After reading “Blank is Beautiful”, I still cannot determine what to re-write on this “clean slate” will be the best for the people, for the place, and for the country. From the documentary, “The Battle for Paradise”, two sides of the argument are displayed, one from the government and entrepreneurs, the other, from the people. But their concerns are focused on different aspects of the reconstruction, including education, economy, and environment. Thus, I would like to analyze their different points of view to take a closer look at the “Disaster Capitalism” with the focus on the education system.
The education system is believed to be predominantly important for the future generations. It brings hope after what disasters have done to one place. From the documentary, one teacher, Nydia Pena, has declared “the importance for schools to be open, because children need food, water, and people who can share with their experience”, and she continues, “the only problem is the light, we don’t have the light yet.” (11:25-11:40) After catastrophe, people’s first instinct is to repair what they have and go back to normal life, the life with electricity, running water, food, and all kinds of infrastructure, as soon as possible. Schools are essential to families, because they can take care of their kids while the adults are preoccupied with works and reconstructions. But the government’s withhold on resuming school for the replacement of charter schools has upset their citizens, which raises the resistance of charter schools. In the video, they complain that schools are not repaired because of the new projects.
Klein also mentions the educational system reform in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. She claims: “Charter schools are deeply polarizing in the United States, and nowhere more than in New Orleans, where they are seen by many African-American parents as a way of reversing the gains of the civil rights movement…” (Klein 5) The following paragraphs expand on the rapid change of school systems: “before Hurricane Katrina, the school board had run 123 public schools’ now it ran just 4. Before that storm, there had been 7 charter schools in the city; now there were 31.” (Klein 6). Klein doubts Friedman’s reform of school system, and quotes the public school teachers calling it “an educational land grab” (Klein 6). However, from recent studies, research has shown increase in student achievement by 11-16 percentiles, increase in high school graduation rate by 3-9 percentage points, etc.1 Although the video “What is Neoliberalism” has discussed about the quantifiable education success in relation to neoliberalism, I believe that data does show progress now and then.
From the case of New Orleans, one can see that charter schools are not necessarily a terrible idea, especially from the bigger picture, starting a new sentence on a clean slate, will make use of the place better. Then what is the problem here? Why won’t people understand that would be for greater good in the long run? Well, I think that it is caused by insufficiency of the government, skepticism of the people towards the government, and fear of the new system. The first one as talked about earlier, makes inconvenience for a lot of families, especially with both working parents. It will also show the government’s hesitation and incapability of such huge projects. The skepticism, furthermore, is not only mistrust of the ability of the government, but also relations between the government and private companies. Last but not the least, the fear does not only come from the parents but also the teachers. As Klein has said, “some of the younger teachers were rehired by the charters, at reduced salaries; most were not” (Klein 6).
Therefore, I believe Friedman’s ideology and initial intention are reforming for improvement for the whole society, however, he needs to pursue the public. I would suggest that right after disasters, the government or private institutions who are involved with charter schools later needs to support all victims with a temporary facility before the charter school start to run. Thus, there will be a transition period for both the families and the government. The Disaster Capitalism is not inherently an evil economic opportunity, as long as it can improve the society eventually.