In Defense of Public Education

November 27, 2016

All of the public schools in the United States of America, from kindergarten through doctoral programs in higher education, should be free of charge and open to anyone with sufficient intellectual curiosity and merit.

 

Instead, the Republican establishment has doubled down on school privatization efforts, and our president-elect looks as if he will continue this form of despotism.

 

I admit it: as faculty at a public research university, I have a vested financial interest in preserving public education. Last year’s salary was $58,790, about the same as a fully certified high school teacher in the state of Ohio. Nevertheless, my conflict of interest cannot remotely compare with those of the “reformers” who want to bring profitability into a sphere that cannot function well under for-profit conditions. For-profit operations drive up costs for the consumer, while driving down quality and breaking yet another source of income for our dwindling middle class.

As Diane Ravitch argues:

“There is no evidence for the superiority of privatization in education. Privatization divides communities and diminishes commitment to that which we call the common good. When there is a public school system, citizens are obligated to pay taxes to support the education of all children in the community, even if they have no children in the schools themselves. We invest in public education, because it is an investment in the future of our society.”

We are hardly “cartels,” as Paul Ryan has described us. Google “cartel” and you see the violence of Mexican drug lords. There can be a comparable analogy drawn from when our schools are weak –– students drop out, join questionable organizations, crime increases, and the teachers burn out one way or another. It is, indeed, a crime against American-style democracy to underfund and thereby slowly snuff out the public schools that make democratic thinking and voting possible.

The 21st Century offers too many complex challenges to then have schools and universities abandon their fundamental mandates in favor of religious-tinged “science” or  sub-standard services while corporations make profits.

 

We as a country have foolishly put too many wolves in charge of our hen houses. It is time for us to intervene. Indeed, the future of critical thought and action, of class mobility and non-violent pursuits, in this country depends on it.

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