Category Archives: Education

Memphis SP Statement on Obama’s Commencement Address at BTW High

[This originally appeared on the Memphis Socialist Party’s Website]

While Memphians celebrate the victory of Booker T. Washington High School in President Obama’s 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, a critical analysis of the President’s educational policies has been absent from public discussion, despite the fact that schools like BTW could eventually fall victim to the administration’s tacit goal of mass privatization through the President’s market-based “reform” agenda.

Although President Obama’s administration does not use the anti-public education rhetoric of the hard right, he is clear about his ideological alignment with Bush’s No Child Left Behind program. Moreover, Obama’s Race to the Top—a competitive program of corporate school reform that pits public schools and communities against one another for scarce federal funding—is a natural continuation of the neoliberal agenda, which seeks to create a favorable market for profit-driven charter schools by busting teachers’ unions and closing schools in communities reeling from the disastrous effects of global capitalism. Race to the Top ensures that the most vulnerable students will continue to be marginalized as their schools remain underfunded and understaffed, if they remain open at all.

Teachers, students, and parents understand that successful schools have small class sizes, support staff such as teachers’ assistants, nurses, and counselors, and an approach that values a variety of learning opportunities for individual students with different needs and talents. The Obama administration and its corporate partners, however, take a regressive approach that focuses on standardized testing as a measure of student achievement and teacher effectiveness while firing masses of school staff and replacing neighborhood schools with charters, which are unaccountable to communities and no more successful on average than their public counterparts.

However, barriers to providing a quality education for all people will remain in one form or another under any reformist agenda no matter how progressive or student-centered the approach. Education reform will not solve the major problems created or reinforced by global capitalism: poverty, segregation, institutional bigotry, mass unemployment, mass incarceration, labor exploitation and social alienation. The corporate think tanks and foundations responsible for creating and implementing Obama’s educational policies have no interest in educating all students; in order to maintain low wages, low expectations, and high profits, capitalists depend upon a large unemployed population and a much larger population of working poor.

The recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, organized largely by disaffected youth, have provided more concrete evidence for what the capitalists already know: if society provides an education without providing jobs, the people will revolt. The ruling class is much too sophisticated to risk losing power by providing effective education beyond what is necessary for them to continue to develop new consumer products and instruments of war. Until the masses of people on the losing end of this rigged system organize and commit ourselves to a revolutionary restructuring of our social and economic relations, those who write the rules of the game will continue to have access to quality education while the rest of us will continue to be denied that right.

The students of historic BTW will always remember the day that the first black president of the United States delivered their commencement address, but they deserve much more than empty platitudes about hope, change, the “American Dream” or “Equality of Opportunity”—they deserve a future where their children will not have to compete with their sisters and brothers to “win” an education; they deserve a future where their neighborhood is safe and clean, and where all people have a right to engage in meaningful work. This future will not be created for us.

As revolutionary socialists, we believe that workers and the poor have the ability to create a better world than the status quo maintained by the capitalist class—capitalists’ power lies not in god-given mandates or managerial prowess, but only through convincing the people that we are incapable of controlling our own lives. We reject this notion, just as we reject the notion that the solution to the harms inflicted by global capitalism lies in education reform alone. Instead, the situation today compels us to organize ourselves and our communities to create an actual and revolutionary change in socioeconomic relations. Together, there is a world to win and a world to defeat!

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Filed under Education, labor movement, Leftists in the U.S. South, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, Tennessee

America’s Right Wing: YES to Quran-burning, NO to Flag-Burning

Originally posted to Islamaphobia Today, May 14, 2011



When LSU graduate student Benjamin Haas planned to burn the U.S. flag to protest the clamping down of civil liberties and the right of due process for “students and suspected terrorists alike”, an angry mob of over 1,000 people came out to stop him.  Haas “sustained physical and verbal taunting”and in fact received numerous death threats.  Had the police not been there to protect him, Haas might have been seriously hurt.  (Haas backed down from burning the flag.)


