The Dyett Hunger Strike for Education Justice in Chicago

Open Letter to Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan

The hunger strike in Chicago by parents and their allies at Dyett High School in the Bronzeville neighborhood has passed Day 31.

Despite the recent announcement from Chicago Public Schools officials that Dyett will reopen as a school with a focus on the arts, parent and community hunger strikers there have vowed to continue the strike until the school district agrees to their demands. “I will continue to be on this hunger strike until we get the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology school,” said Irene Robinson. “This is not right.”

The hunger strike at Dyett is not an isolated incident of disgruntled parents and community members; it is part of a grassroots movement to challenge corporate school reform, which evaluates and punishes students, teachers, and schools based on standardized test scores. The efforts of Dyett parents and grandparents in Bronzeville are joined with other acts of defiance throughout the country: parents withholding their students from standardized tests, teachers burning their evaluations and refusing to administer tests that they deem harmful, students walking out of school to protest the test and punish regime, communities fighting against the privatization of their public schools.

The hunger strikers in Chicago join with other courageous hunger strikers throughout the world who have sought to dramatize injustice through self-sacrifice.

The Dyett hunger strikers led a silent march to President Obama’s Chicago home followed by a vigil. Credit: Bob Simpson

What makes this struggle especially inspiring is that not only is the community opposing unjust treatment, it is working to effect an alternative that is the product of grassroots deliberations about the kind of school and the kind of education their community’s children deserve. We also note that at a time when the world urgently needs to abandon the use of fossil fuels, the revitalization of Dyett school that parents and the community is fighting for includes a commitment to green technology.

This struggle is about much more than the 12 parents and community leaders in Bronzeville. It is about the kind of schools we want our children to attend. And it is a fight for democracy: that the future of public education should be in the hands of the public — not controlled by wealthy corporations and their foundations.

The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett offers the following open letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:

September 16, 2015
Secretary Arne Duncan
US Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20002

Dear Sec. Duncan:

We call on you to act swiftly to avert the further harm that can befall the 12 parents and community leaders from Bronzeville and allies from communities across Chicago who have been on a hunger strike for 31 days.

The fight for Dyett has raged since CPS decided to convert a highly-successful middle school to a high school over a 3-month period in 1999. Horrified by the inability of the first graduating senior class in 2003 to experience college prep or advanced placement classes or a full-time librarian; community members began to invest in the school through the local school council to infuse critical programs and neighborhood partnerships into the building. The fruits of that labor yielded the highest increase in students attending post-secondary institutions in 2008, and the highest decrease in out-of-school suspensions and arrests in 2009. Despite steady significant gains, the Mayoral-appointed Board of Education members voted to phase-out the school in 2012; and the mass erosion of investment to prepare those students for success.

Galvanized by this injustice and emboldened by their record of success, parents and concerned residents began to work with educational experts within Chicago and around the country to develop an academic plan based on the community wishes. Through a series of focus groups, town hall meetings, and extensive consultation with community and educational institutions, the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology academic plan was developed. Some of the same experts who have developed Level 1 high schools in Chicago led the design team that created this plan in direct consultation with the community over a 4-year period. Neither of the competing proposals for Dyett come close to this level of community engagement or expertise. Bronzeville has spoken. We have engaged over 3000 Bronzeville residents who see the need for Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.

One of the challenges facing African American parents and students in Chicago is the lack of response and accountability from elected and appointed officials. Affluent neighborhoods receive selective enrollment and well-resourced schools. However, communities comprised of predominantly low-income and working families have to contend with under-resourced schools and privatization models that undermine the integrity of the community. We compel you to act on behalf of the residents of Bronzeville who have been rendered voiceless in this process.

In Earnest,

The 12 Hunger Strikers for Dyett

Coalition to Revitalize Dyett: Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council, Blacks in Green, Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago Jazz Society, Chicago Teacher’s Union, Du Sable Museum of African American History, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Teachers for Social Justice, The Plant, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education


Originally published at www.tikkun.org on September 16, 2015.

Back-to-School Note From Our Director of Operations & Development

Dear Friends,

My partner has been a public school teacher for the better part of the last 16 years. Every year at this time, he gets preoccupied with the emotional, mental, and physical work of getting ready to start the school year.

