Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, August 19th, 2013.

The Republican War on Smarts

Obama Administration

It’s no secret that the Right wants to dismantle public education and replace it with a for-profit, private education system. They may not all admit that’s the plan, but the plan is too obvious to ignore.

At Salon, Aaron Kase writes about what the governor of Pennsylvania is doing to his state’s schools.

On Thursday the city of Philadelphia announced that it would be borrowing $50 million to give the district, just so it can open schools as planned on Sept. 9, after Superintendent William Hite threatened to keep the doors closed without a cash infusion. The schools may open without counselors, administrative staff, noon aids, nurses, librarians or even pens and paper, but hey, kids will have a place to go and sit.

The $50 million fix is just the latest band-aid for a district that is beginning to resemble a rotting bike tube, covered in old patches applied to keep it functioning just a little while longer. At some point, the entire system fails.

Things have gotten so bad that at least one school has asked parents to chip in $613 per student just so they can open with adequate services, which, if it becomes the norm, effectively defeats the purpose of equitable public education, and is entirely unreasonable to expect from the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

The needs of children are secondary, however, to a right-wing governor in Tom Corbett who remains fixated on breaking the district in order to crush the teachers union and divert money to unproven experiments like vouchers and privately run charters. If the city’s children are left uneducated and impoverished among the smoldering wreckage of a broken school system, so be it.

Do read the whole thing; it’s mind boggling. And, obviously, this boils down to (a) busting unions and (b) turning education over to profit-seeking interests. But there’s another reason, too.

Do read Bill Keller’s op ed, “War on the Core.” It’s about the right-wing backlash to the Core Curriculum.

The backlash began with a few of the usual right-wing suspects. Glenn Beck warned that under “this insidious menace to our children and to our families” students would be “indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology.”

(Beck also appears to believe that the plan calls for children to be fitted with bio-wristbands and little cameras so they can be monitored at all times for corporate exploitation.)

Beck’s soul mate Michelle Malkin warned that the Common Core was “about top-down control engineered through government-administered tests and left-wing textbook monopolies.” Before long, FreedomWorks — the love child of Koch brothers cash and Tea Party passion — and the American Principles Project, a religious-right lobby, had joined the cause. Opponents have mobilized Tea Partyers to barnstorm in state capitals and boiled this complex issue down to an obvious slogan, “ObamaCore!”

(As I understand it, the Core was agreed upon by a consortium of educators in several states. Work began during the Bush administration. The Core does not prescribe what children are taught. Instead, it sets standards for what children ought to know, but leaves it to the states to decide how to get there. For example, it might say that third graders ought to be able to read a story and describe the characters, but it does not dictate what stories the children are supposed to read.)

Weighing in on Keller’s column, Paul Krugman says ,

Now, you might argue that the leaders are catering to their base. Brad DeLong likes to remind us of John Stuart Mill’s dictum:

I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.

Even that, however, doesn’t get you all the way there, because there are many things one could pretend to be stupid about, so you need to have some notion of why certain subjects become the subject of dumb conspiracy theories, while others don’t. And I think that the best model is, as I said the other day, the Corey Robin notion that it’s about preserving hierarchy. The idea of a common core disturbs a lot of people on the right not because they fear that it will lead to left-wing indoctrination — it’s far too bland for that — but because it could get in the way of right-wing indoctrination, which is what they believe schools should be doing.

And Corey Robin says,

After decades of “compassionate conservatism,” “a thousand points of light,” and “Morning in America,” dark talk of class warfare on the right can seem like a strange throwback. So accustomed are we to the sunny Reagan and the populist Tea Party that we’ve forgotten a basic truth about conservatism: It is a reaction to democratic movements from below, movements like Occupy Wall Street that threaten to reorder society from the bottom up, redistributing power and resources from those who have much to those who have not so much. With the roar against the ruling classes growing ever louder, the right seems to be reverting to type.

Do read all of Corey Robin, too. The article explains a lot.

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