"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Parent Trigger on the Suicide Bomb

The Parent Trigger on the Suicide Bomb
Jim Horn

Since No Child Left Behind became law, schools where there are lots of poor kids have been turned into brutal testing factories, where the focus is on raising test scores rather than raising children. Even so, the test scores inexorably reflect the economic disadvantages of poor communities, as parents each year continue to receive the federally-mandated letter telling them their schools are failing. 

Some parents shake their heads and shrug off the letters because they know their child’s teacher is doing the best she can.  Others get frustrated and angry.  And yet most of these parents do not know that Karl Rove and his little band of Texans created NCLB with their dismay and frustration in mind, in order to replace public education, or to “blow it up a bit,” as former Assistant Secretary of Education Susan Neuman told Time Magazine in 2008. The idea, all along, was to use the tests, as Senator Judd Gregg mused in 2001 during final mark up of NCLB, to show that public schools are failing and, thus, to usher in “market solutions” and charter schools to replace the “failed” public schools.

Nor do these parents remember the warnings printed in the New York Times op-eds that warned that massive failure rates among poor schools would be the sure outcome if the NCLB plan went through.  Staiger and Kane, both respected economists, titled one hair-on-fire piece “Rigid Rules Will Damage Schools,” and they did not even get into the damage to be absorbed by the children in those schools.  Parents do not know the first trigger was pulled back then, 11 years ago, when NCLB became law. 

Now parents are being handed another device with a trigger that looks like a gun, and parents are urged to open fire on those failed schools.  This weapon of mass destruction is called the Parent Trigger law, and it is celebrated in a new movie by Walden Media, which is headed by conservative media tycoon and philanthropist, Philip Anschutz (see Ken Libby’s post on Anschutz here). Walden Media is the same outfit that brought us the glossy Hollywood propaganda film, Waiting for Superman.

The film, Won't Back Down, celebrates the first parent trigger law in California, which is named, in the best Orwellian tradition, the Parent Empowerment Act.  It is supported with tens of millions of tax-sheltered corporate dollars, and it is aimed at frustrated low-income parents of children in the aforementioned testing factories.  Aimed, quite literally.  Following a decade of test failure and shrinking budgets under NCLB, parents are now urged to finish the job that the little Texas Mafia of Karl Rove, Margaret Lamontagne Spellings, and Sandy Kress started in 2000:  blow up, for real, the remaining urban public schools.  When the dust clears, there will stand a school that looks very much like the old one, but it will be run with public funds by a nexus of corrupt unemployed politicians, self-serving CEO wannabes, hedge funders, and vulture philanthropists. 

As for the parents who pull the trigger on what they thought was a gun, their voices will as demolished as the public oversight that was vaporized in the explosion, along with the voices of all parents to come after them, even if they would choose no such suicide if given a choice—for which the Orwellian Parent Empowerment Act offers no provision. 

Did anyone who set off a suicide bomb ever have a chance to change her mind?


  1. ALEC's Board of Directors approved model legislation for the Parent Trigger Act on 1/7/2011. It was then posted for members as a downloadable document on the ALEC website. Naturally, it has since been removed but can still be seen here:

    Today someone started a #BoycottWontBackDown campaign on Twitter.

  2. Will anyone protest at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina?

    "Won't Back Down" is getting a prime premiere at the DNC on September 3, 2012.

    Michelle Rhee and her panel of stars: Ben Austin (Parent Revolution), Joe Williams (Democrats for Education Reform) and Kevin Johnson (Democratic mayor of Sacramento) will join her for a panel discussion after the public screening of the film.

    I gave the whole Romney-Rhee StudentsFirst link and shadowy funding details at my blog.