Why Public-School Education is Dying – Part 3 of 5 Parts

https___cdn.cnn.com_cnnnext_dam_assets_210624164339-01-loudoun-county-public-schools-meeting-0622

In Part 1 of this blog on education, I stated that, “I am going to dive into the major reasons that are leading to the death of public-school education.”  In this part, we will look at the role that our political leaders play in murdering public school education in America.

How our politicians are helping to kill public school education

Kill or murder?  I have used both words to describe what the Right-Wing political faction is trying to do to public school education.  Let me be clear on this point.  The Right-Wing politicians and their cronies in the media are systematically and deliberately trying to destroy public school education and any semblance of a free and open democratic educational system whether it be in kindergarten or in a university.

Liberals in America have always supported at least in a token sense a system of democratic free public-school education.  Their support dwindles when it comes to the university level.  When it comes to eliminating elitism in schools and eliminating anti-intellectual bias, liberals have too often watched from the sidelines when conservatives have been on the attack.  This is to say that conservatives support elitism and anti-intellectualism while liberals twiddle their thumbs and remain silent.

I want to trace a chronological picture of the attack on public education from when I first noticed it up until this past week.  We will start by going back to 1973 when my daughter entered kindergarten.

1973

I was twenty-seven years old and had been married for six years.  We were living in Providence R.I., and I was attending Rhode Island College days and working nights.  My daughter Christy had been in a Montessori School since she was three and my wife was working part-time.  With Christy turning six soon we decided to enroll her in a public school.  Two advantages for us were cost and proximity.  The public school would be free, and it was only a few blocks from where we lived.

I walked down to the public school to see about enrolling Chris.  When I arrived, I was shocked.  The school had broken windows all over and the ones that had been repaired had thick Plexiglas installed inside of windowpanes.  The school yard was full of junk and debris.  The whole place looked like a prison that had just survived a prison riot.  I turned around and went home.  I was never going to send my daughter to this school.  I would sell my soul first.

After some discussion with my wife Julia, we found that our only option was an expensive private school up the “East” side of Providence near Brown University where all the rich people lived.  The school was called Gordon.

The Gordon School is a racially diverse nursery through eighth grade coeducational independent school in East Providence, Rhode Island.  Child by child, the Gordon School community cultivates successful students by inspiring joyful learning, encouraging intellectual leadership, fostering an empathic spirit, and stimulating a drive for positive societal impact.

The tuition at the time was a fortune for us.  We were living in a 3rd floor apartment and paying 75 dollars a month rent.  We budgeted everything including purchasing light bulbs.  The cost for Gordon in 1974 was almost 3 thousand dollars a year.  Currently, the tuition varies by scholarships and financial aid but the web lists Gordon tuition for 2021 as $39,000 a year.  For us, it was either this or send Chris to the dilapidated run-down school I had visited.  Christy went to Gordon for two years until I graduated college.  After graduating with a degree in Health Education, our family moved to a small town in Wisconsin called River Falls.  There Christy was entered into the public school system where she remained until after high school.

At the time, I never made any connection between Republicans and their desire to destroy public school education.  I was pretty radical in my politics, and I voted Socialist Labor, Citizens Party, Green Party and any other party except for Republicans or Democrats.  I did not like conservatives or liberals.  The only thing I was aware of was that teachers were low paid and public schools in the inner cities were severely under-funded.  Things were much better for public education in small towns like River Falls.

1982

I enter a doctorate program at the University of Minnesota in Vocational Education.  I read “Anti-intellectualism in American Life.”  This book was written by Richard Hofstadter in 1963 and in 1964 won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

Here the politician expresses what a large part of the public feels.  The citizen cannot cease to need or to be at the mercy of experts, but he can achieve a kind of revenge by ridiculing the wild-eyed professor, the irresponsible brain truster, or the mad scientist, and by applauding the politicians as they pursue the subversive teacher, the suspect scientist, or the allegedly treacherous foreign-policy adviser.  There has always been in our national experience a type of mind which elevates hatred to a kind of creed; for this mind, group hatreds take a place in politics similar to the class struggle in some other modern societies.”R. Hofstader

school board attacks

After reading Hofstader’s book, I began to see a connection between politics in America and the problems with public education funding.  I still did not see any conspiracy and I just assumed it was a case of prejudice and bias with random attacks against education.

