Sunday, October 6, 2013
When Coercion and Intimidation Dictate Education Policy-Democracy Withers
The rapid growth of the Opt-Out movement, and the accompanying growth of mass resistance to high stakes testing, has revealed the extraordinary levels of intimidation and coercion that have accompanied the implementation of current education policies. Not only have teachers and school administrators who question current levels of testing been threatened with termination, especially if they encourage parents to opt their children out of tests, but opting out families have been told that they risk consequences ranging from being reported to Child Services to having their children denied promotion, access to Special Needs services, placement in gifted programs, or ability go on school trips or participate in school sports and music programs.
But it is not just school officials on the federal, state or local level, who are engaged in such intimidation, it is leaders of voluntary organizations. In several states, including New York, local PTA's are being told by their state PTA organizations that they are not allowed to have speakers at their events who recommend opting out of state tests.
Where, you ask, is freedom of speech? Where is the freedom of school professionals to speak their mind on critical education policy issues? Where is the ability of parents to make decisions about their child's education without being threatened or denied access to critical resources - which by the way are funded by their own taxes
When we put this draconian treatment of those questioning test policies side by side with the takeover of whole school districts by state governments, the imposition of Mayoral control of public schools, and the mass closing of public schools over the protests of community residents in cities like New York and Chicago, we see that when it come to Education Policy, elites have decided that democracy, both procedural and substantive, has become a luxury we can no longer afford. Tellingly, this is true whether one lives in an inner city neighborhood or a middle income suburb!
Who is responsible for this? The culprits are many, but I would suggest that when examines Education policy, the first place to look would be whether the organization responsible for the intimidation is taking funds from two sources- the US Department of Education, and the Gates Foundation. The collusion of the two- reflecting the conflation of centralized government power with centralized corporate power- suggests the depth of the threat we face to popular democracy in this country, and not only in education.