Thursday, February 7, 2008

AZ's Pearce: Give Me a Child for It's First Seven Years. . .

Arizona's Republican legislators, led by the notorious Russell Pearce and Karen Johnson, never cease to amaze us. They propose allowing guns in public schools, and slashing our education budget. Arizona is already somewhere around 49th in state per capita education spending, but I think I see the genius here. If we can just kill off the kids fast enough, we won't need much education funding. Heck, if we get the timing right, we could even rank 48th next year.

Sheer brilliance.

This might be amusing, except that it's anything but.

For some 20 years, attacks on public schools have been at the center of conservative Republican ideology. There's a reason.

Underfunding public schools sets them up to fail, which creates a climate in which "No Child Left Behind," vouchers, and home schooling seem reasonable. I wrote recently about "political climates." This strategy is a case study in how to manipulate public policy to make the unthinkable--such as Rightwing control of the curriculum through home schooling and through "faith-based" private schools--seem eminently sane.

But. The fact is that the old standard liberal arts curriculum was the terra firma on which Americans achieved technological and economic greatness, between the invention of the automobile and the airplane, and the moonwalk. However, it also gave us critical thinking skills, a fairly decent knowledge of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, a common approach to good citizenship and ethics, and the wherewithal to perform well in a changing global economy. All these are anathema to fascism, propaganda, spin, and distortion.

Rightwing, fundamentalist, fascist prosperity depends very centrally on controlling the curriculum for future generations. This is far easier to do outside the public sphere and beyond public accountability. Ergo, failing, unfunded public schools, attacks on teachers' unions, cuts in education funding, deteriorated physical plants, challenges to "liberal" teachers and course content, lawsuits, and all the rest pave the way for a New World Order, if you will. Enter standardized Far Right curricula marketed innocuously through privately controlled home schooling associations, "faith-based" private schools, and fundy factories pretending to be colleges and universities. By these means, a whole new crop of hardcore conservative automatons is cultivated for civil service, the military, the legislatures, the courts, and the White House.

If you doubt it, take a look around. All these things have come to pass in approximately the last 20 years, thanks to master strategies, organizing, and funding from the Far Right.

The consequences for America have been written for seven years in day-glo orange for the whole world to see. The caliber of Bush appointees to Justice, HHS, FEMA, FCC, the appellate courts, the US Supreme Court. The Iraq invasion. The demise of a vigorous middle class. The complete meltdown of any sense of common purpose and any awareness of common interests. Our deteriorated infrastructure. The recession. The chilling rage of one half the country at the other. All these markers of catastrophe can be traced, directly or indirectly, to priorities nurtured in the Far Right's gradual and surreptitious dismantling of our great Jeffersonian, liberal arts, free public education system.

If Arizonans want this future, they're well on the way to having it. As for me, I have a better opinion of our state, our country, and our kids. They deserve our very best, not--as Pearce and Johnson embody--our very worst.


shrimplate said...

Pearce and Johnson do think that 49th is good enough for Arizona. They'd be happier if we were like, 54th.

It's betterer.