Occupy the DOE

This week will see the inauguration of Barack Obama with a lot of corporate fanfare, flags, teary-eyed patriots, and probably an assortment of the usual gun nuts (pro and con), teabaggers, Truthers and true dissenters. Oh, and there’s a lot to dissent about! Free Manning, hands off the Internet, pass Aaron’s Law, close Gitmo and other black sites, stop murdering innocent people with drones, etc.

But what will unfortunately be most inaugurated is not just a person, but an ideal. One that says Wall Street rules while Main Street drools. The characters may have changed but like a well orchestrated play running year after year, the story stays the same. Geitner is out, Lew is in. Petraeus and Panetta out, Brenner and Hagel likely to be in (respectively). Same with the exits of Clinton, Solis, Salazar, Jackson, etc. Wall Street has their chairs waiting for them. Different faces, same shit to follow.

One cabinet secretary who’d like to stay, Arne Duncan of Education, wouldn’t be missed if he did leave. There are many other basketball buddies that the President can choose for that post. No experience needed, but past failures are helpful.

On April 4-7, during Spring Break for many across the country, real democracy comes back to DC with the 2nd annual “Occupy DOE 2.0”. We have actual victories to celebrate. The Opt Out movement is spreading; parents are refusing to have their children needlessly tested for the benefit of Pearson Publishers or any number of such Houses that rake in billions in tax dollars a year for their ‘testing’ services.

The principled and courageous faculty of Garfield High School in Seattle voted unanimously to refuse to administer their high stakes tests. Even their union supports them. Miracle! To buck the Obama administration by dedicated teachers should be expected, but a union to do so?

Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, has been quick to denounce Arne but like the Democratic Party sycophant that she is, she endorsed the paymaster. The policy of union busting, privatization of public schools, and never-ending testing will go on, regardless of who heads the DOE. As long as President Obama favors these policies with his Race to the Top, Arne could be replaced with Howdy Doody. No change.

Occupy the DOE and let the White House and Congress know that the focus of guns in the schools is merely a smokescreen to avoid dealing with the real problems of education. And with all such problems, it goes deeper than what‘s on the surface. It isn’t just that Johnny can’t read. Johnny doesn’t eat. Johnny is homeless. Money for schools is siphoned for the latest colonial imperial war, now overtaking Africa. Johnny spends wasted hours (months) practicing bubbling for tests, not recess, or art, music, time in libraries.

Reclaim public education this year. Occupy the DOE.

Myles Hoenig is a teacher activist in Maryland. He can be reached at: myles.hoenig@gmail.com. Read other articles by Myles.