Peter Greene: What is Curmudgucation?

Dec 27, 2015 by

An Interview with Peter Greene: What is Curmudgucation?

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Peter can you first tell our readers about yourself and what you do ?

I’m a classroom English teacher, working in the same northwestern PA high school that I graduated from a few decades ago. This is year thirty-something for me. I also write a weekly column for our local paper and play some tailgate trombone.

2)  Now you run a blog – called Curmudgication. When did it start and what are you trying to do ?

I started the blog almost two and a half years ago. The more I read and learned about the education reform movement, the more outraged and amazed I became by a movement that is equal parts audacious baloney and full-frontal assault on public education. I needed to vent and I needed to say something. At that point I didn’t know if I’d be shouting into the void or finding an audience, but I still had to vent and get it out of my system.

3) About how many hits do you get a day?

My impression is that in the blogging world that’s a touchy topic, like discussing how much you paid for your house. It varies, but these days I usually run several thousand hits a day.

4) What seem to be the main topics that people are concerned about?

It varies. People used to get particularly cranked up about Arne Duncan, and Bill Gates is also a touchy topic. The general trend of privatizing public education while silencing the voices of citizens is very troubling.

5) In general, do you feel people are on target with their concerns or way off base?

It depends on which people you’re talking about.

6) Peter over the last year – in your mind, who has done the most good for education?

Oh, that’s a depressing question. Diane Ravitch has been helpful in amplifying the voice of so may people who are standing up for public education. Anthony Cody and the other leaders of the Network for Public Education have also given public ed advocates a louder, better-connected voice. The BATs have also stepped up to become agitators for public ed. But if you’re looking for a major public or political figure who has taken a stand for public education, I’m stumped. Public education is a political orphan. The people who are doing the most for public education are the teachers who are in their classrooms, teaching and advocating for their students every day. That’s who has unquestionably done the most for good for education.

7) Peter, you describe yourself as “A grumpy old teacher trying to keep up the good classroom fight in the new age of reformy stuff.”   Are there others out there who are also trying to do the right thing?

They are legion. Literally millions of classroom teachers are out there doing the right thing. Hundreds of bloggers are doing what I’m doing and speaking out from their own expertise and passion for education. The Progressive has picked twelve education fellows, and I am proud and humbled to be included in a group of exceptional activists and bloggers across the entire country. Look down the right side of Curmudgucation and you’ll see just a slice of the outstanding voices speaking up for public education.

8) It seems that politicians talk a lot – but much of it is meaningless pablum and drivel. Your thoughts?

I wish more of it were meaningless pablum and drivel. Unfortunately, much of it means “I want to dismantle public education and sell off the parts to privateers” or “Let’s test the crap out of students and punish students, teachers, and schools for the results.” Much of this comes cloaked in the rhetoric of “Yay for great schools,” but it’s not about supporting public education. As I said, public education is a political orphan these days. Obama’s education policies simply doubled down on the worst of Bush’s. Clinton’s stance on public ed is indistinguishable from Jeb Bush’s.

And when it comes to public education, Presidential candidates have actually talked very little. No meaningful discussion at the GOP debates or the secret Democrat debates. No meaningful words about education on the stump.

9) What have I neglected to ask?

The attack on public education certainly seems to be part of a larger assault on democracy. “Fixing” schools goes hand in hand with suspending democracy in communities populated by non-wealthy, non-white. Rather than helping these communities and these citizens with the resources and support needed for success, or by giving them a voice in the direction of their own community institutions, the pattern is repeatedly to silence the locals, shut down duly-elected boards, and privatize the “solutions” that will be imposed from outside rather than built from inside. There are larger issues here than just the dismantling of public education, and those are truly going unaddressed by politicians who are by and large beholden to the interests driving the destruction.

It is a bi-partisan failure. In Illinois, it’s driven by Democrats and in North Carolina by Republicans. Privatization and the attendant end of local democracy serves the intent of both conservatives and neo-liberals. It’s being fought and fought hard on the local level. Nationally, Bernie Sanders is halfway there to talking about it. But nationally, we are still waiting for someone to stand up for the people.

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