Whittier School occupation begins

An extreme makeover has been underway. The structure of “public” has been cast as inadequate, as an offensive and dangerous obstacle. That is to say public infrastructures and resources, but also the very notion of public or shared or common, the terrain of social life that is not organized primarily around the rules of profit maximization, the forms of ownership, use and value that do not begin and end with exclusive private property rights, this larger social process is cast as the source of all our social and financial problems. It stands for a logic of inefficiency and waste, of sluggishness, resistance to innovation and lack of individual opportunity. It is the realm of limited individual choice, and of small-thinking. To move forward is to tear it all down.

To a certain extent, this is a politico-economic strategy related to devaluing or undervaluing public resources: public schools have been ruined, resources have been exposed to decay, public projects, institutions, infrastructures defunded, pilfered, bled dry. Private hands dipping liberally into the public purse, simultaneously help to push everything into the market at rock-bottom prices: sell the highway, privatize the schools for pennies on the dollar. This way you make money both coming and going.

This is also an ideological project, one that recasts all of life in terms of its efficient management. Because unlike commodities systems, living systems have waste, fat, redundancy, and operate at differing speeds. Living systems resist enclosure; and are always under construction, always generating endless possible outcomes. The future of living systems is not easily amenable to management.

Once the jurisdiction of the market expands over all of life, from the territory of the body, into the future of the air we breathe, into our very way of relating to each other, it tends to appear as though it was inevitable, as though it could not be any other way. It is a peculiar characteristic of jurisdiction: that it erases the process of its own making, its authority appears as a given, as inevitable. And it appears as the new notion of the “public good”.

In Chicago , over the last 7 years, 100 public schools have been slated for closure or subjection to “turn-around”, while 70 private, charter or “under private management” schools have been funded. This is the vision of the Renaissance 2010 program, a vision that became national policy once former Chicago Public School CEO Arne Duncan became Education Secretary for the Obama administration. Backed by the largest Education reform budget of any US administration in history, the opening of the US public school market is being rolled out at a stunning pace.

In Chicago, a small group of parents have been fighting against the ruining of their neighborhood school for ten years. On September 16, they occupied the building to resist its demolition. Extreme makeover, public-school edition, interrupted.

Comments are closed.