The conservative values behind the assault on Am public education

The conservative values behind NCLB and the conservative approach to ed reform in general…

We see in the Texas board that advises on and recommends textbooks the conservative agenda. Let me be clear: I am not speaking of conservatives of old, the Republicans or the Southern Democrats, nor am I speaking of Neoconservatives. I am speaking of the conservatives of the Limbaugh, Gingrich, Beck, Tea Partier, Birther type, the ones people like Delay and Trent Lott and Dick Armey led to destroy Clinton. Not Paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanen, either. Just the Fox News variety.

Here’s how these people see the world: there is no sense of Christian compassion in these people despite their loud proclamations of being ardent Christians. They are filled with loathing and hatred and arrogance based on their ascribed status. For most, that ascribed status has to do with being American, White, and Christian. For these folks, being Christian is a status, not a way of life. The only part of Christianity they take to heart is the belief that man is born a sinner and in need of correction and coercion.

You cannot blame them perhaps, for they were raised this way. Especially in the South, a bizarre and arcane social system pits group against group: quality folk against strivers, well-off against the poor, Whites against Blacks, Christians against Jews, South against North, the U.S. against other countries. I remember when a boy in Alabama asked me over to his house just so he could ask me if I had ever met a Catholic; that’s how deep this sense of otherness and fear of the other is among these people.

It extends into the rest of the country, by all means. The focus may shift in terms of religion and ethnicity, but it all goes back to the colonial heritage of this country. It is just that the South participated so fully in that heritage as a slave society rather than a society with slaves that it has dogged them ever since, along with their defeat in the Civil War and the continuing poverty and ignorance and disease in that part of the country. The diseases, by the way, include a higher homocide rate.

A major element of the teaching among groups so strongly oposed to matters like health care is that man is born evil. The only way to change behavior, to get children to learn, to correct delinquency, to enforce ideologies of patriotism and social status is to inflict punishment. Evil must be driven out of the sinner and the only way to do this is to inflict punishment, preferably of a physical sort. Rehabilitation, reform, therapy, are all considered signs of weakness, an abdication of moral responsibility to bring your fellow man and woman and child into line by slapping them into it.

There is a reason that conservative thought and guns go so well together. In other regions of the country, the so-called Blue states, people love hunting and guns; but in the Red states, guns are as much to use against people as to hunt with. The thought of shooting someone is never far from the mind. Just this past week, my son was in Utah, a very conservative state, listening to a couple of old codgers from Wyoming, another conservative state. One said to the other that Pelossi was a real problem. The other said he had the answer: his .30-06, a rifle. Assassination is a legitmate response to evil according to these people.

How does all this play out in education? Simple. Kids are naturally wild and hate school and so need to be whipped into line. Teachers are either women or simpering men too chicken-shit to get a man’s job and so need to be stiffened by fear of losing their jobs. All, children and teachers, are natually lazy and need to be beaten into submission by tough-minded businessmen. Thus all the emphasis on a business model for education, a model only an uneducated fool could consider reasonable. NCLB carried this to a head by threatening teachers and whole schools with dismissal and closing. These fools actually think that works.

How do we curtail the influence of these Australopithecines? By stiffening our professional organizations, not only teacher unions but our foreign language organizations like ACTFL. They can provide the sort of expert counsel to school boards we have seen when the Autralopithecines want to replace science with their fundamentalist religious beliefs.

BTW, the conservatives aren’t the only enemies of public education; there are also the entrepreneurs, those who would privatize public ed so they could set up their rigid, scripted test factories and hire automatons and make loads of money before the public wised up and realized they were being had. These people are not religious, or, if they are, it is some sort of get-rich-quick-with-Jesus sort of philosophy, nothing that would actually make any demands on anyone.

Keep clearly in mind: I am talking about the conservatives I limned above, not religious people, not principled conservatives like David Frumm or David Brooks, and not Southerners or Texans who think.

Below is the summary of the Ravitch interview I sent to flteach.

Ravitch was interviewed this weekend on Book TV and I noted the following:

Accountability as become a synonym for punishment and it’s teachers who are
to be punished.

The interviewer referred to “the business vs the civic model”; I had never
heard this before.

The 2014 timetable of NCLB had become a timetable for the demolishing of
public ed in the U.S.

Charter schools ARE privatization and their quality is very uneven and they
do no better overall than public schools while draining better students away
from the latter, leaving the latter with an even more difficult population
to educate.

We have always been critical of our ed system; nowadays is(are?) nothing

Ed nowadays is being shaped by foundations like Gates, not a democratically
elected governement.

Speaking of Gates, she wishes he’d focus on reducing POVERTY rather than
improving schools’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’the
vote on the Health Care reform bill just hit 216!!!!! Ravitch made no
mention of the effect of that on ed, but one school recently took Fed money
to improve test scores and did so. How? By sending money home for FOOD!.
Ravitch stated on this show that POVERTY is THE source of the achievement

Ravitch gave a little history lesson on how the charter and choice movements
grew out of efforts by Southern Whites to avoid sending their kids to school
with Black kids – I always felt there was a tie-in there but didn’t know
the facts on it. I’ll have to read her book.

She attacked the assumption that teachers just need to be stiffened with a
little fear of losing their jobs (I remember those many days of doing
nothing but drinking coffee and reading the newspaper while kids filled out
worksheets – yeah, right.)

Charter schools, to continue on them, are not only cherry-picking students,
they are run by money-makers, not educators. She does like what Canada is
doing in N.Y. She didn’t mention the KIPP Academies, which, I understand, do
get results but burn out their young teachers.

She sees Arne Duncan as a guy who believes in incentivizing everything. Is
that why I spent hours of my own time every day with Brian Barabe analyzing
every detail of kids’ learning, of language, of teaching? B/c someone was
going to give me a vacation to Hawaii? Please.

She stated that she has resigned from ALL of the conservative organizations
she belonged to and now is a member of the Brookings Institution.

Personally, I recall when our esteemed choral teacher retired and took
precious minutes allotted him to say farewell after 20 years or more at my
old school to mention that the night before he had finished with a choral
presentation around 11 and stopped at the local 7-11 and saw several little
children around 6 or 7 sitting outside the store waiting for parents. He
said that until that sort of thing ends, we cannot educate.

For my take on the conservative values that underlie much of the
conservative version of ed reform, you can e-mail me or go to my blog.
Anyone watching the Ravitch interview can tell the List whether or not I
have distorted the content and spirit of the interview.
Pat Barrett

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