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Zunguzungu
By Aaron Bady
Anyone claiming to be an expert is selling something. I brandish my ignorance like a crucifix at vampires.
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“the good order of a school” and other poetries of privatization

On Friday, a group of parents, teachers, and community members began a sit-in to protest Oakland Unified School District’s decision to close down Lakeview Elementary school (along with four other schools deemed to be unsustainable). You can read their argument and demands here, at their petition of support. In a nutshell:

[School Superintendent] Tony Smith and the school board have offered no plan to facilitate safe transportation to and from the new schools. Children will be put on public buses to make complex cross-town journeys alone, in many cases returning from afterschool programs after dark. Closing the schools will separate children from beloved teachers, breaking lines of continuity that, in some cases, stretch back three generations. It will destroy community networks, threatening the bonds between neighboring families who meet every day at school. It will further destabilize communities already suffering from high levels of violence and poverty. It will impact attendance, criminalizing children who can’t make it to school, who can then be arrested by truancy officers. Closing schools will demoralize the children, making them feel worthless and unwanted.

  • Stop handing over our schools and our students to charter schools!
  • Put student needs above the administration’s needs!
  • We demand the school board fire OUSD’s biggest charter school proponent - Superintendent Tony Smith

I’ve stopped by a couple times. Until today, they were camping in the back area behind the school, reportedly playing a lot of basketball. This morning, as planned (and after a brief press conference), they entered into the school building proper, to began the first day of what they are calling “The People’s School for Public Education.”

The police were already present when they opened the doors; as the @LakeviewSitIn twitter account dramatically tweeted: “The building is full of cops.” But the police left shortly, after informing everyone that they were trespassing and handing out this beautiful piece of rationalization:

Let’s linger over those words. If there is a poetry to privatization (and I’m starting to think that there is), this is a wonderful example of it, the words that don’t quite, can’t quite, say what they really mean, and yet somehow still do. The command to NOTICE, the commanded attention that carries with it the fact that you — yes, YOU — have just been transformed into a criminal trespasser as a function of having read those words handed to you, that you’ve just been served with a legal stay-away order commanding you to stay away, for thirty days, from the place you’re not allowed to be in at all, and the strange assertion that you — yes, YOU — are ”interfering with the good order and peaceful conduct of a school” which is and is supposed to be utterly empty of anything to interfere with. This is order: the absence that signifies control and exclusion. Not to make too much of this, but this is how you convert a public good into a piece of property, what it means to make a school into a piece of institutional capital. It ceases to be an open space, a public space where parents and community members are welcome and where children are taught to be citizens. It becomes a place which is owned by the men with the keys and their police. And it must be emptied of students so that it can become administrative offices. Safe, healthy and supportive schools require good order and peaceful conduct. 

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