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Saturday, June 24, 2023





Have you ever wondered what billionaires do with their money? Well, besides buying islands and gold-plated toilets, some of them have decided to invest in two of the most absurd industries in the world: private armies and charter schools.

Private armies are like the Avengers, but with less spandex and more guns. They are military or paramilitary forces that work for private individuals or organizations, rather than a nation or state. They provide security or combat services to clients who need them, whether they are governments, corporations, or rich people who want to feel like they're in a James Bond movie.

Charter schools are like regular schools, but with more hipsters and less funding. They are public schools that operate independently from traditional public schools. They offer different educational approaches and themes, such as science, technology, arts, language immersion, or Montessori. They operate in urban areas around the country, where they compete with or complement district schools.

What do these two industries have in common? Well, for one thing, they are both dominated by billionaires who see them as profitable ventures and social experiments. For example:

  • - Erik Prince is the founder of Blackwater (now known as Academi), one of the most notorious private military companies in history. He is also the brother of Betsy DeVos, the former Secretary of Education and a staunch advocate of charter schools. Prince has been accused of human rights violations, war crimes, and corruption for his role in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also proposed to privatize the war in Afghanistan by replacing U.S. troops with his mercenaries. He has also invested in charter schools in Michigan and North Carolina, where he has pushed for less regulation and more choice. Because nothing says "education" like a mercenary.
  • - Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world. He is also the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world. He has been a major supporter of charter schools and education reform initiatives, such as Common Core standards and teacher evaluations. He has also funded private military contractors to provide security for his foundation's projects in Africa and Asia. Because nothing says "philanthropy" like an army of mercenaries.
  • - Elon Musk is the founder of Tesla and SpaceX and one of the most influential entrepreneurs in the world. He is also the founder of Ad Astra School, a secretive charter school that he created for his own children and a few others. The school has no grades, no tests, no homework, and no curriculum. Instead, it focuses on problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. Musk has also hired private military contractors to protect his rocket launches and test sites. Because nothing says "innovation" like an army of mercenaries.

These are just some examples of how billionaires are using their wealth and power to shape the world according to their vision. They claim that they are doing this for the greater good of humanity, but critics argue that they are doing this for their own benefit and agenda. They question whether these billionaires have the right or the competence to interfere with matters of war and peace, life and death, education and democracy.

But let's be honest: billionaires' private armies and charter schools are a match made in heaven. After all, what could go wrong when you combine education and mercenaries? Here are some hilarious scenarios:

  • - A charter school decides to teach its students how to shoot guns instead of math. The students become so good at it that they start their own private army and invade neighboring schools.
  • - A private military company decides to offer "security services" to charter schools. The schools become so safe that they turn into prisons, complete with barbed wire, metal detectors, and armed guards.
  • - A billionaire decides to create a charter school on Mars. The students become so isolated that they start their own civilization and declare independence from Earth.
  • - A private military company decides to offer "educational services" to governments. The soldiers become so smart that they overthrow their clients and create their own states.

Okay, maybe these scenarios are not so hilarious after all. But they do highlight the absurdity of billionaires' private armies and charter schools. Instead of investing in real solutions to real problems, these billionaires are playing with fire and risking the lives and futures of millions of people.

So let's not be fooled by their rhetoric of choice, innovation, and philanthropy. Let's demand real accountability and transparency from them. Let's ask them why they think they know better than elected officials, educators, and experts. Let's remind them that democracy is not for sale, no matter how much money they have.

And if they still insist on playing God with our lives, let's pray that they hire better writers for their scripts than I did for this article.


A charter school is a **public school** that operates as a school of choice and has greater autonomy than a traditional public school⁴. A private army is a **military or paramilitary force** that consists of armed combatants who owe their allegiance to a private person, group, or organization, rather than a nation or state⁶.

One possible way to compare a charter school to a private army is to consider the following aspects:

  • - **Privatization of public services**: Both charter schools and private armies can be seen as forms of privatizing public services, such as education and security, that are traditionally provided by the state. Some may argue that this allows for more innovation, efficiency, and accountability, while others may contend that this undermines the public interest, quality, and equity of these services.
  • - **Autonomy and accountability**: Both charter schools and private armies have more autonomy than their public counterparts, meaning they have more freedom to decide how to operate and what to offer. However, this also means they have less oversight and regulation from the state, which may raise questions about their accountability and transparency. For example, charter schools may not follow the same curriculum, standards, or assessments as other public schools, while private armies may not adhere to the same rules of engagement, human rights, or international law as national armed forces.
  • - **Choice and competition**: Both charter schools and private armies operate as a school or force of choice, meaning they attract customers or clients who voluntarily choose them over other options. This may create a competitive market for public services, where different providers vie for resources, reputation, and influence. Some may view this as a positive force that drives improvement and responsiveness, while others may worry that this leads to fragmentation and inequality among different groups of beneficiaries or stakeholders.

