Cory Booker: Really a Historic Opportunity?
Between Michelle Rhee on Oprah, MSNBC’s Education Nation, and the continual flood of hedge-fund philanthropy for charter school networks, the media narrative on education reform seems to have been turned up a few notches recently. So Corey Booker has clearly positioned himself in this celebrity-endorsed education-reform circus that is prominently on display in major media. All eyes have been on Mark Zuckerberg and Booker since Zuckerberg announced a 100 million dollar grant to Newark, NJ schools. Alongside this news, familiar candidates have been floated as possible superintendents in Newark, including Rhee and Jean-Claude Brizard.
My interest in Booker began awhile ago. I teach social studies in Rochester, an urban school district in upstate New York that has many similar characteristics as Newark, New Jersey. For one, Rochester has been the site of an intense debate over school governance after Mayor Bob Duffy declared his intention to push for mayoral control. Duffy claimed this was the best way to supposedly cure Rochester’s struggles in education, despite much of the argument clearly lacking substance or a remote grasp of the realities in urban schools. Many of my allies and colleagues quickly declared opposition to this anti-democratic effort, as it was filled with condescending superman notions of who could even attempt to fix the problems in urban education. The misguided thirst for political control, power, funding, and patronage also fit comfortably within the national narrative on where the problems and solutions in urban education could be found.
Which brings me back to Booker and the Facebook money. Many suspected that Zuckerberg’s facebook money would have strings attached. Opportunistic points ran aplenty for celebrities and politicians in attaching themselves to these reform strings. Just how deeply anti-democratic those strings go is widely misunderstood. The more I researched the money behind these type of corporate blackmail philanthropy deals, the more I realized just how incredibly plutocratic it was. Perdido Street gets into a deep analysis of the fantastical legal implications behind Zuckerburg’s 100 million dollar grant that major media outlets refuse to touch.
I suppose I should have figured that the rabbit-hole would only get deeper but there still is a portion of me that is surprised at the ridiculousness of all of this. I wish it made it easier to laugh but I only know the issues of authentic progressive education reform only get more serious onward from here.