Friday, August 19, 2011

School's Out Forever

It is time to stop beating around the bush and start talking about what these people are saying and what their goals are: Many mainstream Republicans want to de-legitimize and deconstruct public education as a concept in the United States of America.

This isn't their sole historical property, mind you. There was a time not so long ago when populist Southern Democratic governors stood in schoolhouse doors and fought public education as well. These are old questions, it is an old fight. And Democrats don't have a very good record of holding political allies responsible for the failing state of many public schools across the land.

That being said, there are two questions that must be asked about public school: Do you think that every child in the United States should be offered the opportunity to obtain a basic education? Do you think a government organization is the most effective way to deliver this basic education to the most possible children?

The current answer from the right wing continues to be "no," and "hell, no." That answer dominates the mainstream Republican Party mindset.

Let's not mince words, those kinds of beliefs are not political non-negotiables. Our own national history has often been built on the fights for universal access to basic education. It often took generations of struggle to reform school policy to include one group or another, or to fund one group the same as any other. Once one goal was acheived, it opened up a new host of problems that had to be addressed, and the political debate continued. That debate never ended, it just changed.

Right now, those answers to those two questions are winning the national debate. They are doing so because any political opposition refuses to accept that those questions make up the heart of the debate.

The current crop of Republicans is out to destroy the concept of public education in the United States of America.

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15 comments:

Dante said...

"The current crop of Republicans is out to destroy the concept of public education as a federal institution in the United States of America."

There, fixed that for you. Don't conflate federal involvement in public education with public education in general. They're not the same thing.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Right, because the Republicans running schools in Georgia and Louisiana aren't factored into my decision. Because reported moves by Republicans running schools in Wisconsin aren't factored into my decision.

Its the same damn thing at local, state, and federal levels. If something supports public education, get rid of it or kneecap it so it can't do its job (so we can get rid of it in the future.)

Dante said...

"Right, because the Republicans running schools in Georgia and Louisiana aren't factored into my decision. Because reported moves by Republicans running schools in Wisconsin aren't factored into my decision."

So then where is the "no" in "Do you think that every child in the United States should be offered the opportunity to obtain a basic education?" based on how Republicans are handling things in Georgia, Louisiana, and Wisconsin? Who in any of those three states is denied opportunity to obtain basic education or where is the proposal to take that opportunity away?

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

In Louisiana - and New Orleans specifically - where some of the most at-risk populations exist, you have to apply to get your children into public schools. Though this is a normal, necessary process in any public school district, additional levels of application are required to get your children into schools that recieve better funding and support from the state. In effect, these processes ensure that the most at-risk students recieve the least amount of access to basic education. This process is set up by individuals appointed by a Republican governor, in a system that was approved and recieves oversight from a Republican state legislature.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

In Georgia, there are some places where Republicans are doing good things to expand access to public education (Glynn County's new vocational high school is a fine example of how to do this).

On the other hand, you have state and national testing standards implemented by Republican governors and a Repubican president that based school funding requirements on test-taking instead of basic education. While some test taking standards are necessary, these assessments have proven insufficient measures time and time again; this is especially true when testing results are considered without taking external factors into consideration.

Finally, there is a fight in Georgia right now where the state can create privately run charter schools, and force local school boards to pay for those charter schools. I would have no problem if the state did this and funded those schools through its own means (without decreasing the locality's normal share), but putting the burden on the local school board stretches that school system's resources where the state has already determined the area is weak enough in basic education to grant a charter to a private contractor.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Reports from Wisconsin include the Republican state governor cutting taxes, creating a budget deficit by doing so, and then attempting to close the budget deficit by cutting education funding.

The Republican legislature and the Republican governor then made it more difficult on communities to raise their own property taxes in order to pay for schools and services.

Dante said...

So in the Louisiana example, the extra paperwork is only necessary to get into a better school? Do the lesser schools not qualify as basic education? (And that's a real question, by he way. I don't know.)

I agree that in the Georgia examples you've mentioned are detrimental to the quality of education but neither removes an individual's access basic to education.

And to be fair, I wouldn't characterize the No Child Left Behind act as a Republican effort. It passed the House 384-45-4 and the Senate 87-10-3. It was hardly a partisan effort and even included some high-profile support from Ted Kennedy. In hindsight, I believe it was a mistake for the reasons you mentioned but that mistake hasn't taken anyone's access to basic education away from them.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Do the lesser schools not qualify as basic education? (And that's a real question, by he way. I don't know.)

Hell, some of the better schools I wouldn't qualify as basic education, relatively speaking. We're talking classrooms of students without teachers, textbooks, or desks; no institutional control on the part of some administrations; and places with computer based curriculum without working computers.

As far as Georgia is concerned, if you hit at-risk schools with at-risk students in at-risk systems with unfunded mandates or additional operating costs, that limits a child's access to basic education by lowering the bar on "basic."