Bing, 6/24/2023

(1) What is a Charter School | NCSRC - ed.

(2) Private army - Wikipedia.

(3) Folsom Cordova Community Charter Homeschool / Homepage.

(4) Find a Charter School | CCSA.

(5) Charter school - Wikipedia.

(6) Charter school | Benefits, Types & Challenges | Britannica.

(7) Mercenaries and War: Understanding Private Armies Today.

(8) Army Private - Military Ranks.

Some examples of charter schools are:

  • - **STEAM/STEM** charter schools that focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, such as Math & Science Prep¹.
  • - **Project-based** charter schools that use design thinking and hands-on learning to engage students in real-world problems, such as High Tech High¹.
  • - **Language immersion** charter schools that teach students in a foreign language for most of the day, such as Yu Ming Charter School¹.
  • - **Place-based** charter schools that immerse students in learning by locating the school inside an inspiring environment, such as the Museum School¹.
  • - **Montessori** charter schools that follow the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, which emphasizes individualized learning, freedom of choice, and respect for children's natural development, such as Lumin Education¹.

Some examples of private armies are:

  • - **The Wagner Group**, a private military company based in Russia that has been involved in conflicts in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and other countries. It is allegedly linked to the Kremlin and Russian oligarchs⁷.
  • - **Academi**, formerly known as Blackwater, a private security company based in the United States that has provided services to the U.S. government, the United Nations, and other clients in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. It has faced controversy and lawsuits over its conduct and accountability⁶.
  • - **Aegis Defense Services**, a private security company based in the United Kingdom that has worked with the U.N., the U.S., and oil companies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and other countries. It claims to adhere to high ethical standards and human rights principles⁶.
  • - **Defion Internacional**, a private military company based in Peru that recruits thousands of fighters from developing countries, such as Colombia, Ecuador, and Nepal. It has provided security and combat services to clients in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and other countries⁶.
  • - **The Kadyrovtsy**, a paramilitary force loyal to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. It has been accused of human rights violations, such as torture, kidnapping, and extrajudicial killings. It has also fought alongside Russian forces in Syria and Ukraine⁶.

Bing, 6/24/2023

(1) 6 types of Charter Schools Reinventing the Ways Kids Learn.

(2) Mercenaries and War: Understanding Private Armies Today.

(3) A Look At The Largest Private Armies In The World - Business Insider.

(4) 2022 Best Charter High Schools in America - US News.

(5) Charter schools in the United States - Wikipedia.

(6) Everything you need to know about charter schools - Vox.

(7) Charter school - Wikipedia.

(8) Private army - Wikipedia.

(9) Private military company - Wikipedia.

(10) 8 Private Mercenary Armies From History And Today That Had The Power To ....

(11) Paramilitary - Wikipedia.

Some ethical issues related to charter schools are:

  • - **Equity and access**: Charter schools are supposed to be open to all students, regardless of their background, ability, or income. However, some charter schools may use selective admission criteria, such as test scores, interviews, or essays, to screen out low-performing or high-needs students. Some charter schools may also locate themselves in affluent or homogeneous neighborhoods, limiting the diversity and inclusion of their student body. Some charter schools may not provide adequate services or accommodations for students with disabilities, English language learners, or other special needs. These practices may create segregation and inequality within the public education system¹⁴.
  • - **Accountability and transparency**: Charter schools are expected to be accountable to the public for their academic performance, financial management, and compliance with laws and regulations. However, some charter schools may evade or manipulate accountability measures, such as standardized tests, audits, or inspections, to inflate their results or hide their problems. Some charter schools may also lack transparency in their governance, operations, or outcomes, making it difficult for parents, taxpayers, or regulators to monitor their quality and effectiveness. Some charter schools may also engage in fraud, corruption, or mismanagement of public funds¹².
  • - **Impact on district schools**: Charter schools are funded by diverting public money from district schools based on the number of students they enroll. This may create financial strain and instability for district schools, especially if they lose a large proportion of their students to charter schools. District schools may also face increased competition and pressure from charter schools, which may affect their morale, culture, or performance. District schools may also have to deal with the consequences of charter school closures, which may disrupt the education and well-being of students who have to return to district schools¹².

