One response to my Relaxing zero tolerance in schools could be Obama’s boldest civil rights reform is worth highlighting: Readers adamant that the Obama education agenda is beyond such hope.
Let me note here that I have long since slipped past healthy skepticism and resigned myself to unhealthy cynicism with respect to either major political party and their leaders, including Obama.
I have tried before to confront the possibilities and the failures associated with Obama and Secretary Duncan, a set of policies and a series of rhetorical flurries that leave me even more depressed than those dark years under George W. Bush and his Secretaries, Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings:
- “They’re All Our Children”
- Obama Won, But Did Educators Lose In the Process?
- Open Letter to Political Leaders: Action, Not Tributes and Rhetoric
- Orwellian Educational Change under Obama: Crisis Discourse, Utopian Expectations, and Accountability Failures
Paul R. Carr and Brad Porfilio are now preparing a revised edition of The Phenomenon of Obama and the Agenda for Education: Can Hope Audaciously Trump Neoliberalism?—in which I have had and will have chapters.
I must note that my revised chapter is none too rosy; in fact, it is a solid statement of cynicism that has left skepticism in the dust. The revised chapter ends:
This call for change is not being heard, blocked by the din of the crisis discourse and utopian expectations that deform our children, our schools, and our society. The great failure being masked is that bureaucratic calls for school reform are perpetuating the labeling and marginalizing of teachers and students whose conditions in mechanistic schools parallel the inequities that the political elite are willingly ignoring both in their discourse and in their policies.
So when I confront the late but important recognition by the Obama administration that current education policies and practices are indeed racist, classist, and sexist, I believe it is on us to redouble our efforts, remind everyone we have been saying that for many years.
We actually don’t need Obama’s administration to tell us these things. But unless we make an effort to shift the gaze and the discourse in the right direction, on those extremely rare moments when they do, we are losing a moment.
I am not calling for our collective patting of the backs among the Obama administration. I would say the best tactic is to say, “Shame on you all for just noticing, but let’s get to work and stop all that other nonsense that is also doing harm!”
The Obama administration has hidden behind “education reform is the civil rights issue of our time” while promoting the worst possible education policies and maintaining an inexcusable allegiance to Secretary Duncan.
Let’s not forget that, and let’s not forget the “hope and change” rhetoric that lured many of us to have hope for change.
The recent shift driven by the Office of Civil Rights reports, however, is our opportunity to turn the “no excuses” and “zero tolerance” mantras on their heads, raising our voices and our eyes toward those in charge who are failing us and the children in our schools.
If there is hope for that change, it is in our grasp to make it happen.