And while I wouldn't consider NCLB a simply GOP effort, they've dominated the implementation of this, especially in the South. As far as high-stakes testing limiting access, in my experience and opinion, it is a limiting factor as it A) stresses school system resources B) prevents students from recieving additional instruction (social studies and science classes get cut) and C) prevents students from advancing to other subjects without adequately addressing why they are failing at previous subjects.

patsbrother said...

I'm fine with people bashing presidential candidates, but you're hocking a narrative by citing to someone who doesn't fit it.

You cite to an article about Michele Bachmann in support of your assertion that the Republican party answers "no" on whether every child in America should be offered the opportunity to obtain a basic education. I believe citing Rep. Bachmann for that proposition is hogwash.

Few politicians say things under oath. Here is what Mrs. Bachmann said under oath, as cited in an article in the New York Times ("Roots of Bachmann's Ambition Began at Home," June 21, 2011).

"By the late 1990s, with her own children enrolled in private Christian schools, Mrs. Bachman was upset by the education her foster children were getting in public school. Teachers gave them “little special attention,” and many were “placed in lower-level classes, as if they were not expected to succeed,” she told a House subcommittee in 2007.

"One brought home “an 11th-grade math assignment that involved coloring a poster,” she testified. Another “spent an entire week watching movies.” A third “remarked to me once that she was in ‘stupid people math.’ ” "

In order to support your narrative that Republicans don't think that every child should be able to get a basic education, you cite to a Republican who got into politics because she believed children not her own weren't being given ENOUGH of an opportunity for a quality education.

Step back for a second and consider that both you and Mrs. Backmann both consider public education lackluster, both want the same thing, but have reached different conclusions on how to resolve that problem.

patsbrother said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/us/politics/22bachmann.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ref=michelembachmann

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Yes. And her "solution" is to defund and dismantle any system that does not allow for exclusionary religious views.

That article cites Bachmann sending her children to a charter school that took public money and where:

"teachers complained to her that they could not teach “Native American spirituality” or even yoga, and that one who wanted to show the Disney movie “Aladdin” was told she could not because it involved magic.

“Christian teaching was allowed,” Ms. Stephens said, “but any other faith was banned.”


Bachmann then left the school when the state suggested they display tolerance of other religions to keep their charter. That leads me to conclude that, in government office, she would support the establishment of schools that base their curricula and entry requirements on specific exclusionary religious grounds.

This is the exact opposite of collective resources providing the opportunity of a basic education for all children, as it discriminates based on religious beliefs.

patsbrother said...

Here were are at the "different conclusions" part, yet still the fact remains that Mrs. Bachmann puts the lie to your ridiculous narrative that Republicans want to end universal educational opportunities.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

One conclusion seeks educational opportunities for all regardless of religion. The other seeks to force religious restrictions on educational opportunities. Bachmann falls on a specific side of that question.

You can see them as equivalent if you like, but they are not.

patsbrother said...

Mrs. Bachmann actually wants local control over curriculum and her prior actions reflect that. Nothing she has ever done indicates that she would impose any restrictions on schools nationwide (as the federal government has done, which is one of her primary complaints).

Nevertheless, your central ass-hat point was that Republicans such as Mrs. Bachmann wanted to do away with universal education, which is flat out wrong. (And convenient for demonizing those you disagree with!)

Someone wanting better universal education with curriculum (including religious influences) to be decided at the local level DOES NOT conflict with universal education, and is THE OPPOSITE of what you said they want. Again, Republicans such as Mrs. Bachmann do not oppose universal education, they merely have reached a different conclusion about how best to go about it than you have.

Had your complaint been that Republicans oppose universally religion-free education, we would not be having this discussion. But it wasn't, so we are.

Although you will go on about false narratives ad infinitum (and complain when someone elides the issue in response to a critique of those narratives), you do not seem to hold yourself to a higher standard at all. You made up crap to make yourself sound better, and it was wrong. Accept it, and if you want, start a new thread complaining about how Republicans like Mrs. Bachmann want universal education which allows localities to control curriculum (inclusive of religious influences).

And please note you will not receive a complaint from me, as I oppose forced religious experiences as part of compulsory education. However, I'm not a big enough ass-hat to say that those who support it (i.e., those who disagree with me) oppose universal education, or to specifically malign someone who is on record as saying that universal education isn't doing enough.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Mrs. Bachmann actually wants local control over curriculum and her prior actions reflect that.

Local institutions have control over curriculum, structure, and funding of public schools at the School Board, State Department of Education, and State Legislative levels. At any time, they may opt out of many Federal education policies by refusing to accept Federal dollars. If it were that simple, she'd never need to leave the state.

But they cannot escape Federal laws, or the establishment clause.

What Bachmann wants is the Federal government to stop interfering with locals when they take public funds to pay for private religious education. That is not consistent with giving every child an opportunity to achieve a basic education.

What she also wants are the votes she can get, nationally, if she falsely claims that the Federal government is somehow at fault for her state's local public school failures.