May 1, 2021

Lois Weiner: Heads up! Chins down! Resisting the New Bipartisan Neoliberal Project in Education

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Lois Weiner is a professor emrita at New Jersey City University. She’s an author, teacher labor activist, and researcher. This post from New Politics is adapted from her remarks on the April 11, 2021 at the American Education Research Association, in which she warns about the assault on public education by neoliberalism.

The enormously complex, on-going struggles about schools and teaching during the pandemic are too huge a topic for me to explore in these remarks. The point I want to stress is that increasing attacks about teachers harming children by demanding safe reopenings is a recapitulation of the extravagantly funded, extraordinarily well-orchestrated assault on teachers and their unions launched fifteen years ago. It occurs now for the same reason the attack was organized before: Of all the potential opponents to the new iteration of capitalism’s project to transform education, teachers and their unions are the most formidable. Most research about increased racial and economic educational inequality from the pandemic emerges from “global edtech solutionism,” as Williamson and Hogan (2020) explain in their analysis  for the Education International (EI) (cited below).  The seemingly progressive solutions of the global edtech movement deepen and extend the reach of data mining and privatization in private/public partnerships supported by both Democrats and Republicans and corporate elites in international finance organizations.

We should understand the attacks teachers are experiencing are pushback to victories in teachers’ labor activism in the past decade, in “blue cities” and “red state” walkouts, as well as gains in educating teachers and parents about  the purposes of and harm done by standardized testing under NCLB. However, another more chilling development has occurred. Capitalism has used COVID and remote learning to reassert and expand the process begun with imposition of standardized testing and curricula two decades ago, intensifying the processes Huws describes in global alterations in work and  Raewyn Connell captures in education as “On-line templates and information systems, heavier and more detailed reporting requirements, standardized testing on a huge scale, quantitative targets and incentives,” and a shift to “control from a distance.”

The full piece (complete with footnotes) can be read here.

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