Alternate Title: The Rhode Island Education Chainsaw Massacre.
Alternate Title #2: PROTEST DUNCAN.
Alternate Title #3: OCCUPY ARNE.
So, the principal’s secretary at my school forwarded the following, with a note expressing great pleasure that a student from our school had been selected as an alternate on the panel asking questions of Secretary Duncan. Oh joy. Here’s the invitation:
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be visiting Rhode Island November 2, 2011, for a Town Hall Meeting. Sponsored by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, this event is a wonderful opportunity for students, teachers, parents, administrators and the community members to join in on the discussion about education reform on the state and national levels. Please join us for this exciting event! Details and RSVP information below:
“Town Hall Meeting”
The United States Secretary of Education
November 2, 2011
The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) is pleased to invite you to a Town Hall Meeting featuring United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to be held on November 2, 2011.
Co-sponsored by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, the meeting will be held at the Providence Career and Technical Academy at 41 Fricker Ave., Providence, RI.
The program begins at 3:15 pm and ends at 4:15 pm. Secretary Duncan will offer brief remarks and respond to questions from a panel of education and community leaders, followed by questions from the audience.
I hope you are able to join us to hear from Secretary Duncan and that the discussion will provide additional insight into the future of education and the changing federal role. For more details, please see the attached agenda.
RSVP your attendance no later than October 26th to Marguerite Paredes by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by calling 521-6320.
__________ I will attend
__________ I am unable to attend
Executive Staff Assistant
Office of the Commissioner
RI Department of Education & Secondary Education
255 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
Now, as you probably guessed by the fact that I’m posting this so late on October 26, well, I forgot to RSVP. Shucks…now I’ll never get to dialogue with Secretary Duncan!
But let’s cut to the chase. This event is a highly scripted “town hall” meeting organized by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and sponsored by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown, and also…Citizens Bank! Yes, folks, the technocrats are wining and dining the key architect of school deform, with support from the bankers. Duncan, who could not be bothered to come to Rhode Island when he applauded (and perhaps also plotted?) the firing of Central Falls teachers, will be in public for exactly an hour. The attendance will be tightly controlled by RIPEC, and questions will only be taken from those invited to ask questions. Oh, and afterward, Duncan will be speaking at a RIPEC dinner, admission to which costs a mere $300 per plate! One wonders if the message of “we are the 99%” has been lost on the guy in charge of our nation’s public schools when he’s clearly aiming to hang with the 1% in Providence.
All of this raises a twofold question for me, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Why, exactly, is it that Duncan is speaking in Rhode Island under the auspices of RIPEC, and not those of RIDE? Is this simply a strange coincidence? Is this an intentional insult to Deborah Gist (something I doubt)? Or is there some deeper motive at play in all this?
I tend to think that it’s the latter of these possibilities. It seems that all the education deformers are now talking shop in “economic development forums”, such as the one held in Bristol a couple weeks ago, starring our favorite local rich kid Angus Davis. “Economic development”, i.e. giving more public money to the private sector under the aegis of “reform” or “development” is precisely the thrust of the Race to the Top. Elizabeth Harrison’s recent report on the distribution of RTTT funds in Rhode Island sheds some interesting light on the pattern whereby all the money has gone to consultants, mostly for the purpose of “data collection”, the new teacher evaluation system, and bypassing the state’s education schools with a Teach for America-like shortcut designed to cheapen and degrade the profession. And lastly, of course, is the whole charter school drive—also a part of RTTT, and promoted in no small part by real estate mogul Eli Broad. Why real estate? Because much public wealth is tied up in old public school buildings which are now being handed over to the private sector on the cheap. These are fabulous new sources of easy money for people who have the right connections, and who know how to dress up their real intentions with educational jargon.
The trend of education deform is that they’re trying to get away with providing education on the cheap, while throwing even more public money at the rich. The irony of this is that they’re attempting this massive robbery of the common good right in the midst of the deepest economic crisis in 80 years—a crisis caused by their own system! With the Occupy Movement now spreading throughout the entire country, the mandarins of the economy—both public and private—are suddenly exposed for how out of touch they are with the reality of the bottom 99% (or at least the bottom 90%). They would rather attack us than listen to us. Fortunately, our side is learning how to speak back in a way they can’t ignore.
Please attend the protest against Arne Duncan in Providence on November 2. We’ll start around 3pm at the Providence Career and Technical Academy on the corner of Fricker and Cranston Streets, marching from there down to the Rhode Island Convention Center for another rally at 5pm in front of Arne’s dinner with the 1%. Let’s show Duncan what democracy looks like!