1997

I finished my Ph.D. program in 1986 and had been working with a management consulting firm for seven years before going on my own in 1993.  I was now working part-time as a private consultant and teaching part-time at Metro State University in Minneapolis.  I would drive to school to teach MBA night classes.  On my way to school, I would turn on AM 1440 Patriot Radio and listen to Mike Savage, Hugh Hewitt, Laura Ingraham, and Mike Medved.  They were all extreme right-wing commentators.  I listened to them over four years for two or three nights a week on my commute between White Bear Lake and downtown Minneapolis.

Each one of these commentators were well educated at an American University.  Savage obtained a Ph. D in 1978 from the University of California, Berkeley, in nutritional ethnomedicine.  Hewitt graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a B.A. in government in 1978.  After studying at the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt received his Juris Doctor (JD) degree in 1983.  Ingraham earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1985.  She then attended the University of Virginia School of Law, where she was a notes editor for the Virginia Law Review.  She graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1991.  Medved entered Yale University as a 16-year-old undergraduate. He received his B.A. with honors in 1969, and later attended Yale Law School, though he did not finish his JD degree.

For over four years, I listened to these “scholars” bash educators.  Bash teachers.  Bash universities.  Bash college professors.  On and on each of them would go night after night after night.  Labels and epithets like commies, pinkos, intellectuals, liberals, socialists, subversives, and anti-American were consistently used to denigrate teachers and professors.  It was assumed and even a creed that most universities and schools had a “liberal” orientation.” To these commentators, a liberal orientation was akin to being aligned with Satan.  A liberal was the devil incarnate and was on the side of “god-less communism.”

DSC_0870

More and more I began to understand that the right-wing hated educators, hated free thinking and hated anything that had any vestige of a liberal arts education associated with it.  I still did not see any conspiracy though and I assumed it was simple ignorance and fanatical beliefs that united the Republicans, White-Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and other Right-Wing fanatics.

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”— Thomas Jefferson

2010

I read “The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy” by Joshua Holland.

“We have all grown accustomed to conservative’s conspiracy theories about the corporate media having a far-left bias and college professors indoctrinating American youth into Maoism.”  — J. Holland, 2010

Holland goes on to describe how a cabal of rich right-wing billionaires including the Koch Brothers organized to fund a group of “research centers” such as the Heritage Foundation.  The purpose of these groups was to counter what they saw as a left-wing bias in education and the media.  These groups heralded the start of organized right-wing think tanks to fund laws, bills, newspapers, radio shows and other narratives that would combat liberalism and progressivism in American politics.  These groups would routinely rely on the strategies of Madison Avenue to get their messages across.

masksI began to see more clearly that the right wing was orchestrating a systematic attack against not only universities but also against public school education.  However, it has only been in the last few years that I realized how ubiquitous this assault was.  The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education under Trump was a message that meant the right-wing were more powerful than anyone had yet realized.  The attack on public education is now an all-out assault.

What I still did not see was how the now noticeable decline in public support for American Democracy was highly correlated with the right-wing attack on public education.  The right-wing and their political allies have been undermining public education with a goal to replace it with a system of elite education.  The purpose of right-wing education is to train people not how to think but what to think.  Fundamentalists, technocrats, wealthy elites, corporations, and right-wing politicians see no value in “free-thinkers.”  If you believe Thomas Jefferson, democracy can only survive with people who know how to think and not just what to think.

November 2, 2021

D. Vance, a Republican candidate for Senator of Ohio gave a keynote speech at the National Conservatism Conference (November 2, 2021) titled “The Universities Are the Enemy.” He said:

“I think in this movement of national conservatism, what we need more than inspiration is wisdom.  And there is a wisdom in what Richard Nixon said approximately 40, 50 years ago. He said, and I quote: ‘The professors are the enemy.’”

downloadOn his campaign website, under the heading “Protect Conservative Values,” Vance complains that “hundreds of billions of American tax dollars” get sent to universities that “teach that America is an evil, racist nation.” These universities “then train teachers who bring that indoctrination into our elementary and high schools.”  The speakers and presenters at this conference read like a “who’s who” of Trump loyalists and big lie theorists.

Finally, it is clear to me that a conspiracy or call it a concerted effort exists to defund public schooling, to undermine confidence in public education and to create a system of private for-profit schools or elitist academies that will educate the rich.  The poor will be left where the poor have always been left, at the bottom of the heap.  Democracy will be destroyed, and authoritarians will dictate religion, politics, education, and work rules.  There will be no independent thinking in America since independent thinking and democracy go hand in hand.

