“Waiting for Superman” Is Just Neoliberal Propaganda Marketing Pinochet’s Class Based School System to the American Left

by Scott Creighton

There are billions upon billions of dollars to be made by the corporate elite and 1%ers who are currently waiting for superman to come along and help sell the privatization of every public school system in America.  The privatization of public schools has been a mainstay in the neoliberal economic reform platform since Milton Friedman and his Chicago Boys tripped down to Chile to run their “experiment” after Henry Kissinger and the CIA killed their elected president on Sept. 11th, 1973 and installed the ruthless dictator Augusto Pinochet in his place.

In third world countries they use dictators and psychopaths to rule with an iron fist (and the occasional CIA death squad and drone strike) while their economic reforms cripple the lives of the vast majority of the indigenous population and their privatization policies sell off the public assets for pennies on the dollar.  In America, they use fraudulent politicians, billionaire celebrities and smug sellout tools like Barack ObamaOprah Winfrey, and Davis Guggenheim to spin up sappy, propaganda laden Madison Ave. multi-million dollar PR campaigns designed to fool the American people into thinking a corporate system of institutionalized inequality is actually the “progressive” solution to a carefully orchestrated “problem”.

The legacy of 11 September 1973 goes far beyond the economy and the armed forces. The dictatorship’s most devastating long-term effects are in education and the question of the Mapuches, Chile’s southern indigenous people. Pinochet pushed through the education law just four days before leaving power; it placed the responsibility for education in the hands of the private sector at the same time as allowing complete freedom to create educational centres. The result was the deterioration of the quality of education, while making it prohibitively expensive. Working class people now struggle to get into university and have to make do with municipal secondary colleges – in other words, a second class education. In 2006 the so-called Penguins movement (thus named because of their school uniform) mobilised half a million school students in support of the de-privatisation of education and the rescinding of the lawGuardian UK

The tragic history of the privatization of public school systems doesn’t seem to be much of a concern for billionaires like Oprah and Bill Gates but it is there for anyone to see, were they so inclined to step out of the trap of identity politics and look beyond the feel-good hype of self-delusion.

Well, and, you know, there was a time, a rather naïve time, I think, when we all thought we were friends, and we were all interested in school reform and making it more effective and powerful, and both sort of big corporate money and school progressives worked together. But it turned out they had a much more sinister strategy and desire of what they wanted to accomplish, and that was really to privatize public school. And it’s people who are enamored of the market, market forces. The invisible hand of the market makes everything fabulous, as they’ve shown with the economy. And yes, the idea that all education is for job training, for a slot in the economy as the CEOs foresee it. Nothing in education in this vision has to do with students questioning their circumstances, imagining a different future, constructing a future that would be humane and a good place to live. None of that. It’s all train, train, train for a position, a slot in the economy as it isBill Ayers, Democracy Now

In 2006 nearly a million kids took matters into their own hands and protested the systematic oppression of Pinochet’s charter school system in Chile, which is serving as the model for the very same system Oprah Winfrey is promoting here in America right now. But you won’t find any mention of that on her school privatization progaganda page on her website. You’ll also never find any relative of her’s forced to go to some 2nd rate, Burger King training facility that is passed off as a charter high school these days.

Oprah is mega-rich and her family will always be on the sunny side of the street and she damn well knows it.

“In any other country, the fact that 5,000 students are marching through the streets demanding a better education would be the object of national pride,” said María Jesús Sanhueza, 16, a spokeswoman for the students. “The government should be thanking us, not beating us down.”

Admiration for the students is nearly universal, with some 87% of Chileans polled saying they support the movement. “These are not crazy revolutionaries,” wrote Patricio Fernández, an influential columnist in the Clinic newspaper. “Their parents support them. Their cousins, their neighbours, their old aunts. They are bored that the wealthy schools educate those who will be boss, while their school trains them to be workers. More than combating Chilean authorities, they are convincing them.” Guardian UK, 2006

The most recent propaganda campaign being pushed right now is director Davis Guggenheim‘s despicable documentary “Waiting for Superman” which demonizes teachers and teacher’s unions in order to blame them for the deterioration of the public school system and then it presents the for-profit charter school model, just like the one in Chile, as the “progressive” solution.  Bill Gates has been pimping this effort with other billionaires like Winfrey.

Davis Guggenheim’s 2010 film Waiting for Superman is a slick marketing piece full of half-truths and distortions. The film suggests the problems in education are the fault of teachers and teacher unions alone, and it asserts that the solution to those problems is a greater focus on top-down instruction driven by test scores. It rejects the inconvenient truth that our schools are being starved of funds and other necessary resources, and instead opts for an era of privatization and market-driven school change.

