CURMUDGUCATION: Attacking the Public in Public Education:
Attacking the Public in Public Education
Many parts of the attack on US public education have not been subtle or hard to detect. The refrain "our schools are failing" has been so steadily repeated for the past few decades that it is now accepted uncritically, independent of any evidence other than "Hey, I keep hearing people say it, so I guess it must be true." Now we hear it just tossed off as an aside, an assumption-- well, of course, public schools aren't any good.
In addition to attacking the reputation and quality of public schools, we've also heard an unending explicit and implicit attacks on the reputation of our nation's teachers. They're dummies with low SAT scores. They have the worst preparation of any college students. We'd be better off giving an ivy league grad five weeks of training and plunking them in a classroom.
All of these are an attack on the "education" part of "public education," a steady drip, drip, drip that tells us that the system that is supposed to educate is not doing a very good job of educating.
But there has been another steady attack, more subtle but increasingly successful, on the "public" part pf "public education."
The reformster refrain that the money should follow the student is one such attack-- it cuts the public out of the system, removing the voice of any taxpayer who doesn't have a child in school. The whole argument that choice-voucher systems should put all decision-making in the hands of parents makes a foundational assumption that education is not a public good, maintained by the public in the public space in order to deliver benefits to the public. Instead, it re-imagines education as a consumer good, created by a vendor and then handed off to the student while money changes hands. Where education might once have been viewed like air or water or other shared public resources, we're now encouraged to see it like a pizza or a toaster.
We can now start to see some of the side-effects of this view. When a public school is closed these days, it's not necessarily seen as a blow to the community, like the loss of a park or the pollution of CURMUDGUCATION: Attacking the Public in Public Education:
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