Capitalism’s Educational Catastrophe

And the Advancing Endgame Revolt!

by Ricardo D. Rosa (Author) Joao J. Rosa (Author)
©2015 Textbook X, 181 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 459


Neoliberal capitalism has paved the way to educational catastrophe. It has also opened paths for politically productive and transformative forms of localized resistance(s). This book examines the perilous catastrophe before us, and the possibility that we can reclaim our rights as citizens and redefine democracy as a process for global good rather than a euphemism for our collective enslavement to global markets, which annihilate our souls. The authors analyze the «crisis» in U.S. urban education through visceral narratives of social control while resisting the tendency to make the United States the epicenter of educational «reform» analysis. They explore neoliberal capitalism and processes of racialization as interdependent. The neoliberalization of education is having disproportionate negative implications for communities of color. More profoundly, neoliberal ideology is reworking processes of racialization and the way race is inscribed in discourse and bodies. The book is optimistic in sharing what might be done to inspire the mass withdrawal of consent not only to regressive regimes of high-stakes standardized testing, but to the entire edifice of neoliberal imperialism.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Praise for Capitalism’s Educational Catastrophe
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Contents
  • Notes
  • 1. Charting the Neoliberal Nightmare and the Moral Outrage
  • Contestations in the Face of Catastrophe
  • Notes
  • 2. Capital Movement and Global Displacement: Curricular Fatalities in the Age of Neoliberalism—the Case of Cape Verde
  • The Colonial Project: Whitewashing Education
  • State Formation and Ideological Subjectivity Re-Engineering
  • Weathering the Tempest of Change: The Winds of Neoliberalism
  • Heteroglossic Education: Re-Engineering Citizenship
  • The Role of Language
  • 3. Performance Contracting and Supplemental Educational Services: Other Altars of Neoliberal Language Deception and Citizen Salvation
  • Toward An Introduction of Ses and Critical Unacknowledged Early History
  • Cost and Effects: A Case Study
  • The Officially Sanctioned Texts and Internal (In)Coherences
  • Angling and critical obscurities in SES policy language
  • SES and Contradictions of “Accountability”
  • SES, Bureaucracy, and the Politics of Managerialism
  • Manipulating Attention and Awareness— Marketing
  • Conclusion
  • Postscript
  • Notes
  • 4. Education by Corporate Priorities, Youth Minds and Bodies under Arrest, and the Complexities of Resistance and Resignation
  • The Story of Kevin
  • 5. Raising Disquieting Questions in the Struggles Against Urban Violence
  • Historical Engineering: Frames in Time
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Visible Invisibility
  • Act 1: Transcript
  • Act 2: Shooting Tragedy
  • Act 3: Them Us
  • Epilogue
  • 6. The Advancing Endgame Revolt! Dialogues with Activists and Community Organizers in the Trenches
  • Notes
  • Appendix
  • Afterword
  • An Interview with Professor Noam Chomsky
  • References
  • Series Index



We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the many people who saw us through this book. We have been extremely fortunate to be in the company of very wise people who have pushed the boundaries of our knowledge and continue to inspire us.

We are extremely indebted to Donaldo Macedo, Lilia Bartolomé, Shirley Steinberg, Christopher Myers, and Noam Chomsky. We are grateful to have had such profound dialogues with Ceresta Smith, Becky L. Noël Smith, and Javier Campos-Martinez.

We appreciate the support of family and colleagues in this endeavor: Manuel and Maria de Lourdes Rosa, Alcindo and Francisca Vasconcelos, Joao Paraskeva, Aminah Pilgrim, Maria Jesus Castellon, Robert George, Fatima Barros, Peter DaSilva, Carlos Almeida, Maria Espírito Santos, Ricardo “Zunga” Pinheiro, Jose Soler, and Domingos Andrade. Most of all, we’d like to thank our sister Leila Rosa for the dialogues and unconditional support. This list is not exhaustive. There are many others who contributed, whether directly or indirectly. We are profoundly thankful.

