Has the War Already Been Won Against Public Schooling?
I come from a long line of public school teachers. Our family believes in government-sponsored schooling that teaches facts and science and nature. If one desires something of a Faith-infused-immersed learning, there are Churches for that; we enliven the mind not with mystery or superstition but by hard, verifiable, facts that can be reliably predicted with logic and learning.
Our public school system is under deliberate and diversified attack by the religious right and the middle class poor who see danger and threats to society in public schools, and so they flock to homeschooling and charter schools where the message can be controlled and the outcomes secured by herd learning and a mandated mentality — and they expect the rest of us to pay for their religious and private learning by forgiving their tax obligations, or giving them tax vouchers to use in a religious agenda, and they demand a secular spending of government effort to protect their narrow interests.
Real schooling asks questions and opens doors. Agenda learning closes arguments with articles of faith and belief that cannot be proven by any scientific method.
Unfortunately — through the guise of charter schools, the mendacity of the conservative Right, and religious fundamentalists — our public schools that built this nation are in danger of being marginalized by a faith-infused radicalism that stifles debate and punishes open conversation, because to question is to disobey and to disobey is to not be accepted into the kingdom.
The angle of attack on the public school system is multi-pronged and deviously deceptive.
The first thrust is against the teachers. Break up the union, demolish good teachers with meaningless “evaluations” and the far right and their GOP compatriots in Congress are well on their way to controlling the minds of our most vulnerable:
The starting point for Rhee’s brand of education reform was to depict public schools as part of an entrenched failed system that serves as a jobs program for horrible teachers. Teachers were blamed for all that ailed DCPS—low graduation rates, poor test scores, and dwindling enrollment, with children fleeing to charter schools.
New York City mayor Bill De Blasio knows precisely what’s going on — with charter schools draining public funding and social learning from the public school system — and he’s in the fight of his political life not to let charter schools replace the public system student-by-student and mind-by-mind:
Mayor Bill de Blasio, seeking to curb the influence of outside providers of education, said on Thursday that he would block three charter schools from using space inside New York City public school buildings.
Under the plan, Mr. de Blasio would reverse the decision of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, to provide free real estate to the schools so that they could open new programs this fall. The schools had already hired principals and teachers and were in the midst of recruiting students.
De Blasio is right in what he wants to stop from happening. Unfortunately, middle class parents are terrified of public schools and they seek protection and solace in charter schools where “vouchers” and “choice” slowly erode public school funding from the outside in.
We must not toss away public education. We need to fix it.
Unfortunately, it looks like the fix is already in for public schooling, and the long march to death started 35 years ago:
To truly understand how we came to believe our educational system is broken, we need a history lesson. Rewind to 1980—when Milton Friedman, the high priest of laissez-faire economics, partnered with PBS to produce a ten-part television series called Free to Choose. He devoted one episode to the idea of school vouchers, a plan to allow families what amounted to publicly funded scholarships so their children could leave the public schools and attend private ones.
You could make a strong argument that the current campaign against public schools started with that single TV episode. To make the case for vouchers, free-market conservatives, corporate strategists, and opportunistic politicians looked for any way to build a myth that public schools were failing, that teachers (and of course their unions) were at fault, and that the cure was vouchers and privatization.
Jonathan Kozol, the author and tireless advocate for public schools, called vouchers the “single worst, most dangerous idea to have entered education discourse in my adult life.”
It takes such gall and hubris to demonize the best of us: Those who dedicate their lives to the human service of publicly educating our children.
Here’s a passage from what passes as a “textbook” in a closed Texas school system. If this is what kids are being taught today, then our entire nation is doomed as we become a slave state of non-free thinkers.
There’s also a great movement to recalibrate student loans for higher learning — not to make them more convenient or more affordable — but rather to drastically reduce their availability, all in the name of “future employment” and not on future need of a full and rounded society.
In a recent LinkedIn comments stream for one of my updates, I posted this reply to a commenter:
Helmar, you are absolutely right, and we need to value comprehension and learning much more than we do. We can’t needs test student loans based on some future employment prediction as some conservatives are demanding. If you qualify to get into a school, you should immediately qualify for whole cloth student aid.
The world needs big thinkers, but the powerbroker majority prefer followers to independent thought. New ideas upset the old applecart and the world takes on a precarious edge as we tumble back into antiquity because we were too scared as a people to challenge current thoughts and memes and transform them into a new meaning that advances a whole people and not just the enriched few.
A return to the slave class is precisely what’s behind this “reform the public schools” agenda. Drain the tax money to pay for private charter school vouchers; disallow free access to student loans; break the teacher’s union so there will be no tenure or employment protection for sharing big ideas; replace facts and figures with “close your eyes and pray” mandates — and you rather quickly have a generation or two of followers who do as they are told and act as they never must in order to please their billionaire overlord oligarchs who preserve all the freedoms and free market thinking for them and their ilk of the other one percenters.
The big money doesn’t want us thinking or voting or going to school. They want us stupid and praying and obeying and working in fields of their choosing; but the choice, for now, at least, is still yours.
What sort of America do you want?
Do you want freedom and equality for everyone, or for only the encrusted few?
You need to vote for, and work for, your best interests, and not just for the faith-based beliefs of others who purport to tell you how think and what to feel and whom to believe.