BATS at the Forefront of Exposing the Dangerous Lie
BY: Ernest Anemone, Attorney and Education Activist
We often talk about the attack on public education as a money-making scheme (which it is, of course) but we must remember it is primarily a psychological problem being exploited for profit. If I am a person with great wealth and status, what happens if I discover that my privilege is not the result of my own hard work? Well, I'm likely to have an existential crisis, which I'd rather avoid. I might ask silly questions like: do I truly deserve what I have? Do other people deserve to not have the things that I have? This is why, as a rich man, I must continually prove to myself (and the world) that the poor are poor because they refuse to make an enterprise of themselves -- like I did. As we know, there are all sorts of interesting ways I can demonstrate the failures of the poor through the 'neutrality' of data. The good news is that we are slowly beginning to wake up to what's happening. As a nation, we are slowly beginning to see the cracks in this highly polished veneer. Do CEO's work hundreds (sometimes thousands) of times harder than their lowest paid workers? They certainly do not work any harder than Maria Fernandes (a woman who worked 4 jobs and died while napping in her car http://rt.com/usa/183720-four-jobs-car-nap/ ) who like generations of people before her worked themselves to death. Nonetheless, all of us -- rich and poor -- are still bewitched into measuring our own worth by money and then pretending that it is hard work, not money, that determines our worth after all. This is what keeps leading us to the inevitable and erroneous conclusion that people who do not have money must be lazy. This is why as a nation we can so easily ignore every chart that tracks standardized test scores along socioeconomic lines -- or explain it away with logical fallacies. The truth is that the lie is comforting not just for rich, but also the poor, which is why BATS meet resistance on all sides. Wouldn't you rather be a "temporarily embarrassed millionaire," as Steinbeck quipped, than "poor," which is such an ugly and disempowering word. Enter the 'empowerment' of school 'choice.' If I live in poverty, I want to believe that I can be 'better' if I make 'better' choices in the future. And, if I'm rich, I need to believe that I am already 'better' because I made 'better' choices in the past. Well, this is the illusion that feeds corporate reform and it is the illusion that will destroy us all if it is not stopped. This is what makes us want to out-compete one another instead of working together to build a better future. BATS, you are on the forefront of exposing this dangerous lie, and when you do it will not be to upset the rich or redeem the poor, but rather to restore the humanity of both. Unfortunately, this also means you will be attacked from both sides, as we have seen time after time. But, take comfort in this: unlike all other labor groups, you were made for this mission. You are the group the entire labor movement has been waiting for -- because it's in your blood. You are teachers. You do not tell students what to think but you show them how to think. You do not teach to the rich student or the poor student, but to all students. And, right now, if you let all of America be your classroom, there is no way you can lose.