COVID, Race and Democracy

We Don’t Need No Miseducation – Part II,

Chicago Teachers Union on the streets.
Chicago teachers union on the streets.

In this episode, we bring you Part 2 of our series on how the pandemic is impacting the struggle for a socially just and liberating education.  In today’s program we’ll hear from visionary activists in the U.S., Nicaragua, and Cuba who challenge us to free our minds and expand our imaginations for what the future of education could be.

Segment 1: Reframing The “School Reopening” Debate

One of the hottest debates in education is when schools should reopen.  Kyle Beckham and Karen Zapata are social justice educators and activists who push us beyond this narrow focus.  They challenge us to never go back to educational inequity and injustice.  Instead, they see the pandemic as an opportunity to create new ways of doing school and building relationships between students, adults, and communities.

Radical Alternatives

Kyle Beckham, Co-Director and Lecturer at Berkeley Educators For Equity and Excellence, the teacher education program at the University of California at Berkeley; formerly a veteran teacher at continuation and alternative high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area.  

We’re Not Going Back

Karen Zapata, veteran English and Spanish bilingual teacher, currently at Berkeley High School; an adjunct faculty in the University of San Francisco’s teacher education program, and a co-founder of the grassroots activist organization, Teachers For Social Justice.

Learn more, get active:

Check out the resources and activities of these social justice education organizations: 

Segment 2: Battling the Neoliberal Corporate Education Agenda

In the 21st century, the battle for a socially just and liberating education has been opposed by powerful billionaires and their allies in government, media, and business.  They have promoted neoliberal policies to privatize, standardize, and profit from the public education system.  Before the pandemic, they scapegoated teachers and their unions as the major reason for educational failure.  Now unions are being blamed as the main barriers to reopening schools. The Chicago Teachers Union, CTU, has been at the forefront of this battle with the education corporatizers.

View From The Front

Jesse Sharkey, President, Chicago Teachers Union, in conversation with host Mario Smith. Produced for Pacifica by Jamie Trecker, WLPN Chicago, Lumpen Radio

Learn more, get active:

  • Support your local teachers union!!!
  • Learn more about CTU, a leading social justice education union:

Segment 3: Another Education System Is Possible

Some of the same corporate interests that push the neoliberal education agenda also promote neoliberal policies throughout the world.  Those nations which resist are sanctioned and attacked by the US empire.  Some of the fiercest imperial blows are directed at countries that threaten capitalist control by providing more socially just models to the rest of the world, such as Nicaragua and Cuba.  These countries have far fewer resources than the US.  But they demonstrate what nations can accomplish when they prioritize universal education and healthcare over private profit, even in the midst of a global pandemic and relentless imperial attacks.

Nicaraguan Education In The Pandemic

Erika Takeo, National Coordinator of Friends of the ATC (Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo), the solidarity network with the Nicaraguan Rural Workers Association.  A report from Nicaragua, with  production assistance by Pacifica’s Marcos Maldonado and Polina Vasiliev. 

Cuban Education In The Pandemic

Cristina Escobar, journalist, teleSUR English and the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television.  A report from Cuba with production assistance by Pacifica’s Marcos Maldonado and Polina Vasiliev.

Learn more, get active:

  • Check out these resources and activities; build solidarity with Nicaragua and Cuba: 

Artist Credits:

  • DeJ Loaf & Leon Bridges
  • Don Friesen
  • Juventud Sandinista 19 de Julio
  • Los Van Van
  • Pink Floyd
  • Rebel Diaz
  • Shabazz Palaces


This program was co-produced by Polina Vasiliev and Ken Yale, and hosted by Ann Garrison, with contributions from Rick Ayers, Leslie Balog, Global Exchange, Marcos Maldonado, Ursula Ruedenberg, Mario Smith, Jamie Trecker, and WLPN Chicago, Lumpen Radio. The executive producers of “Covid, Race and Democracy” are Akua Holt, Polina Vasiliev, and Steve Zeltzer.