We are fortunate to be part of a number of organizations and in the company of amazing community activists and organizers seeking positive social change in education and beyond. Our work in these organizations has provided space for deeply thinking about some of the themes in the book. These organizations include Save Our Schools (SOS), Third EyE Youth Empowerment, United Opt-Out (UOO), the S.E. Massachusetts and R.I. Coalition to Save Our Schools, ← ix | x → Citizens for Public Schools, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, East Coast Tae Kwon Do, and the Cape Verdean Associations of Brockton and New Bedford.

We are also fortunate to be working with exceptional graduate students and professionals who continue to enrich our lives and push our scholarship. We cannot forget former middle and secondary students who have inspired us with their commitment to social action. Shesheena Bray’s courageous work in Philadelphia and organizing to free political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and Stanley Dominique’s work with teenage victims of domestic violence are two powerful examples that come to mind.

A word of gratitude to our colleagues at the University of Cape Verde, particularly for the insight of Dr. Manuel Veiga, Dr. Crisanto Barros, Dr. Victor Borges, and Minister Antonio Correia e Silva, for sharing their perspectives in the midst of tumultuous schedules. Additionally, we would like to thank Dr. Lisa Battaglino for her constructive input and encouraging comments. We would be remiss if we did not appropriately and fully acknowledge all of the families who have shared their stories and continue to motivate us to search for viable solutions. A profound thank you to Van Pereira, who willingly shared works from his personal collection so that we might better understand.

We thank Peter Lang copyeditor Tom Bechtle, Phyllis Korper, and the proofreader who worked on the manuscript. We, of course, assume responsibility for any shortcomings in the text.

We are grateful for the cover art contributed by artist Johari Rosa and the execution of the cover art by Val Lopes.

Last but certainly not least, we thank our children for sacrificing so that we are able to engage in the work. Your smiles and stories keep us centered and hopeful. ← x | 1 →



Neoliberal capitalism has paved the way to educational catastrophe. It has also opened paths for politically productive and transformative forms of localized resistance(s). We write this book out of sheer outrage over the continuing evaporation of democracy and the conviction that the documenting and denouncing of this state of affairs must be sustained. Dominant forces mutate, and at every turn they must be exposed and named. The mutation of oppressive forces is a certainty because hegemony is an ongoing pedagogical project (Giroux, 2005) and contestation, in some form, is inevitable (Leitner et al., 2007; Harvey, 2012). No one in a power relationship is ever totally powerless; hence our title: Capitalism’s Educational Catastrophe and the Advancing Endgame Revolt!

The increased plutocratic authoritarianism, militarization, unprecedented forms of citizen surveillance, policing, and detention (Giroux, 2012) are signals that the overseers are in disarray. Trade unionist Nicholas Klein, in a 1918 speech delivered at the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, theorized the trajectory of the dialectical relationship between domination and resistance: “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you” (Klein; cited in Bunch, 2014, para. 1).”2 Counter-struggles are won when the attacks are vociferous enough to produce enough despair, and when discourses of the elite become sufficiently irrational to set the masses in motion. Although we are hopeful about the diverse forms of popular insurgencies on the ground, we also remain careful not to idealize social movements. Resistance is also capable of ← 1 | 2 → reifying oppressive social forces (Rose, 2002). Monuments are usually built after they have been co-opted.

This book examines neoliberal capitalism and processes of racialization as interdependent. The neoliberalization of education is having disproportionate negative implications for communities of color. More profoundly, neoliberal ideology is reworking processes of racialization and the way race is inscribed in discourse and bodies. It is the predominant veneer of current color-blindness, where color-blindness functions to deepen the hegemony of neoliberalism. Following Roberts and Mahtani (2010), we shift “from analyses of race and neoliberalism towards analyses that race neoliberalism” (p. 250).