Over time, this focused preparation has become more and more marked by anxiety. Year by year, since 1999 when he first started teaching, resources have been slowly stripped. Rather than being able to apply his expertise to constantly improve the learning experience of his students, each year he must instead face one more new barrier to giving his kids the education they deserve.

At different points he has had to give up planning periods, lunch breaks, his classroom. He moved from teaching all 600 kids in 5 days to seeing them all in 4 days two years ago. He has never had an adequate budget for basic supplies like pencils, paper, paper towels, markers, or books – we have always paid, from our family budget, to make sure his students have what they need. Many of our closest friends are teachers and they face the same thing.

All over the country, teachers are bracing themselves. Not because they don’t love teaching. Not because they don’t love their students. Actually, it is because they DO love their students and they want to do the best the possibly can by them.

Many teachers I know dreamed and worked towards being a teacher from high school or college – they are consummate professionals, always striving to improve and excel. Always trying  – and often succeeding – to do the best they can DESPITE the conditions they face. Every teacher I know has asked themselves – can I really do this, under these conditions? Am I doing the right thing – for my students and my family and myself – to go back to teaching in the form it has taken after years of budget cuts and austerity?

Many have made the extremely difficult decision to leave the profession they loved and put time, money, and years of preparation into.

I just wanted to say that I see you. I see you struggling mentally, physically, and emotionally. It feels like a battle because it actually is a battle. We are fighting for our schools. We are fighting for our children. We are fighting for a future in which our children are educated in a way that builds their self love, their intellect, hones their brilliance, and prepares them for living. We are fighting because public education is under attack.

Sending love and thanks to all of the school workers out there getting ready to go in for our kids.

~Valerie Warren, Director of Development and Operations

Her husband, Todd Warren, is a Spanish teacher in North Carolina and an activist for teachers.

P.S. Enjoy 30% on purchases through 8/31/2015! Use code: SchoolH15b!

Resistance to High Stakes Tests Serves the Cause of Equity in Education: A Reply to “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts”

Jesse Hagopian is a Rethinking Schools editorial associate and editor of “More Than a Score” published by Haymarket Books.

I AM AN EDUCATOR

Twelve national civil rights organizations released a statement today in opposition to parents and students who opt out of high-stakes standardized testing–what has now become a truly mass direct action campaign against the multi-billion dollar testing industry.  I believe that their statement titled, “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts,” misses the key role that standardized testing has played throughout American history in reproducing institutional racism and inequality.  I wrote the below statement, with the aid of the board of the Network for Public Education, to outline the racist history of standardized testing and to highlight leadership from people of color in the movement against high-stakes testing. I sincerely hope for a response from the civil rights organizations who authored the statement and I hope that this dialogue leads to deeper discussion about how to make Black Lives Matter in our school system and how to remake American public education on foundation…

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Hands Up, Don’t Test: Police brutality and the repurposing of education

Jesse Hagopian is a Rethinking Schools editorial associate.

I AM AN EDUCATOR

While I was recently in Boston speaking about my recently released edited book, More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with the great EduShyster, who asked me important questions about the connection between the resent rise in student protests against police brutality and high-stakes, standardized testing.

Here’s what I told her:

Season of Protest

Jesse Hagopian says protests against police and high-stakes testing have more in common than you think…

EduShyster: You happened to be in Boston recently giving a talk about the new uprising against high-stakes testing on the same night that thousands of people here were protesting police violence and institutional racism. Here’s the people’s mic—explain how the two causes are related.

Jesse Hagopian: If I could have, I would have moved the talk to the protest to connect the issues. I would have said that the purpose of education is to…

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Teaching to Change the World

Teaching to Change the World

Rethinking Schools Note: Wayne Au is a Rethinking Schools editor and author. In 2014 he edited the second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education and in 2012 he co-edited Pencils Down: Rethinking High Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public School.

In January 2013, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School sparked an already-growing movement over standardized testing in the post-No Child Left Behind era.

They announced that they were boycotting the district-mandated Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP test, a move that was initially met with threats from the school’s administration. Almost immediately, support for the teachers started pouring in, from near and far, from other educators, schools, and districts, and from unions, parents, and students.

