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Wow--I have now read a number of quality books on many different facets of education in America during my time at Georgia Southern, but I don't think I have ever read a book as powerful as this one, nor a book that congealed so many of the myriad ideas and conundrums I have had difficulty verbalizing on education that have been bouncing around in my head. This book pulls no punches as on page 2 Watkins states that corporations are "fashioning a new America to conform to their economic and political ideology [by] employing the language of democracy and distress"! I don't know how many times as I read this book I read statements such as this and almost said YES! out loud. This is exactly what is happening. Furthermore, he writes, we "are now being organized around digital technology. We have moved into a new era of techno-globalism [and] the "democracy" has become a performance where the public are spectators" (pg. 8). Again, this passage reminded me of Stiegler's discussion of the impact of technology on the manipulation of the citizenry in Taking Care of Youth and the Generations. This "techno-globalism" makes the control of the citizens much easier as reality is conveyed to us in instantaneous digital format that is ever-changing and to use the words of Stiegler "short-circuiting" our young and the needed order of the generations from elder down. A bleak picture of the culminating disaster forthcoming is described by Watkins as he writes that "speculative capitalists are not re-investing in industry in North America [leading to] a disappearing entrepreneurial middle class...and declining wages" (pg. 24). The political term applied to this chain of events is neo-liberalism whereby it is required that "government withdraw[s] from much of its social service or "safety net" activity.Read more ›
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Post: Watkins - Assault on Public Education The crux of this book lies in the statement, "One of the major reasons for the continuation of dominant discourse and policies is that the very nature of our common sense about education is constantly being altered" (Watkins, 2004, p. x). I see this with the Richmond County School System when they constantly change the curriculum before anyone can fully grasp what has been mandated for implementation. This is not only an assault on education it is an assault on the minds of students, teachers, administrators; the public as a whole. Due to the fact that "Today's world is all about profit and wealth accumulation at any cost" (Watkins, 2004, p. 16), the greedy corporations are creating a world where people are simply slaves to a system. The question we should be asking is how do we get out of this new age slavery? The first thing we have to do is regain our common sense about education and realize that the big corporations see true education as a danger to their big profits and wealth. Reply to Anthony Young - Watkins When Watkins states that corporations are "fashioning a new America to conform to their economic and political ideology [by] employing the language of democracy and distress" why aren't we looking and asking ourselves what is the big picture? What is the agenda? When we do ask without the information put forth in this book then we are called conspiracy theorists. I, like you, have been talking to my colleagues for years saying the same things about education and many of them respond with, "Noooooo, they would never do that. That is a conspiracy theory." I would tell them to just sit back and watch then. I'm so glad Watkins wrote this book.Read more ›
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I feel ashamed at how ignorant I was before reading this book. The push for privatization/charter schools is happening right now, under our noses. Accountability and standardized testing have provided legislators (and their wealthy backers) with the leverage they need to dismantle public education. The thing that shook me the most is that I'd always looked at charter schools with ambivalence, maybe even somewhat positively. I fear that most Americans feel like I did before reading this book. I most identified with the Lipman chapter, because there was so little proselytizing, and because she seemed to cut to the heart of the matter. What has to be done, she writes, is that we must make this fight known to our communities by drawing on "ways in which these policies resonate with people's experiences and struggles" (51).
Also, I was pretty outraged by the Buras chapter about how the school system of New Orleans was essentially privatized immediately following Katrina. This was so bad for the many teachers who lost their jobs, but was (and is) also bad for the children of New Orleans. The author writes that "7,500...teachers and school employees were informed they'd be fired and lose health insurance" (176). In their place, charter schools hired cheaper, provisionally certified (more often White) teachers to replace the largely African American veteran teachers that were fired.
What really scared me was the ease and speed with which state and federal legislators swooped in (in Katrina's aftermath, amid all the confusion) and made these sweeping changes. This book made me fearful, especially in light of recent legislation that passed in my own state of Georgia, that allows for charter schools to be established even over the objection of democratically elected local school boards.