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Philadelphia and the privatization of a school system

We first made note of what was going on within the Philadelphia school system last year with the post Who Will Run Philadelphia’s Schools? Bill Gates?

Then in the Weekly Update : The Philadelphia horror story this month, I described how the schools in Philadelphia were to be privatized by closing neighborhood schools and populating the urban landscape  with charter chains. This wringing of hands over the economy and finding that enough of a reason to close public schools and replace them with the corporate vision of sanitized and privatized education has become the model for the takeover of our school systems starting in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina and continuing on to Chicago and New York. For more on that subject, read the introduction to the Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein Blank is Beautiful: Three Decades of Erasing and Remaking the World.

To follow is a portion of an article written by Ellen Brown, titled The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Quiet Drama in Philadelphia.  Ms. Brown not only writes about the devastation wrought by closing neighborhood schools but also offers one solution of many in terms of providing greater financial power to states, cities and communities.

“You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.

You will not be able to skip out for beer during commercials,

Because the revolution will not be televised,

The revolution will be live.”

– song by Gil Scott-Heron

Last week, the city of Philadelphia’s school system announced that it expects to close 40 public schools next year, and 64 schools by 2017. The school district expects to lose 40% of its current enrollment, and thousands of experienced, qualified teachers.

But corporate media in other cities made no mention of these massive school closings — nor of those in Chicago, Atlanta, or New York City. Even in the Philadelphia media, the voices of the parents, students and teachers who will suffer were omitted from most accounts.

It’s all about balancing the budgets of cities that have lost revenues from the economic downturn. Supposedly, there is simply no money for the luxury of providing an education for the people.

Where will those children find an education? Where will the teachers find work? Almost certainly in an explosion of private sector “charter schools,” where the quality of education — from the curriculum to books to the food served at lunch — will be sacrificed to the lowest bidder, and teachers’ salaries and benefits will be sacrificed to the profits of the new private owners, who will also eat up many millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies.

Why does there always seem to be enough money for military expansion, prisons, bank bailouts and tax cuts for the wealthy, but not enough for education—or for jobs, housing, healthcare, or old age pensions? These are not “welfare” but are part of the social contract for which we pay taxes and make social security payments.

In an article reprinted on Truthout on May 10th titled “Why Isn’t Closing 40 Philadelphia Public Schools National News?,” Bruce Dixon posed this answer:

The city has a lot of poor and black children. Our ruling classes don’t want to invest in educating these young people, preferring instead to track into lifetimes of insecure, low-wage labor and/or prison. Our elites don’t need a populace educated in critical thinking. So low-cost holding tanks that deliver standardized lessons and tests, via computer if possible, operated by profit-making “educational entrepreneurs” are the way to go.

“Lifetimes of insecure, low-wage labor or prison”—this is very close to the “indentured servitude” that was abolished along with slavery by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1865. The freed slaves are being recaptured by debt, beginning with the debt of school loans, followed by credit card debt, mortgage debt, and healthcare costs.

As was cynically observed in a document called the Hazard Circular, allegedly circulated by British banking interests among their American banking counterparts in July 1862:

[S]lavery is but the owning of labor and carries with it the care of the laborers, while the European plan, led by England, is that capital shall control labor by controlling wages. This can be done by controlling the money. The great debt that capitalists will see to it is made out of the war, must be used as a means to control the volume of money. . . . It will not do to allow the greenback, as it is called, to circulate as money any length of time, as we cannot control that. [Quoted in Charles Lindburgh, Banking and Currency and the Money Trust (Washington D.C.: National Capital Press, 1913), page 102.]

The quotation may be apocryphal, but it graphically conveys the fate of our burgeoning indentured class. It also suggests the way out: we must recapture the control of our money and banking systems, including the issuance of debt-free money (“greenbacks”) by the government.

To read the article in full, go to Common Dreams.

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This entry was posted on May 22, 2012 by in Philadelphia, Privatization of schools and tagged , , .
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