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BACK TO BASICS: The Neo-Liberals Are Stealing Public Education

by Susan Ohanian

President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are giving Bush a third term of education policy. Only now it's Bush on steroids.

In July and August, I've spent my Fridays in Burlington trying to alert the public to the very real threat this administration offers public schools. Often I start by asking people to take the infamous DIBELS test, a test required of every child in a school receiving federal dollars. The object is to see how many nonsense words the child, starting in kindergarten, can pronounce in one minute.

Give it a try. This test represents your tax dollars at work, not to mention whether your child's teacher and school are rated successful or not.

yiz wan zoc ful mik

zum nuf kun ruv fod

vep ij op juj sug

zuz ov vit wam buk

lef luk tev lov kom

juf tam nol rez kec

pum poz mum ol kav

riv kic kis kem vak

tek ut riz aj vej

yil jev neg som jup

In order to obtain No Child Left Behind dollars, the Vermont State Department of Education followed federal orders and put DIBELS into the schools. This federally mandated test offers proof to children that reading, when it's not a bore, is torture. And makes no sense.

Hard as it is to believe, under Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, things are about to get much worse. Teachers will be given merit pay and schools judged successes or failures depending on how their students do on quite dubious standardized tests. All students will be under the thumb of what Duncan and his corporate cronies are calling "college ready" national standards. ALL students will face the same academic standards whether they want to become lawyers or lumberjacks.

Writing in Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald said that the Obama strategy is to become "more indispensable to corporate interests" so that corporate monies will go to Democrats instead of the GOP. And to hell with progressives. We see plenty of evidence in terrorism policy, Afghanistan, and health care, as well as education, that the Administration is now replicating many Republican policies in order to remove that issue as a political weapon.

Surely, this is not how democracy is supposed to work--ignore your constituents once you're elected. For the sake of the children and the very concept of public education, we need to hold this administration accountable. Don't let them steal our schools.

— Susan Ohanian
Vermont Commons


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