, the major stakeholders in public education are beginning to revolt.

We see a Save Our Schools movement among teachers, a national Opt-Out movement among parents, and school walkouts by students, all in the context of a withering critique of reform policies by the nation’s leading education scholars. But this is only the early stage of what will become a wholesale revolt. Within three or four years, revolt against testing and privatization may well cripple many school systems, and force political leaders to re-evaluate their support of the policies which generate this opposition. This is already happening in New York City.

The point is that the power of the school reform juggernaut does not guarantee its ultimate success. Who would have predicted that a nationalist uprising among a long colonized people could neutralize the most powerful military apparatus in the history of the world. But it happened because the US military faced a people, though lacking in advanced military equipment, who were fighting for everything they held dear- their land, their country, and their history.

mark naisonEducation reformers may experience a similar outcome when facing fighting teachers fighting for their professional integrity, parents fighting for the well being of their children, and young people fighting to make school a place where they feel empowered rather than suppressed and humiliated.

Mark Naison
With A Brooklyn Accent

Posted: Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on May 16, 2012
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