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

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Notes from the Road: Some Observations about What is Wrong with the Good Fight

by Doug Martin

During my talk recently to the Southeast Education Task Force in Indianapolis, a member of the Indiana Department of Education said there wasn’t a manufactured crisis in education, that our kids were indeed, many of them, failing.  She quoted some Ph.D  who appeared with Condi Rice recently, the former Bush official who has a Exxon tanker named after her and helped the profiteers handsomely by sending our kids off to a war in Iraq to die along the side of the road.  Luckily, John Harris Loflin, a social justice activist in Indy, responded, pointing out that measuring success and failure by standardized tests which began with the eugenics movement was a complete waste of time and money and that education was more than competing with China for the global workforce.  I call standardized testing child abuse.  
Although the IDOE official had a few good points, she was missing the complete picture.  Adults are the ones failing by forcing kids in Indianapolis to live in utter poverty and to be taught by the test.  Adults are the ones failing by continually fitting into a crony capitalistic system that should have been overthrown a long time ago. 
In Indianapolis, I noted that the Gulen charter school in Southeast Education Task Force’s neighborhood was part of a major movement, the Gulen movement which sends money to a Muslim religious outfit in Turkey to attempt to overthrow that government and create a country that means to oppress women and let the US free market billionaires invade the personal spaces and lives of its citizens.   And that was not in “the best interest of our children,” since the IDOE official used that talking point.  The IDOE member had her laptop out on the table, glued to school data.  She was sitting next to a young Teach for America leader, who probably is a great guy who loves his mother (as all men should) but fails to see he is part of a much bigger problem. 
When I asked the IDOE official when she was leaving the building with her TFA friend if she wanted to buy my book, she said no.  I guess she felt I wasn’t as smart as the Condi Rice Ph.D person.  I guess she thought she knew everything she needed to know about education and reality.  The IDOE official should try giving ISTEP to a room full of special ed. kids with severe behavioral issues if she wants to see what No Child Left Behind’s privatization scam did to American education and the well-being of its young children. 
When the so-called “educated” believe everything someone with a suit and tie says sitting alongside some politician who works for the top 1 percent, the professors educating the so-called “educated” have failed to do their jobs.  The history teachers have, too, because they have not been taught the real America and how the rich have always had their way.   Education, when I was in college, was about learning as much as you could about why you were alive on this planet.  Now, it is about big business and keeping people in their place.  We need the history of the labor movement taught in all of our public universities and schools.  We need those teaching history in Indiana to learn and teach some real history and to rebel against the watered-down pretty version of what the powers-that-be want us all to believe.  We need professors to leave their committee meetings and do something to better society and our planet, what remains before global warming kills us all off.
My conversation in Indianapolis reinforced something I learned a long time ago, having grown up in the boonies in rural Indiana and leaving a town without stop signs which now only has a post office, which will probably soon be closed down: it isn’t the downhome boy who didn’t go to college with the shotgun you have to worry about.  It’s the fake intellectuals in their suits and ties using their pens who will really mess up your life, the ones who keep the oligarchy of this country in place by going to work every single day and doing what they are told.  I think Woody Guthrie mentions this in one of his pro-labor songs, in fact. 
Although there are many who are working hard every day to save our public education, many who have made promises to support Indiana schools lack motivation; the others are way too busy and wrecking their health (and I respect and salute them).   Some are completely mis-focused.  Getting any help from many people to truly make change often is like trying to swim in a bathtub.   As Hoosier musician Junior Brown, a real guitar hero, says, “If you want to race, then get on the racetrack.”  If you truly are for change, do something instead of talking about it.  The time to act was yesterday. 
I spent over 6,000 hours researching Hoosier School Heist and I did hours upon hours of research for certain groups and people.  Many of these people have not bought the book, and they haven’t supported it in any way, shape, or form.  Still, they email me and ask me questions that if they would read my book or even looked through its index they would have answers to. They would find, first off, that if it were only Tony Bennett, Mitch Daniels, Brian Bosma, Bob Behning, the Koch Brothers (minor players in what went down a few years ago in Indiana, I keep trying to point out), and ALEC that are or were the problem, we would be in good shape and have a chance fighting the assault on Indiana public schools.  They need to realize that there are enough people in Indiana from both sides of the political aisle to continue to carry on the school privatization plan of Walmart/Amway/Al Hubbard/Jeb Bush/Overstock.com/Bill Gates, and hedge fund managers. Those truly out speaking in favor of public education need some new talking points.
People tell me many teachers and those supporting teachers don’t want to become political.  But every act is political; every polluted air breath we take should be an act of rebellion.  Every human being (as well as every ant and lady bug on Earth, as Walt Whitman knew) is important and has its place.  I begin my book with a quotation from Tecumseh not just because he and Little Prophet and the Indians were helpless against the powers-that-be in Indian Territory, modern day Indiana, but because Tecumseh wanted to know why William Henry Harrison wanted to sell off the earth.  And sell it they did and are still doing. The food we eat is poisoning our bodies; the privatized water we drink is unsafe. School privatization is part of a much bigger sociopathic movement in Indiana and America, folks.
As social justice professor Henri Giroux says, all the tinkering around the corners and going through the system to create change is pointless.  It’s like daily airing up the tires of a car with no engine.  Too many in positions of power in support of public schools are too busy talking to the choir, and the choir either isn't listening or is just not doing anything.  We need to take this fight to parents, teachers, neighbors, and the streets.   If we want to change this state and this country, we need a paradigm shift so drastic that it makes the powers-that-be shake, one that keeps the wealthy up late at night worrying as much as the ISTEP keeps teachers up at night and young children vomiting in their Hoosier classrooms, scared to death.  We need a movement that resurrects the dead,  the Christs and Eugene V. Debs among us.  One that gives us time to wake up with our lover at the same time each night and to gaze into the divinity of his or her eyes.  One that makes and keeps us human and divine, pleasantly living alongside the bugs and birds moving among us.


  1. Thanks, Doug, for carrying the fire. We have to remember that a hundred years ago looked much the same. I hope it doesn't take another Great Depression and a Holocaust to alter the intolerable.

    1. as we sit here today, what do we believe was altered by the Great Depression and the Holocaust?

    2. So, true. Thank you, Jim, for what you do, too.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.