Vote For EducationBy
It bothers me that in this Presidential contest, education is not out there as one of the “big issues”. In North Carolina it is and the issue will be justifiably on voters minds when they go into the booth. The Republicans in the State Legislature have made it their goal to continue cutting funding for education statewide, while at the same time working to create incentives and rules that will allow private education alternatives to flourish, hopefully, in their thinking to eventually replace publicly funded education altogether.
Some, like our own Tim Moffitt, are on record against education in general. It’s a curious position to take.
With that in mind it seems impossible that everyone who feels that privatization is the way to go can possibly be looking to make a profit on it, so how does the GOP and those corporate interests bring the rest along? What is the draw?
For that they have the finely crafted Republican messaging system, that multi-layered line of crap that they feed the true believers. It enables a whole menu of ways to embrace the plan to kill Education.
For some of course, it is strictly about budget. This country embraced the policy of “No Child Left Behind” under George Bush because it was cheap. Cheaper than paying teachers enough to make it a worthwhile career goal, cheaper than paying for adequate buildings, books, computers and equipment, and the support it takes to really engage the minds of young people instead of setting up over-crowded, glorified day-care centers dedicated to nothing more than keeping the kids out of jail and off the streets until they reach maturity, or until the clock strikes three at least. (Interestingly, this was the plan put in place while the Republican Administration of Bush was busy spending historic budget surpluses on wars of choice and irresponsible tax cuts for rich people.)
Education funding has been made into a lottery in which the competition for money, including salaries, raises and bonuses for teachers and administrators alike requires a focus on nothing but the scores on the tests. This system was tailor made to create the situation we now have around the country. The energy it takes to compete with other schools for dollars, students and staff is energy that could be going towards educating children.
For others the problem with Education is cultural. It has been shown over the course of history that education has a liberalizing effect on societies. Fully educated people are by and large less apt to subscribe to religious doctrines, and more likely to support some degree of collective action in their government. Makes sense, doesn’t it? To Republicans a well-educated electorate is anathema, because educated people don’t put up with their bullshit. Around the world the most well-educated countries are also the most Liberal. That’s a fact.
You might point to China for instance to try to counter that, but in fact the Chinese system of education is focused on rote learning and the memorization of vast amounts of information. It does not produce original thinkers, and in that respect is not a good system. That is why the innovations that rock the world come from other places, not China. That is why Asian children are brought to this country to go to school. There was an NPR story to that effect only this week. Original research and development requires they be taught to learn and think in original, creative, unorthodox ways and that is not yet part of the system. Interestingly enough, its not part of that system for the same reasons the Republicans don’t like it. It breeds civic involvement, dissent and rebellion. A liberalizing of the society.
And sure, there are very smart Republicans, before you go off on me for exaggerating, but by and large they are in it because they know that there is a payoff. The Koch brothers for example aren’t dumb, they’re evil. That’s the difference. Show me an intelligent, well-educated Republican and I’ll show you a person who is strictly and acutely aware and concerned with his or her own self-interest. The Capitalist philosophical underpinnings of Republican thought have nothing whatsoever to do with what is best for the country as a whole and everything to do with what is possible for the individual willing or able to take advantage of that framework. In fact, most Republican “thinkers” have been twisting reality to fit their philosophy for so long that I seriously believe that no Republican anywhere can see any daylight between their personal self-interest and the interests of the country. They can never imagine that those two concepts do not converge, and coincidentally match exactly what it is that will make them the most money.
But even beyond that, the thing that scares Republicans about education has to do with control.
You see, the Republican system of governing, at a deep philosophical level, at its core requires that the people believe that they cannot govern themselves and that it is necessary that there be an elected (or not) body of very special, very important people who stand above the people and rule according to their own interpretation of law and ethics without much if any oversight or input from the average citizen. The average citizen is not to be trusted. In many ways that is a perfectly justifiable fear. Unmodified raw Democracy looks a lot more like Anarchy than most people are comfortable with.
But, a well-educated nation of aware citizens recognizes that they do not want to give up that much control over their own lives and destiny.
The concept of the Republic has been around since classical Greece, and has been in active use as an organizing principle in very diverse governments pretty much constantly since then.
Democracy, as we understand it today is a much newer invention, and it is the concept of active Democracy, personal Democracy, not the organizing structure of the Republic that was the true innovation in the founding of this country. Except that the concept was almost immediately shunned as too radical, even for the late Enlightenment period. The struggle between Republicanism and Democracy has been going on since well before the Constitution was written.
The relationship between the two can be summed up in one simple declaration: While it is possible to have a Democratic Republic, as we supposedly do, it is not possible in either a strictly literal or philosophical sense to have a Republican Democracy.
Which is why you will occasionally hear some yoo-haa saying that America is not a Democracy, it’s a Republic. They realize there’s a problem and assume that the two terms are mutually exclusive, apparently not recognizing that the inverse of that statement is closer to true. But neither do they understand that the one concept, Democracy, supersedes the other concept, Republicanism. Republicanism is an organizing structure over which can be laid any number of philosophies. To that extent, Communist Russia at its height was a Republic. Democracy on the other hand truly reflects a philosophical point of view, distinct and separate from any organizing principle of governance.
The philosophy of Republicans is not Republicanism, but the philosophy of Democrats is Democracy.
Republicans want the general population to be dumb enough, and limited enough in their choices that they will not question the class stratification that happens when education is only available to those who can afford it. An uneducated population can be easily coerced into military service, if it’s the best or only option left to them. An uneducated population will not question the religious or jingoistic overtones used to keep them in a state of fear and deferred happiness. An uneducated population will support policies detrimental to their own best interests and the health of the nation overall if it’s dressed up in some kind of faux populism and given a slogan that sounds positive and is simple enough to not misspell on a sign.
You know this to be true. The Republican Party, like the Church, depends on the ignorance of it’s supporters in order to control them. Education runs against that, and is therefore to be destroyed, undermined, and polluted with bad information, negative stereotypes and lies. If it makes a few people a few billion dollars too, well there’s your icing on the cake if you happen to be a Republican politician in need of serious campaign cash.
If education in this country works like it’s supposed to, the Republicans won’t be able to find support for their agenda because too many Americans will recognize the cynical self-interest, and see through the flag-waving façade to the class war at it’s core.
So keep your biggest donations and volunteer hours for those in our national contests who will work for and support a full re-instatement of public education as an national imperative. Vote for the candidates this fall who are willing to go on record supporting a fully funded and functioning education system.
Cross-posted from Ascend (of Asheville)