Wayne Au, a former high school teacher, graduate of Garfield and Evergreen, and professor of education at the University of Washington Bothell, was an early and influential backer. Au is the author of Unequal by Design: High Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality and co-editor of Pencils Down: Rethinking High-Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schools. Within days, he posted an insightful blog about the boycott on the website of Rethinking Schools, a social justice education journal he helps edit.

He also released—on Martin Luther King Day—a statement of solidarity he co-authored, which was signed by scores of education professionals across the country, including such prominent figures as Jonathan Kozol, who’s written extensively about public education; Diane Ravitch, a former assistant U.S. Secretary of Education; and Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The statement hailed the boycott as a “blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests” and expressed support for the “brave teachers” and opposition to “the growing standardized testing industrial complex.”

Four months later, after resistance had spread to other schools in the city, the district backed down, making the test optional if other assessments of student performance are used. To Au, the boycott “was a total success from several angles. Most importantly,” he said, “it became a flashpoint nationally—and even a little internationally—and it helped galvanize a growing, popular movement challenging regimes of high-stakes standardized testing.” Furthermore, he said he saw many “practicing teachers develop deeper and more complex understandings of the complications and problems surrounding high-stakes, standardized testing.” In the end, he said, the uprising demonstrated “the power of a broad-based, democratic, popular movement.”

Au is recognized nationally as a scholar of social justice in education. He’s written and spoken publicly about such issues as multiculturalism in education, the problems with using standardized testing to evaluate learning and teaching, and public funding of charter schools. And he’s not only voiced solidarity with activists in their struggles to better their schools, but also informed them with his prolific work.

His articles have been published in both academic journals and popular media outlets. He’s written two books and edited or co-edited six more, including the upcoming Mapping Corporate Education Reform, an analysis of the key actors influencing policy, which will be released next spring. He’s also contributed curriculum to several projects focused on social justice teaching, including The Zinn Education Project, Beyond Heroes and Holidays, and Putting Movement Back Into Civil Rights Teaching.

Au became a teacher to change the world. At an early age, he saw teaching as a powerful way to make a difference in the lives of others. “I knew I wanted be a teacher in ninth grade at Garfield,” he said. He also believes that the arena of public education—where he obtained his elementary-to-doctoral schooling—holds great promise in promoting equity and positive social change.

His fundamental commitment to social justice underscores everything he does, from teaching students and speaking at conferences and rallies to researching educational policy and organizing challenges to the status quo. “It’s part of who I am,” he said. “It drives the work.”

Au earned his bachelor’s and Master in Teaching degrees at Evergreen in 1994 and 1996, respectively. During his time at the college, he was an Upward Bound tutor to at-risk high school students preparing for college. Afterward, he was a social studies and language arts teacher at South Seattle Community College’s alternative Middle College High School. He then taught language arts and African history at Garfield, his alma mater, before relocating to California, where he worked at Berkeley High School, teaching social studies, language arts, ethnic studies, and Asian-American studies.

In Berkeley, he was active in the Education Not Incarceration Coalition, which opposed California’s plan to cut education funding while increasing monies to state prisons. Schools lost in the state’s final budget, and he was laid off, prompting him to pursue a career in higher education.

Au completed his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2007. In 2012, he was honored with an Early Career Scholars Award from one of the American Educational Research Association’s special interest groups. A decade before, he received the Early Career Advocate for Justice Award from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which honors “individuals in teacher education who firmly support equity issues, who have linked their work with social justice and teacher education, and whose work shows evidence that it will have impact over time.”

At the University of Washington Bothell, where he chairs the school’s Diversity Council, he continues to practice his first love: teaching. This past summer, he taught a three-week bridge class to 22 incoming freshmen in the Academic Transition Program, which serves individuals with disadvantaged backgrounds. His lessons covered the links between poverty, educational attainment, and successful first-generation college students. This year, he’s teaching an undergraduate class, “Race, Culture, and Identity in the Classroom,” and three graduate-level courses, including one on multicultural education, “Teachers’ Self Understanding,” and another on education policy, “Theories of Organizational Change and School Reform.”

On the subject of school reform, Au urges “teachers, parents, and students to be activists. Instead of top-down reforms, I want a much more fully informed democracy around education policy. I want to see people get together, be strong, and be informed.”

