Privatization vs. Community-Based Reform Keynote at Minnesota

My parents are visiting this week. We have had several vigorous discussions— you can probably imagine the cloth that I am cut from. I was talking to my father about social change, he is less optimistic that our society will do better on many issues. My mother took the tact that you can create social change in the space you occupy. I truly believe we can impact and change the world that we live in.Jack Kerouac genius Honestly, one of the questions I often get is how I balance all the competing demands in my life to prosecute public intellectualism for social change. I don’t think there is one simple answer to that question. I have a variety of strategies that I try to implement to add time to my life. Some of them are:

  • Living as close to work as possible to avoid spending my life in my car
  • Using technology tools to save time
  • Multitasking when I am able
  • Have a religious day of rest each week to give my brain a break so I don’t burn out
  • Collaborating with the “Crazy ones” “the misfits” “the rebels” “the trouble makers” “round heads” whenever and whereever possible.
  • Utilizing the bountiful energy that my fourth grade teacher couldn’t handle.

These are just a few of my strategies. I’ll tell you a few more next time we see each other.

2015-09-23 18.19.21

Flight connection in Phoenix

Probably one of the most tiring and taxing parts of my life is travel. However, I believe changing the world requires me to be crazy enough to travel extensively. In total I have travelled 392,892 miles to 125 locations over the past four years (I use a really cool app called TripIt to keep track of my travel, I highly recommend it). I’d estimate about 70% of that travel has been work related.

Which brings me to the visit last week to Minnesota for the Institute for Advanced Study’s Thursdays at 4 lecture.

In the spring I was contacted by Roozbeh Shirazi, Assistant Professor of Organization Leadership, Policy, and Development and Mary Vavrus, Associate Professor of Communication Studies Department at the University of Minnesota. They were interested in a Thursdays at 4 lecture focusing on “education reform, media treatments of it, and your take on community-based responses to corporate ed reform.”

The talk was cosponsored by the 2014-15 Institute for Advantage Study’s Private for the Public Good? Collaborative, the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, the Department of Communication Studies, the College of Education and Human Development, and the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies.

Here is the abstract of the talk entitled: “Education Reform: What instead? Community-Based Education Policy as the Alternative to Top-Down, Private Control”

NOW is the time to discuss community-based reform efforts designed to improve student achievement and school success as an alternative to the decades-long era of increasing private control in education. The top-down nature of school reform in urban communities has prompted educators, students, parents, and citizens alike to question the ways in which we hold public schools accountable for student learning and performance. Given increased support for testing and standardization, policies incentivizing the expansion of school vouchers and charters, assessment of students and teachers linked to test scores, and a federal role in education of historic proportions, this lecture will discuss the aristocratic reformers privatization and efforts and then consider community-based reforms within current school reform discourse and the education policy landscape. We also discuss new notions of community organizing for school improvement via social media and other platforms to create a personal social justice media ecology.

Check out the lecture below on YouTube. I began with the education privatization context that I first discussed in my Cambridge Forum lecture, then discussed community based reform and concluded with how to create a social justice media ecology.

p.s. I began my visit to Minnesota by stopping by an SEIU rally. Naomi Scheman, Professor of Philosophy and Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies, asked me to stop by. She wrote via email,

One of the things I’ve especially appreciated about the drive so far has been the emphasis on broader issues concerning the erosion of the “public” in public higher education as well as more broadly, as well as the opportunities for us to work (especially with the legislature) in solidarity with unionized K-12 teachers–so your work on the privatization of public education is clearly relevant to the themes of our campaign.

Here are a photos from the rally and few others from the visit. If you click on one of the photos, you can quickly scroll through them.

Thank you for reading Cloaking Inequity.

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Twitter: @ProfessorJVH

Click here for Vitae.

Explanation of the M&Ms:


  • Hey Dr. Vazquez Heilig. I’ve been following you for a while through your Cloaking Inequality emails. I’d just like to say how much I appreciate the work you’re doing for our schools. As a teacher in the most economically oppressed neighborhoods of a major U.S. city for the last 15 years, a resident in one of these neighborhoods for the last 10, and a parent with children in the same district for the last 7, it’s good to see someone taking on the neoliberal assault on public education in our most marginalized schools and districts. In our district, the changes, or more precisely, degradations, we’ve experienced have been nonstop and a source of anger and heartbreak for not only me as a teacher, resident, and father, but countless colleagues, neighbors, and ‘other peoples children.’ As a classroom teacher, I knew my district’s desperate obsession with test scores, use of low-thinking level scripted curricula, and hiring of scores of inexperienced alternatively-licensed teachers was harming both our students and teachers. When I became aware, through my doctoral work, of the motivations and lack of supporting evidence for these initiatives, as well as their widespread use, my frustration multiplied. I find myself, for the time being at least, unable to exist as “just” a classroom teacher. I want to let you know how much of your work hits home for us and that I’m glad someone is out there leading a pushback against the ulteriorly-motivated and ineffective ‘reform’ initiatives and policies being visited upon our schools and communities. Be well.


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