Former Secretary of Education Teaches a Lesson in Reactionary Bullshit

Arne Duncan Says He Can Buy the Youth of Chicago for “Peanuts”—The Revolution Says We Have a Whole World to Win and a New One to Build

October 17, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


Bob Avakian: There is the potential for something of unprecedented beauty to arise out of unspeakable ugliness...

Arne Duncan is in the news for his plan to stop the violence among the youth. According to the Chicago Tribune (October 16): “Arne Duncan has been spending time recently at Cook County Jail. The former U.S. education secretary goes on to talk to ‘the shooters,’ he said, to get their input on how to curb the city’s soaring gun violence.... Every time I’m with them I’m telling them, ‘Here’s my grand bargain: We’re going to employ you, we’re going to give you a chance to work and make a legal wage, but you have to stop shooting, you have to walk away from that,’ Duncan said. ‘So what is that price point? What does that take?’ And the consensus is about $12 to $13 an hour. It’s peanuts.”*

Let’s set the record straight. Arne Duncan shouldn’t be visiting “shooters” in jail as if he is some benevolent person trying to do better in the world. People like him who run this system are responsible for the deaths and ruining the lives of millions more people here and around the world than even the worst gang members could ever imagine.

For over a decade, Arne “teach to the test” Duncan has been in charge of schools—first, in Chicago and then, as U.S. secretary of education under Obama until last year. His national program for the schools was “Race to the Top.” Teachers described it as a system to TEST AND PUNISH. Translated, that means force the students to memorize isolated facts and then punish schools and teachers that didn’t do well on the standardized testing. Programs like this gutted the joy out of teaching and learning. It stripped out funding for important extracurricular activity like music, theater, art, and journalism as resources had to be devoted to test preparation. It trampled on critical thinking. He’s now managing partner for a “philanthropic” organization.

Inner-city schools have been designed to fail the masses of Black and Latino youth—funneling them off to prison, onto the mean streets, or into the U.S. military killing machine. And then they turn around and blame the teachers, the community, the youth... blame anybody but this system. They have a few “escape hatches” for a few kids who can make it through, but in the main these schools are graveyards for the potential of our youth. This system has a name, capitalism-imperialism—and it has shown over and over it has no future for our youth.

While gangs have always been part of urban capitalism, the dramatic rise of gangs 40 years ago came when industrial production was pulled out of the inner cities. Capitalism was driven to seek more profitable ways to invest in the rural areas and in the oppressed nations of the world. At the same time, there was wholesale funneling of drugs into the same areas suffering major loss of jobs, including with the connivance and manipulation of the U.S. CIA. The gangs controlled this trade, and a huge wave of violence over who would be on top raged.

Duncan even admits that in these situations it is “a rational choice to work in the illegal economy because that is the only choice they have.” When the rulers, for whatever reason, decided to move against some of the leaders of some of the gangs—and Duncan himself comes very close to admitting this in his interview with the Chicago Tribune—the destruction of the gang hierarchies as well as tearing down public housing virtually guaranteed a wave of anarchic violence, of youths killing each other. What does that tell you about this system? What does that tell you about where the guilt for this terrible mayhem really lies? This is not a small-time player; this is Obama’s guy and his secretary of education until recently.

The real story is that the rulers look at the youth in these areas as “social dynamite.” When the drug trade served them, they controlled it. When they decided to go in a different direction, they cracked down. Throughout, they created massive data bases on the youth, locking them up and locking them down in heavily policed neighborhoods. The gutting of the public schools and the placing of police, metal detectors, extreme punishments for minor mischief, etc. is all part of the same picture—and this, too, is especially intense in Chicago.

So years of overseeing the destruction of young people’s futures makes Arne Duncan really qualified for his new job. And what is this game that he’s hyping in the Chicago Tribune? Some puny ass program to save a very few young men from the meat grinder he was busy feeding them into in the first place. This is like an arsonist setting a house on fire then bringing a few jugs of water to splash on the victims being burned up by it.

Remember this: one-half of all Black young men in Chicago ages 20 to 24 are not working or in school. Duncan’s plan is to get businesses to hire small groups of young men in 15 of the hardest hit neighborhoods. Right now this means jobs for about 25 young men. EVEN if he realizes the full plan, this is a measly 375 jobs. Temporary jobs at that.

These are pitiful efforts to pretend that something is being done about the horrendous situation these youth confront. At the same time, Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who worked with Duncan in the Obama administration, is implementing the main program to deal with the youth in Chicago—1,000 more cops to suppress these youth. (See “Rahm’s Only Answer to Violence Among the People—Ratchet Up State Violence Against the People.”).Yes, the same Rahm Emmanuel who closed more than 50 schools and cut others to the bone, laying off teachers and even forcing parents to fight to keep open a school library.

In an earlier interview Duncan described a 12-year-old, weary of hearing his mother cry because she couldn’t pull together the rent, so he was driven to crime to help out. What kind of system is it that leaves children as young as 12 years old to try to come up with the rent to keep a roof over their family’s heads and food in their bellies? This capitalist-imperialist system that has no way to profitably exploit hundreds of thousands of youth—and this system needs to be done away with as soon as possible.

Even the “liberals” who acknowledge that there are social and economic causes of “crime” on some level urge immediate and harsh punitive measures. This is revealed by Elizabeth Hinton, who points out in her new book From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, “In the mid-1970s, Senator Edward Kennedy wrote that even if ‘social policies we initiate in the 1970s will reduce the crime rate in the 1980s... that is too long to wait.’” And then there is Bill (and Hillary) Clinton, who did more to increase mass incarceration than any president in U.S. history, or in the history of the world. They were always claiming there would be some social program later on, but first they had to “bring these youth to heel” (to paraphrase Hillary). So, when Clinton passed the vicious “Omnibus Crime Bill” in 1994, they included some money for midnight basketball!!

Duncan literally says that he can buy some “social peace” for “peanuts.” The revolution does not offer peanuts or dead-end jobs or a life dedicated to addicting people to poison and dying, or going to prison, before you’re 25. The revolution “offers” one thing: the chance to fight with everything you have for a whole different world through revolution, a communist revolution where the ultimate goal is a world where people work and struggle together for the common good. A world where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings... where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.

Right now, the Get Into the Revolution National Organizing Campaign and Tour is in Chicago, and the likes of Arne Duncan offer the youth of Chicago a stark choice. Which will it be? Scuffling and hustling in the illegal economy, daring death every day... for nothing? Trying to get in on some bullshit never-gonna-happen scheme of the system? Or standing up, fighting against the REAL ENEMY, for something that really counts?

That is the choice. It’s as simple and stark as that.


* Everybody who wants an example of the nauseating paternalism and disgusting mercenary outlook and morality of the bourgeoisie should read this article for an excellent teacher by negative example. [back]


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