Monday, March 25, 2013

Public education is being wrecked - against the intentions of the republic's Founders

Regular readers are aware by now that I have a fondness for Founding Fathers. It simply amazes and annoys me to no end that most liberals and progressives have accepted the silly quasi-Marxist interpretation of the creation of the American republic as an extended power play by greedy old white men interested only in preserving and protecting their private property. That allows the wrong-wing to make the otherwise implausible claim that they wear the mantle of original patriotism, when nothing could be farther from the truth. A good example of this problem is what's now happening to education in the USA. A bunch of greedy old white men, who truly are greedy old white men, are absolutely destroying public education and trying to privatize education so they can make even more money (like they don't have enough already). Well, teacherken on DailyKos points to education blogger Diane Ravitch, who pointed to Louisiana blogger Crazy Catfish for what Ravitch termed "the most brilliant post of the day." The post which is the subject of all this pointing is titled "A Confederacy of Reformers," and it goes through how public education is being systemically dismantled. Here's Crazy Catfish's paragraph headings, to give you a flavor. It's a list of what's going wrong:
  • Intentionally Flawed Teacher Evaluation Systems
  • Vouchers and Charter Schools are better for “Choice” although not a better choice
  • It’s Okay to segregate our schools by class, race, disability as long as we claim to be doing it “for the children”
  • Student data is a commodity that can be handed over to private entities as long as they claim it is for an educational purpose
  • History and Science are negotiable and can be rewritten to suit conservative agendas
  • Virtual Schools with virtually no attendance compliance, or any compliance, and universally poor track records for preparing students are exploding in every education market
  • Teach for America has been converted into a temp teacher displacement and replacement organization
  • It’s better to close schools and spread the students around to higher performing schools to mask the problem.
And here's the final paragraph, which I think is the best summary I've seen in years of what's actually going on:
What I am seeing is a purposeful plot to destroy public schools, and to profit from the destruction. These folks say they are data conscious and want to rely on “data driven decisions” but if that were true the data already readily available shows that everything they are doing is having the opposite effect of what they are purporting to provide. There is too much coordination for this to be accidental, and they are too successful for me to believe they are simply not competent enough to understand the data that disproves everything they claim. These groups have gone out of their way to spin the data, falsify the data, or simply hide or destroy the data to prevent people from seeing what is going on. These groups are fully aware of what they are doing – destroying public education in our country. Some of them are doing it purely for profit driven motives....
What I always think is missing in critiques like this is a reference to the Founders and the importance they placed on education. Because it provides a stark and I think illuminating contrast to what USA elites are doing, and what they should be doing as measured by the idea of statesmanship in a self-governing republic.
Of all the amazing things he accomplished, John Adams took the most pride in the Constitution he wrote for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Here is Chapter V, Section II:
Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates in all future periods of this commonwealth to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them, especially the university at Cambridge, public schools, and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings, sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.
And, I love the last sentence in this extract from John Adams' 1765 A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law
The poor people, it is true, have been much less successful than the great. They have seldom found either leisure or opportunity to form a union and exert their strength; ignorant as they were of arts and letters, they have seldom been able to frame and support a regular opposition. This, however, has been known by the great to be the temper of mankind; and they have accordingly labored, in all ages, to wrest from the populace, as they are contemptuously called, the knowledge of their rights and wrongs, and the power to assert the former or redress the latter. I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government, - Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws - Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe….  Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers…. The preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of all the rich men in the country.
I think using these quotes is how you show that the people today who are trying to privatize education are doing the exact opposite of what was intended under the idea of promoting the general welfare.

1 comment:

  1. Thom Hartmann has been all over this myth that the founders wrote a constitution for the benefit of their wealth.