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Re: Is the revolution starting?

September 5, 1999

Hello Will (RAP and others),

It's great to feel some of that old enthusiasm...but...

I went on line with that guy Daniel McGinn from Newsweek Wednesday, and his
insights are still less than profound. It's not even clear that Newsweek will
keep him on this story (although if they get enough feedback they might go
back to it again once or twice, until it's preempted by another Princess Di
or JFK Jr. type story). It's amazing McGinn got such a coherent piece into
such a mainstream publication, but he's very mainstream himself. Good as it
is to see the Newsweek stuff (especially the stuff on the SAT and its
history), that's far from the "Revolution."

One of the most striking things about the Newsweek piece (especially the
focus on student protest) is the sheer whiteness of it all. While that's
cool, given the fact that "standards" and "accountability" are a white
supremacist thing, we'll have to spend some more time getting deeper into
these conundrums, riddles, enigmas and puzzlements.

Let's at least look for ways to give voice to the voiceless in the following

In both Chicago and New York City, the majority of victims of the "standards"
movement in the classrooms have been people of color. These are the children,
as young as eight years old, who are held back or forced into summer school
solely based on scores on normed referenced standardized tests, based on the
political slogan that we're "ending social promotion."

The massive, sweltering un-air conditioned summer schools of 1999, based
solely on those normed referenced test scores (Iowa Test of Basic Skills here
in Chicago), were test camps for children from the ghettos and barrios. The
white blindspot of a lot of the attempts to critique the testing madness will
have to be understood before the organizations can be built to challenge not
only the test madness, but (as Will points out) all of the other social
problems with schooling that lie behind it. I submit, however, that the
center of this contradiction lies in the increasing racial divide separating
people of wealth (mostly not of color) and people of no wealth (mostly today
people of color), at least in the cities I know of in this nation now.

The "standards" movement is increasing, not decreasing, that divide. Here's
how. Thousands of children of the ghettoes and barrios have already
registered their protests against the "standards" movement. Unfortunately,
they don't attend Chicago's "best" high school ("best" by the way, as
measured by test scores on the Iowa and TAP and other standardized tests), so
they can be easily ignored by the mainstream. Equally unfortunately, their
protest has been registered not on the Internet or through public organizing,
but by dropping out of school ? some as young at between 8th and 9th grades.
Those data are now beginning to show up (Chicago's in its fourth year of this
madness), but nobody is looking for the thousands of children and young
adults who have been sentenced to a life without education because they
scored low on tests which were designed for them to score low on!

I've gotta go, but here are a few random thoughts on how communications can
improve thanks to the publicity Newsweek has given to some of our colleagues
(I can't view them as "kids" by the way) here in Chicago.

1. Many of "the kids" (I'll leave that to you, Will, to deal with here) have
e-mail addresses, but it will be up to them to share them. I urge people here
to contact the kids directly. There are a lot of other directions these
questionings can go. What is reminiscent of 35 years ago is the critique of
schooling that I'm beginning to hear from Gus, Eli, Bria, Will and dozens of
others. Without Paul Goodman, Jerry Farber, Herbert Marcuse and others to
articulate some of those notions nowadays, we'll have to see who comes up
with this generation's "Growing up Absurd" and "Compulsory Miseducation".

2. We have copies of the tape of the Chicago school board meeting in April
when Will and Bria debated Paul Vallas, Gery Chico, and Avis LaVelle and
could share it with people who want it. If anyone wants to see how ignorant
the Standardistos are in the face of a real intelligent critique, this is a
good video place to begin. It's also important because Avis LaValle, who
interrupted the debate to save Vallas and Chico from their own White Guy
Problem, is very important politically to this whole movement, having served
both the Clinton (i.e., also Gore) White House and Chicago's City Hall in
high ranking media positions. This lady is good, but "the kids" were able to
hold their own against her because her positions are untenable except in
controlled settings or with (literally) captive audiences. Also, she couldn't
take her Clinton and Daley gospel into the inner city and escape the wrath of
the people who are fast becoming its main victims.

3. I think the coverage here on the list and in Substance beginning in March
has given more of a voice than Newsweek to the "kids". Anyone who wants to
review that stuff should send a snail mail address, since there is a lot of

Keep up the good work and stay in touch.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance
5132 W. Berteau
Chicago, IL 60641

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