Monday, January 28, 2008

The "Politics of Disaster" at AERA

March 28, 2008

Schooling and the Politics of Disaster: The Privatization of Civic Life and the Destruction of Community

Schooling and the Politics of Disaster: The Privatization of Civic Life and the Destruction of Community

Session Participants:

Chair: Kenneth J. Saltman (DePaul University)

Capitalizing on Disaster: Public School Privatization From the Gulf Coast to the Persian Gulf
*Kenneth J. Saltman (DePaul University)

Feasting on Disaster: Urban School Policy, Globalization, and the Politics of Disaster
*Pauline Lipman (University of Illinois - Chicago)

The Small Schools Movement Meets the Ownership Society *William C. Ayers (University of Illinois - Chicago)

The Small Schools Movement Meets the Ownership Society *Michael Klonsky

Benign Neglect? Drowning Yellow Buses, Racism, and Disinvestment in the City That Bush Forgot *Kristen L. Buras (Emory University)

The Quiet Disaster of No Child Left Behind: Standardization and Deracialization Breed Inequality *Enora R. Brown (DePaul University)

Discussant: Michael W. Apple (University of Wisconsin - Madison)

This highly original panel addresses how disaster is being used for the radical social and economic engineering of education. From the natural disasters of the Asian tsunami and the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast to the human made disasters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Sudan, Indonesia, the United States, and around the globe, disaster is shaping politics. Terror and security dominate political debates and frame issues while the spectacle of disaster sells policy and commodities alike. Following both the invasion of Iraq and Hurricane Katrina school privatization advocates took advantage of disaster to implement charter schools, voucher schemes, and deregulation of education while educational profiteers secured exclusive rebuilding contracts.The panel is important, topical, and related to the annual conference theme as it recognizes not only a new form of educational privatization, but it is also important for intervening in what is an attack on community and civic life. While Iraq and New Orleans may seem like rare and isolated cases of privatization advocates capitalizing on disaster, the papers in this panel illustrate that these extreme examples typify a much larger and even dominant domestic trend in education. Indeed as some papers contend, on a national level No Child Left Behind sets schools up to be designated as “failed” to be closed and then reopened in a number of experimental forms including charter schools and for profit schools. Under the current guidelines of NCLB most public schools in the U.S. are headed for this outcome. On a local level such mass closures and experimental reopenings are already happening in major cities such as Chicago, Boston, and Portland, Oregon. As communities suffer the dismantling of public schools and coordinated assaults on public housing and other public services, the possibilities for democratic civic life and participatory forms of democracy are imperiled. This phenomenon involves much more than privatization including matters of school funding, the culture of schooling, organizational models for school systems, educational leadership, the role of think tanks in policy and reform, the relationship between educational politics and foreign policy. Panelists address concrete and specific examples of how natural and unnatural disaster is being used to transform education including No Child Left Behind, the War on Terror, Hurricane Katrina, the making of educational funding crises in the U.S., the role of educational think tanks in planning for disaster response, and the Iraq War. Some papers take a broader perspective on disaster including consideration of how schooling has been shaped by the disasters produced by globalization and the legacy of colonialism, ideologies of neoliberalism and neoconservatism, and how media spectacle of disaster functions pedagogically to educate the public about pressing matters. Papers range from policy oriented to philosophical, employing political economic anaylysis, discourse analyis, ethnographic research, and conceptual theoretical argumentation drawing on critical theoretical traditions inside and outside the field of education.

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