58030Charlie Pierce on Campbell Brown
- Aug 6, 2014
WHO THE FCK IS CAMPBELL BROWN?
By Charles P. Pierce on August 6, 2014
To paraphrase from my grandmother, the former shepherd lass from the hills and hollows of north Kerry, who the fck is Campbell Brown when she's at home?
Well, on the basics, she's from Ferriday, Louisiana, the hometown of Jerry Lee Lewis, and she graduated from Regis University in Denver -- after a brief stop at LSU -- with a B.A. in political science. She is married to Baghdad Dan Senor, one of the most conspicuous prevaricators in the employ of the late Avignon Presidency. (This will become important later on, as we shall see.) She also spent a year teaching English in Czechoslovakia, which I guess qualifies her for her current job, being a public spokesperson for the latest attempt to privatize American public education, Michelle (Big Grift) Rhee having apparently run her course as the rake in this long con, what with the cheating scandal and the big salary and all that sweet corporate sugar. The make-education-a-business scamsters needed a new face for the operation. Enter Campbell Brown, B.A. in political science, and professional communicator.
(It's important now to mention that Senor Senor, the spousal unit in this lash-up, has been closely allied with Peter Singer, the vulture capitalist who has thrown a big pieceof his ill-gotten booty into the school "reform" movement. Brown comes by her current job fairly directly.)
So Brown is now out there shilling for the latest "reform" scheme -- using the courts to bust the teacher's unions and to deny public school teachers the freely-bargained rights to due process that ensure that they will not be altogether subject to the whims of local school board fanatics. She had a bit of a time of it with Stephen Colbert the other night, declining to name the people funding the crusade for which she is the mouthpiece. (It's nice to see she's transcended that nasty transparency tic so common to the members of her former profession. Senor Senor must be very thrilled.) The answer about her donors was rendered in fluent weaselspeak.
When Colbert asked Brown who is funding her new Partnership for Educational Justice, she said she wouldn't reveal her donors. Why? Because, she said, she thought it was important to give anonymity to donors so that they wouldn't become "a target" of people who were protesting her appearance outside the studios before the show. "They are going to go after people who are funding us," she said.
Oh, my stars. Its it possible that many people who will lose their jobs cannot see the wisdom of Campbell Brown's position and may take steps to argue their own? Won't somebody please think of the children?
Quite simply, Campbell Brown is not in this for the kids. She's running a con on behalf of some pretty shady people. (Singer, for one, has a disreputable history of looting entire impoverished countries for his own benefit.) Because of this, she doesn't really have to know what the fck she's talking about, which is good, because she pretty plainly doesn't.
Those teachers unions she's blaming? Guess who makes up the membership of those unions? That's right: teachers. There is no way around it. Whether she wants to admit or not, because she knows the bad press that would result, Ms. Brown is clearly blaming teachers. Also, not "everyone" thinks teacher tenure laws are outdated. Clearly, the protestors outside The Colbert Report do not, as they held signs saying, "Campbell doesn't speak for me." Those tweeting #questionsforcampbell before the show aired were also obviously in disagreement. In other interviews, Ms. Brown has said "tenure is permanent lifetime employment." This is an incorrect definition of teacher tenure, and both anecdotal and research evidence demonstrates that teachers with tenure are still terminated. Tenure has little to do with protecting "bad" teachers. As educational historian Diane D'Amico writes about the history of teacher tenure, "teacher tenure never really protected teachers and nor was it supposed to." Should a teacher who has been found to be incompetent work with children? Of course not. That is not what Ms. Brown's opponents are arguing. It is, despite Ms. Brown's claims to the contrary, really about due process. Job security means that teachers are entitled to a fair trial if they are wrongfully terminated, say for standing up for students' rights or whistleblowing about inequitable treatment of themselves and others.
