2014

12 February 2014: Education reformers must take blinders off

Education reformers must take blinders off

“We’re all the same; but at the same time, we’re all different,” Professor John D. Hass explained to his methods class I was taking while earning my teaching credentials.

He used a lunch line as an example: A student should always enter at the back unless one has a special need such as having to make up a test.  That principle served me well not only throughout my career, but also with my societal outlook.

In the public sector, we’re democratic—theoretically, albeit—with equal rights before the law.  Discrimination is taboo.  It’s equal access for all.

In the private sector, exceptions abound.  Discrimination is permitted in our certain areas.  Capitalism is based on hierarchy, not equality.  As it was in the Feudal Period, worker bees, aka serfs, serve to allow liege lords, today’s One Percent, to sustain their manors.

The American experiment is an ongoing struggle to balance equality and personal liberty with passionate zealots in both camps: revolutionaries versus uber-libertarians.  In our personal philosophies, most of us hold varying blends of the two, leaning somewhat to heavily towards liberal/progressive or conservative/regressive.

On the one hand, we believe in non-discrimination, equal access and opportunity; on the other, we believe in the individual’s right to be him or herself, even a bigot, jerk, or fanatic as long as his/her actions don’t step on another’s or a group’s rights.  Further, we even understand and accept the fact our economic system is based upon power: Those with bucks can buy more access and opportunity, and with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, more free speech.

We assuage our consciences by saying, “Well, they earned it,” even though oftentimes many—those born with silver spoons or manipulated the system—haven’t.  So it goes.

The primary agent inculcating fairness and equality is public education, and with that, much like liberals had at the nascent stage of communist rule in the Soviet Union, public education reformers have a problem: the infiltration of their ranks by insidious groups and individuals who at the core are hostile to the whole idea of universal public education.  Big Money consortiums and religious-based interest groups are hijacking the reform movement.

Denver Post columnist Alicia Caldwell laid out a compelling case for essentially that but then skirted around the core point in her column “Two new school boards’ mysterious agendas.”

“One of the things people in Jeffco and Loveland (School Districts) seem suspicious about,” Caldwell writes, “is a perception the school board is being manipulated by an unseen hand. On that count, the almost simultaneous proposals by new majorities in Jeffco and Loveland to hire (Brad) Miller, the Colorado Springs attorney known for his work on charter schools, was fuel for speculation.”

An unseen hand?  Manipulation?  Coincidence?  Stuff for conspiracy theorists if there weren’t evidence.

“And,” she continues, “the $200,000 that conservatives Ed McVaney, Ralph Nagel and Alex Cranberg pumped into school board races (including Loveland and Jeffco) during the last election cycle, according to a Denver Post story, was another eyebrow-raiser.”

School board elections traditionally have been relatively cost-free due to the fact they tend not to be highly contested but decided upon a citizen raising his/her hand and saying, “I’m willing to devote four years and countless hours to a less-than-glamorous, unpaid position that will likely cause considerable discomfort in my life because I believe in the principle.”

At the end of her piece, Caldwell brushes off the red flags she raised, stating, “The heartening part of all of this, in my mind, is the public reaction,” which she calls “a healthy exercise of democracy combined with deep-seated concerns about public education.”

She then announces, “All local governments should be so lucky as to have 400 people turn out for their meetings. I guarantee you that better policy would be the result.”

To her the Big Money and religious-based activists in her reform camp are merely misguided souls who, with education and pressure, can be redirected to the real purpose of public education reform: putting teachers in their place and testing the snot out of kids.

The problem is that the zealous ones don’t want reform: They want the complete eradication of public education from the American practice as it is the primary roadblock from them converting America from a democratic, secular republic to a Randian economic heaven and/or a Christian republic.

The zealots are as misguided as foxes in a chicken coop.  And those in the reform camp who fail to see that are being duped.  It’s time to take their blinders off.

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