Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free Editorial: Defending Immigrant Students — in the Streets and in Our Classrooms

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools

    It has always been an educator’s responsibility to act in solidarity with vulnerable students. But with President Donald Trump’s September declaration that he will end DACA, we are called on to be more audacious, more resolute, and more imaginative in our solidarity with the 800,000 undocumented young people who now face a frightening uncertainty about their future in the United States.

  • Free Rethinking Islamophobia

    A Muslim educator and curriculum developer questions whether religious literacy is an effective antidote to combat bigotries rooted in American history

    By Alison Kysia

    The increasing violence against Muslims, Sikhs, South Asians, and others targeted as Muslim, suggests we, as Americans, are becoming less tolerant and need educational interventions that move beyond post-9/11 teaching strategies that emphasize our peacefulness or oversimplify our histories, beliefs, and rituals in ways that often lead to further stereotyping.

  • Inclusivity is Not a Guessing Game

    By Chelsea Vaught

    An elementary teacher tells how she works to include her Muslim students in the life of her classroom. "We can use or create curriculum and projects that allow students to learn about and incorporate their culture and religious practices if they want to. We can be deliberate in including, making space for, and recognizing our students in all aspects of their identities. Making schools inclusive doesn’t have to be a guessing game."

  • Features
  • Free Teaching SNCC: The Organization at the Heart of the Civil Rights Revolution

    By Adam Sanchez

    Teaching the history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee helps students see the Civil Rights Movement as being fueled by thousands of young people like themselves instead of a few charismatic leaders. "Without the history of SNCC at their disposal, students think of the Civil Rights Movement as one that was dominated by charismatic leaders and not one that involved thousands of young people like themselves. Learning the history of how young students risked their lives to build a multigenerational movement against racism and for political and economic power allows students to draw new conclusions about the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and how to apply them to today."

  • Free Elementary Student T-Shirt Workers Go on Strike

    By Michael Koopman

    An elementary school teacher uses his students’ T-shirts to launch a lesson about child labor, basic economics, factories, unions, and strikes. "When I was a child, I remember 'playing pretend' with my cousins. We could be anyone we imagined, and in that moment, we were those people. Why not use that energy and imagination as a resource? When we use our imagination to walk in another’s shoes, that’s where real learning begins."

  • Free It's Imperialism.

    How the textbooks get the Cold War wrong

    By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

    A high school teacher critiques the textbook treatment of the Cold War and U.S. imperialism. She describes her approach to the “curricular conundrum” that the Cold War presents because it lasted so long, and was so far-flung. ""If we are ever to create a different world, one in which the United States does not cast an outsized and militarized shadow across the globe, we need our students to understand how and why that shadow was created in the first place."

  • Jailing Our Minds

    By Abbie Cohen

    An education researcher explores “no-excuses” discipline policies and the rate of out-of-school suspensions at charter schools in Denver and around the nation. "Democracy is healthiest when our educational institutions reflect our best virtues — creativity, joy, and growth. We must strengthen our oversight over no-excuses charter schools, thereby ensuring that no child in that city — or our country — is subjected to policies that could have been culled from one of Denver’s neighboring prisons."

  • Fourteen Days SBAC Took Away

    By Moé Yonamine

    A teacher wrestles with her frustrations with having to administer a standardized test that she wouldn’t even allow her own daughter to take. "Fourteen days I enforced SBAC testing to be the priority of our classroom learning — or rather, our classroom “unlearning.” Fourteen days SBAC took away."

  • What About the Students Who Are Not Labeled as "Gifted"?

    By Kipp Dawson

    A middle school English teacher calls for an end to separating students into groups of “gifted” and “not gifted” and argues that labeling students damages them — and us. "We are going down too many roads that push too many of our children aside, reinforcing the worst of our society’s racist and classist limitations. Let us push back hard."

  • Resources
  • Free Our Winter 2017 Picks for Books, Videos, Websites, and Other Social Justice Education Resources

    By Bill Bigelow, Deborah Menkart, Adam Sanchez, Ursula Wolfe-Rocca
  • Departments Free
    Ed Alert
  • “This Is Not Happening Without a Fight”

    Puerto Rico’s teachers battle privatization after Hurricane Maria

    By Ari Bloomekatz
  • Education Action
  • Student Athletes Kneel to Level the Playing Field

    By Jesse Hagopian

“This Is Not Happening Without a Fight”

Puerto Rico’s teachers battle privatization after Hurricane Maria
“This Is Not Happening Without a Fight”

Joe Piette

Students, parents, and teachers have been demanding schools be reopened across Puerto Rico.

When Naomi Klein first published The Shock Doctrine about a decade ago, she began her narrative about the rise of disaster capitalism in post-Katrina New Orleans by zeroing in on comments about the school system made by free-market champion Milton Friedman in the Wall Street Journal:

“Most New Orleans schools are in ruins,” Friedman observed, “as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system.”

Corporate reformers and privatization advocates seized the opportunity. Klein notes that in less than two years “New Orleans’ public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools” while the teacher union was decimated and thousands were laid off.

This was a pattern that repeated itself in 2010 after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and it’s a pattern that public school and union supporters now see arriving in full force in Puerto Rico.

On October 26, about a month after Hurricane Maria first hit the mainland, Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Education Julia Keleher tweeted photos of school construction in New Orleans with the caption, “Sharing info on Katrina as a point of reference; we should not underestimate the damage or the opportunity to create new, better schools.”

Sound familiar? It does to teachers and union leaders in Puerto Rico, too.

“The government of Puerto Rico neglectfully has denied more than 150,000 students their right to education. Capitalism and its shock doctrine is being implemented against our people,” Mercedes Martinez, president of the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, told Rethinking Schools.

“This is not happening without a fight, without resistance. Teachers, mothers, students, and community members have united to fight back. They’re fighting and requesting their schools to be opened. They’re occupying schools . . . and providing workshops to children, they’re blocking trucks that want to take school equipment and empty the buildings,” she said.

Nearly two dozen educators were arrested in San Juan in November for protesting at the education department headquarters and demanding schools that are structurally sound be opened, and Martinez said rallies are happening on a daily basis and that the teacher union is taking the issue to court.

The recipe for what comes next with disaster capitalism is fairly clear. We know they’ll go after teachers and try to get rid of as many of them as possible. As educators, we must stand with them.

Anyone can send donations to: 

Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, 1572 Ave Ponce de Leon, San Juan, PR 00926. Other teacher unions can also help by “adopting” a school and sending students school materials. 

“This orchestrated plan, that wants to privatize all public services, that wants to lay off more than 250,000 workers, that cares nothing about the needs of the poor people that lost everything after Hurricane Maria, is not going to prevail,” Martinez said.

“The shock doctrine is being fought back with shock from the oppressed. . . . We believe in the power of the people, in a just world, in ending colonialism and capitalism. We will prevail!”

Ari Bloomekatz is the managing editor of Rethinking Schools.