Jennifer Berkshire

What the Media Missed About the West Virginia Teachers Strike

The statewide walkout by teachers that shuttered West Virginia's public schools for nine days garnered an enormous amount of media attention. But the teachers’ demands for more money and a fix to spiraling health care costs were only part of the story.

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Why Students Should Go On Strike Over Gun Violence

Teachers in West Virginia demonstrated the power of a huge strike last week. What if students used the same strategy to force politicians to act on gun control?

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Why the Right Wing Is So Interested in Narrowing Down Education into 'Skills'

When California home health aide Maya Luna signed up for community college several years ago, she was after one thing: a better paying job. But taking classes in subjects like history, anthropology and art ignited a love of learning she didn’t know she had, and transformed her into a community activist. A clear success, right? Not if your goal is to mold the next generation of compliant employees.

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Betsy DeVos' Extreme Right-Wing Education Agenda: Report Card for Her First Year

In the latest episode of the Have You Heard podcast, AlterNet education contributor Jennifer Berkshire and co-host Jack Schneider examine the DeVos education agenda, one year in. They revisit some of her most controversial statements, including her comparison of public education to food trucks and her infamous hat tip to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Among their key takeaways: while DeVos continues to be painted as an inexperienced naif, she is a profoundly political actor, and deeply involved in the efforts to transform the U.S. along right-wing, libertarian lines.

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Voucher Schools Are Teaching Kids What Can Only Be Described as Right-Wing Propaganda

The number of private schools that get taxpayer funds via school vouchers or tax credit scholarships is rising rapidly, but few states keep tabs on what these schools are actually teaching. In a recent investigation for Huffington Post, education reporter Rebecca Klein shone a light on three popular textbooks used by private religious schools. While she found materials touting creationism over evolution, or teaching that homosexuality is a sin, Klein also encountered right-wing propaganda embedded throughout these K-12 curricula.

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What the 2016 Election Revealed About the Limits of 'College for All'

For decades, attending college has been the sole recipe for social and economic mobility offered up by Republicans and Democrats alike. But the 2016 election revealed the limits of "college for all." For one, only one-third of Americans actually have bachelors degrees, as Joan Williams points out in her new book, The White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America. Williams, a Distinguished Professor of Law, UC Hastings Foundation Chair, and the founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings College of the Law, argues that higher education has become a way for professional elites to "reproduce" and transfer class status. 

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Charter School Teachers Are Organizing (and Joining Forces with Public School Counterparts)

Non-union charter schools are beloved by billionaire education reformers and school privatization fans, both red and blue. But charter schools also rely upon those same young workers, who as polls indicate, have far more favorable views of unions than previous generations.

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Segrenomics: Cashing In on Our Unequal Education System Goes Way Back

Noliwe Rooks is the director of American studies at Cornell University and the author of Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education. This is an edited transcript.

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Why Keeping Politics Out of the Classroom Is a Disaster for Democracy

In our hyper-polarized era, calls to “keep politics out of the classroom” are routine. But public school classrooms are precisely the place where students should be learning how to discuss and debate contentious topics, according to a new book, The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools, by Jonathan Zimmerman and Emily Robertson. 

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Corporations Are Undermining Public Education, One State at a Time

In the wake of the Great Recession, the corporate lobbies engineered an unprecedented wave of legislation, aimed at lowering labor standards and slashing public services in state after state. But while high-profile attacks on labor unions, as in Wisconsin, garnered the headlines, the top legislative priority of ALEC and the Chamber of Commerce was the privatization of public education.

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