Rethinking “First they came…” in a World of Corporate Ed Reform

By Nick McDaniels — You have read/heard the Niemoller quote/poem “First they came…”

niemc3b6llerYou know… “First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.” Depending on the version, you know they also came for the communists, trade unionists, Catholics, and Jews before they finally came “for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

I have said before that the goal of corporate ed reform is to educate as many children as possible, as well as possible, as cheaply as possible. I was wrong. The goal of corporate ed reform is to educate as many children as possible, as well as possible, as PROFITABLY as possible. This is happening in many ways: lucrative textbook and testing contracts, privatization of schools, private consulting services. I’ve addressed these issues before on this blog and probably will again.

But what of Niemoller’s words? One of the primary ways in which the corporate ed reformers have cut costs thereby increasing profits is by attacking teachers, those who speak out, who expose the profiteering, those who get high salaries, those who overtime will earn high salaries, those who will earn a pension. National and local union leadership are silent partners in the attack often times.

So for those of you in the whirlwind of corporate ed reform, those of you teaching the most vulnerable students, some of the following scenarios might sound familiar.

_____________________________________________________________________
First they came for the veteran teachers and I did not speak out because I was not a veteran teacher.

Then they came for the teachers of color and I did not speak out because I was not a teacher of color.

Then they came for the certified teachers and I did not speak out because I was not a certified teacher.

Then they came for the teachers who are outspoken and I did not speak out because I was not outspoken.

Then they came for the students and I did not speak out because I was no longer a student.

Then they came for me, even though I didn’t cause them any trouble by speaking out, because I too eventually started to cost too much and no one was left to speak for me.
_____________________________________________________________________

We all have the opportunity now to resist these movements. If we are not standing up to defend our veteran teachers, our teachers of color, our certified teachers, our outspoken teachers, OUR STUDENTS, then we cannot see the big picture. And if we cannot see the big picture, we are exactly who they want us to be. Cheap and passive, that is, until we are just passive but no longer cheap. We must be compelled to speak. If not, we must be compelled to leave the teaching to someone who will.

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