The book underscores the urgency to focus more constantly on the wider structures of current capitalism, which is marked most profoundly by monopoly-finance capital (Foster & McChesney, 2012). Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis’s classic work Schooling in Capitalist America (1976), despite its determinism, continues to provide us with a powerful compass to navigate the future (Foster, 2011). “Great” schools are only possible for a fraction of the population under neoliberal capitalism’s reign over school policy. The continued work of building more culturally responsive and democratic schools should not be dismissed, but we need to design them for everyone and not be distracted by exceptional “choice” models, which really serve as token spaces to keep the masses compliant and current power structures intact. We are witnessing far too many critical colleagues running into the arms of capital to initiate programs that are supposedly more liberating. Although their embrace may be an uncomfortable one, we question the viability of struggling in such arenas.

We question school personnel who misplace their rage by blaming victims. It is not poor parenting but rather poverty, greed, and organizational cultures steeped in ruling-class ideology, patriarchy, and Whiteness that have caused all of the devastation in education. In propagating these discourses and the vicious racism that flows from them, teachers and administrators who would otherwise be forceful opponents of neoliberalism actually reproduce its power by driving families into market reforms and disrupting any effort to build solid alliances. Continued work on culturally relevant pedagogies and critical multicultural education should continue. Yet it is an incomplete path for the road ahead. Simultaneous resistance against capitalism more broadly is both crucial and unavoidable. The argument avoids an either/or and is, rather, centered on a both/and.

The predatory tactics of current capitalism have been more detrimental to communities of color given the disproportionate accumulation of wealth and its operation within the wider social circuits of color-blindness (Bonilla-Silva, 2010; Brown, 2013). The color-blindness not only manifests in the policy environment allowing for voracious acts by business and the financial products they push. It also operates in the mainstream media and the social perception that people of color ← 2 | 3 → are somehow more financially illiterate than the White middle and upper-middle classes. Such racist displays contradict social science research (Cohen-Cole, 2011).

These wider economic tactics are crucial to the process of “accumulation by dispossession” (Harvey, 2003), which in turn has profound effects on the educational trajectory of poor and working-class youths of color. Current market fundamentalist practices are not all that at work, though. Philanthropic ventures with strings attached are more difficult to reject in disinvested communities—proportionally more pronounced in areas inhabited by poor people of color. The very fact that mainstream schools have been color-blind and unresponsive to communities of color, the poor, immigrants, and people who are indigenous further feeds the momentum of neoliberal rationality in education. The lack of cultural responsiveness in mainstream schools creates the condition for families and community-based activists to run into the arms of neoliberal alternatives such as charter schools. It is no coincidence that neoliberal policies such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT) seized on the lack of cultural responsiveness to further engineer a politics and practice of standardization to render the market reforms more appealing.

Within the communities of critical scholarship, activist scholarship, and/or educational community organizing (and we are well aware that the boundaries are not that neat), there is a palpable tension. Some position the instability of the present educational system as one that is “manufactured” by wider social, political, and economic crises. Others claim that there is, indeed, a crisis in urban education. We believe both to be the case and therefore call for a trans-praxis that functions to disrupt neoliberal capitalism by reclaiming “the right to the city” (Harvey, 2012) and connecting these forms of contestation to global struggles to end corporate sovereignty and the brutal forms of state power that serve as co-conspirators in the disaster. We alsourge all to take seriously “the right to education” as a key site of urban reclamation.


X, 181
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2013 (December)
Occupy Capitalism 99 Critic on Neoliberalism
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. X, 181 pp.

Biographical notes

Ricardo D. Rosa (Author) Joao J. Rosa (Author)

Ricardo D. Rosa is a scholar-activist who earned his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. He co-chairs the national organization Save Our Schools and the S.E. Massachusetts and R.I. Coalition to Save Our Schools. Joao J. Rosa is the Executive Director of the Pedro Pires Institute for Cape Verdean Studies at Bridgewater State University. He is an International Curriculum Advisor to the University of Cape Verde and a member of the National Commission on Languages. He is also the author of Discursos Linguísticos e realidades nas salas de aulas: Vencendo a luta pelo controle. Ricardo and Joao are co-authors of Pedagogy in the Age of Media Control: Language Deception and Digital Democracy released in 2011 by Peter Lang.


Title: Capitalism’s Educational Catastrophe
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196 pages