The Garfield boycott didn’t end testing, but it was a seminal event in a larger grassroots movement. “In the broader struggle over how people understand education policy and practice, symbolic victories are critical to winning future fights,” says Au, who’s gearing up for battles ahead, including over Common Core testing and Initiative 1240, Washington’s Charter School Act.

The Koch Brothers Sneak into School

How Right-wing Billionaires Seek to Shape the Social Studies Curriculum

By Bill Bigelow

koch_bros_dirtymoney_byPeterMarshall-335x222This month in Boston, thousands of teachers will gather for the annual National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference.

Two non-teachers will be there, too: Charles and David Koch, the notorious right-wing billionaires.

Well, the Kochs won’t be there in person, but they will be represented by a Koch-funded and controlled organization: the Arlington, Virginia-based Bill of Rights Institute. For years, the Bill of Rights Institute has shown up at NCSS conferences to offer curriculum workshops, distribute teaching materials, and collect the names of interested educators. What the Bill of Rights Institute representatives fail to mention when they speak with teachers is that they have been the conduit for millions of dollars from Charles and David Koch, as the brothers seek to influence the country’s social studies curriculum. (When I attended a Bill of Rights Institute workshop at an NCSS conference, I asked the presenter who funds their organization. “Donations,” she replied.)

rollingstone_kochbros_articleWith assets of more than $80 billion, the Koch brothers, who control Koch Industries, are together richer than Bill Gates. As a recent Rolling Stoneexposé (“Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire”) by investigative reporter Tim Dickinson details, the Kochs made that money largely by polluting the Earth and heating up the climate, with massive oil and gas holdings. And through their network of far right foundations and front groups, they lobby for policies and fund politicians in line with their free market, fossil fuel interests.

One of those front groups is the Bill of Rights Institute, launched in 1999 and funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, and David Koch. The BRI directors include Mark Humphrey, Koch Industries senior vice president; Ryan Stowers, director of higher education programs at the Charles Koch Foundation; and Todd Zywicki, a senior scholar of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, funded with corporate donations from the likes of Koch and ExxonMobil. Until 2013, the Bill of Rights Institute president was the Koch operative Tony Woodlief, who headed the Market-Based Management Institute in the Kochs’ hometown of Wichita, Kansas, and served as president of the Mercatus Center.

The Bill of Rights Institute is funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, and David Koch.

The Bill of Rights Institute is funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, and David Koch.

The Bill of Rights Institute says it offers “engaging educational games, videos, and activities for people of all ages, and classroom lesson plans for teachers across the country.” The institute holds essay contests for students and promotes free teacher seminars throughout the United States—on topics like “Being an American,” “Preserving the Bill of Rights,” and “Heroes and Villains: The Quest for Civic Virtue.” Their promotional materials boast that the BRI has offered sessions for 18,000 teachers and provided materials for another 40,000.

billofrightsinstitute_libertarianmssgIn its materials for teachers and students, the Bill of Rights Institute cherry-picks the Constitution, history, and current events to hammer home its libertarian message that the owners of private property should be free to manage their wealth as they see fit. As one Bill of Rights lesson insists, “The Founders considered industry and property rights critical to the happiness of society.” This message that individual owners of property are the source of social good, their property sacred, and government the source of danger weaves through the entire Koch curriculum, sometimes with sophistication, other times in caricature. For example, in one “click-and-explore” activity at the BRI website, showing the many ways that government can oppress individuals—“Life Without the Bill of Rights?”—a cartoon character pops up with a dialogue bubble reading, “The gov’t took my home!” An illustration shows his home demolished.

Educator resources for “Documents of Freedom” at the BRI site underscore this business-good/government-bad message: “When government officials can make any laws they please—and hold themselves above the law—there is less economic growth, less creativity, and less happiness. Entrepreneurs won’t be willing to risk time and money starting businesses. Writers and speakers will restrain their words. Everyone will worry that his freedoms can be destroyed at the whim of a powerful government agent.”

However, the materials at the Bill of Rights Institute avoid discussing how the free exercise of property rights has played out in the real world—especially with respect to historically oppressed groups.

