NeoMarxism in Public Schools


NeoMarxism in Public Schools

How much of the curriculum in public schools is driven by ideological agendas? I’m wondering if progressive education is now becoming more Marxist.  More bold and confident.  

For a time we had, at our university (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC), a two-year Masters program in teacher unionism in the works.  Can you imagine what a professional, university trained teacher unionist must be like?  The first cohort would have graduated this year  (2011). Can you imagine what a doctoral degree  –  a PhD in teacher unionism  —  would be like?

Fortunately, this program never did take off.  Reasons unknown.  But the effort and literature was abundant at one time.  Two of the first professors would have been BCTF staff straight from the headquarters of the provincial teacher union. 
I am trying to get a conversation going about these left-wing ideologies in public education. But, why are people reluctant to engage, or “pooh-pooh”, saying I’m exaggerating. Are they being polite and politically correct or is there some latent “threat” inherent in their hesitation to engage in this conversation?

Or worse still, is progressivism and NeoMarxism such a given, a fait accompli, that it’s not worth challenging?  Is the penetration that bad?

Today I had an essay published in our local newspaper’s blog on the topic of the lack of leadership in education.  It’s a rather long essay and I mentioned NeoMarxism a few times.  Imagine my immense surprise when Google Search engine picked this up within a few hours:  NeoMarxism in Public Schools.

I see that the topic is not new, so let’s have a go.  I need to know more and so do others.  Just what are we dealing with here?

Below is the essay I mentioned.

Opportunists Love the Vacuum

(in Vancouver Sun blog, The Report Card, 2011 02 24)

I’ve written many essays on how the public education system in BC has been hijacked by special interests.  The “real leadership” in BC education is “behind the scenes” – pulling the levers and calling the shots. The system is one Big Swiss Cheese – full of holes and opportunities for squatters!

I will try to show how opportunists – the keen movers and shakers – assume leadership roles, influence and control in BC.

1.  Teacher Union Calls the Shots in BC

I explain how the BCTF, through stealth and intimidation, has acquired the role of “parallel government” in BC.  I point to Thomas Fleming’s research paper which pinpoints the year 1972 (NDP wins the provincial election) when the teacher union under “radical Marxist” Jim MacFarlan gained its foothold in education matters. I point to the current president, Susan Lambert, arrogantly acting like THE BOSS, saying BCTF should be consulted as a matter of course on educational matters.

2.  Teacher Union Narrative Sets a Toxic Tone

I ask why should the BCTF’s left-wing ideology continue its dominance.  The population in BC generally splits 25% committed left, 25% committed conservative, and 50% uncommitted middle. Why not have people choose from a plurality of school choices? The ideological left, however, opposes school choice because they want everyone “socialized” in one system for one system!

I bring in the matter of university professors adding to the left-wing education narrative.  UBC’s Charles Ungerleider decries the media reporting “neoliberal” values of “individualism, choice, competition, productive efficiency, and private enterprise.”  The opposite of neoliberalism is neoMarxism.  Does Ungerleider suggest the media should extol neoMarxist values?

SFU Professor Donald Gutstein quotes a Marxist economist in his plea to reframe BC education.

3.  Wiping the Slate Clean Won’t Solve the Testing Wars

The BCTF has a predictable annual agitation campaign. Any union issue will do.  This last decade it’s been the FSAs. (Campaigns are used for purposes such as — to stay in the public eye, to radicalize teachers, to test mobilizing techniques, to threaten and cajole, to form coalitions, etc.)  Many trustees, school boards, and now the principals/vp association have joined the resistance.

The BCTF exploitation of parents in this cause is unconscionable. It is the height of usurpation and violation of the trust of parents – parents who are so eager to do what’s best for their children.  Parents don’t readily see the politics behind their ill-usage. I show how a BCTF article in their magazine boldly says that in lieu of a teacher boycott there should be a “Parent Boycott”.

4.  Who Should Rule Education – The Government or Teacher Union?

BC is seen as cowardly in face of BCTF threats. The national paper, the Globe and Mail had an article on the matter.  Over 130 comments. I made 4 comments explaining to other Canadians our pitiful circumstances.  I reiterated how it was time for school choice, that vouchers would be welcome so that parents could choose non-conflicted schools.

I showed how lay control via school boards is compromised by trustees who pledge to support teacher union causes in exchange for electoral support. I mentioned C&D and SLAPP tactics being used to chill debate and criticism by the public.

I was delighted when the story and comments flushed out another element in the “behind the scenes” control of education.  I said:  “What has remained hidden till now are the Masters of the Game, the university people behind the scenes.  And, there are many professors, deans, departments, programs, foundations.”

Ungerleider in another paper on Globalization states that teachers in BC “have achieved a measure of professional autonomy and influence unparalleled in other North American jurisdictions.”  The upcoming bargaining promises to be fierce!

Frankly, talking about THE SYSTEM is part of the problem. We don’t need big-time leaders! There should be no one big system.  No hierarchies. No central control.   Devolve the system so that the smaller units, the schools, are self-managing with their own local leadership subject to their own boards of directors. The model of our independent schools should be followed. New Zealand did the devolution route in 1989 (the same year the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union dissolved.)

We need to devolve in BC education and the mechanism for that is equal vouchers for all qualifying students K-12 with the funding following the student to the school of the parents’ and students’ choice.  Let there be strong leadership at the local, grassroots level!  That is what contributes to a more civil society versus our volatile hostilities now being suffered.

One thought on “NeoMarxism in Public Schools

  1. From this cogent essay, one short sentence sprang out to hit me in the eye, vis:
    "There should be no one big system."
    Schumacher said, "Small is beautiful."  The other side of that coin is, "Big is bad."
    Big oil, big pharma, big tobacco, big healthcare, big government, and especially big schools.  I have statistical evidence that, in Burlington, even tho' mired in the public system, small schools have far better test results than large schools.  Same goes for large vs. small systems.
    Ontario isn't as far gone as the Left Coast, but give us a year or two …..  Here are a couple of direct quotes that are not straws in the wind but more like trees in the typhoon:
    "Graduate literate, numerate students?  Why?"
    "We will not use test results for comparison purposes."
    "The Ministry should discontinue EQAO tests for two years (for which read: 'forever')."
    "We don't expect children to be able to regurgitate historical dates and names."  -which, of course, calls to mind Santayana's famous aphorism, "The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again".  That is inscribed on, among other places, a plaque at the Auschwitz concentration camp where thousands of Jews and others were murdered – a fact of which most Canadian school children are unaware.
    As I say, Tunya, give Ontario a year or two and we'll be up to your speed.  If not Washington, DC's or New York's, where the most money in the world is spent on an education which is the worst in the world, according to reports.
    No cheers, mostly tears.
    Frank Gue.

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