Home > Uncategorized > Medium Writer Jelmer Evers Lays Bare the Global Education Reform Movement

Medium Writer Jelmer Evers Lays Bare the Global Education Reform Movement

January 16, 2018

A few years ago I wrote a post about the Global Education Reform Movement or GERM calling it “a new and scary acronym”. While Medium writer Jelmer Evers does not use the term in “Making Sense of 2017“, his essay that tried to do just that, he does describe how oligarchs are using privatization as a means of centralizing their wealth and thereby centralizing authority. It is an unsettling essay, but one that does offer some modicum of hope in the end. Drawing heavily on Timothy Snyder’s book ‘On Tyranny: twenty lessons from the Twentieth Century’, Mr. Evers uses one quote from that book that resonated with me:

One thing we need to do according to Snyder is: #2 Defend your institutions. It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about — a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union — and take its side.”

In this blog I have taken the side of public education governed by locally elected boards. From my perspective, it is an institution that despite its warts and slow rate of change is far superior to any alternative, especially an alternative that is market and profit driven. As we have witnessed in all arenas where the unregulated privatization of public services has occurred, unbridled capitalism leads to inequality and that, in turn, leads to the authoritarianism described by both Mr. Snyder and Mr. Evers.

Midway through his essay, Mr. Evers draws on another book to come to the gloomy conclusion that violence appears to be the only way out of the trend we are experiencing:

This is one of the main theses of Walter Scheidel’s ‘The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century’ A wonderful tour de force where Scheidel takes us on a study of inequality and its ‘levelers’ from the Neolithic to the Twenty First Century. In short — the book is 577 pages long — he argues that only violent events have drastically lessened inequality. The “Four Horsemen” of levelling — mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues- make societies more equal. Anything else is marginal. However, he comes to the conclusion that these great levellers won’t play as much of a role any more in the present day. But that sounds a little too much like presentism and 1910s Europe. One need only read ‘The Sleepwalkers’ to know the folly of such thinking. The rapid destabilization of the international system and the volatility of the Trump administration (regime?) already puts Scheidel’s views to the test. And he fails to address the biggest potential leveller of the 21st century: climate change and the resulting mass migration that may result from that.

After pursuing several dystopian possibilities, Mr. Evers concludes with a somewhat hopeful analysis from Naomi Klein, who believes that a drastic shift in the thinking of our population is urgent… and possible:

In “No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.” she shows us how we may start building the alternatives we so desperately need “In the absence of a progressive alternative, Trump had a free hand to connect with skeptical voters by saying: I feel your pain. (…) leaders who are seen as representing the failed neoliberal status quo are no match for the demagogues and neo-fascists. Only a bold and genuinely redistributive progressive agenda can offer real answers to inequality and the crises in democracy, while directing popular rage where it belongs: at those who have benefited so extravagantly from the auctioning off of public wealth; the polluting of land, air, and water; and the deregulation of the financial sphere.” This has always been the case, and the solutions and the way forward have never been far away. “…responses to crises that unfolded in times when people dared to dream big, out loud, in public — explosions of utopian imagination.” Now “is the time to leap, because small steps won’t cut it.”

Here’s an irony from my perspective: I fear that only a demagogue can advance a “…bold and genuinely redistributive progressive agenda” that “…directs popular rage where it belongs”… and by playing to the “popular rage” we might be reinforcing the authoritarianism that those of us who value democracy are attempting to restore. Here’s hoping we can find a unifying message that can attract a compassionate majority who can bring about a quiet, non-violent change of course. There are some ways money could be redistributed in a fashion that would allow everyone to achieve sufficient well-being and be engaged in decisions that affect their lives. But doing so will require the extraction of wealth from those who have far more money than they need, the rent-seeking class who are, evidently, never satisfied.

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