For example, the BRI introduces a Constitution Day lesson plan with a quote from Patrick Henry—you know, the fellow who said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” As a Virginia plantation owner, Henry denied his beloved liberty to the more than 70 individuals he enslaved on his 10,000-acre estate. Instead of focusing on the contradiction of “freedom loving” individuals like Henry enslaving other human beings, the institute selects a passage from him that warns of the evils of big government: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government—lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” The BRI is fond of this quote, which features prominently in one of the webinars at its website.

In reviewing curriculum and background materials at the institute’s website, I found nothing that could help teachers show students how race and social class shaped the U.S. Constitution—nothing that invites students to think about the Constitution from the point of view of anyone other than the elites who drafted it. A background article on how the Founders approached slavery says that this “would be a ‘make-or-break’ matter for the new republic,” but ignores those for whom slavery was the ultimate “make-or-break” issue: the enslaved people themselves.

billofrightsinstitute_curriculum_300pxwAnother Constitution lesson at its website, “Meeting the Framers—A Reunion Social in 1840,” is more hagiography than history. The lesson asks students to make business cards for the Framers attending the Constitutional Convention that they can distribute to one another at a fictional 1840 gathering. Students are required to list Framers’ contributions, “most noteworthy characteristics/interesting facts,” and contributions following the convention. There is not a single critical question raised. This lesson highlights another feature of Bill of Rights materials: They’re boring. A curriculum that tiptoes around real-world issues like race, class, and power is unlikely to fire students to life. An alternative lesson would be a Constitutional gathering that included individuals other than plantation owners, bankers, and merchants—one that examined issues from the perspective of common farmers, debtors, and people who were enslaved.

Focusing narrowly on property rights to the exclusion of racism and issues of social inequality are not limited to history lessons in the BRI materials. One section on the website is “Teaching with Current Events,” and includes a lesson, “Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine Laws.” It offers quiet cover for Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, mentioned in the lesson’s introduction. Here’s the lesson’s first discussion question: “Florida’s ‘Stand-Your-Ground’ law states ‘A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.’ How would you put this law in your own words?”

A follow-up question asks students to search the Constitution and Bill of Rights to support this law. But nothing in the lesson encourages students to search their own lives or to view Stand-Your-Ground from the standpoint of people who might be victimized by someone like George Zimmerman. The sanctity of an individual’s property is paramount—here and everywhere in the BRI materials.

billofrightsinstitute_legitimizedcurriculumThis lesson is especially disingenuous given that Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law was a product of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council—a Koch-funded outfit that promotes “model” conservative legislation. The Kochs not only pay for laws to be written and passed, they now pay for them to be legitimated in the school curriculum as well.

The “Current Events” subject that should be at the top of any school curriculum these days is climate change. But the BRI appears to want to avoid the issue. Dickinson’s Rolling Stone exposé chronicles the Kochs’ massive fossil fuel holdings and climate pollution. The Koch empire generates more greenhouse gases annually—24 million metric tons—than either Chevron or Shell. The Kochs own 1.1 million acres in the Alberta oil fields (tar sands land), an area larger than Rhode Island. And the Kochs are “a key player in the fracking boom,” polluting precious water supplies, and releasing unknown quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The BRI is one of the Kochs’ phalanx of organizations promoting the free market snake oil that economic decisions should be left up to the people who own the economy. This ideology offers implicit approval for the fossil fuel industry to do whatever it wants with its massive lode of carbon—even as greenhouse gases rise to a level that puts all life at risk. I say implicit approval because even the “Current Events” curriculum materials at the BRI website are entirely silent about the climate crisis. A search for “global warming,” “climate change,” and “fracking” yields a “Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.”

Koch Highhuffingtonpost_kochhigh

A July 2014 investigative article in the Huffington Post, “Koch High: How the Koch Brothers Are Buying Their Way into the Minds of Public School Students,” by Joy Resmovits and Christina Wilkie, describes another Koch organization that targets public schools, Youth Entrepreneurs. According to internal documents uncovered by the authors, the group’s mission is to develop “a high school free market and liberty-based course” supported by the network of Koch foundations and Koch-supported organizations. According to these private documents, a 2009 Charles Koch Foundation working group, overseen by former Bill of Rights Institute president Tony Woodlief, worked to produce an economics curriculum to challenge what the group identified as “common economic fallacies,” including: “Rich get richer at the expense of the poor … Government wealth transfer programs help the poor … Private industry incapable of doing functions that public sector has always done … Unions protect employees … Minimum wage, ‘living wage,’ laws are good for people/society … Capitalist societies provide an environment for greed and materialism to flourish.”

