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Black Agenda Report

Obama and the “Superman” School Predators

Glen Ford

The corporate media, right-wing billionaires like the Wal-Mart family, Bill Gates and President Obama, are all in the same business. They are trying to create a private market in for-profit educational services that can be traded on the stock market and bet on derivatives but whose costs will be borne by the public. They project this public educational market to be potentially worth trillions of dollars – at virtually no risk to finance capital. That’s why the hedge funds are now so deep into charter schools. But, to transform the public schools into a privately-exploitable market requires great volumes of skillful propaganda, to convince the public that Wall Street and hedge funds will “save” public education.

The movie “Waiting for Superman” is the latest, and slickest, of this corporate propaganda. It is a profoundly predatory film, in character with the predatory finance capitalists that are its biggest boosters. The film shamelessly exploits five Washington, DC school kids and their desperate parents, seeking to win a lottery placement in a charter school exemplified by a 24-hour public charter boarding facility called The Seed School, where student life is “centered around dorms…named for a college or university,” each housing 12 to 15 kids. There are only 15 students for each teacher. On its face, this truly does seem to be a public educational wonderland. But, as mass propaganda for urban charter schools, it is the most cruel and evil bait-and-switch imaginable.

The nation’s public schools are in the deepest crisis in memory. It is a money crisis, which has led to the most draconian educational cutbacks in modern times. Teachers have been fired by the tens of thousands, curriculum scaled back to the bone all across the country – yet this film callously dangles a 24-hour prep school as a real and palpable possibility for the millions of educationally underserved in the inner cities. A live-in prep school is supposed to stand in for charter schools as a whole, despite the fact that more charter schools perform worse than their traditional public school counterparts than those that test better, nationwide.

“Waiting for Superman” is a scam and a sham, that has been catapulted into the national political conversation by a $2 million marketing grant from the Emperor, himself, Bill Gates. In the most perverse sense, it is appropriate that Washington, DC’s Seed School is featured, since Gates and the hedge fund billionaire parasites consider their cash contributions to charter schools as “seed money” from which will grow a hybrid, publicly-funded school system where profiteers will flourish. In the last decade, these finance capitalists have enlisted a cadre of Democratic politicians to wage war against teachers and against the very idea of public education, exploiting the historical grievances of Black parents, especially. Barack Obama is the highest expression of the success of this privatizing project, so it is no surprise that he endorsed “Waiting for Superman” as only a president could, hosting the film and the five kids at the White House. But do not be fooled. The film performs the same function for the corporatizing of American education as the movie “Exodus” did for the founding of Israel. This ain't “Roots.” Rather, it sets the stage for the uprooting and destruction of public education.

[This was a Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford]

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