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THE RttT HOAX, PART ONE: Why surrender your public schools to Arne Duncan's Ayn Rand fantasies for less than $10 per child?

... Not everyone is being stampeded by the Duncan, Obama 'Race To The Top' Shock Doctrine ΓΆ€” only the majority

by George N. Schmidt

To understand the seeming contradictions in Arne Duncan's career, first at CEO of Chicago's public schools and now as U.S. Secretary of Education, it helps to understand the inner workings of that hotbed of conservative political thought, the University of Chicago and its environment, Chicago's Hyde Park community. Duncan is one of the latest generation of what was, until it was discredited, the "Chicago Boys". But even though the work of Duncan's predecessors following that first September 11 (September 11, 1973, Chile) has been widely discredited by history and fact, this latest generation is hard at work at the same agenda that the followers of Chicago economist Milton Friedman brought to Chile in the 1970s and 1980s. Only today that agenda for public education (massive privatization; abolition of public school unions; major stratification of access to education, as opposed to an increase in equity; vouchers on a limited basis; the defunding of public services...) is not being imposed on a nation suffering under a fascist dictatorship, but on the public schools of the USA.

What gives?

But a reading of Milton Friedman and a Baker's Dozen of winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics who live (or lived) within a couple of miles of Arne Duncan's childhood home won't help most people understand Arne strange political and economic beliefs. Happily, however, one doesn't have to plow through Milton Friedman, Gary Becker, and a dozen other rights wing ideologues to "get" where Arne's coming from.

The Cliffs Notes to 'Race to the Top' are in Atlas Shrugged and the other radical economic theories of Ayn Rand. Arne Duncan isn't simply trying to privatize a little piece of public education, he really believes that public is bad and private is good. And anyone who doesn't look at Duncan's strange career with that viewpoint in mind is having a great deal of trouble figuring out why RTTT is such a strange thing.

As the deadline for states to apply for the so-called 'Race to the Top' (being generally abbreviated as 'RTTT') grants approach, more and more states, and even a few teacher unions (at the state and local level) are taking a cold hard look at both RTTT and the Chicago claims that supposedly bolster most of its key provisions.

As more and more researchers take a hard close look at what really happened in Chicago during the eight years that Arne Duncan served as "Chief Executive Officer" (yes, Chicago has a "CEO", not a school superintendent), it's becoming clear that most of the claims Duncan has been making are simply not true. Not a question of interpretation: Not True. As in "He lies." It's time to be very precise. For the past decade, since I was fired as a teacher by Chicago Public Schools (the Board of Education voted the firing at its August 2000 Board meeting), I have been covering the meetings of the Chicago Board of Education for Substance. Just about every month, Substance would publish an account of those meetings, which take place monthly. During those years, I photographed the action at the Board meetings and those who ran the city's public schools. By the time Arne Duncan was appointed CEO of American Education by Barack Obama in December 2008 (the announcement), I could joke I have more pictures of Arne than his Mama. Seven years ago, I requested and got an interview with Arne Duncan as part of a tradition that as of that time went back 25 years. Substance had interviewed and published the interview with just about every superintendent of Chicago schools and with every school board president.

The outline of the plan was that I would do the interview on tape, transcribe it, and then submit it to Duncan for any revisions that might be necessary (while preserving the integrity of the original). I did the interview, but after reading the transcript and comparing what Duncan was saying with reality, I decided, as editor of Substance, not to publish the interview. When I was asked why, I said "Most of what he says is simply not true, and most of it was a lie..."

Over the subsequent years, that came to be the case with just about everything Arne Duncan did on the grand scale. Finally, it got to the point where at Substance we had the following saying:

QUESTION: "How do you know when Arne Duncan's lying?"

ANSWER: "When his mouth is open and words come out." For the next week (between now and the final RTTT deadline), Substance will try to provide readers here at www.substancenews.net with some of the many critical comments on RttT.

Considering how few of Arne Duncan's Chicago claims are true, in one way it's amazing that Duncan and the Obama administration have gotten this far with the largest and most single-minded attack on public education in the history of the USA. And make no mistake about it: Race To The Top is nothing short of a radical privatization plan, no different in the education sector from the repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act was to the banking sector. Only when Glass Steagall (the "Banking Act of 1933") was repealed 12 years ago, the damage had to wait more than a decade to be felt.

With RttT, the damage to public schools across the USA will be immediate.

— George Schmidt
Substance News


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