Some ethical issues related to private armies are:

  • - **Legality and legitimacy**: Private armies operate in a legal gray zone that challenges the traditional norms and rules of war. Private armies may not be authorized or recognized by the states or international organizations that are involved in or affected by the conflicts they participate in. Private armies may also not abide by the laws of war, such as the Geneva Conventions or the International Criminal Court statutes, that regulate the conduct and responsibility of combatants. Private armies may also undermine the legitimacy and sovereignty of states that hire them or host them on their territory .
  • - **Morality and motivation**: Private armies raise moral questions about the ethics of war and violence. Private armies are motivated by profit rather than patriotism or ideology, which may compromise their loyalty, commitment, or professionalism. Private armies may also lack moral constraints or scruples that would prevent them from committing atrocities, human rights violations, or war crimes. Private armies may also exploit or harm the local populations that they are supposed to protect or assist .
  • - **Oversight and accountability**: Private armies are difficult to oversee and control by the states or organizations that hire them or host them. Private armies may act independently or autonomously from their employers or hosts, pursuing their own interests or agendas that may conflict with those of their clients or partners. Private armies may also evade or resist oversight or regulation by concealing their activities, identities, or affiliations. Private armies may also escape accountability or justice for their actions by fleeing the scene, changing their name, or claiming immunity .

Bing, 6/24/2023

(1) The 5 most serious charter school scandals in 2019 — and why they ....

(2) Ethical Issues Surrounding Charter Schools by Jessica Graydon - Prezi.

(3) The Battle Over Charter Schools - Harvard Graduate School of Education.

(4) ABOUT - Ethical Schools.

Charter schools and private armies affect the role of the state in different ways:

  • - **Charter schools** may challenge the state's role as the primary provider and regulator of public education. Charter schools may create more diversity and competition within the public education system, which may force the state to adapt and improve its policies and practices. Charter schools may also create more choice and empowerment for parents and students, which may increase their satisfaction and engagement with public education. However, charter schools may also undermine the state's role as the guarantor of quality and equity in public education. Charter schools may operate with less oversight and accountability from the state, which may compromise their standards and outcomes. Charter schools may also divert resources and students from district schools, which may weaken the state's capacity and responsibility to serve all students¹²³.
  • - **Private armies** may challenge the state's role as the sole legitimate user of force and violence. Private armies may provide more flexibility and efficiency for the state in conducting its security and defense operations, especially in complex and unstable environments. Private armies may also provide more expertise and innovation for the state in addressing new and emerging threats, such as terrorism or cyberattacks. However, private armies may also undermine the state's role as the protector of human rights and international law. Private armies may operate with less oversight and accountability from the state, which may increase their risk of committing abuses or crimes. Private armies may also act independently or against the state's interests, which may threaten the state's sovereignty and legitimacy  .

Bing, 6/24/2023

(1) The Role of Charter Schools in Improving Education | RAND.

(2) What are charter schools and do they deliver? - Brookings.

(3) What Are Charter Schools? An Overview for Teachers and Parents.

(4) Charter schools in the United States - Wikipedia.

Private armies were not outlawed by the Declaration of Paris in 1856. The Declaration of Paris was an international agreement that abolished **privateering**, which is a different practice from private military contracting. Privateering was a form of naval warfare whereby a state authorized private ships to attack and capture enemy vessels and goods, usually for a share of the spoils. Privateering was common in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially among European powers¹⁴.

The Declaration of Paris was signed by most of the major maritime powers at the end of the Crimean War, with the exception of the United States, Spain, Mexico, and some South American countries. The United States refused to sign the Declaration because it feared that it would weaken its ability to fight a future war against European powers by limiting the opportunities for U.S. seamen to man and operate privateers. This was a tactic historically used by the weaker United States against British naval supremacy in its Revolution and the War of 1812¹⁴.

Private military contracting, on the other hand, is a form of land warfare whereby a state or a non-state actor hires private individuals or companies to provide security or combat services, usually for a fee or a contract. Private military contracting is a more recent phenomenon that emerged in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, especially in the aftermath of the Cold War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Private military contracting is not regulated by any international agreement, although some attempts have been made to establish norms and standards for this industry²³.

Bing, 6/24/2023

(1) Blockade, Privateering, and the 1856 Declaration of Paris.

(2) Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law - Wikipedia.

(3) The Avalon Project : Laws of War : Declaration of Paris; April 16, 1856..

(4) Mercenaries and War: Understanding Private Armies Today.

Big Education Ape: The New American Privateers: Privatization for Profit