Monday, May 12, 2008

Daily Fitz and AZ's American War on Education

Mike Bryan over at Blog for Arizona has an ongoing discussion in his Recent Comments section about a Daily Fitz cartoon pillorying the AZ GOP for its paranoia about public education. Here's my two cents about that.

Seems to me from developments over the last 30 years that the Right here and nationally is coming from two visions of society to justify dismantling public schools. Since both ultimately serve its anti-Jeffersonian-Democracy ideology, the advocates of each are happy to use the advocates of the other to advance their own game plan. No one Republican need buy into both ideals to get both accomplished.

Both visions have given birth to ideology-driven agendas that are all to ready to capitalize on (pun intended) problems in public education caused by decades of underfunding, corruption, institutionalized racism (as in local school districts), disengaged parents, badly-behaved kids, and a host of other "inputs." Up the rhetoric and go for a broken national, affordable public education platform. Literally.

One is economic: The privatization agenda. This is one means to wipe out every vestige of the ideal that government ought to help ensure the basics necessary for everyone’s boat to rise. Affordable, good public education is certainly fundamental for that, as is a commonwealth, people-centered approach to the environment--as contrasted with the prevailing view.

Privatization defunds our government by seizing tax-payer paid-for assets (infrastructure, parklands, schools, etc.) by any means possible (hurricanes, private-public investment instruments, condemnation, revising definitions in law, etc.) and then turning them over to favored entities (ultimately, few hundred families) to operate for private profit while funding them by more taxpayer dollars. I say "a few favored entities" because of the pattern emerging in other privatization initiatives, like rebuilding Iraq and seizing its oil, the border fence, the TransTexas Corridor, post-Katrina initiatives in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast, and mercenary armies. Let’s call privatization the secular, plutocratic fundamentalist agenda.

The other is religious: The theocracy agenda. This means funneling our kids into home schooling (a "privatized" curriculum using privatized teaching aids developed privately) and voucher schools (private and privatized).

Anyone familiar with political developments over the last 30 years knows about the takeover of school boards, Rightwing wars over issues like prayer in public schools and the contents of textbooks, and the rise of private, fundamentalist colleges(Liberty and the newer Patrick Henry U, for instance).

They may not be as familiar with the overlap of key GOP players in these spheres and in the ranks of White House, Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branch internships and employment. They also may not be as aware of privatized, canned curricula in private religious schools and in the home schooling business, or of the myriad problems that razing our great public education heritage to create our very own mudrashas raises for the country’s future. Let’s call this the theocratic fundamentalist agenda.

Both the secular and the theocrat fundamentalists benefit from collaborating to dismantle public education. By this means they create an ideologically molded cadre of kids tailor-made to follow a ideologically determined marching orders, whether religious, partisan, or corporatist.

By replacing the hated core Jeffersonian ideals with narrow theocratic, elitist, and totalitarian alternatives, they create a dumber-down generation that is trained rather than educated. Trashing the old "liberal arts" model means trashing the tools that empower thinkers and problem-solvers. Replacing it with a task-oriented curriculum means creating generations of malleable worker bees ideally suited to be told what to do and when to do it, at work, at home, and at the polls.

The dumbed-down “news” media (compare Cronkite with Wolf Blitzer, or even worse, Edward R. Murrow with Sean Hannity) are just team players in the larger ball game.

If you think I’ve donned my tin hat, poke around as I have for 25+ years in the organizations and issues the Far Right has created and funded, the key players, and the outcomes. Not least has been its breathtaking progress in converting the GOP from the party of Eisenhower to the party of Dobson, Robertson, Bush, McCain, Norquist, Kyle, Renzi, and Rove. What used to be an honorable alternative view of the great American experiment has become an instrument of mass indoctrination; rank, elitist profiteering; institutionalized ignorance; and unabashed xenophobia.

That’s where I think Fitz was headed.