Category Archives: education

The School Closure Playbook

Yesterday Jacobin Magazine published “The School Closure Playbook,” a film essay I directed about Chicago’s decision to shut down forty-nine public schools in 2013:

This piece is adapted from two essays from Jacobin’sClass Action” handbook, Kenzo Shibata’s “Disaster Capitalism, Chicago Style” and Joanne Barkan’s “How Mega-Foundations Threaten Public Education.” It features original cinematography by Katrina Ohstrom; music by Rob Warmowski of the San Andreas Fault; and video journalism by Kai-Duc Luong, Heather Stone, and John Sheehan. This project also owes a tremendous debt to BBC filmmaker Adam Curtis, in ways which will be obvious to anyone familiar with his work (and that saying about imitation and flattery).

As I write this, Chicago is about an hour away from deciding whether to re-elect mayor Rahm Emanuel. If he receives less than 50% of the vote in today’s election, there will be a run-off in April. Responsible for appointing both the CEO and school board, Emanuel exercises enormous control over the city’s public schools. His policies of school closures and privatization have had devastating effects on Chicago’s children, yet are being replicated in districts around the country.

This is perhaps the most depressing film I have ever worked on, but also the most hopeful. The soul-crushing hours spent listening to people like Eli Broad and Milton Friedman were more than matched by the inspiration of watching speeches by people like Karen Lewis, Asean Johnson (seriously, watch this!), and Jitu Brown. They represent just a few of the many parents, teachers, students and community members who are working tirelessly around the country, at the genuine grassroots, to bring democracy and justice to public education.

This project showed me that there are real heroes in America today. You may not often hear about them in the media, but you could find them outside in the cold today, knocking on doors in Chicago to get out the vote for an #ElectedBoardNow. And last week you could find them occupying absentee, Christie-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson’s offices in Newark, NJ to demand local control of their schools.

If you are interested in learning more, joining forces, or perhaps sharing some of that green stuff that gets posters printed, GOTV vans filled with gas, and films made, here are some resources:

“We don’t dispute the fact at all that Facebook (FB) and Microsoft (MSFT) would like to have more, cheaper workers,” says Salzman’s co-author Daniel Kuehn, now a research associate at the Urban Institute. “But that doesn’t constitute a shortage.”

–Josh Eidelson, The Tech Worker Shortage Doesn’t Really Exist in Bloomberg Businessweek

See also: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) — one of the largest STEM professional organizations– reported on the Myth of the STEM Crisis last year.

How the U.S. Government Could End the Student Debt Crisis Today

If money should be owed for higher education at all, perhaps the federal government should owe us. After all, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution entrusts the federal government with a monopoly to create, spend, and regulate money for the “general welfare of the United States.” And in the era of modern money, there’s no good economic reason for students’ pockets to be so shallow when the government’s are so deep.

As the Nobel-winning economist Paul Samuelson once acknowledged, the “superstition” that the budget must be balanced at all times is part of an “old fashioned religion,” meant to hush people who might otherwise demand the government create more money. Young people should beware of anyone who tells them that their chief worry for the future is the government’s debt, rather than their own.

How the U.S. Government Could End the Student Debt Crisis Today” by Raúl Carillo in Yes! Magazine

Support the TIF Illumination Video Project

The TIF Illumination Project is a volunteer-run investigative journalism & community education project that has done incredible work exposing one of Chicago’s most vile and complicated scams, Tax Increment Financing. TIF has resulted in the redistribution of billions of dollars away from local communities and into the coffers of developers and cronies. Please help the TIF Illumination Project produce this important video series to bring the fruits of their research to a wider audience:

“As low-income populations have gone to college and food insecurity has risen up to swallow the lower rungs of the middle class, hunger has spread across America’s university campuses like never before. In some places, it’s practically a pandemic: At Western Oregon University, 59% of the student body is food insecure, according to researchers from Oregon State University (OSU). A 2011 survey [PDF] of the City University of New York (CUNY) found that 39.2% of the university system’s quarter of a million undergraduates had experienced food insecurity at some time in the past year.

But it’s not just undergraduates: the number of food insecure graduate students is also growing. Between 2007 and 2010, the number of doctorate-holding food stamp recipients tripled, according to a 2012 Chronicle of Higher Education analysis. The number of food stamp recipients with a master’s degree wasn’t found to have tripled over the same time frame, but it got remarkably close, going from 101,682 to 293,029. At one large research school, Michigan State University (MSU), the on-campus food pantry reports that more than half of its clients are graduate students.”

—Ned Resnikoff, The hunger crisis in America’s universities

“The conversation here has shifted from the immediate reaction to Michael Brown’s death and toward the underlying social dynamics. Two men I spoke with pointed to the disparity in education funding for Ferguson and more affluent municipalities nearby. Another talked about being pulled over by an officer who claimed to smell marijuana in the car as a pretense for searching him. ‘I’m in the United States Navy,’ he told me. ‘We have to take drug tests in the military so I had proof that there were no drugs in my system. But other people can’t do that.’ Six black men I spoke to, nearly consecutively, pointed to Missouri’s felon-disfranchisement laws as part of the equation. ‘If you’re a student in one of the black schools here and you get into a fight you’ll probably get arrested and charged with assault. We have kids here who are barred from voting before they’re even old enough to register,’ one said.”

—Jelani Cobb, A Movement Grows in Ferguson

Skymall Futurism

For the most part, tech punditry has yet to reckon with the coming era of hard limits, which is why it can get away with extrapolating current First World consumption habits into the indefinite future. Instead of imagining a world of iPad-toting social media consultants, the purveyors of Skymall futurism should be thinking about what happens after the planet can no longer sustain their present lifestyle.

Once we reach that point, maybe the same people currently applauding the death of the book will envy the French, who have gone out of their way to preserve the sort of textual content you can read without consuming any electricity.

Ned’s latest for The Baffler