Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Charlatan Education

     I have seen educational programs aimed at making the world a better place for no one but its promoters. Reuven Feuerstein, the developer of the Instrumental Enrichment Program and founder of the Feuerstein Institute in Jerusalem, Israel, was an Israeli educator who figured out that the problem with students is that they don't know how to think correctly. His program was going to teach them how to think, critically, which is not a bad idea, if the resources were more exciting and the outcome more clear; what does he want students to critically think about anyway: that Israel is a peace-loving place and the Jews there intelligent?
 How Students for High Impact Charity will filter the world's problems, not by the roots but half way up the weed, or can justify "charity" as a fish instead of a fishing rod, as the mythical Jesus would have put it; I don't think so. Someone paid someone to throw that trash advertisement on Zuckerberg's Facebook propaganda machine and into my face when I looked to see my netizen's memes. There it was, asking me to endorse and "like" it. I most certainly would not until I looked into it.
I clicked on the link to see what it was all about. It didn't take too long perusing their website to realize that it was an apologist to mask the atrocities of the past that was ruining the chances of world peace that caused the bowls of hundreds of millions of people to be empty for the greed of their landlords. No; I could not endorse this nor ever offer it as an alternative to the top-down test-taking that American education has become, destroying teachers' responsibility to provide students with the tools needed for investigation, and destroying our profession and its union protection.

David Barry Temple Any program that trains students to use money to help others is missing the point. They need to think about why things got that way and prevent it from happening in the future. Furthermore, union solidarity is missing from this curriculum. No working class student can benefit from this program. Charity begins at home.

Students for High-Impact Charity Hey David Barry Temple thanks for taking the time to drop us some feedback. Lots here to unpack, chief of which being some interesting assumptions about our curriculum that I would suggest aren't quite on point. Feel free to message me further @ tee@highimpactstudents.org if you'd like to have a conversation about it

Hi Tee: Can you point out to me where in the curriculum you bring up where you show how to start a union with your students? I'd like to see it. Even if you can show how to figure the living wage, that would change my mind about the purpose of your curriculum. Also, are there any role-plays about important events in labor history? If you can show where you teach students how to start a rent strike, picket or boycott an offending retailer, or hands on how destitute people make a budget to survive, I would be interested in promoting your curriculum to my students. 
Thanks, David

Hi David,

So much for being cordial. Nice to meet you as well. I'll be brief because I don't have all that much time to spend on this, especially because we're working very hard to actually get students thinking about these issues in the first place. There's a huge difference between the man in the arena and the critic in the stands. 

I'll start by conceding that we don't mention labor issues in our 6-week pilot, mostly because it is an introductory program to major cause areas for high school students that may not know anything about charity on a broad level. As for cause prioritization, you'll find that our program (similar to the U.N., Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Open Philanthropy Project etc.) does not give priority to organizing labor over providing basic sustenance for survival. It's awfully hard to work when you're dying of Malaria, or missed a significant portion of your schooling because you were infected with Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) for most of your childhood. In a world where resources are severely limited, we choose lifting the very poorest of the poor out of abject poverty rather than strategizing with those that have already found their footing. Believe it or not, I was very much a card-carrying Marxist for a number of years, so I do think the issues you raised are significant in the right context. 

Stop me if you already know this-- but if we're talking about a materialist perspective on the way history unfolds (which to a certain extent I happen to empathize with), you'll find that Marx was actually a big fan of capitalism (don't take my word for it, look it up). Why? Because of it's dynamism and ability to lift an entire society from the chains of poverty. With the breaking of old chains come new chains, and yes, I do believe that the natural tendency for owners/bosses is to try to exploit workers. But I realized a while ago that these issues are hashed out in fancy offices behind mahogany doors, and the real suffering (as in you can't work because you have cut down to 1 shitty meal a day during drought season) is happening in the dirt thousands of miles away. Nobody is saying abandon your brothers at home, but to insist that charity begins at home and should exclusively remain there is terribly myopic and loses sight of the true struggle that we're all enduring together. 

Wow, that was more time than I meant to spend on this. Anyways, the bottom line is that labor organizing is not the highest priority when stacked against world poverty and many other cause areas. You may disagree, but I doubt that 99% of civics programs go into that much detail about labor issues. So it seems your issue is with wider humanity--so we share some common ground in that regard. I would, however, encourage you to start your own non-profit from scratch that educates high school students on labor issues. Unless your reply is far less terse than your initial email, I wouldn't expect a response if you do reply to this. Have a good one. 

Talk soon!

Hi Tee: Your organization, heaven knows where funded, cannot be "liked" or used in a classroom. Thanks for explaining why none of my fellow activist teachers could  endorse the program that pays you to write like a slave, disregarding the cause of the maladies your half-assed program so flippantly aim to remedy without digging out the root of the problem; in layman's terms, it's called "putting a band-aid on a disease." There are many other excellent programs that wouldn't be proud of Mr. Gates and his propaganda machines.  The problems your "charity" will tackle will leave students in need scratching their heads and affluent students clicking their tongues. I know your program will die a quiet death on its own merit so I need not bother with it anymore.

David Barry Temple

Oh yes David, you're the fucking man! You figured it all out. If only everyone listened to you, damn, the world would be in such better place. Big and tough keyboard warriors like you should be enshrined. Atta boy, go get 'em. Thank you for making me see the light. Your neurosis is in no way emanating all the way from Taichung. 


Talk soon!

 The sun is rising from behind the patio palm tree and shining in my face. There is a chill in the air so the early morning heat feels good. It's a beautiful morning, except for the working stiffs who will soon be driving to their underpaying overworking jobs, 
My blog, taIWWan, is up on the IWW website, and you, Mr. Tee, are the new person of interest. Your organization will get due process on TESOL and other Facebook pages.
I enjoy the rays of a new morning sun secure in a pension I put up twenty plus years of obstructed school chapter union agitation to get; at least the Bread & Roses Club and Curriculum was ignored enough by bloated assistant principals to make a dent in thousands of under-privileged students' lives in a Brooklyn high school.  I deserve the pension and the TDA fund nest egg I built. I fought to be free. Everybody's got to fight to be free, Tee, not waste their own and everyone else's energy pretending they are helping or complaining that there is nothing they can do to change their own status quo,“Especially people who care about strangers, who care about evil and social injustice.”


  1. What is the origin of this meme (I have heard it more than once) that Marx was pro-capitalist. Saying something is dynamic and transformative and productive is not the same as saying it is good.

    Ah..there is it. This late capitalist economy, reflected in the ideology of the technocrats behind this program and others, is that being dynamic and productive is valuable, regardless of the social relations underpinning change and production. In the same vein, charity is preferable to organizing labor, not (as Tee says) because they need to prioritize public health, but because charity does not undermine the interests of the ruling class. If anything, charity becomes a justification for inequality and wealth. ("How can we save the poor if we are not billionaires?")

    I like that you are questioning these educational institutions, since so many of them are tied to neoliberalism and union busting. A bit quixotic, but your dialog exposes so much about how they think.

    I am in education and I feel that there is not much I can do but add labor history into US history courses or whatever else I am teaching (mostly history). Taiwanese do not seem to get anything about unions in their education. Even history majors seem to get nothing, outside of what I give them (and then I am only reaching the students who can take courses taught in English). I find it a bit depressing. What we need first is a culture that values the working class and their political and economic struggles. In the US, labor studies matured as a result of the rise of the Wobblies and the CIO. Labor studies did not cause it. I guess organization and rebuilding our movement needs to come first.

    1. Tashqueedagg, Thank you for commenting. It is rare to find a fellow worker who comprehends my gist like you do. Solidarity