Here’s a video of the despicable mob (hint: any time you see Americans wrapped in the flag chanting “USA! USA! USA!” more often than not they are war-mongers):

  Continue reading

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Filed under Anti-Imperialism, Anti-War, Education, Imperialism, Islam, Louisiana, Middle East, racism, Southern United States, Students, Uncategorized, United States

A silent protest in Tallahassee

By KurtFF8

On Monday afternoon, a Florida Senate hearing was being held to discuss SB830, a bill which disallows unions from taking dues automatically through pay checks for public employees.  This bill also prohibits union dues from being used in political activity (source).  The AFL-CIO organized a silent protest outside of the committee room, with activists, labor members, and students taping their mouths shut to demonstrate the silencing they feel the bill would do to them.  Discussion of bill was later postponed due to “time constraints.”

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Filed under austerity measures, budget cuts, Censorship, class struggle, Education, Florida, labor movement, labor unions, Southern United States, Tallahassee, Uncategorized

Louisiana college students protest budget cuts in Baton Rouge

By E. P. Bannon
13 November 2010

[Originally posted to World Socialist Website]

University students from throughout Louisiana descended on the capitol in Baton Rouge on November 10 to demonstrate against cuts in state spending on education. About 500 students from Louisiana State University (LSU), Southern University, University of New Orleans (UNO), Southeastern Louisiana University (SELU), University of Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL), Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University and Grambling State University were in attendance.

The budget cuts in education, already amounting to $310 million, are part of a larger series of austerity measures that will affect virtually all state-funded public services. Recently, Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, announced an additional cut in higher education spending of as much as 35 %, or up to $500 million more.

Students crowded the steps at the base of the capitol with signs, banners, and raised fists. As elsewhere, the policies of the federal and state governments have produced major disillusionment and an acute feeling of frustration among students, workers and youth in Louisiana. One sign, outlining the state’s crisis of education and indicting Governor Jindal, read sarcastically, “Iff you kan reede this, thanck Bobby Jindal.”

State officials and legislators made clear their hostility to the students’ demands. Only one Democratic state legislator attended the demonstration. Another legislator screamed at demonstrators as he left the capitol building. “We don’t need socialism in our economic policy,” he said, “and we don’t need it in our educational system! This is Un-American!”

Coupled with the ending of the meager federal stimulus package at the close of this year, the entire state higher education system is in crisis. Tuition has risen sharply, entire departments and programs have been cut, teachers, faculty and workers have been laid off, and services essential to the survival of these institutions are in danger.

“The cleaning staff in the Liberal Arts building have been laid off,” one UNO student explained. “The classrooms are filthy. It’s not uncommon to see trash all over the room. My anthropology classroom even floods.” He went on to talk about his financial concerns: “My tuition is skyrocketing. If it goes up any more, I won’t be able to continue.”

Foreign language departments have also been hard hit. “First they cut our third level course, then our second year course, and in the spring they will even cut German 1101,” a professor of German at LSU explained. One of her students added that if he graduated in the spring, he would still have to make up a course due to cuts in the university’s curriculum.

There were a series of speakers at the rally, including students and professors from each university. The majority of speakers, although passionate, did nothing reveal the class character of the situation—appealing instead to the Democrats against Governor Jindal. Typical was a professor from Southern University who proclaimed, “When young people get involved in the political system, you can literally change the world!” Such a statement expresses and propagates the misconception that the corporate-controlled two-party system represents the interests of the people.

One exception was Gregory William Esteven, a student from SELU, who broached the wider issues confronting working people: “All our public universities are facing such situations to one degree or another, and it means that higher education will be available to increasingly fewer people, and especially to the working class who make up the vast majority in this country and state. It means that Louisiana will have a dramatically-less educated population, which translates into a less educated workforce and political culture.”

The stories told to the rally show the direction of the education system, not only in Louisiana, but also across the United States and other developed nations. The universities’ lack of funding will result in the abandonment of an entire generation of working class youth, and loss of a vast intellectual potential. The education-deprived youth will be offered only the future of becoming instruments of the ruling class in new wars driven by the profit concerns of the ruling class.

