"Ms. Kopp's husband, Richard Barth, was an Edison executive before taking over as CEO of KIPP's national foundation, where he has sought to decertify its New York City unions." — Jesse James Alred
One thing I'll concede to the corporate education reformers is their uncanny ability to use anything as a sales pitch for neoliberalism and profitability. Perhaps the most egregious example of this was Arne "Katrina Schadenfreude" Duncan's racist pro-charter school statement that the abject disaster was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans." Not to be outdone by a dullard second rate basketball player masquerading as Secretary of Education, education reform mogol Wendy Kopp has taken the dark art of corporate spin to a whole new level.
I can think of only a handful of individuals who would be more inappropriate to review Jonathan Kozol's latest book than Kopp, but unfortunately the Washington Post gave her the space. Kopp's review of "Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-five Years Among the Poorest Children in America" can only be described as shameless self-promotion. Laden with half-truths, outright lies, and contorted pats to her own back, Kopp doesn't miss an opportunity to spread meritocracy myths, plug privatization, and pander calloused right-wing catch phrases like "demographics need not be destiny."
Kopp uses each transition of theme to mildly chastise Kozol, mendaciously suggesting that things are getting better all the time (and in no small part to thanks to her endeavors). The entire piece reads as "Yes, Kozol accurately describes things as they were decades ago, but thanks to the heroic efforts of myself and other hedge fund backed reformers, society is well on its way to solving its deepest systemic problems." It is cringe inducing, but worth reading to understand the full pathology of white savior syndrome.
I posted the following commentary under her so-called review:
Ms. Kopp's "review" is little more than misplaced self-congratulatory drivel. It would have been better if she had just been honest and stated from the get-go that she wished Johnathan Kozol had written a book about her and her fellow corporate education reformers.
To wit she lists some of the most vile organizations on the leading edge of privatization at the end of her piece and insinuates they are somehow changing systemic problems. KIPP, those colonial centers of cultural sterilization that often have between 40-60% attrition rates. Harlem Children’s Zone where charlatan Geoffrey Canada pays himself a half a million a year for doing things like kicking out an entire class of children since they were making him look bad on standardized tests. Union busting Stand for Children whose haughty arrogance resulted in the victorious Chicago teachers' strike. Rest assured her litany of corporate privatizers are part of the problem, not the solution.
No where is the wealthy white Kopp's detachment from reality and obsequiousness to power and privilege more apparent than her disgusting homage to petty dictator Bloomberg. To call the NYC Mayor's tenure anything other than abject disaster is to reach heights of mendaciousness never scaled before.
Kozol is a luminary of the social justice crowd, while Ms. Kopp is a pariah at best. I know her constant company of hedge fund managers, billionaire bankers, and fetid politicians keep her in a reality detached from the subject she thinks she has expertise in, and when she uses repulsive phrases like "social entrepreneurs," she pretty much proves how obtuse she is. When I was coming up veteran activists had a difference phrase for "social entrepreneurs," they called them "poverty pimps." Frankly it's embarrassing to allow Kopp to review any work by Kozol. Let's hope the Post shows better judgement in the future.
The most important response to Kopp's hamfisted plugging of corporate education reform won't be found in any polemics or critiques of her. Rather it will be found in taking actions to implement authentic reforms that are the antithesis of Kopp and her cadre of neoliberal profiteers. Reading Kozol is a great start, and creating neighborhood book circles to read works by him and other social justice authors are an excellent way of educating community members with facts to counter the corporate narrative. Ultimately organizing ourselves to put that theory into action is the only thing that will stop neoliberalism—just like the parents, community members, and activists who stood alongside the striking Chicago Teachers Union.
For a more humorous take on this topic, see EduShyster's Kopp to Kozol: Your New Book Didn’t Mention Me Once!