Of course, this is the ideology of the Tea Party. According to Youth Entrepreneurs, its curriculum is now taught in 36 high schools in Kansas and Missouri. Resmovits and Wilkie sum up: “Youth Entrepreneurs is just one piece of the Kochs’ slow creep into America’s schools.”

But what makes the Koch brothers’ focus on public schools so profoundly cynical is that they hate public schools. As Resmovits and Wilkie point out, this can be traced back at least as far as 1980, when David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee. The Libertarian platform that year was unambiguous: “We advocate the complete separation of education and state. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”

John Stossel: "K through 12 education in America is lousy. And I say it’s because you don’t have the free market."

John Stossel’s talk at BRI’s essay gala: “K through 12 education in America is lousy. And I say it’s because you don’t have the free market.”

Even as it infiltrates public schools, the BRI continues to trash the very idea of public education. Its website features a video of a talk by Fox News commentator John Stossel, who spoke at a dinner honoring student winners of a BRI essay contest. Stossel was blunt: “K through 12 education in America is lousy. And I say it’s because you don’t have the free market. A free market is what brings us all the good stuff that makes our life better. And education, K through 12, is largely a government monopoly. And they don’t do things very well. …. Forty years of reporting have taught me that the market does everything better.”

This Koch-sponsored hostility to public schools finds expression in what Koch brothers’ darling Gov. Scott Walker has done in Wisconsin, along with fellow Republicans. Walker has received lavish funding from the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity. As Bob Peterson summarizes in a forthcoming article in Rethinking Schools magazine, Walker’s 2011 Act 10 first took away virtually all collective bargaining rights from public employees, including the right to arbitration. Immediately following Act 10, Wisconsin initiated the largest cuts to public education in the country. Walker and cronies then expanded a statewide school voucher program—one that steals money from public schools to subsidize private schools—and enacted an income tax deduction for private school tuition.

Over at the Koch family foundations, they explain that these budget cuts make the BRI and their other education work even more necessary: “As budgets for liberal arts and social studies continue to shrink, BRI provides much needed instructional materials and conducts programs that teach the words and ideas of our Founders and the liberties and freedoms guaranteed in our Founding documents.” In other words, as the Kochs spend millions undermining and defunding public schools, impoverished schools will become more and more dependent on the millions that the Kochs spend to shape the curriculum.

The liberties that the Kochs are so fond of include the liberty to endlessly pollute the environment, the liberty to emit greenhouse gases without regulation, the liberty to bust unions, and the liberty to contribute unlimited amounts of money to candidates who will do their bidding.

Teachers and parents need to ensure that the public school curriculum is animated by a concern for the public—and that it does not promote a vision of society that offers freedom only to those who have the wealth to buy it. Perhaps when teachers gather in Boston for the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference, they will tell the Bill of Rights Institute representatives what they think of this ersatz version of freedom.

billbigelow-100x100Bill Bigelow is curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine and co-director of the Zinn Education Project. He co-edited the just-released A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis.

if_we_knew_bannerThis article is part of the Zinn Education Project If We Knew Our History series.

Restore Recess: A Movement is Born

Jesse is an editorial associate at Rethinking Schools.

I AM AN EDUCATOR

Sign the Save Recess Petition today!Seattle Schools: Save Recess!

You have heard about Seattle’s fight for a $15 minimum wage, or the teachers who organized a mass boycott of the MAP test.  But you might not be aware of the newest movement–organized for one of the most basic human rights–that was recently ignited in the emerald city: The struggle for the right to play.

Parents and educators across Seattle are taking action to defend their children’s right to ample time for recess and lunch.  Parents and students at Whittier Elementary school set this movement in motion when they voiced objection to the school reducing lunch and recess time from 40 minutes to half an hour–gaining important local TV and media attention.  Parents at Leschi Elementary soon launched an online petition that has gathered nearly a thousand signatures in a few short days.  Now there is a city-wide organization of parents, students…

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