The film dismisses with a side comment the inconvenient truth that our schools are criminally underfunded. Money’s not the answer, it glibly declares. Nor does it suggest that students would have better outcomes if their communities had jobs, health care, decent housing, and a living wage. Particularly dishonest is the fact that Guggenheim never mentions the tens of millions of dollars of private money that has poured into the Harlem Children’s Zone, the model and superman we are relentlessly instructed to aspire to. Those funds create full family services and a state of the art school. In a sleight of hand, the film magically shifts focus, turning to “bad teaching” as the problem in the poor schools while ignoring these millions of dollars that make people clamor to get into the Promise Academy. As a friend of mine said, “Well, at least now we know what it costs.” Rick Ayers, Huffington Post

But half-truths and out-right lies are nothing new to the neoliberal propaganda tool Davis Guggenheim.  Aside from producing and directing the Obama infomercial of 2008, he was the producer and director of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” which we all now know was chocked full of 35 distortions, exaggerations, and out-right lies all designed to create a sense of doom and panic in order to press the neoliberal “carbon credits and tax” agenda through-out the world.

The whole “Global Warming” fraud was such a lie, they had to rebrand it as “Climate Change” once their own numbers proved the climate has been cooling for over a decade and they could no longer deny they had been fudging the numbers to “hide the decline”.

It took researchers YEARS to expose all of those dishonest misstatements about “Global Warming” from Guggenheim’s last award-winning pieces of propaganda, and in most civilized countries that would have been the end of his career, but instead, even after being exposed as a liar and a fraud, here he is again pimping an even more dangerous agenda; well, dangerous if you are poor or working class and give a shit about your children’s future that is. But I guess Oprah doesn’t have to worry about that, does she?

The process of neoliberalizing the school system is a savage one indeed and when you look at it for what it really is, the process that people like Guggenheim and Oprah are actually protecting, it makes you want to take a shower.

This neoliberal process has been criminally underfunding the public school system for “40 years” since the Lewis Powell memo of 1971 warned corporate America that they were losing the battle for America’s soul (the time frame Guggenheim says public schools have been in decline…. I guess so).

Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy. Reclaim Democracy

The results have been untold damage done to the lives of countless kids and their impoverished communities in America, a massive increase in the drop-out rates, and the subsequent astronomical hike in the rate of incarceration.  Then they set up the “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” programs which fraudulently blamed the teachers and public school systems for the decline and the misery they themselves created.  Then along comes the lottery system which is featured prominently in Guggenheim’s film which they spent millions of dollars promoting so that they could get a video op of a bunch of kids and parents sitting around a room and weeping when they aren’t chosen in the lottery and they have to stay in the underfunded and under attack public school systems.

Rick Ayers rightly calls it “child abuse” and it is. It’s exploitation of the worse kind and demonstrates the savage cruelty of these neoliberal monsters toward the most defenseless people our country has to offer – children of poor and working class families.

Guggenheim was recently asked in an interview (read as “scripted propaganda session”) about all the liberties they took with the facts in “An inconvenient Truth” and of course Guggenheim spins the question, doesn’t answer it at all, and instead tries to employ circular logic to address the issue.

Guggenheim is nothing more than a sleazy servant to these neoliberal masters of the universe and his latest piece of disinformation and propaganda proves it.

13 Responses

  1. This is an isidious plague on education. The model charters that produce such outstanding results due to extensive funding are clearly a ploy. If they succeed in making privatized ed the norm we will surely see funding and quality plummet to levels below current. The incentive to show their superiority will have evaporated with the loss of public competition. Free market “philanthropists” like Bill Gates are perpetrating a criminal fraud here and naive, frustrated parents are falling for it. It will be near impossible to reverse the mistake when public education is completely eliminated.

    It is telling that this is same film maker that gave us Gore’s “revelation”. I think this foretells that cap and trade on education is what we are being sold. What do CEO’s want to teach America’s children? Scary! And what will the stock for children’s futures trade for? Will our children recieve whole lessons or education derivatives?

  2. Maybe parents can turn to home-schooling.

  3. Regardless of your point of view, free-market competition has typically meant that the better product will usually prevail in the end. The schools are no different.

    • Yes, a better product, but only if you have the money to pay for it. If not, you get cheap crap that breaks within the year.

      Translate that to schools and do the research on charters.

