Sunday, April 14, 2013

Michelle Obama visits Chicago

 The purpose of the visit and the talk was a focus on youth violence, and both FLOTUS's visit and talk made clear the neoliberal agenda.  She gave a very emotional speech, she identified with the people she was talking to, she was genuine in a way that most politicians could never be. She emphasized the importance of "opportunity" and "community". But what was not said is just as important-not a word on the school closings which will impact the very same communities which have the highest levels of violence. 


Some key quotes:
"I am a product of our public schools."
FLOTUS's elementary school, Bouchet Academy, is 34% under-utilized according to CPS, but is not closing.
". . . I realized . . . Hadiya's family was just like my family. . . But I got to grow up . . . "  
FLOTUS's father was a pump operator at the city's water department-jobs Rahm Emanuel just outsourced to Japan.
"See, at the end of the day, this is the point I want to make -– that resources matter.  They matter.  That what it takes to build strong, successful young people isn’t genetics, or pedigree, or good luck.  It’s opportunity. . .   I had a community that supported me and a neighborhood where I felt safe."
Yes resources do matter, and a community that is supportive is vital as well. Reading the twitter time line of @ILRaiseYourHand or @WBEZeducation-who have been in essence been documenting the school closings and hearings, 140 characters at a time, is to realize that community. Parents tell of the bond they have with school employees, of funds they know they have been denied, often, oddly enough, around the same time a charter school in the area opens up
Students, crying sometimes, tell of support they have received, some are begging for their school to stay open. Both groups point out the life and death dangers of the additional distance the consolidations will entail. It makes you appreciate all that goes into public education and it is shameful to see what CPS calls community outreach, which essentially consists of one or two CPS officials taking questions and refusing to answer. 

FLOTUS did speak of schools in the abstract and possibly made an oblique reference to closings when she spoke of "crumbling ceilings" and "ripped-up textbooks". Not even CPS is claiming poor infrastructure-and in fact several of the schools that are closing have recently got major infrastructure upgrades. CPS has talked about saving money, except when it appears closing schools will cost as much as keeping them open. Then they talk about performance but in many cases students are going to a lower performing schools. As the group CReATE documents, nearly everything CPS is doing is contrary to evidence-based practice.
After the speech FLOTUS went to Harper High school, the focus of a recent, highly regarded two-part This American Life piece (running just before they decided to bash people on disability). It is quite impossible to hear the pieces and not conclude the importance of schools in the community, and it makes real the issue of youth violence and the role of educators to limit it.  Linda Lutton, chief WBEZ education reporter was a large part of that piece. You might think she would be there, but just to be clear what is to be discussed and not discussed-she was denied a press pass to the FLOTUS event.
— WBEZeducation (@WBEZeducation) April 10, 2013

That FLOTUS was visiting this school because of a media piece that emphasized the very ideals that her husband's close advisor is trying to ruin is the hight of irony. For the neoliberal agenda to succeed certain things must be kept separate. Yes we will give "opportunity" but that opportunity will be dictated by our business partners. We will tell you "community" is important--while we rip it apart, by destroying your institutions, taking away your jobs, but telling you it's for your own good. Regardless of her intentions, I'm sure she means well, the ideals she described cannot work in the political reality she and her husband are enforcing. As Michelle Gunderson tweeted:
"I will believe you are sincere about safety of Chicago children when you advocate for neighborhood schools." 

1 comment:

  1. There's an old saying that applies a thousandfold to the Obamas, "Actions speak louder than words." As appealing as the Obamas can be personally that appeal is just a distraction from the destructive, duplicitous actions of this administration.

    Nancy Wade