A teacher in New Orleans sent this letter to me. My promise to him or her: we will all use whatever tools are at our command to stop the destruction of public education and the exploitation of students to benefit corporate interests. We will not give up.
I wanted to bring to your attention the trailer for the upcoming Oprah network series about John McDonogh high school here in New Orleans.
It is a vicious misrepresentation of what is going on at the school- merely propaganda for the brand new charter management organization that makes our students out to be thug primitives who need taming by clean cut out of towners.
Last night, a meeting was held by a coalition of concerned citizens and organizations to discuss the stripping away of the public from our public schools and some important action steps to re-frame the narrative of New Orleans schools. Parents mentioned this very video and will be protesting a screening at the school tonight.
Meanwhile, this series plans to do exactly what the corporate reformers here have been doing all along and what those folks last night are contending with- an extreme narrative that is completely out of touch with the truth, and has troubling privatization and profit motives.
In the wake of these reforms, our schools have shut out holistic learning, critical pedagogies, whole child concerns, etc. and have become militaristic nightmares- the opposite of the safe spaces schools should provide, especially for students in the impoverished situations many of the students depicted in this program come from.
Our students feel the walls closing in on them as young white teachers (I am one of them) stand in front of their classroom telling them all they need to do to get to college is work harder so the students can be successful just like them! To put them on camera in that experience is the grossest form of exploitation I can think of.
The propaganda this show is prepared to deliver across the country is both predictable and terrifying. Narratives are powerful and the allies of privatization are winning.
We need to start an information campaign to discredit this work, as happened with “Won’t Back Down.” Your voice in that movement is of course key, and I look forward to your input and feedback.
A concerned young educator in New Orleans