Really? These Public Schools?

I do not support the privatization of public schools.  I am adamantly opposed to the privatization of public schools.  This does not mean that I support public schools as they are or that I do not see legitimate reasons for some wanting alternatives to what public schools offer.   I am one of those who wants alternatives to what the public schools are now and what they have been since I have known of them, repressive institutions that never reflect in the least the democratic principles that students must understand if they are to be effective citizens of a democracy.  Schools, the public schools of the United States of America, to sell a brand in the way commercial advertising so often does, without much reference to meaningful truths, the messages meant to be believed without investigation.

I am in favor of public education because the pubic must be an educated one if sensible decisions are to be made to benefit the whole of the society, all of its people.  That our educational system has not succeeded is evident in the reality that is the American government today and its effect of the whole of the people. Instead of teaching independent thought, the system teaches obedience to authority and willingness to accept authority unquestioningly.  The choice is too often by which authority to abide and only rarely of the kind that reflects deep study of the complexity of issues and the real meaning of the authorities in place and those who might want to replace them.

Multiple choice politics is what we have and the choices are, and have been for a long time, extremely limited and this is because new choices arise when people create them, demand that they be included on the slate.  As in school, in the voting booth, the choices from which one can pick are few when the issues are always so complex as to breed a great many.  Somehow all of the complexity is reduced to a box on a ballot that is filled in with a check and no commentary.  There is some talk before the test but it usually isn’t about truth but, rather, what will happen if one marks the wrong box, how bad things will be but hardly ever about what that is really good and worthwhile will result from the good choice.  Most of our good choices are chosen for us with the details, the meaningful ones withheld and, too often packaged in a bundle of lies and half-truths, even these ignored by those who promise once the vote has been taken.

Schools prepare the American people for a false democracy that functions without revolution because there is so little that needs to be understood to check the box, to decide between answer one or two or three or true or false.  The people make the rules in the same way students make classroom rules, in very limited fashion and of little consequence.  The boundaries are so tight that there is no room for meaningful change.  Things stay the same, in essence, given new names and adjusted sometimes, to appease but rarely to change conditions.  We have, because of our schools, a passive democracy when there can be no thing.

So to those I know who wish to convince people that charters are evil because they pose a threat to public schools, I say spend your time changing the public schools to reflect the needs of a public that has a right to democracy and a democratic right, of necessity, to be able to think for themselves using the best tools available for collecting information and making good sense of it for themselves.  Right now what the charter thing is really about is choice between different forms of indoctrination and that leaves no choice at all for those who understand the importance to meaningful life of independent thought.


By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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