Letters – January 2017

Heavens to Betsy; Dear Mr. Greenwald

Heavens to Betsy

Betsy DeVos, the Trump Administration’s incoming education secretary, has had her confirmation hearing pushed back a week – to January 31 – after a less than satisfying Senate inquiry in which she gave rather noncommittal answers to questions about her policy views and business ties.

The liberal press may be exaggerating somewhat when they say that DeVos is an existential threat to public education, but not by much. DeVos, a billionaire with close ties to the Christian Right and a longstanding champion of school privatization, will certainly use all the powers afforded to her – which are not absolute, it should be said – to marketize education and bust teacher unions. The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association are right to be horrified, but wrong to represent her as some new evil.

The neoliberal education agenda has been in place for some time, implemented faithfully by the Obama Administration for the last eight years. It was the Obama Administration that incentivized creation of charter schools, attacked organized teachers, and made market-based education ‘reform’ into common-sense politics – with the NEA and AFT supporting the Democrats all along the way, albeit with grudging noises about former education secretary Arne Duncan. (AFT President Randi Weingarten, who endorsed Hillary Clinton far earlier than is standard even for a labor bureaucrat, still defends the union’s support for her failed campaign as correct.)

DeVos is ratcheting up the tempo (and favoring religious schools in a way the last administration didn’t), but the groundwork has already been laid. Teacher unions need a new policy, one based on political independence from the Democratic Party and a practical focus on organizing workers in charter and private schools.

– Gabriel Pierre


Dear Mr. Greenwald

Mr. Glenn Greenwald,

As utterly puny and paltry to the point of vanishingly meaningless as it is, please accept this message of “congratulations & solidarity” in the spirit intended.

It’s beyond self-evident that your personal and professional contribution of public support/humanitarian activities has contributed hugely to this scenario of Chelsea Manning’s sentence being ‘commuted’ and achieving an ‘early’ release from incarceration.

“Maximum/gold-plated respect, dude!” (Pero mas importante… “¡Viva la revolucion y viva la vida! ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!“)

Those are Spanish / Catalan and in turn Cuban revolutionary greetings I’ve deployed here, rather than Brazilian / Portuguese – (which would be more funkily relevant for your domestic circumstances, Glenn, at least notionally.)

But hey – at least we’re keeping it magnificently ‘international’ plus majestically progressive between us, not letting hideous xenophobia or bourgeois isolationism get the upper hand on our Planet Earth, eh buddy???!!!

– Bruno K.