DIAFERIA PRESENTS AMBITIOUS EDUCATION PLATFORM
Green Party Congressional nominee Joseph Diaferia (NY-16) is calling for major changes to the United States educational system. Diaferia, a college professor since 1996, believes American educators are “handcuffed” into providing mere test preparation services instead of the fuller and richer education that Americans—young and old—need, and that educators would prefer to provide. Characterizing the American educational system as “devolving into a Malthusian tyranny of charter schools, private schools, and lots and lots of testing”, Diaferia is calling for repeal of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in its entirety, a ban on standardized testing, an end to charter schools, and the complete removal of corporate influence from public education.
According to Diaferia, “Standardized testing serves only to pigeon hole the dreams and aspirations of our youth while creating a society of programmable and compliant robots, incapable of creative or critical thinking. What’s more, as education is increasingly gauged via test scores, schools and teachers are increasingly penalized for provided the well-rounded education that all human beings deserve.”
Diaferia continued, “I believe that a ban on standardized testing should include a ban on IQ tests. Most American’s are unaware that IQ testing finds its origins in the militancy of organized labor in the early Twentieth Century. At that time, US leaders used IQ tests and a pseudo science known as Eugenics to weaken class unity with anti-immigrant racism and bigotry. The Carnegie, Harriman, and of course, the Rockefeller fortunes underwrote institutions like the Station for Experimental Evolution and the Eugenics Record Office. In 1912, with the help of the US government, the ERO set up an inspection station at Ellis Island, where most new immigrants were given IQ tests. Not surprisingly, the government declared over eighty-percent of immigrants from southern and Eastern Europe as suffering from some form of a disability. Then, during World War I, [then US President Woodrow] Wilson appointed a notoriously racist Harvard psychologist named Yerkes to the position of Chief of Army Testing, and he and his colleagues administered IQ tests to tens of thousands of new recruits. They concluded, fraudulently, that their tests proved black and immigrant people to be inferior. A protégé of the Yerkes was Carl Brigham, who founded the Educational Testing Service; the NTS runs a host of standardized tests nowadays. It was Brigham who reported that "Negro," "Alpine," and "Mediterranean" people were inferior to Northern Europeans and his report helped persuade Congress to pass the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924. This law, incidentally, cut off almost all immigration from southern and Eastern Europe and many who were denied entry to the US as a result of this law later died in the Holocaust. So what we have here is a sinister practice—namely, IQ testing —that bears an even more sinister history.”
Higher education is also on Diaferia’s agenda. Admittedly speaking from his own experiences, Diaferia is calling for the granting of tenure to professional adjunct and associate faculty, and that such faculty also be provided with the same health care and retirement benefits as their full-time colleagues. In addition, Diaferia is proposing an academic freedom bill that would require all institutions of higher education receiving any form of federal funding to allow college faculty to select their own textbooks and course materials. Moreover, such a bill would require that any complaint against a faculty member regarding his or her subject matter be addressed at the academic level (i.e., among faculty colleagues) before the matter could be taken to administration for action. Said Diaferia, “First let me be clear that any criticism I might make regarding academic freedom does not apply to the institution at which a currently teach. I have found the level of academic freedom at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey to be absolutely extraordinary. That said, I have taught at several institutions that have either assigned textbooks or have allowed faculty to choose their materials from within strict sets of parameters, and in no event were faculty members allowed to craft their own syllabi or course outlines. In other instances, I have experienced censorship of subject matter, intra-departmental espionage, and of course, repeatedly having to appear before college officials to explain course content. At Bergen Community College in New Jersey, in 2003, a student threatened me in writing over his own signature, yet amazingly, that didn’t trouble college officials as much as their conclusion that my material was too advanced for a community college course. Then, of course, there’s Westchester Community College in Valhalla. During my stint there between 2002 and 2006 there were amateurish political hacks on the faculty who frequently complained to the college hierarchy when they could not match wits with their more learned colleagues. There were also implicit admissions by certain divisional chairpersons that the college was less concerned with the impartation of knowledge and more concerned with pacifying irate students and parents whose Fox News inculcations were being rankled by scholarly information. So, if my experiences serve as any indication, there needs to be a mechanism by which discrepancies regarding obscure or controversial subject matter can be properly addressed. It should not be as simple as—say, a summary termination by a college president over a complaint by a parent over a professor’s take on Christopher Columbus. Such matters as these must first be addressed and evaluated at the academic level, and that is why I am calling for, among other things, the passage of a federal academic freedom bill.”
Asked if his proposed changes in American educations might jeopardize the United States’ competitive standing among other countries, Diaferia replied, “I’m not concerned with that, and neither should our policy makers be concerned with ‘our competitive edge’. It is an abstraction and nothing more. We need to remove this competitive dynamic from our education system and replace it with a cooperative and supportive one. I don’t want the United States and other countries to compete with one another. I want for the United States to be neither superior nor subordinate to any other country. What I want is for the United States to stand shoulder to shoulder with every other country in the world in an interlocking partnership. Some would call this a utopian notion. I would say that not only is it possible, but it is an urgent necessity.
In addition to proposals already stated, Diaferia’s education platform includes the following:
1.) Full and equal funding of public education.
2.) Restoration of a comprehensive K-12 curriculum, including art, music, world languages, and physical education.
3.) An end to charter schools.
4.) An end to all public funding of private schools.
5.) Public child care, beginning from infancy, and public education starting at age three.
6.) Elimination of merit pay for teachers,
7.) A maximum of 15 students per teacher for grades K-12, and a maximum of 40 students per teacher at the post-secondary level.
8.) Vigorous affirmative action programs in order that faculty and student-body of all schools reflect the community at large in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, and economic background.
9.) Student representation on school boards, and for those boards to be fully accountable to students, parents, teachers, and school workers.
10.) Opportunities for lifelong self-education, with retraining programs and transitional financial support for workers displaced by technological advances.
11.) Full and unrestricted health education programs, including sex education, with curriculum input from parents, students, teachers, and health care professionals.
12.) Elimination of school-sponsored prayer or any other religious practice in public schools
13.) Prohibition of the teaching of creationism and dispensationalism.
14.) A Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing every person living in the United States (citizen or not) an education to the highest level of his/her ability or desire.
Diaferia emphasizes that education should be free to all no matter what the cost and that society can ill-afford to economize in such a vital area.
Diaferia, in his second run for public office, has taught political science, history, sociology, economics, and geography. He has taught at four-year institutions as well as community colleges in New York and New Jersey. Diaferia says he will continue teaching if elected to Congress but that he may be forced to inquire as to the availability of web-based courses in that eventuality.