by Scott Creighton
There are billions upon billions of dollars to be made by the corporate elite and 1%ers who are currently waiting for superman to come along and help sell the privatization of every public school system in America. The privatization of public schools has been a mainstay in the neoliberal economic reform platform since Milton Friedman and his Chicago Boys tripped down to Chile to run their “experiment” after Henry Kissinger and the CIA killed their elected president on Sept. 11th, 1973 and installed the ruthless dictator Augusto Pinochet in his place.
In third world countries they use dictators and psychopaths to rule with an iron fist (and the occasional CIA death squad and drone strike) while their economic reforms cripple the lives of the vast majority of the indigenous population and their privatization policies sell off the public assets for pennies on the dollar. In America, they use fraudulent politicians, billionaire celebrities and smug sellout tools like Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Davis Guggenheim to spin up sappy, propaganda laden Madison Ave. multi-million dollar PR campaigns designed to fool the American people into thinking a corporate system of institutionalized inequality is actually the “progressive” solution to a carefully orchestrated “problem”.
The legacy of 11 September 1973 goes far beyond the economy and the armed forces. The dictatorship’s most devastating long-term effects are in education and the question of the Mapuches, Chile’s southern indigenous people. Pinochet pushed through the education law just four days before leaving power; it placed the responsibility for education in the hands of the private sector at the same time as allowing complete freedom to create educational centres. The result was the deterioration of the quality of education, while making it prohibitively expensive. Working class people now struggle to get into university and have to make do with municipal secondary colleges – in other words, a second class education. In 2006 the so-called Penguins movement (thus named because of their school uniform) mobilised half a million school students in support of the de-privatisation of education and the rescinding of the law. Guardian UK
The tragic history of the privatization of public school systems doesn’t seem to be much of a concern for billionaires like Oprah and Bill Gates but it is there for anyone to see, were they so inclined to step out of the trap of identity politics and look beyond the feel-good hype of self-delusion.
Well, and, you know, there was a time, a rather naïve time, I think, when we all thought we were friends, and we were all interested in school reform and making it more effective and powerful, and both sort of big corporate money and school progressives worked together. But it turned out they had a much more sinister strategy and desire of what they wanted to accomplish, and that was really to privatize public school. And it’s people who are enamored of the market, market forces. The invisible hand of the market makes everything fabulous, as they’ve shown with the economy. And yes, the idea that all education is for job training, for a slot in the economy as the CEOs foresee it. Nothing in education in this vision has to do with students questioning their circumstances, imagining a different future, constructing a future that would be humane and a good place to live. None of that. It’s all train, train, train for a position, a slot in the economy as it is. Bill Ayers, Democracy Now
In 2006 nearly a million kids took matters into their own hands and protested the systematic oppression of Pinochet’s charter school system in Chile, which is serving as the model for the very same system Oprah Winfrey is promoting here in America right now. But you won’t find any mention of that on her school privatization progaganda page on her website. You’ll also never find any relative of her’s forced to go to some 2nd rate, Burger King training facility that is passed off as a charter high school these days.
Oprah is mega-rich and her family will always be on the sunny side of the street and she damn well knows it.
“In any other country, the fact that 5,000 students are marching through the streets demanding a better education would be the object of national pride,” said María Jesús Sanhueza, 16, a spokeswoman for the students. “The government should be thanking us, not beating us down.”
Admiration for the students is nearly universal, with some 87% of Chileans polled saying they support the movement. “These are not crazy revolutionaries,” wrote Patricio Fernández, an influential columnist in the Clinic newspaper. “Their parents support them. Their cousins, their neighbours, their old aunts. They are bored that the wealthy schools educate those who will be boss, while their school trains them to be workers. More than combating Chilean authorities, they are convincing them.” Guardian UK, 2006
The most recent propaganda campaign being pushed right now is director Davis Guggenheim‘s despicable documentary “Waiting for Superman” which demonizes teachers and teacher’s unions in order to blame them for the deterioration of the public school system and then it presents the for-profit charter school model, just like the one in Chile, as the “progressive” solution. Bill Gates has been pimping this effort with other billionaires like Winfrey.
