War on Public Education

I’ve been observing what appears to be a nation-wide war on public education, and to the “greedy” schoolteachers who profit by being employed therein.

In state after state we see education budgets being cut and teachers being laid off, along with movements to voucher children to private schools, and to replace Public Schools with so-called Charter Schools, which are privately operated schools paid for with taxpayer money. (Some charter schools are founded by teachers, parents, or activists who feel restricted by traditional public schools. State-authorized charters are often established by non-profit groups, universities, and some government entities. Additionally, school districts sometimes permit corporations to manage chains of charter schools. The schools themselves are non-profit entities…Wikipedia)

This “War” is driven by certain Conservative and Libertarian leaning folks who espouse an anti-government agenda, seeking Norquist’s Utopia where the government becomes so small that you can drown it in a bathtub. They deplore any kind of enterprise unless somebody is making a profit from it. They derogatorially refer to public education as “Government Schools” evoking images of Soviet style institutions as well as the schools established in both the USA and Canada to “civilize” Native Americans.

I was prompted to write this because of a recent LTE in the Reformer. The author stated that “there is no evidence to support the notion that private schools lead the way in educational effectiveness. Recent large scale research comparing public and private schools indicate public schools are equally or more effective at producing academic achievement than private schools.” ( Kristina Naylor, April 4).

I can vouch for that.

Full disclosure: except for the first grade, I never set foot inside a Public School. I got a good education and was able to gain entry to one of the finest Engineering schools in the country. I was convinced that this was a result of my private education.

This changed in my freshman year when I encountered a kid on campus from my home town. I knew he had gone through the public school system. He was in the same department as I was, but he wasn’t in any of my classes. I inquired how come?

He replied that he had “exempted” his whole freshman year by virtue of having taken all the required courses in his public high school before entering college. I was astounded. My school offered none of them. I was taking Calculus I. He was taking Calculus III. This was a humbling experience.

Naylor further stated that “…former Bush education under-Secretary Diane Ravtich has changed her school reform position. She now believes the voucher programs she initiated to move more children to charter/private schools are “disrupting our communities, dumbing down our schools and undermining our public schools.”

It’s not my intention to disparage private or charter schools. Many of them are doing a superb job. However, I wish to dispel the notion that public schools are inherently inferior, and that we need to replace them.

The “War on Public Schools” like similar “Wars on___________” is bogus and needs to be ended ASAP.

Comments | 7

  • now and then

    The kids I met at college who had gone to private schools had two things we public school kids seemed to lack – money and connections.

    The money was their family money and could be in the range of upper middle class to seriously wealthy. One student I knew had her name on a popular museum in Washington, DC, for example.

    The connections came from the private schools. I showed up on campus knowing no one. Private school kids showed up and went to friends rooms to hang out. Some had been together at boarding schools for years. The chatted and joked about previous years together in class, dorms, on trips, and so on.

    At the time, I felt that they had gotten a better education than I had in high school, but I blamed that more on pretty lousy Florida high school. I may have just felt intimidated. It took a year before I felt like I had “caught up” with my private school friends.

    But this was all before national standardized tests determined public school funding. We’ve had a decade of this now, and I’m not see in a generation of extra-smart public schools students emerging from this system. It doesn’t seem to be doing anything remarkable. If I were Education King, I’d ditch No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top for any number of better experiments.

    I dislike the testing so much that if I had school age kids, I’d seriously consider finding an alternative to public schools. Not for better teachers, but for teachers not under the standardized test incentive system. I’d want my teachers now to be more like the ones I had growing up, charged with getting us from A to B, but letting them decide the route.

    But then, of course, I’d also feel bad taking my kids out of a school system that should be working just fine.

    Tough issue for parents.

  • War on Education

    It seems to me that the public are being systematically stripped of everything our forebears fought to win for themselves and posterity. And we can point to “economic conservatives” (a misnomer if ever there was one) as the designers of the downfall of our society.

