Jose Vilson vs. Barack Obama

Dear President Obama: It’s Not You; It’s Your Education Policy

Jose 14 Comments

Jose Vilson vs. Barack Obama

Dear President Obama,

Ever since you started your run for President of the United States, I’ve had your back. I won’t recount the inspiring events of your presidency since 2008 here, though I’m sure you’re already replaying them in your mind, like that last great buzzer shot to win your last pick-up game. You’ve made few friends along the path to 2010, and wobbled the faith of many in your prime electoral base. Your administration’s strategy has been simply to show what the “other guy” hasn’t done, a strategy typical of the politics you leaned your whole campaign on breaking. None of this bodes well for a president who won a decisive majority vote and a mandate to turn this country around. Frankly, you sometimes come off as dispassionate about the people who helped elect you on the ground level.

With all the things you’ve done under your Presidency, it’s hard to argue about the legacy you’ll already leave behind. As a Black man, a father, and a personal role model, you excel. Yet, the one gripe I’ve always had about you is your hallow education policy. It reminds me of the articles I’d read by Matt Taibbi about how you were in Goldman Sachs’ pocket while tons of people lost their jobs and livelihoods by that sinister organization. It reminds me of the tons of “present” votes when things came up to your vote as Senator of Illinois. It reminds me of the fake swim you took in the Atlantic Ocean when you weren’t even close to the Gulf Coast.

And not the guy who went right into New Orleans while that president flew right over it.

I respect your use of the term “education reform,” because everyone can get on board with that. Where we diverge is the way by which we achieve education reform. You prefer to listen to the corporate voices of anti-trust lawyer Joel Klein and “I make no apologies about taping a kid’s mouth shut” Michelle Rhee. I prefer to listen to the voices of Linda Darling-Hamm, an illustrious member of your transition team, who believes Finland is a more appropriate model for education than the one we’re looking towards. I prefer to look at Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier’s research, plain as day showing the constant manipulations of New York State and Michael Bloomberg, who wiggled the scores enough so people could believe he made NYC’s scores change when he nor his reforms did.

I got a million other voices who find your push for the privatization of public education, and since you came on the scene, it’s probably the nastiest stain on your oil-drenched fatigues. In no way am I belittling the 3 wars you’re fighting in the Middle East, the detainees, the secret armies, or the treatment of anyone who’s not a While, male, middle-class Protestant, since these too need all of our attention. I just have a special place in my heart for education since I believe that making children informed, positive citizens and great, critical inventors will help solve many of the issues in this world.

Instead, we’re building automatons, robots, and people frustrated with the constant barrage of big tests (ask Nicholas Lemann). I don’t hate you, Barack, and I hope that’s evident. With all these teabaggers, that’s not as present. I just totally disagree with your policies, capiche?

Now, when I get my face to face with you, I don’t want you sic’ing your Secret Service dogs on me. You know where to reach me otherwise. Good night, and good luck.

Jose, who has an audacity to win …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 14

  1. john thompson

    I’m sticking with President Obama no matter how bad his education policies are. In fact, even in education he’s done more harm than good by saving jobs, forcing even “reformers” to accept pre-school and early ed, and saying the right things on community schools. My frustration with “reformers” as well as the President also relates to your previous posts. Because of the nonstop pressure to teach to the test, too many inner city kids can’t be exposed to a well-rounded education. I was the last teacher at my school who stood firm and still exposed the kids to Roger Wilkins and Charles Ogletree, or dare to play John Legend’s music, and I doubt they understand how their buddies, Klein, Rhee, et.al, have leveraged their power to drive Black History, Multiculturalism, art, music, etc. out of poor schools. And the idea that a young teacher would dare to follow my example and expose the kids to Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates, much less Amir Baraka, seems impossible. Principals hated it that I would encourage class discussions and cover contmeporary issues, but they couldn’t shut me down. But they would never let a twenty something start down that road. They have to stay on schedule for the End-of-Instrucction test.

