“(Martin Luther King) showed us through his own life that all of us must do our part to grab the arc of history and bend it toward justice with everything we have.”

These stirring words were the burden of a by Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank. It will seem ironic to those of us fighting for democratic, public education that they emanate from such a source. Yet they resonate with the which is inculcated in idealistic young people signing up for the Teach For All schemes all over the world. And with the claims of the many celebrities from Madonna to Oprah who in low income areas in the US and beyond.

From the plutocrats at Davos, to corporations like Pearson, to Bono, the language of social justice runs through their statements like Blackpool through a stick of rock. This is partly for the same reason that hipster , like Apple, organise meditation sessions for their operatives. Just as sitting cross legged, contemplating the feelings in your toes, gives you a warm fuzzy feeling and makes you happier, so does believing that the outfit you work for, or your unimaginable wealth, are furthering social justice.

More importantly such social justice rhetoric is a cover for the global education 'reform' movement, based on the idea that private enterprise and the free market can solve economic and social injustice. Leave it to Jeb, to Bill, to Madonna to sort out the mess, after all they're extremely rich so they must know what they're talking about. In education what this means is the increasing surrender of democracy to money. This is as true in the global South as it is in the North. And an important element of this ideology is the notion that the heroic individual, one who has won the neo-liberal race to the top, can 'bend the arc of history' as Kim suggests.

What we as teacher trade unionists need to address is that too often our leaderships fall for the rhetoric. It's an ongoing struggle in the US at the moment to wrench the two great teaching unions out of the clutches of 'reform' outfits like the Gates foundation. And there should be a discussion about the involvement of our global federation in, for example, the Pearson led, Global Metrics Taskforce or the Global Partnership for Education.

Because if the arc of history is to be bent in favour of the oppressed and the poor, with whom most teachers spend their working lives, it is not going to be done by 'heroic' individuals, nor by trans-national corporations. This change will only come from communities learning and struggling together to change the deeply unequal social relations, in which we all live, and of which the Bonos, the Gateses and the Pearsons of the world are the primary beneficiaries.