First They Came for the Children
by Paul A. Moore
As far back as 1950, the iconic University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman wrote in his book Capitalism that “The privatization of schooling would produce a new highly active and profitable industry.” Friedman is the ideological godfather of today’s assault on the public school system across the country.
From the world’s richest human being Bill Gates to the world’s most powerful corporate entity Wal-Mart and the Walton Family Foundation to the billionaire mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, the enemies of public education can dip into a bottomless well of money to execute their mission. They carry political leaders around in their pockets like so much loose change. The President of the United States and the governors of Florida, California, Texas and New York are just a few who belong to their “destroy disguised as reform” movement.
Our nation’s history recalls public education as a partner of the abolition of slavery in a grand post-Civil War experiment in expanded democracy. Their dream is to arrest and reverse this expansion. They are men unsated by billions in profits plying young people with X-Boxes, iPods, Big Macs, Air Jordans, cell phones, Sprite, MTV, and B.E.T. They want their cake and they want to eat it too. Their appetite includes the transfer of billions of dollars in annual public school funding into their own pockets. They will have a downsized and exclusive for-profit school system to train and educate only the children created in their own image and likeness.
But the American people’s deep reverence for equal opportunity stands between the privateers and their mission. For that reason their designs must be concealed behind the façade of education reform and the smokescreen of school choice. Genuine reforms like class-size reduction and increased teacher salaries are violently opposed. The principle of increasing budgetary outlays to build a more effective homeland defense does not seem to apply to public education. Instead they employ weapons of mass deception that include voucher programs, merit or performance pay plans for teachers, charter schools, and canards like the so-called “65% solution”.
Then there is the most potent weapon in their arsenal—standardized testing. They bludgeon 9 and 10-year-old children, parents, teachers, administrators, elected school boards and whole school districts with it. You failed! You are a failure! You are failing! Yours is an F-school! Strange how something so uplifting is confined to the public schools but testing is for public schools only! Start testing the pre-teen child in the third grade. Keep testing every year until the schools become testing factories and then testing sweatshops where children labor to no useful end. The music, art, dance, theater, physical education and vocational classes are for private schools. Recess and field trips are for rich kids!
With these tools they have battered public schools as Hurricane Katrina did the Gulf Coast. The ensuing New Orleans-style exodus has transformed those schools into America’s Superdome. Huddled inside now are the mostly Black, Latino and white children of poor and working-class parents. Their broken bodies and spirits will be found amid the wreckage after the very idea of universal public education has been demolished.
Paul C. Moore teaches at Carol City High School in Miami, Florida
Paul C. Moore
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