My favorite definition of education is a century old, from Oxford don John Alexander Smith: “Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life, save only this, that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education.” By that standard, the endorsement of Cory Booker by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) should be used in all standardized tests throughout New Jersey, perhaps the nation. It is pure, unadulterated rot and an insult to every thinking teacher in the state.
In the latest NJEA Review, the organization that calls itself a union and supporter of public education not only endorses this pro-voucher, pro-charter, pro-Cami Anderson, pro-Chris Christie candidate of Wall Street, it also provides a forum for him to spread lies and half-truths. How, when the children and parents of Newark are suffering from the agony that is “One Newark,” when the city’s teacher union is under attack and about to be broken, how when Booker already has said he wanted to see Newark turned into the charter capital of New Jersey—how could the NJEA publish this rot?
How could it be so indifferent to what is happening, not just in Newark, but in Camden as well where the NJEA-endorsed Urban Hope Act—a cause embraced by Booker– is about to destroy public education?
Such cynicism is absolutely breathtaking. Unforgivable.
A little history: There are those—and I and Sharpe James are among them–who believe Cory Booker was brought to Newark, despite his absolute lack of connection to the city, to be the tool of Ray Chambers and the Prudential crowd. He did come to the city spouting the charms of vouchers and charters.
“This young man comes to see me and all he wants to talk about is vouchers—I wasn’t sure what he was taking about,” James told me in an interview a while ago. It was the first time he ever met Booker.
I went on a voucher pilgrimage to Milwaukee that Booker helped organize, a trip sponsored by the right-wing organization Education Excellence for Everyone (EEE). He brought us to see evangelical schools operated with public funds where students greeted each of us individually with “Jesus loves you.” He brought us to see Catholic schools kept alive with public money. And it was then that he began his nonsensical mantra—“Public school choice is the civil rights issue of our time.”
To be honest, I was in favor of school choice until that trip. When I saw what it really looked like in operation, I was repelled. It meant the end of public education as we know it: And that is precisely what Cory Booker wants—and, if he succeeds, the NJEA will have helped him.
Instead of reading the garbage spewed by the NJEA, read The New Yorker article “Schooled,” by Dale Russakoff who, unlike NJEA leaders, actually spends time in the city. Read this:
“Early in the summer of 2010, Booker presented Christie with a proposal, stamped ‘Confidential Draft,’ titled ‘Newark Public Schools—A Reform Plan’. It called for imposing reform from the top down; a more open political process could be taken captive by unions and machine politicians. ‘Real change has casualties and those who prospered under the pre-existing order will fight loudly and viciously,’ the proposal said. Seeking consensus would undercut real reform. One of the goals was to ‘make Newark the charter school capital of the nation.’ The plan called for an ‘infusion of philanthropic support’ to recruit teachers and principals through national school-reform organizations; build sophisticated data and accountability systems; expand charters; and weaken tenure and seniority protections. Philanthropy, unlike government funding, required no public review of priorities or spending. Christie approved the plan, and Booker began pitching it to major donors.”
How could the NJEA ignore this and print attempts by Booker to hide his support for the privatization of Newark school with comments like this: “I often say that charters—and I want to be clear what I mean by vouchers, a tax credit program—are not the panacea.” He is lying and the NJEA should say so.
Booker has viewed charters and vouchers and privatization generally as the solution to educational problems in Newark and other cities since he emerged out of nowhere to be the Manchurian candidate of rich, white people who don’t live in Newark but want to control it and its people and, most of all, its real estate. He told me so. He’s told others that. He has put it in writing.
In the NJEA endorsement, it allows Booker to say, “Even the most optimistic people who believe in charter growth who talk about Newark, do not talk about as even being the majority of schools.” He is lying.
It will be a majority in just a few years. And Booker wants that. This is what he told charter school supporters in Newark while he was still mayor:
“I’ll be very frank. I want you to expand as fast as you can. But, when schools are failing, I don’t think pouring new wine into old skins is the way. We need to close them and start new ones.”
The NJEA endorsement is a propaganda rug woven carefully and deliberately of self-serving and cynical lies. The people who run the union simply cannot be so stupid or delusional or naïve that they don’t recognize what they are doing.
I understand –but do not agree—that people fear the loss of a Senate seat by Democrats, any Senate seat, might turn the upper house over to the Republicans. The NJEA could have said that. It could have not endorsed anyone, knowing Booker will probably win anyway. It didn’t have to give such a boost to this enemy of public education.
It is simply unforgivable for this organization that calls itself a union to hand Booker the bullets he needs to administer a coup de grace against public education in cities like New Orleans and Newark.