In 1969, Howard Fuller founded Malcolm X Liberation University in North Carolina, based on the principles of Black Power and Pan-Africanism. Forty years later, he coined the term “dance of the lemons” for his star turn in the anti-union, pro-privatization film Waiting for “Superman.” Does that dramatic change constitute political development or selling out?
Fuller’s goal in his new book, No Struggle, No Progress, is to convince us that there is a smooth, principled path from his militant, revolutionary past to his present position as a national promoter of vouchers and his close association with Walton, Broad, and other right-wing foundations. In reality, the book reveals a drastic rupture with that past. In the most disheartening way, Fuller trades on the respect he earned as a legitimate leader in the black community to push the free market approach to K–12 education and alliances with the very right-wing power brokers who are leading the charge to destroy low-income communities of color.
He describes his work in the “parental choice movement” (a euphemism for privatization that includes vouchers and charter schools) as “more of a rescue mission than a fight for broad societal change,” with the goal of sending more students to college. Although this may sound well intentioned, the impact of his work has been to help dismantle public school systems and turn public education over to the private sector.