Here’s The Plan, Stan….

Here’s The Plan, Stan.

What’s the plan? Well, here’s how we do it. First we make sure we cut as much from public school budgets as we can without actually closing them. Then we hire a bunch of consultants from out of state who have the right political credentials to pronounce that the schools are dysfunctional and must be privatized in order to “save” them.

This scenario reminds me of a television news report I watched during the Vietnam war. The correspondent was lying in a ditch with an Army officer as bullets and artillery rounds whistled overhead. Every once in a while a helicopter gunship would spray machine gun fire and at least two aircraft swooped in overhead and dropped napalm. All the ordnance was impacting on what appeared to be a tiny village in the near distance. The cameraman was reacting to the explosions as the camera and image jumped around. The correspondent and the officer were lying on their backs and the microphone was placed in the officer’s face with the question: “What’s going on here, what’s the plan?” The reply was cool, calm and entirely without irony as is to be expected from a combat hardened trooper: “Well, we’re going to have to destroy this village in order to save it.”

Here we are, in 2011, destroying public education in order to “save” it. That’s the plan, Stan. We are at it again. The Bush-initiated No Child Left Behind scam is working its magic and schools all over the US are flunking the test. Teachers in Atlanta, Georgia, have been caught cheating the test results to make it look as though their students were actually passing the national exams; 178 teachers and administrators were named in the report!  Florida is often held up as a place where students have improved but, in fact, their students still perform below national averages, so why is experience in Florida held up as a qualification to run a school system? Another question: Why is the charter school held up as a paragon? In Los Angeles the charter school faculty turnover rate is 50% per school year! One teacher described the situation thus; “By the time students graduated from my school, there was not a single teacher who had been there the whole time.” Then there are the demeaning lotteries for placement in charter schools, schools funded with public money. Watch the film “Waiting for Superman” online at http://www.waitingforsuperman.org/  to see how the charter school system works and then ask if you would want to place you child in this scene.

THE WAR ON PUBLIC EDUCATION

The working assumption here is that schools exist because society deems it important and necessary to educate children. And this is why schools should be left out of the political agenda where they seem now to occupy a central position. One has to wonder why someone like Jeb Bush would be touring the country advocating for policies that, in the end, will only damage the educational process. I have long wondered why political conservatives of a certain class (wealthy, privileged, politically influential) have such a fixation on schools and schooling. It is most certainly not because they have the welfare of children in mind. Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas, now a presidential possibility, is cutting $4 billion from the Texas school budget! In New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie attempted to cut $800 million from that state’s education budget but is being challenged by the courts and the story in Michigan is pretty much the same. Along with the usual budget cuts, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Walker, encouraged by billionaires with no apparent connection to public education, has added disenfranchising teacher’s unions to the agenda.

When the same attacks are happening across the country one doesn’t have to be paranoid to question what the “real” agenda is. Here is a comment from the  BuzzFlash on the blog site Truthout on Friday 17 June 2011 from a reader named Mario:

“This is really an assault on the working class. A good education is the first step towards upward social mobility. An ignorant populace (the Republican dream) is one that is easier to control and convince.

The BuzzFlash editor, Mark Karlin, added:

This will result in a caste system that will create not a “free market,” but a relatively closed one. Wealth and economic well-being then become not a result of ingenuity, education and entrepreneurialism, but rather of family inheritance. This is also called a fossilized economy.

The Objectives – The Cruel Myth of Privatization.

The first and foremost objective of the school privatization activists will be the elimination of teachers unions. The next objective they will seek to achieve will be greater social control of students and the composition of school population by social class distinction. Poor kids will go to poor-kids schools and well-off -kids will go to well-off-kids schools. The net result will be even greater social polarization, even greater alienation and much less commitment to the whole of society – a parlous path to the future to say the least. The privatization of schools has more to do with greed than altruistic feelings about improving education for all. It is about social control as well.

Adding to this dismal vision of the future are billionaires hiring politicians and lawyers to lobby for privatizing public education. Why? Not because they want to improve education for the masses but because they smell a profit. What then if they are successful? What happens to those who cannot or will not pay? Kids who are barely educated now, who come from homes where parents are indifferent or discouraged will certainly be excluded. That scenario obviously becomes a portrait of disenfranchisement, disillusionment and, worst of all alienation. At least when kids are in school they are exposed to adults who are caring and invested in preparing young people for a life in society, imperfect though it may be. As a result of the press for privatization the US will find itself with an alienated underclass with no commitment to a common social contract. We will become a society that puts a price on everything and knows the value of nothing – especially people.

This essay also appears at: NMPolitics.net

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