    That being said, we teachers still need to turn out this Novemeber. We have a right to feel angry. But the abuse heaped on us, after all, is trivial compared to the hardships that our urban schoolkids face.

  2. Mark Halpert

    The Obama Adminstration’s Education Policy has been more of the same. The policies have been heavy handed, consistently supporting charter schools, and showing very little empathy for public school children and teachers. Having said that, the choices in November are between what we have and a full blown shift to the right.

    We need to vote for moderates and continue to support the great innovations that are being made in public and charter schools, and work with parents, teachers and administrators to get it right

  3. Post
    Author
    Jose

    TJ and Tracy, thanks for dropping by, and we’re all in agreement.

    John and Mark, I agree with sticking to Obama if it’s a choice between the two. Unfortunately, the better of two evils is our choice. Obama’s moderate has become the face of the Democratic party, which means left-leaning Dems look radical in comparison. Diversity is so important in curriculum, and while some people have tried to push diversity into curriculum, what ends up happening essentially is that it becomes a watered down version of diversity, and that stinks.

    We need more voices. Glad you all brought yours.

  4. Craig B.

    I will vote for Obama in 2012, but it will be the most distasteful vote since I pulled the level for Clinton in ’96. This letter lays it on the line; I hope it gets the attention it deserves. Sec. Duncan needs to be sacked – I can’t believe that non-educator was given his current position given what he did to Chicago schools. Many of the President’s original supporters largely seem disappointed in him for one thing or another. That won’t be good on election day when some of those folks either don’t bother voting or not voting the top of the ticket. I hope Mr. Obama rethinks his education policy, and not just before he goes, hat in hand, looking for union handouts and endorsements in two years. I suspect my union, the California Teachers Association, won’t endorse anyone in the 2012 race. Why should we?

  5. Chris Lehmann

    *sigh*

    Where I’m at these days… I’m going to vote hard Democratic in 2010. I have a real choice in Philly between Sestak and Toomey, so my vote matters there. I’ll keep giving money to folks like Russ Feingold who represent real progressive ideas.

    And I’ll *probably* vote for Obama in 2012 (I’ll vote no matter what in 2012, but I still hold out my right to leave the top of the ticket blank, although I can’t imagine really doing that.) But as things stand now, he’s going to have to do it without my money this time around, because I can vote for the “best available” but I don’t have to like it, and I’d rather give my political contributions to organizations like FairTest and the Forum for Education and Democracy.

    *sigh*

  6. Mark Halpert

    If the Republicans go hard right and Obama stays where he is, a 3rd party candidate down the middle with real business experience combined with a moderate politician could be my choice

  7. susan

    I must agree that Obama and his main man, Arne Duncan do not represent most teachers in this country. I can’t imagine that he supports Rhee and of all people Bill Gates who is the biggest supporter out there for charter schools. I hope all teachers will boycott the Superman movie and not even give it a nod. It is insulting and demeaning in its treatment of teachers. Obama would not be happy if his daughters’ mouths were taped, would he? Oh, I forgot. They go to private school.

  8. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Wow, seems like there’s a lot of prime ground for a 3rd or *gasp* fourth party to enter the fold. Options are important. This catch-all method of party interest isn’t working when the whole system seems corruptible by corporate special interest.

    1. Post
      Author
  9. NYC Educator

    I will not vote for Obama again, and sorely regret having voted for him at all. I’ve never voted against a Democrat in my life, but will begin next month when I pull the lever for Howie Hawkins of the Green Party. It’s not enough for me that the Republicans are more insane than the Democrats. For my vote, a candidate has to not only be not insane, but also someone who doesn’t take marching orders from Bill Gates, no matter how much money he has.

    I refuse to vote for anyone anti-union, anti-teacher, pro-corporate nonsense ever again.

  10. Pingback: Martin Luther and The Need for Another Reformation — The Jose Vilson

Leave a Reply