Mar 7, 2014
Marching in Chicago: Resisting Rahm Emanuel’s Neoliberal Savagery
Posted on May 24, 2013
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout
A version of this piece first appeared at Truthout.
Across the globe, predatory capitalism spreads its gospel of power, greed, commodification, gentrification, and inequality. Through the combined forces of a market driven ideology, policy, and mode of governance, the apostles of free-market capitalism are doing their best to dismantle historically guaranteed social provisions provided by the welfare state, define the accumulation of capital as the only obligation of democracy, increase the role of corporate money in politics, wage an assault on unions, expand the military-security state, increase inequalities in wealth and income, foster the erosion of civil liberties, and undercut public faith in the defining institutions of democracy. As market mentalities and moralities tighten their grip on all aspects of society, democratic institutions and public spheres are being downsized, if not altogether disappearing. As these institutions vanish—from public schools to health care centers—there is also a serious erosion of the discourses of community, justice, equality, public values, and the common good. One does not have to look too far to see what happens in America’s neoliberal educational culture to see how ruthlessly the inequality of wealth, income, and power bears down on those young people and brave teachers who are struggling every day to save the schools, unions, and modes of pedagogy that offer hope at a time when schools have become just another commodity, students are reduced to clients or disposable populations, and teachers and their unions are demonized.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s current attempt to close down 54 public schools largely inhabited by poor minorities is one more example of a savage, racist neoliberal system at work that uses the politics of austerity and consolidation to further disenfranchise the unskilled young of the inner city. The hidden curriculum in this instance is not so invisible. Closing schools will result in massive layoffs, weakening the teachers unions. It will free up land that can be gentrified to attract middle class voters, and it will once again prove that poor minority students regardless of the hardships, if not danger, they will face as a result of such closings are viewed as disposable—human waste to be relegated to the zones of terminal exclusion. Not only are many teachers and parents concerned about displacing thousands of students to schools that do not offer any hope of educational improvement, but they are also concerned about the safety of the displaced children, many of whom “will have to walk through violent neighborhoods, and go to school with other students who are considered enemies.” Brian Sturgis, a Chicago high school senior and organizer with the group Chicago Students Organizing to Save our Schools declared in an op-ed that Chicago students are prepared to fight for their schools. He writes:
Sturgis is right in that such policies are not simply misguided, they are part of a racist script that makes clear that poor black youth are disposable, and that their safety is irrelevant. How else to explain the Mayor plan to produce a Safe Passage Plan in which firefighters would be asked to patrol the new routes, even though they have made it clear that they are not trained for this type of special duty. That many of these children are poor black children trapped in under resourced schools appears irrelevant to a mayor who takes his lead from politicians such as Barack Obama and Arnie Duncan, two educators who have simply reproduced the Bush educational reform playbook, i.e., more testing, demonize teachers, weaken unions, advocate for choice and charter schools, and turn public schools over to corporate hedge fund managers and billionaires such as Bill Gates. Emanuel’s passionate zeal to downsize schools in impoverished black neighborhoods is matched only by his misdirected enthusiasm to lay out $195 million “on a basketball arena for DePaul University, private Chicago university.”
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