This is not a blog about being shocked, shocked to find out that the AERA has invited the state’s chief purveyor of the corporate takeover of public education to speak at its annual conference. There is nothing shocking about Arne Duncan speaking at the AERA, anymore than it is shocking that corporate think tanks get to pass themselves off as researchers in AERA journals or that the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education is promoting the edTPA , a money grab for Pearson, Inc.

Narratives of the market; discourses of accountability, outcomes and standards; demands for quantitative data; funding tied to student test data; suggestions to cooperate and ‘get a place at the table;’ and good old fashioned threats and job losses are the strings of the life/death we weave in the academy these days.  Whether  presented as great gains for a transformative higher education, or reasonable compromises under the shock doctrine of austerity budgets, we, like our k12 comrades, are experiencing increasing incursions of corporate interests into our day to day work. Arne Duncan, invited guest of the AERA, has been leading the charge.

Education faculty across the country, as individuals and as groups, have made statements and stood strong in support of the Seattle teachers, the Chicago strike , against high stakes testing in New York and Massaachusetts, and against Pearson and edTPA. But, as a group, especially when compared to other groups, we’ve not been carrying our weight. We’ve been writing letters, but returning to the comfort of our compromised and complicit professional organizations. We’ve followed the academic culture’s requirement to be polite, and patient, and not show our outrage nor ever take a position. And, in so doing, we have been part of the undoing of first k12, and now our own colleges and universities,

But here is our chance to shock. Here is our chance to join in solidarity with each other, our k12 counterparts, students and parents. Here is a chance for us to enact the practices we want our students to engage: unmask the power structures, speak truth to power, say no to profiteers and their henchman.

Let’s organize in San Francisco. Let’s speak out. Let’s be shocking!

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  1. Laura Chavez says:

    Although I likes boycott idea at first read, I think it more important to make sure he gets tough questions and for the audience to push him to engage in a dialogue with non-market-based ideas of education—perhaps it would be the first time he’s heard of a different way to do “reform.” I would vote for us to, instead of boycotting the event, to create questions with a group and then once the Q&A session comes up, we have 20+ people ready with piercing questions about the direction he is taking our nation’s schools.

  2. Is it possible to change the format so that Duncan speaks for ten minutes-(he won’t say anything new), and then have a few parents, teachers, academics and students on the podium to respond to him? Or simply decide to boycott his speech–it would be nice if he spoke to an almost empty room, or…What would be the best way to use this opportunity?

    • Barbara Madeloni says:

      Right now we are thinking boycott and concurrent teach-in. We will be organizing through the facebook page and Julie is collecting emails for a listserve. Great opportunity!

  3. Barbara Madeloni says:

    We are organizing. Email and/or check out this facebook page:

    • I’m totally down with organizing, protesting, boycotting, a teach-in etc…but please, please, please let’s NOT call the movement “occupy AERA”…can we do decolonize AERA, (re)occupy AERA, or unoccupy AERA or Idle No More AERA, or anything else?! We risk alienating Indigenous SIGS and/or undocumented and/or otherwise disappeared folks if we stay with the “occupy” trope….

      • Barbara Madeloni says:

        Thank you Sandy. I was thinking about this issue this morning. Yesterday at NYCoRE, Eve Tuck presented about settler colonization and that, along with your talk at New Paltz, has me newly tuned in to this discourse. So, yes, we need to change the name and our thinking.

        • daiyusuzuki says:

          Why not Unoccupy AERA? NCLB’s standardization of what counts as knowledge with “What Works Clearinghouse,” recent move of AERJ to exclude all “non-empirical” researches, invitation for Arne Duncan and other corporate profiteers to join AERA and AERJ as “educational researchers”…all of these seem to me nothing more than a federal and corporate occupation of educational research. What we need is to “unoccupy” AERA and reclaim this institutionalized, corporatized space as a public space for educational conversation, imagination, and actions.

  4. This is all very good, especially for those of us in the academia fighting against the corporate takeover of public education…or education in general. The AERA leadership has gone too far without even realizing that this could be the tipping point for internal revolts. Can’t wait for the annual meeting in late April!

  5. Peter Smagorinsky nails it about the Arne scam–or-abolished/2012/03/09/gIQAHfdB5R_blog.html

    “It’s well known that President Obama, for whom I voted and whose presidency I continue to support, relies on the counsel of people with whom he has played basketball. Obama made his very worst cabinet appointment when he chose his fellow player, Arne Duncan, as secretary of education.

    “Let’s trace his path to the presidential Cabinet. One of Duncan’s childhood friends, John Rogers, appointed Duncan director of the Ariel Education Initiative in Chicago. Duncan’s directorship led to Ariel’s reincarnation as a charter school, following which Duncan was advanced in the Chicago Public School system from deputy chief of staff to chief executive officer. Note that he worked exclusively at the executive level, never stooping to teach classes or learn about schools except from an operational perspective.”

  6. “We’ve followed the academic culture’s requirement to be polite, and patient, and not show our outrage nor ever take a position. And, in so doing, we have been part of the undoing of first k12, and now our own colleges and universities”

    Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better. I am disappointed in organizations that are supposed to serve and protect the profession, but instead served it up. Great to put energy and pat yourself on the back for a legal into a legal attack on tax cap legislation, but how about collective class action to point out education malpractice and anti-trust like collusion of testing/data industries, school privatizers and the gov’t agencies that are supposed to promote education not squeeze it for “value”?

  7. YES!! We have started a list. Email me at

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