MPKRSR4E6RFP7IE6T54PWDZZEI

December 16, 2021

I pick up the local newspaper, the Casa Grande Dispatch to read an article discussing a curriculum debate at a school board meeting.  Seems as though several people are challenging the right of the schools and educators to decide what should be in the curriculum.  Conservative parents and right-wing politicians are increasingly trying to dictate curriculum.  Often their assumptions about education or ill-formed and simply ignorant.  Regard the quote from one of the attendees at this meeting:

Loudoun

“Once this curriculum is in place they will have to teach it, whether they agree with it or not.” Said David Logue, a deacon at Passion Church in Casa Grande.  “Although I don’t have a lot of information on this, I am against it.  It is ungodly.”

This deacon admits that he does not know much about it, but he is “AGAINST IT,” because it is “UNGODLY.”  How can any intelligent person be against something, without even knowing what they are against?  And to call it ungodly?  What in heavens name is “ungodly” curriculum?  Episodes like this are taking place all across the USA and they are not isolated instances.  They are not random happenings.  The right-wing politicians have been fanning the embers of discontent with the public schools in this country for some time now and the results can be seen at school board meetings in every state in the Union.  No one is clamoring for more education about democracy and freedom of speech.  Instead they are screaming because of things they know little or nothing about like Critical Race Theory and Diversity Education.

aCECDqu

December 29, 2021

Republicans eye new front in education wars: Making school board races partisan” by Andrew Atterbury and Juan Perez Jr.  The assault on education today is not just about Critical Race Theory or Diversity Education.  It is a war on school boards to help determine the course of American Politics.  It is not a question of teaching students “how” to think, it is a question of teaching them “what” to think.  Make no mistake, the conservatives and Republican Party want to turn the clock back on history.  They want a one-party majority of white conservative reactionaries.  They have a design for a “white” America free of the influence of minorities, women, the poor and the less educated.  This design is not based on a balanced diet of hopes and dreams and visions of what America could be.  It is not based on any concept of democracy by the people and for the people.  It is based on a unilateral one-sided elitist view of what education is for and who should receive education.

loudoun-county-school-board-3

“There’s still no equality in education,” said Young, a plaintiff in a lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center to keep public money in two Tennessee school districts instead of diverting the funds to unaccountable private schools. “To me, it’s still a form of segregation.” — Weekend Read: 66 years after Brown v. Board, schools across the South still separate and unequal

The problem has been that good liberals and progressives have not realized that a war on education is being waged.  This months Southern Poverty Leadership Report (Winter 2021, Volume 51, Number 4) has an article titled, “Calculated:  The right’s attack on the U.S. education system.”  The words in the title are very appropriate.  The attack is “calculated.”  The battle for school board partisanship is being supported by a coalition of conservative leaders — including representatives of the Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute.

The word “attack” is also appropriate.  We are not talking about reform or change.  Conservatives     want nothing less than the destruction of public-school education.

“Anti-mask efforts are, in essence, anti-public education tactics, a wolf cloaked as libertarian policy designed to devour the public’s fain in public education…. The aim of undermining public education as schools are increasingly gutted of funding and support with each legislative cycle, is to make privatization more appealing than public education.”  Calculated: The right’s attack on the U.S. Education system.

In Summation:

I have given you a chronology of my experiences and insights concerning some of the attacks on public school education by the political right.  I started out by seeing the demise of public-school education due to its paradigmatic inefficiency at meeting the needs of twenty first century students.  Along my journey, I found an all-out political assault on public schools by Republicans and conservatives.  You might think I am being a hypocrite when I condemn the Republicans since I also condemn the current model of public-school education.  However, my solution to providing a democratic education system is very different than what the Republicans want to create.  I will talk more about this difference in the final part of this series on education.

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti

kennedy

John,

I appreciate your observations on trends. As a parent you knew what was best and chose a different school; and today parents want to keep the school and change the curriculum.  Your graphics emphasize each of your points.  Seeing the discontent, the elite provide the alternatives in either charter schools or private schools.  Catholic and other parochial schools, and  religiously affiliated universities were for families who wanted to instill their religious beliefs while educating.  Home education movement does the same.  Again the monetary sacrifice to do so.  The poor have no choice and tolerate what is given in “free”public education. — Socorro 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wayne Woodman
    Jan 09, 2022 @ 20:38:43

    As a somewhat informed Canadian with American friends in the education system there I have a little knowledge of the problems. This is absolutely frightening for the future of this country and I wish you good luck with blunting the growth.

    Like

    Reply

  2. Jane Fritz
    Jan 11, 2022 @ 18:27:03

    😥😥😥😥😥😥😥😥😥😥

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: