Why Reform Through Institutional Abolition Won’t Work

From Lawyer, Guns, and Money:

So to sum up–being right about policy is often irrelevant unless you have a mass movement of people behind you ready to engage in collective action to see those policies enacted. And I don’t think left neo-liberals often understand that. This is why I get so outraged when, for example, left neo-liberals support education “reform” that weakens teacher unions. We probably all agree that there are bad teachers out there and it would be great to get rid of them. But by weakening the one educational institution that can best mobilize people to protect our schools from conservative attacks, these reforms often further right-wing politics even if they theoretically achieve a left neo-liberal policy point.

This is perhaps a leap, but I’d contend that if we are going to have an new kind of subsidized education that is not completely controlled by corporations it is going to have to come out of current institutions of higher education. There simply isn’t any other set of large organizations that can make the case for education reform while fending off the attempts to pervert it and profiteer from it. 

It’s frustrating, because change is like molasses in here sometimes. The temptation is to “route around damage” and not engage. 

But if you look at who has the staff that goes out to high schools and tells seniors what education looks like, if you look at who has the ear of the news media, of parents, of legislators; if you look at who has the unions — it’s the institutions of higher education. I think most sensible people would look at the massive amount of influence higher education has in these issues, and the way it acts as one of the last barriers to a corporate takeover of HE, and I would think rather than argue for HE’s irrelevance one would argue that if there is going to be any non-corporate change to education it is going to have to come from within HE. There’s not a set of structures of comparable size with the best interests of the students at heart…there’s just not.

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