Saturday, April 02, 2005

Saving Public Education--Saving Democracy -

This article comes from Susan Ohanian's site. Susan's site is a great resource for all kinds of links to information on the current attacks on public school education in this country. She often publishes articles and papers that come out on her site first. I plan on writing about two of these in the next few days. This is the first.

This article is food for thought and though it is addressed to the alternative press, there are some important ideas here for us all to ponder.

"...As Thomas Jefferson observed, the health of democracy depends on an educated and informed citizenry..."

"...The strongly bi-partisan No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) has...Insidious policy implications. In the first place, this legislation set ridiculously high standards that simply defied common sense. NCLB requires schools and teachers to insure that all students perform at or above grade level within a three year-period. This outrageous requirement includes children with learning disabilities and behavioral disorders no matter how profound. By definition, then – getting these kids to perform at grade level, NCLB holds teachers accountable for doing what medical science has never accomplished; namely, curing mental retardation...NCLB sets impossible standards for a reason. Public access to institutions of learning helps promote the levels of critical civic activism witnessed during the 1960s and 70s that challenged the power of the state and the corporations that it primarily serves. The current reform environment creates conditions where public schools can only fail, thus providing "statistical evidence" for an alleged need to turn education over to private companies in the name of "freedom of choice." In combination with the growing corporate monopolization of the media, these reforms are part of a longer-range plan to consolidate private power's control over the total information system, thus eliminating avenues for the articulation of honest inquiry and dissent...While both the media and schools function as major institutions in the dissemination of knowledge, information, and ideas, the mainstream media will continue to be privately owned and operated. Therefore, the public will always find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to influence their editorial policies. Public schools, on the other hand, are public. That is, insofar as they continue to be operated under public control, the public can wield considerably more influence over the policies that impact the educational practices within public education than it can ever hope to wield over the corporate media. This, in our view, offers the best explanation for the growing movement to privatize schools. Privatization would effectively transfer the control of schools from public hands to corporate hands..."

"...We want to believe that public schools serve us, the public, “We, the people.” We want to believe that schools strengthen our democracy, our ability to meaningfully participate in the decision-making processes that impact our communities and our lives. Educational resources need to be directed towards increasing people’s awareness of the relevant facts about their lives, and to increase people’s abilities to act upon these facts in their own true interests. For the past twenty years, however, significant efforts have been made to resurrect a statist view of schools that treats teachers as mere appendages to the machinery of the state and seeks to hold them accountable to serving the interests of state and corporate power. Linked as it is to the interests of private wealth, this view defines children’s value in life as human resources and future consumers...We believe that students should not be thought of as a potential market or as consumers, but as future citizens..."

There is a lot more here, some you may or may not agree with, but the above is the core of what I believe the authors are saying. We are educating citizens not consumers or human resources. This is why we must always work to give all children the best education we can, but NCLB and all that it stand for and is attached to, is not the way.

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