After something of a hagiography of Shavar Jeffries, David Brooks gets to his point in a New York Times column called “How Cities Change”:
Now Jeffries is running for mayor of Newark against City Councilman Ras Baraka. The race has taken on a familiar shape: regular vs. reformer.
Brooks is casting Jeffries as an education reformer and Baraka as advocate of the status quo. This is rather odd, since the reform movement includes Cami Anderson, superintendent of Newark schools and a Chris Christie appointee–the Newark schools have been under state, and not local, control since 1995. In other words, Brooks’ “reformers” are the status quo.
The framing method that Brooks reflects is a deliberate attempt to hijack debate by defining its terms. “Reform” implies making things better, change for the better. “Status quo” means keeping whatever of the current system one happens to detest. Brooks is also implying that someone who works for the state or federal government is not part of the local status quo–but that someone who is a member of the city council, by definition, is.
Then there is the split, which we’re seeing in cities across the country, between those who represent the traditional political systems and those who want to change them. In Newark, as elsewhere, charter schools are the main flash point in this divide. Middle-class municipal workers, including members of the teachers’ unions, tend to be suspicious of charters. The poor, who favor school choice, and the affluent, who favor education reform generally, tend to support charters.
This is as simplistic as saying that it is only the Tea Party that opposes Common Core State Standards. For one thing, Brooks is conflating charters and choice, a favorite device of the “reformers.” For another, he avoids defining “the affluent”: Those who “tend to support charters” are not simply affluent but are more often than not members of the 1%.
What Brooks is doing is what the predatory reformers have been about for a generation now: Get people to believe there is a problem (A Nation At Risk) and then offer a “white hat” solution through change that plays right into the privatization schemes that divert public funds into corporate pockets. They take a truism (“schools could be better”) and turn it into a crisis, one that they can make money off of.
Jeffries versus Baraka doesn’t interest them–except as a means of furthering a very profitable agenda turning “choice” into new avenues for making money. Brooks, in this column, is nothing more than a shill for faux reform.