by Christopher Paslay
On the surface, the battle over school closings and the expansion of charters is about the kids. In reality, it’s about money and power.
Here are some facts about the residents of the City of Philadelphia:
- 21 percent over the age of 25 have not graduated high school
- 78 percent over 25 do not have a college degree
- 21 percent speak a language other than English at home
- $36,251 is the median household income
- $500 million are owed in delinquent property taxes
- 81 percent of students attending public schools are economically disadvantaged
What do these facts indicate? Simply stated, they show that the engine driving Philadelphia’s public schools—families and communities—is weak and sputtering. Unlike the more affluent suburban districts where families use their knowledge and clout and power to micromanage nearly every aspect of their child’s education—successfully influencing policy and arranging for the dismissal of teachers, administrators and school board members if things don’t go according to their wishes—the majority of families at the core of the Philadelphia School District are, to put it bluntly, passengers instead of drivers.
Unfortunately, this leaves the district and its families open to all manner of opportunists looking to funnel money or push political agendas. In broad terms, these opportunists fall into two major categories: Capitalist Pimps and Marxist Hustlers.
The main goal of the Capitalist Pimp is short term: to make money, and lots of it. Their mindset is to get in and get out. Profit comes first, even before politics, even before power. In fact, politics and power only matter in terms of the net effect they have on money. The bottom line is the bottom line is the bottom line. Such is the mind of the pure Capitalist Pimp.
There have been a number of Capitalist Pimps who’ve managed to extract large amounts of cash money from the Philadelphia School District in recent years (and some continue to do so). I won’t name names, but I’ll give a basic character description: they are in positions of power, either lawyers, politicians, business owners, private consultants, charter operators, or academic elites. They have a knack for showing up at just the right time, and schmooze and manipulate their way to lucrative paydays. They always promise big results but end up delivering the status quo (or worse, they destroy what they were claiming to save). They are of all races, genders, and political affiliations. Their motives are simple, linear, and direct. They are curt, shrewd, and standing in plain sight in front of our children and schools.
Capitalist Pimps have brought us the following: corrupt charters; ineffective education management organizations (EMOs); out-of-touch consultants; scripted curriculum; a “Facilities Master Plan” that recommends closing 40-50 District schools in the near future and ensures that charters make-up 40 percent of the PSD; performance pay; achievement networks; a Shared Services Organization that cuts the pay of union workers; outright union busting; a proposal to end teacher tenure and seniority; and the Great Schools Compact, among other goodies.
The main goal of the Marxist Hustler is long term: to sow his political oats in such a manner as to lay claim to the land for eternity. Their aim is to grow roots and infiltrate the school system with orthodoxy. “Social justice” comes first, and drives every decision, every breath, every movement. The kind of curriculum taught in school is rooted in social justice, the types of tests given are about social justice, pedagogy and instruction stem from social justice. Grading is about social justice. Discipline is about social justice. The spoken word itself is about social justice. And yes, even thinking is about social justice. Social justice is, of course, a means to an end: power. Power to control curriculum, testing, pedagogy and instruction, grading, discipline, speaking, and thought. Why? Because the Marxist Hustler at his core is a guilty elitist (and privileged) control freak who thinks he knows better than everybody else.
What does the Marxist Hustler think he knows? That things are unfair, and that everything—everything—must be done to make things “equal.” The Marxist Hustler operates out of a postmodern perspective that preaches there are no universal human truths, that all things are a matter of cultural perspective and the result of a social construct, an oppressive construct that is ultimately dominated by 1.—the Rich, and 2.—the White Western Establishment. The Rich and the White Western Establishment are inherently the root of all injustice and must be deconstructed at all costs (any skeptic of the Marxist Hustler agenda need only to enroll in any university multicultural education course or read academia’s educational canon of Paulo Freire, Jonathan Kozol, and the like).
Since the early 1990s (until the Capitalists Pimps showed up, that is), Marxist Hustlers have ruled the PSD and its surrounding communities. I won’t name names, but I’ll give a basic character description: they are the radical grass roots activists who block traffic and engage in political street theater; they are the civil rights advocates who habitually pull the race card; they are the academic elitists who push postmodern progressivism; they are the privileged whites who romanticize ethnic poverty and whose guilt drives a well-intentioned yet patronizing interaction with the disenfranchised; they are the bleeding heart law firms that have a fetish for the incarcerated.
Marxist Hustlers have brought us the following: a toothless school discipline code that puts the rights of the unruly few over the rights of the hardworking many; detracked classes; student-centered instruction; fuzzy group work; A.P. classes that take non-A.P. students; gifted classes that take non-gifted students; the erosion of real deadlines; the erosion of real grammar; the erosion of real math; the erosion of real literacy; fuzzy project-based learning; hip-hop in place of real science; credit recovery; grade inflation; the erosion of respect for authority; the erosion of family, religion, and traditional values; Ebonics; Whole Language; ethnomathmatics; the erosion of student accountability; identity politics; the fantasy known as “coded racism”; race-based school discipline; and an all-round socialist education system that attempts to make everyone equal, keep all students and their families “on the plantation,” and attacks any outsider who challenges their collective suffocating group-think mentality.
Unfortunately, the turf war between the Capitalist Pimps and the Marxist Hustlers for the hearts and minds (and dollars) of Philadelphia public school students and their families will wage on for years to come. Who comes out on top remains to be seen. Although both sides will ultimately tell you that they are fighting for the good of the people, there are no winners; the kids are the ones who suffer. Until our children and their families accept change on an individual basis (and adopt the principle that all change is self change), they will remain the raw materials that the aforementioned pimps and hustlers are fighting to possess.