Friday, January 23, 2009

Arne Duncan, Segregationist?

Would the first African-American president appoint as an education secretary someone who has led Chicago backwards in terms of integration and percentage of black teachers being employed? George Schmidt has some answers.

Chicago, under Arne Duncan, has finally begun the job it was unable to do back in the days when Al Shanker (in the name of "standards") was sustaining an ethnic cleansing of the teaching force in New York City.

As you know, Chicago was always an anthesis to New York inside AFT. By the 1970s, Chicago had an enormous base of black teachers, and black leadersip at all levels within the Chicago Teachers Union. By the mid-1980s, that leadership was across-the-board. Jackie Vaughn was CTU President, and with massive support from unionized black teachers (and some others, like us here at Substance) Harold Washington had become mayor. By the time Jackie Vaughn died in 1994, the number of black teachers in Chicago's public schools nearly equalled the number of whites (with "other" gaining). By the end of the 1990s, white teachers were in the minority in the teaching force, and the majority of people working (in union jobs) in Chicago's public schools were black.

"School reform" in Chicago has been a sustained attack on those gains for black people. But, like other bourgeois attacks (especially of course the Jim Crow South under the Dixiecrats, the old "Solid South") on unionized workers, the entire class suffers when these divisions take hold.

The most grotesque thing about Barack Obama's appointment of Arne Duncan to be U.S. Secretary of Education is not (as some including former CTU president Debbie Lynch) that Duncan is "unqualified," but that Duncan has successfully led the ethnic cleansing of Chicago's teaching force (via privatization) while simultaneously ignoring Brown v. Board of Education and all federal desegregation rules (including Chicago's deseg consent decree) in a white supremacist way that would have been unthinkable at any time between the 1960s and the dawn
of this century.

1. Chicago has purged the teaching force of 2000 black teachers and principals since Duncan took over in 2001.

2. Chicago has created a segregated separate privatized school system (the charter school system of more than 80 "schools" and "campuses") since Duncan took over in 2001. That school system would be the second largest school system in Illinois were it made outside CPS.

Needless to say (especially for those of us who supported Barack Obama from "back in the day" when we first met him as an Illinois State Senator), the appointment of a segregationist privatizer and union buster to run the Department of Education is more than a bad sign. It's a clear indication of the struggle we will face in the years ahead.

Reading the entire thread about the Kahlenberg book, Sean's take on the underlying lie of 1969, and the Hirsch attack on Norm and Vera*, I'm hoping in the coming months there will be time and space to make a few of these points coherent in the pages of Substance and to our broader audience. Sean's points are among the most important, especially from the point of view of Chicago history.

And, as Sean notes in his material about 1968, our ability to counter a Big Lie with facts will continue to be challenged. After all, it's only been 40 years since "Ocean Hill Brownsville". And that Big Lie still holds central sway, not just because it's being repeated now in "Tough Liberal."

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

*NY Teacher Reporter Responds to Our Shanker Book Review

Related: Duncan's Last Move: Close 25 Schools

1 comment:

  1. Embrace Diversity ! We live in a multi-cultural world. Today we're all the colors of a rainbow.Title VI 42 U.S.C. & 2000d et. seq. A lot has happened since 1964 and there is no go back.


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