Davis Guggenheim’s 2010 film Waiting for Superman is a slick marketing piece full of half-truths and distortions. The film suggests the problems in education are the fault of teachers and teacher unions alone, and it asserts that the solution to those problems is a greater focus on top-down instruction driven by test scores. It rejects the inconvenient truth that our schools are being starved of funds and other necessary resources, and instead opts for an era of privatization and market-driven school change.
… The film dismisses with a side comment the inconvenient truth that our schools are criminally underfunded. Money’s not the answer, it glibly declares. Nor does it suggest that students would have better outcomes if their communities had jobs, health care, decent housing, and a living wage. Particularly dishonest is the fact that Guggenheim never mentions the tens of millions of dollars of private money that has poured into the Harlem Children’s Zone, the model and superman we are relentlessly instructed to aspire to. Those funds create full family services and a state of the art school. In a sleight of hand, the film magically shifts focus, turning to “bad teaching” as the problem in the poor schools while ignoring these millions of dollars that make people clamor to get into the Promise Academy. As a friend of mine said, “Well, at least now we know what it costs.” Rick Ayers, Huffington Post
But half-truths and out-right lies are nothing new to the neoliberal propaganda tool Davis Guggenheim. Aside from producing and directing the Obama infomercial of 2008, he was the producer and director of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” which we all now know was chocked full of 35 distortions, exaggerations, and out-right lies all designed to create a sense of doom and panic in order to press the neoliberal “carbon credits and tax” agenda through-out the world.
The whole “Global Warming” fraud was such a lie, they had to rebrand it as “Climate Change” once their own numbers proved the climate has been cooling for over a decade and they could no longer deny they had been fudging the numbers to “hide the decline”.
It took researchers YEARS to expose all of those dishonest misstatements about “Global Warming” from Guggenheim’s last award-winning pieces of propaganda, and in most civilized countries that would have been the end of his career, but instead, even after being exposed as a liar and a fraud, here he is again pimping an even more dangerous agenda; well, dangerous if you are poor or working class and give a shit about your children’s future that is. But I guess Oprah doesn’t have to worry about that, does she?
The process of neoliberalizing the school system is a savage one indeed and when you look at it for what it really is, the process that people like Guggenheim and Oprah are actually protecting, it makes you want to take a shower.
This neoliberal process has been criminally underfunding the public school system for “40 years” since the Lewis Powell memo of 1971 warned corporate America that they were losing the battle for America’s soul (the time frame Guggenheim says public schools have been in decline…. I guess so).
Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy. Reclaim Democracy
The results have been untold damage done to the lives of countless kids and their impoverished communities in America, a massive increase in the drop-out rates, and the subsequent astronomical hike in the rate of incarceration. Then they set up the “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” programs which fraudulently blamed the teachers and public school systems for the decline and the misery they themselves created. Then along comes the lottery system which is featured prominently in Guggenheim’s film which they spent millions of dollars promoting so that they could get a video op of a bunch of kids and parents sitting around a room and weeping when they aren’t chosen in the lottery and they have to stay in the underfunded and under attack public school systems.
Rick Ayers rightly calls it “child abuse” and it is. It’s exploitation of the worse kind and demonstrates the savage cruelty of these neoliberal monsters toward the most defenseless people our country has to offer – children of poor and working class families.
Guggenheim was recently asked in an interview (read as “scripted propaganda session”) about all the liberties they took with the facts in “An inconvenient Truth” and of course Guggenheim spins the question, doesn’t answer it at all, and instead tries to employ circular logic to address the issue.
Guggenheim is nothing more than a sleazy servant to these neoliberal masters of the universe and his latest piece of disinformation and propaganda proves it.