In 2022, I still stand by my posts from 2012 ands 2015, included below—that educators still have no political party that supports teachers and universal public education.
However, today, I have a caveat that is vital, even urgent.
Not voting stopped being an option after 2016 and the rise of Trumpublicans.
Voting for the best candidate regardless of political party stopped being an option after the end of Trump’s presidency.
Educators cannot vote for any Republican because the Republican Party has no interest in education or teaching as a profession (in part, because more that 80% of educators are women, and the Republican Party is also hostile to women—as well as children).
Over the past couple years, 100% of anti-CRT bills, curriculum gag orders, parental trigger bills, and a variety of efforts to de-professionalize teaching and erode public education have been proposed by Republicans—only.
There is now only one choice for educators: we must be politically active and we cannot endorse or vote for any Republicans until the ship of democracy is righted, saved from capsizing, and then turned onto a better course for education, educators, all people, and our individual freedoms.
If you read below, you will note that Democrats have failed educators and education; however, some, maybe many, have been willing to fight against the recent assaults on education by Republicans. A few governors and many representatives have listened and resisted legislation that is aimed at ending academic freedom, critical thinking, and teaching children the facts of the country and world they live in.
There is no longer room for calling for no politics from educators.
There is no longer room to tip-toe around identifying the dangers of one political party, Republicans, and admitting we have only one choice, Democrats.
This is a means to a greater end—where we have two (or more) political parties that value and honor academic freedom, public education, and educators as professionals.
However, to reach that end, we cannot pretend that “both sides” are harmful to education in the same ways and to the same degrees. That simply is the sort of fake news that Republicans are using to dismantle education and teaching.
In 2022, educators still have no political party, but we also have no choice except to unseat every Republican that we can in order to rebuild a more perfect union.
NOTE: Below is a repost from 23 August 2012 with small edits. With great regret, I see no reason to write something new since the Chicago mayoral election and the announcement of Hillary Clinton entering the presidential election have offered clear proof educators still have no political party. I do, however, offer some important additions after the repost from W.E.B. Du Bois and George Carlin. I recommend them highly.
For about thirty years now, public education as well as its teachers and students have been the focus of an accountability era driven by recurring calls for and the implementation of so-called higher standards and incessant (and now “next generation”) testing. At two points during this era, educators could blame Ronald Reagan’s administration for feeding the media frenzy around the misleading A Nation at Risk and George W. Bush’s administration for federalizing the accountability era with No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—both under Republican administrations.
For those who argued that Republicans and Democrats were different sides of the same political coin beholden to corporate interests, education advocates could point to Republicans with an accusatory finger and claim the GOP was anti-public education while also endorsing Democrats as unwavering supporters of public education. To claim Republicans and Democrats were essentially the same was left to extremists and radicals, it seemed.
As we approach the fall of 2015 and the next presidential election, however, educators and advocates for public education have found that the position of the extremists—Republicans and Democrats are the same—has come true under the Barack Obama administration.
Educators have no political party to support because no political party supports educators, public education, or teachers unions.
Democrats and Republicans: Our Orwellian Future Is Now
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”
1984, George Orwell
Behind the historical mask that Democrats support strongly public education and even teachers specifically and workers broadly, the Obama administration has presented a powerful and misleading education campaign that is driven by Obama as the good cop and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as the bad cop. Obama Good Cop handles the discourse that appeals to educators by denouncing the rising test culture in 2011:
What is true, though, is, is that we have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at. Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic.
Yet, simultaneously, Secretary Duncan Bad Cop was endorsing and the USDOE was implementing Race to the Top, creating provisions for states to opt out of NCLB, and endorsing Common Core—each of which increases both the amount of standardized testing and the high-stakes associated with those tests by expanding the accountability from schools and students to teachers.
Under Obama, Democratic education policy and agendas, embodied by Duncan, have created a consistently inconsistent message. During his campaign mode for a second term, Obama once again offered conflicting claims about education—endorsing a focus on reducing class size (despite huge cuts for years in state budgets that have eliminated teachers and increased class size, which many education reformers endorse) and making a pitch to support teachers unions and even increasing spending on education, leading Diane Ravitch to ponder:
Well, it is good to hear the rhetoric. That’s a change. We can always hope that he means it. But that, of course, would mean ditching Race to the Top and all that absurd rightwing rhetoric about how schools can fix poverty, all by themselves.
Throughout his presidency, Obama’s discourse has been almost directly contradicted by Duncan’s discourse and the USDOE’s policies. Obama tended to state that teachers were the most important in-school influence on student learning while Duncan tends to continue omitting the “in-school” qualifier, but these nuances of language are of little value since the USDOE under Obama has an agenda nearly indistinguishable from Republican agendas:
- Incentivizing all states to adopt CC and the necessary increase in testing and textbook support (and thus, profit) to follow.
- Endorsing market dynamics and school choice by embracing the charter school movement, specifically charters such as Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) that practice “no excuses” ideologies for school reform and school cultures.
- Criticizing directly and indirectly public school teachers and perpetuating the “bad” teacher myth by calling for changes in teacher evaluations and compensation, disproportionately based on student test scores.
- Funding and endorsing the spread of test-based accountability to departments and colleges of education involved in teacher certification.
- Funding and endorsing the de-professionalization of teaching through support for Teach for America.
- Appealing to the populist message about choice by failing to confront the rise of “parent trigger” laws driven by corporate interests posing as concerned parents.
If my claim that Republicans and Democrats are different sides of the same misguided education reform coin still appears to be the claim of an extremist, the last point above should be examined carefully.
Note, for example, the connection between the issues endorsed by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and the anti-union sentiment joined with endorsing the next misleading Waiting for “Superman”—Won’t Back Down.
The Democratic National Convention was home to DFER, Parent Revolution, and Students First to promote Won’t Back Down as if this garbled film is a documentary—including a platform for Michelle Rhee.
There is nothing progressive about the education reform agenda under the Obama administration, nothing progressive about the realities behind Obama’s or Duncan’s discourse, nothing progressive about Rhee, Gates, or the growing legions of celebrity education reformers.
If the Democratic Party were committed to a progressive education platform, we would hear and see policy seeking ways to fund fully public schools, rejecting market solutions to social problems, supporting the professionalization of teachers, embracing the power and necessity of collective bargaining and tenure, protecting students from the negative impact of testing and textbook corporations, distancing themselves from Rhee-like conservatives in progressive clothing, and championing above everything else democratic ideals.
Instead, the merging of the education agenda between Democrats and Republicans is Orwellian, but it real, as Ravitch warned early in Obama’s administration:
This rhetoric represented a remarkable turn of events. It showed how the politics of education had been transformed. . . .Slogans long advocated by policy wonks on the right had migrated to and been embraced by policy wonks on the left. When Democrat think tanks say their party should support accountability and school choice, while rebuffing the teachers’ unions, you can bet that something has fundamentally changed in the political scene. (p. 22)
Still today in 2015, educators have no political party to support because no political party supports educators—and this is but one symptom of a larger disease killing the hope and promise of democracy in the U.S.
This tragic fact is the inevitable result of the historical call for teachers not to be political. Now that educators have no major party to support, the failure of that call is more palpable than ever.
Both the faux “not political” pose and playing the partisan political game fail educators, public education, and the democratic hope of the U.S.
Why I Won’t Vote, W.E.B. Dubois, The Nation, 20 October 1956