    • Chained CPI

      – Mark this day. For the first time in history, a Democratic president has officially proposed to cut the Democratic Party’s signature New Deal program, Social Security:
      “President Obama next week will take the political risk of formally proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his annual budget in an effort to demonstrate his willingness to compromise with Republicans and revive prospects for a long-term deficit-reduction deal, administration officials say.
      It’s Official-Obama Proposed to Cut Social Security: By Digby April 05, 2013 “Information Clearing House”

      • Supposedly

        Obama made this deal to save the lousy watered-down healthcare.

      • Noted

        And so we march straight backwards toward Industrial Revolution times. How do we fight this?

        • Speak up

          Ok, I have an idea, a really simple one: what if we all say “NO” really loud together. I mean, just say no, dammit. 😉

          Methinks the people are being way too quiet in the face of all this. A few brave souls dare to speak out, in channels like this one and others. But too many of us seem to be waiting for someone else to fix it for us. My question is: why should anyone fix it for us if we aren’t even willing to say we’re upset, that we’re “mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”

          People always say “what can I do?” Well, you don’t have to just lie there on the ground and let them crush you. You could at least “go down fighting.” Which is what I want America to do — fight back in the simplest, most non-violent way possible which is to speak up. That’s all. Write your congressman, your cousin, tell your friend, disagree with your uncle. You don’t have to protest officially at a public gathering even. Just make sure everyone you know knows where you stand. On social security, for instance, you could say: I’m absolutely against cuts to social security and I will not vote for anyone who cuts it. Then, if they do what you asked them not to do, don’t vote for them the next time. It’s a small thing, but if everyone does it…..

          • what if we all say "NO" really loud together.

            Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed discontent at cutting Social Security but the option remains on the table. Robert Naiman suggests the 99% escalate their interest in the matter to have their voices heard against the 1% making the budget decisions.
            “What if we all looked each other in the eye and made a pact: every Senator and Representative, Democrat or Republican, who supports cutting Social Security and veterans’ benefits by imposing the “ChainedCPI” cut is going to face a primary challenge. We’ll do everything we can to recruit the richest and famous and most popular people to do it. But if we can’t recruit the rich and the famous and the popular to do it, we’ll do it ourselves. We’ll pledge to do whatever we can to support the challengers: get them on the ballot, turn out the vote. It is a fact that it’s extremely difficult to defeat incumbents in primaries, but it is not impossible. Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman. Carol Mosely Braun defeated Alan Dixon. But beyond that, to compel an incumbent to face a primary challenge is to IMPOSE A REAL COST ON THEM, regardless of whether they are defeated. And therefore, a primary challenge answers a key question: how can we impose a cost on incumbents for backing the agenda of the 1%, instead of the agenda of the 99%?”

            Dave Lindorff has a slightly different, but equally intriguing suggestion
            “A great answer to this would be to CREATE A THIRD PARTY THAT HAS A LASER-LIKE FOCUS ON A SINGLE HUGE ISSUE, WHERE THERE IS LITTLE OR NO ROOM FOR DEBATE OVER WHAT THE PARTY STANDS FOR. As it happens, there is such an issue, and it has the potential to decimate the two major parties by pulling support from both their bases. Social Security is without a doubt the most popular program ever created in Washington. Social Security and its more recent offspring, Medicare, are both under threat by the Democratic/Republican duopoly in Washington. with the Democratic president now proposing a budget that would cut Social Security benefits and Medicare funding.
            . Virtually every American pays into it and expects to rely on it in old age, or if he or she becomes disabled. There are currently 54 million people who are receiving Social Security benefits ( 39 million are 65 or older, and 8 million are disabled). And there are some 74 million Baby Boomers — people born between the years of 1946 and 1964, representing one-in-four of all Americans — who will be receiving it over the next several decades. Add to that number the many younger people who are ardent advocates of the program, not just because they expect to also depend upon it, but because they know it is providing already for their parents and grandparents, and you have a bloc of voters and potential voters the likes of which this nation has never seen.The key to getting them all together is establishing a political party whose raison d’être is preserving, improving and expanding Social Security benefits.:
            THE WAY FORWARD IS A SINGLE-ISSUE SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENSE PARTY http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1665

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