UPDATE, July 3 — Oakland kkkops and school security officers invaded Lakeview Elementary School at 4 this morning, arresting two occupiers and ousting the rest (more next issue).
OAKLAND, July 1 — The occupation of Lakeview Elementary School has continued for 16 days (see CHALLENGE 7/4/12). Tonight, more than a hundred occupiers, parents, students and supporters held a “16 Candles” community potluck and a screening of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman.
Here are the demands the occupation has made on the Oakland Unified School District:
Superintendent Tony Smith must reopen all five closed schools or resign;
Keep all neighborhood schools open;
Stop union-busting attacks against the Oakland Education Association and other school worker unions;
Repudiate the crippling debt and interest payments imposed by the state of California on the Oakland school district after the district went into receivership;
Fully fund quality public education for all.
PLP in the Mix
Progressive Labor Party is participating in the occupation and organizing support for all actions. During extensive debates over the five demands, we are learning from others. Some parents and teachers are focused on short-term goals but agree with our broader analysis. For example, PLP members and others have argued that Superintendent Tony Smith is not our main target; whether he resigns or stays, attacks on public school students and teachers will continue.
The likeliest path for winning reform demands is not through sympathetic school board members, but by mobilizing workers and parents through the occupation. In any case, the only long-term solution to the perpetual crisis in education worldwide is a communist revolution. Only then will schools serve the needs of the working class.
A daily People’s School at the occupied Lakeview site offers classes for children on social justice, science and gardening, art (including posters), as well as exercise and free meals. There has been a lot of discussion and planning about how to organize the school, which is running well—despite threats by the Oakland School Police Department (OSPD) to evict the occupiers for trespassing.
Even as the occupation movement fights to reopen the five closed schools, many involved also want to inject a new style of education within these buildings. The teaching group is working hard to develop alternative curricula that help kids become critical thinkers about capitalist society. Their goal is education based on equality and the development of all students to their full potential, with a shared responsibility for the well-being of the collective.
While PL’ers understand that this goal cannot be fully realized under capitalism, we see glimmers of communist consciousness in working with teachers, parents and activists at Lakeview. We’ve learned that running a school is hard work, with many opportunities to learn, teach, and take action.
Children from the People’s School recently led a march and mobilization of more than 250 to the school site. (See photo.) The march was built by the continuing Lakeview occupation and resulting media coverage, along with activism by Occupy Oakland and mass leafleting at the school and in surrounding neighborhoods. PLP posters about capitalism and communism caught the attention of many, as did our chant: “For Education and Kids to Grow, Capitalism Has Got to Go.” The following week we joined a rally at the Oakland Board of Mis-Education.
We distributed many CHALLENGEs at these events, mostly through agitation but some to individuals we’ve met through the struggle. The headline “Wanted for Racist Murder” (7/4/12) struck a nerve in Oakland. One non-profit group mobilized the Board of Education meeting to protest the OSPD’s racist treatment of students, and in particular the school police murder last year of 20-year-old Raheim Brown, Jr. outside Skyline High School while he was attending a dance. In May, Skyline student Alan Blueford, 18, was gunned down by Oakland city police a month before he was set to graduate.
Students and organizers were interested in the CHALLENGE reports of other cop killings in New York. At the rally, an Oakland parent summed up one aspect of the education system: “Public schools are a farm team to prepare young adults for the prison system.”
A Lose-Lose Proposition
PLP sees capitalist education as part and parcel of the ruling-class effort to marginalize the working class of the future, especially students from the poorest neighborhoods. While we are fighting now for multi-racial unity and equality in the schools and curriculum, we need to create a revolutionary communist movement to destroy the capitalists’ institutions that control education, culture, media, and work.
The bosses use schools to impose social control to make capitalism as natural as the air we breathe. Institutional racism takes the form of segregated schools and revolving-door buildings and teachers. After the capitalists have guaranteed that these schools will fail, they move to close them, leaving black, Latino, and immigrant children with long bus rides to a new school.
In a period of capitalist economic crisis, students are channeled into an economy with little opportunity for upward mobility. A few might make it to professional or tech jobs, but most end up in non-union, low-wage jobs, the informal economy, prison, the military, or on the unemployment line. Racist education policies further stratify the future working class into competing subgroups while blaming dropouts for their failure to succeed in the capitalist economy. For the working class, the bosses’ schools are a lose-lose proposition.