Fine Tune Your Riot

No less than Diane Ravitch is calling for rioting in the streets of Detroit by teachers and parents for school closures and increase size of classes up to 60 in order to balance the budget. Her outrage over the destruction of public schools throughout the US is justifiable. In Providence, Rhode Island they’ll be firing all of its teachers. Idaho is laying off teachers. My county, Prince George’s County, MD, is not only looking to decimate the school system with a thousand layoffs next year, but will increase the presence of ROTC in the schools. Arne Duncan must have taught Dr. Hite well in how to militarize a public school system that is one of the poorest in the state.

Just looking at my system for a moment we see that a major hit will come against the librarians. George Bush couldn’t stand up to them as he went after the librarians who campaigned to protect internet use at their sites, but apparently our ‘Democratic’ state has no qualms about victimizing these great public servants. Libraries?? Ever teach in a high school that didn’t have a functioning library? I taught in three in Baltimore that shared an invisible library. Interesting how these two municipalities rank the lowest in the state on the high stakes tests. Could there be some correlation?

The problem with rioting is that it is often too random and the victims of the system are often those affected by this action. I suggest that any rioting be done with care and precision. Avoid commercial districts. Unless it’s a corporate headquarters that’s responsible for outsourcing jobs, going after such a business district could turn low income retail workers against their own children’s advocates in the long run. The outrage of the assassination of Dr. King brought destruction to the inner cities of the US, As Arne Duncan saw Katrina as a good thing for New Orleans’s public schools (it helped to wipe them out and charter schools took its place) perhaps such a mindset might have seen the burning of our cities in some similarly warped way. So let’s avoid this in a future scenario of urban outrage.
Clearly, every state house that cuts funding for schools rather than increase the income tax of the highest salaried citizen or its corporations are a reasonable target of citizen ire. As we see in Madison, Governor Walker eliminated a budget surplus earlier this year by axing certain corporate taxes. This was the main cause of their deficit, not teachers’ salaries or pensions.?Every Congress person’s office should also take notice of the justifiable anger of the citizenry. It is these politicians who have wasted trillions of dollars on illegal wars and corporate and bank bailouts with no strings attached. Sure they’ll throw a few bones for some pet projects that might hire a few, but the system has crashed and those in the driver’s seat ought to be held accountable.

Ravitch’s outburst might have been rhetorical. Maybe not. But the anger is justifiable and we are taking our cues from our democracy-seeking comrades everywhere from Yemen to Wisconsin. This is our year: 2011. It will not be forgotten. “Remember, Remember…”?

Myles B. Hoenig is a veteran ESOL teacher in Prince George’s County, MD and has served in leadership positions with his teachers’ professional affiliate.


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