As long as, against all logic and evidence, we continue to insist on financing our public schools through local property taxes, teachers are going to be caught between the hammer of inconsistent budgets and the anvil of local politics. What Brown and her merry band of plutocrats call "tenure" is really a safeguard to guarantee due process for teachers who suddenly find that their school board wants them to teach Genesis in biology class. (Please see Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board for details.) But that doesn't matter because what Brown is fronting for has nothing to do with improving education and everything to do with busting one of the last remaining public-sector unions that people like Scott Walker haven't yet blown up.
Here's the Board of Directors. I see a powerhouse lawyer, a private equity cowboy, and three people who are already experienced in the school "reform" movement, one of whom once worked the beat for all-around union-buster Chris Christie. (And Howard Fuller's institute at my alma mater is heavily financed by the Bradley and Walton Foundations, both huge reservoirs of wingnut welfare.) I do not see any actual teachers, unless you count Brown's year of teaching English to the Czechs. One can extrapolate from this that the corporate backers of this latest scheme are even less connected to actual education.
And, as Diane Ravitch points out, Brown has been working the system on behalf of this con for a long time. Ravitch sends us to this investigation by Mother Jones, which reveals that, in 2013, Brown went after public schools because, she said, there were "sexual predators" lurking in the halls and protected by, yes, teacher tenure.
Brown was there to plug her new venture, the Parents' Transparency Project, a nonprofit "watchdog group" that "favors no party, candidate, or incumbent." Though its larger aim is to "bring transparency" to how contracts are negotiated with teachers' unions, PTP's most prominent campaign is to fix how New York City handles cases of sexual misconduct involving teachers and school employees-namely by giving the city's schools chancellor, a political appointee, ultimate authority in the process. Shortly after it was launched in June, PTP trained its sights on the New York mayoral race, asking the candidates to pledge to change the firing process for school employees accused of sexual misconduct. When several Democratic candidates declined, perhaps fearing they'd upset organized labor, PTP spent $100,000 on a television attack ad questioning whether six candidates, including Republican Joe Lhota and Democrats Bill de Blasio and Anthony Weiner, had "the guts to stand up to the teachers' unions." The spot stated that there had been 128 cases of sexual misconduct by school employees in the past five years, suggesting that nothing had been done in response. "It's a scandal," the ad's narrator intoned. "And the candidates are silent."
So that was the thin edge of the wedge -- scare people about perverts to get your union-busting off to a fast start. The Parents Transparency Project begat the Partners For Educational Justice, and neither one of them was ever about anything except busting teachers unions. But Mother Jones does tease out one quote from Brown that's hilarious in the context of her stonewalling of Colbert.
"If you live in the overlapping world of politics and media, as I am learning, anything less than full transparency can potentially do you in." She still managed to get in a few digs at the unions. "I failed to disclose," she wrote, "because I stupidly did not connect the teachers' unions' opposition to charter schools to their support for a system that protects teachers who engage in sexual misconduct."
(Because sexual predation is not a problem in private schools. Thank god there was no such problem in, say, Roman Catholic parochial schools down through the decades.)
Brown and her shadowy network of supporters got a big win out in California with theVergara decision. (Scott Lemieux explained how bizarre that decision really was.) Now, they've brought their carnival of magic tricks and misdirection to New York. Remarkably, or not so remarkably, she's managed to find some disgracefully triangulating Democratic operatives to shill for the con, searching undoubtedly for their own "Sister Souljah moment." Former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs is on board, as is, as we have seen, super-lawyer David Boies. In fact, working through Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the administration has shown a deplorable level of enthusiasm for the snake-oil that is being sold here. (Duncan, who may be a worse cabinet appointee than Tim Geithner, was fulsome in his praise of the Vergara decision.) Now that the playing field has moved east, expect to hear more from Campbell Brown about how she and her unnamed benefactors are really only in it for the kids, and about how they can barely leave their homes for fear of mobs of angry math teachers, who have protractors, dammit, and they know how to use them, and enough well-funded cries of imaginary martyrdom to gag a hundred Nixons. This is about political power, and that is all it's about, and Campbell Brown is the spokesperson for grifters and mountebanks, and that's all she is. Not that it matters, because Campbell Brown is Good On TV, and that's what's most important. The only thing her Partners For Educational Justice care less about than education, is justice.