Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Against Obedience

Publication Date: 2012-10-22

Citation: Ohanian, S (2012). Against obedience Critical Education, 3(9). Retrieved from


This article was originally delivered as the Second Annual Adam Renner Education for Social Justice Lecture at the Rouge Forum's Occupy Education! Class Conscious Pedagogies and Social Change Conference held at Miami University in Oxford, OH, June 22-24, 2012. Starting with a personal journey in learning that political activism isn't as scary as many teachers believe, the article highlights the highly political nature of press coverage of Race to the Top and the Common Core State Standards initiative, zeroing in on the quisling nature of teacher union and professional organization antics to keep a seat at the political table.

Questioning the silence on critical issues of higher education providers of educational products to consumers--aka professors--the author insists that whining isn't the same as doing. The article concludes with several points on how educators can take action.

by Susan Ohanian

It's rather mind-boggling to find myself in McGuffey Hall--to find myself, the only
teacher in my school who refused to use a basal reader, in such close proximity to William
Holmes McGuffey. With the publication in 1836 of the most famous school textbook of all time,
The McGuffey Reader, McGuffey, a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, planted a
strong seed for a national curriculum. Estimates posit the sales of McGuffey Readers sold between 1836 and 1960 at 122 million copies, putting it in a category with the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary.

The McGuffey Reader was used in 37 states. Forty-Six states have accepted the Common
Core bribe, that is, 46 states plus Mariana Islands. I'd like to see Common Core consigned to the Mariana Trench. I admit I didn’t know what that was until, when writing a review of E. D. Hirsh's Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know, I carried the book on my travels and amazed and alarmed strangers on airplanes, in hospital waiting rooms, and in hotel lobbies about items on the list: What do you know about Leyden jars and when did you know it? How are your Mach numbers? Is your amicus curiae in working order? My husband was the only person who could identify Marianas Trench, and he was quick to admit he acquired this arcane bit of information from The Guinness Book of World Records, and not from his university education, which includes a Ph.D. in physics. When I asked him--in a long distance phone call--about "throw weight," he laughed for ten minutes before starting a lecture on naval engineering. I wonder if my complaint in the pages of Education Week about the presence of Onan and the absence of Ruth, Naomi, Esther, and Anne Frank might have inspired the changes in the second edition.

Being here in Oxford, Ohio also puts me uncomfortably close to the site of that bloodsucking education law No Child Left Behind, which was signed in Hamilton, Ohio in 2002. Soon
after that event, I started a website in opposition to NCLB. It has since morphed into opposing just about everything the State does in education. I started the site because I thought it was important to document what was happening to public education. I saw myself as a sort of Madame Defarge, chronicling the day's bloody events. In the ensuing ten years the site has gradually moved from what's happening into why it's happening. Until teachers understand the reasons they're being beaten up, they'll never revolt, and the thing I can't forgive the unions for is that besides avoiding any explanations, they perpetuate the reform myths. . . .

Continue here.

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.