There has been resistance to this new ruthless offensive waged by the capitalists, although it has been sporadic and lacks unity or direction. Last month, roughly 70 UNO students occupied a campus building for several hours, ending with a brief and minor clash with the police.

The working class and youth need a new direction. The youth and working class must break from the big-business parties and independently pursue a socialist program—a program that values the many over the few, of human need over profit.

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Filed under austerity measures, budget cuts, class struggle, Education, Gulf States, Louisiana, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, Students, The Left, Uncategorized, United States, workers

Pro-Socialist Events in Florida

by KurtFF8

Last week, in Gainesville and Tallahassee, Florida: events making the case for Socialism took place simultaneously.

In Tallahassee, the Center for Participant Education hosted a 4 part “Marxism 101” course taught by myself.  Attendance was consistently between 10 and 25 people.  The majority of attendees were students and young workers currently or formerly interested in activism in Tallahassee.  The topics ranged from an introduction to Marxism, Socialism of the 20th Century, Anti-Communism from the Left and the Right, and Socialism for the 21st Century: prospects for socialism today.  Following each course was a long discussion where attendees were quite engaged.

In Gainesville, at the same time as one of the Marxism 101 courses, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) held an event titled “The Case for Socialism” while an anti-Cuba talk by the daughter of Castro was going on at the same time at the UF campus.  The presenter of the event says that around 30 people attended and that issues from Capitalism, Marxism to LGBTQ rights were discussed.  Like the Tallahassee event an engaged discussion followed.

These events, while relatively small, show a renewed interest in Marxism.  While Gainesville and Tallahassee are often portrayed as “progressive college towns,” they are also two cities in Florida that are considered to be culturally “Southern” compared to some of the cities in the Southern part of the peninsula .  This demonstrates that while there is a renewed interest in Socialism, it’s time to not only organize in the South, but begin to have these sorts of conversations with wider audiences.  Education can be as important of a tool for the Left as a good demonstration.

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Filed under Communism, Education, Florida, Leftists in the U.S. South

New pamphlet from Raleigh, North Carolina FIST (Fight Imperialism-Stand Together)

We Won’t Go Back: Defending Wake County Schools Against Racism and Resegregation

[Excerpt] On March 23, 2010 the Wake County School Board voted 5-4 to end school assignments to achieve socioeconomic diversity and move toward a process of creating a neighborhood schools policy. This vague concept seems to mean something different to each of the five school board proponents, although they assure the public that the radical change will magically solve all the challenges of one of the country’s largest urban school districts.

Regardless of the intention of its “authors,” the end result of such a move is clear — re-segregated public schools with highly-resourced schools for affluent and predominantly white students and under-resourced, failing schools for poor children and children of color. Due to “neighborhood schools” policy, the state of North Carolina failed to recieve a $469 million federal Race to the Top education grant. The Magnet Programs with strong Federal funding that once were the pride of Wake County will disappear.

These new “Magnet-style” schools that are currently being promised to parents in suburban areas will not materialize and every child and parent in Wake County will lose, except those who can afford to send their children to private schools. The biggest winners will be those who run those schools and will make a profit, among them Ron Margiotta, current chair of the school board, and Robert Luddy, the number 1 contributor to the campaigns of the winning candidates.

In the 2009 Wake County School Board elections, four candidates, Chris Malone, Debra Goldman, Deborah Prickett, and John Tedesco, won their respective races in an off-year election with less than 5% of the voting population’s support. All four candidates ran campaigns centered around removing the nationally recognized diversity policy in favor of “neighborhood schools.” Their campaigns were primarily funded by a small network of wealthy conservatives with ties to local private schools. Goldman, Tedesco, Malone, and Prickett joined sitting member Ron Margiotta to create a right-wing bloc with a majority on the nine member board.

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Filed under African Americans, Education, North Carolina, Race, Southern United States, Uncategorized, United States