  4. except of course when you look at the actual history of “free market” schools and come to realize they are just processing plants for cheap labor.

    Then once you grow up enough to understand that this isn’t “free market” capitalism, it’s crony capitalism and gangster politics, you might just understand why people know that this kind of development will not have a positive inpact at all.

  5. The free market promise to deliver better products or services does correlate with objectives of corporations. Their motive is not to deliver the best product but to make the biggest profit and generally that translates to cutting costs more often than improving quality. In education that will mean the attack on teacher salaries that we see now, but that is just phase 1. If charters become predominant education environments, tools, and materials will also be targets for cost cutting measures that increase corporate competitiveness. Educational competitiveness will suffer as a result.

    If that scenario occurs, I hope that instead of opting out with home schooling, a protest could take the form of all charter school parents telling their children to “take a dive” on the hated standardized tests that are used as the purported measure of success. Many parents can not afford to give up their jobs to educate their children at home so this could be a possible alternative.

  6. Ooops. I meant “does not correlate with objectives of corps.

  7. That’s an idea, Shawn… except now, if parents tell their children to protest , the kids could be taken away from them. The courts could claim the parents are ‘unfit’.

    Adults have to protest.

  8. I don’t think children would be taken away from anyone for bombing a test Jan. I’m not suggesting parents put signs in their hands and tell them to refuse to take the test. They just need to do really bad at it. It’s a covert protest kind of like the work slowages and machine sabotage the Polish factory workers used in the 80’s. I don’t think very many kids will balk at pissing all over the pressure these tests confer on them but I could be wrong. Just throwing out an idea.

    Adults can do formal protests too if they want, but corporations have developed a certain immunity to slogan chanting when they hold all the power. Undermining the operation from the inside would seem more effective. When the charter system is discredited by poor performance then the parents may have a stronger effect with a shift in the power balance. There other things to consider of course. An army of child services paddy wagons is probably not one of them. That brings back a memory. Remember Oliver? Even if this plan is flawed it still amuses me to think about it.

  9. This article is disgusting.

    Not once does Creighton “expose the untruths” and he uses irrelevant comparative data. America is a unique nation with unique problems, comparing it to South American nations in the 70’s is laughable.

    Fact is, we are producing worse results with MORE money. The money spent, per child, has increased for decades yet results slip. It’s not about villianizing what Creighton seems to consider unfallable teachers unions, but removing the carte blanche attitude they have.

    Creighton: do you actually believe that it is right to not be able to fire educators who are not preparing our children properly? I don’t want to hear some backwards response along the lines of “they could produce good results with more resources” because that’s bullshit. There exist teachers, with the same resources, that are able to produce fantastic results.

    Until you or any teachers union can succinctly explain why we hold on to this “all teachers are created equal” tenet, shut up.

    Public schools, as they are, DO NOT WORK. If there were not so many barriers to explore alternative solutions, we may just find one. However, as long as zealots like you and the teachers union dominate popular opinion in the United States, our children will suffer. This is not a battle for political well-being, it’s a battle for the future of the nation. And well, Creighton, you seem to be fighting for the status quo while proposing nothing different. Congratulations, sleep well.

  10. Europe and Japan have teachers’ unions too.

    The only people who believe that propaganda about teachers’ unions as the cause of all education problems are people who don’t know anything about education in the US or in other countries.

    And they don’t know anything about teachers’ unions in the US either, because the NEA and AFT are both “company unions” and they are fully on board with corporate education deform, busy selling out their members for more power and lucre.

  11. Fifty years ago k-12 public education really worked, and it didn’t cost too much. These days nothing works. The “charter schools” idea is just another fake solution that also puts extra money in the pockets of the fat cats.

    A lot of money may be being spent, but I know teachers who buy art materials, for example, for their students with their own money. The endless testing is useless, since the children are only taught garbage anyway.

    The truth is that about 90% of present day school teachers were incredibly under-educated in college, and thus have little to teach. And the 10% of teachers who have managed to get educated receive no appreciation from the demented over-paid administrators.

    Like most institutions in America today, education is designed to fail. John Taylor Gatto has many interesting ideas about this issue, although he is a “paleo-conservative,” and I don’t subscribe to all of his philosophy. One of his websites is:


    See also “Dr. Michio Kaku speaks about how America’s poor educational system has created a shortage of Americans who can perform high skilled technology jobs. As a result, America’s H-1B Genius visa is used to attract immigrants who are skilled enough to perform these jobs.”

    Dr. Michio Kaku America Has A Secret Weapon

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