Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Conservatives Hate Public Education (Not News)


I feel a great sense of civic pride in my city.

Amato is on the phone right now telling me about a bunch of new sports arenas that cost over a billion dollars a pop. Dallas, he just told me, has a new stadium that costs $1.2 billion. And these new stadiums have sections for the very rich only, where plebeians aren't allowed to even walk through the PSLs. Ken has been going on about this-- in terms of some sports stadium in New York (for the Mets I think)-- and both he and Amato have been telling me how attendance at ballgames is way, way down. All this, of course, is extorted out of taxpayers-- including those who hate sports or have no interest in sports-- in the form of corporate welfare that has made several owners and partners very, very wealthy, virtually all of them Republicans (who hate welfare, of course).

Yesterday's L.A. Times featured a story on the opening of the city's amazing new RFK school complex. A week ago a CNN talking head was pontificating about what a waste of money it was-- how dare they have a dance studio and music rooms!-- and moaning how it cost almost as much as a sports stadium. I'm still seething over those comments and over the mindset of the imbeciles who celebrate millions and millions of taxpayer dollars going into the new two-caste (upper and lower) arenas but are contemptuous of public education. Just for the record, RFK cost less than half what a sports stadium costs those days. In fact, the complex is six schools and cost 578 million voter-approved dollars.
[T]he RFK complex is, for the district, a rebuke to those who question its ability to do things right. Like the flagship arts high school downtown, the facility was intended as both school and statement. The school also will provide a critical test case for key district reforms. ... For decades, tens of thousands of students were bused outside the area or crowded onto campuses that operated year-round on schedules that shortened the academic year for every student. From these new classrooms, a current generation of students will enjoy commanding views of the city-- their city-- and the mountains behind them through the glass curtain wall on the north side of the main building.

For those like North Carolina Congresswoman Virginia Foxx who have adopted as a primary mission destroying public education, this expenditure of tax dollars on poor people, on people of color, on immigrants, on the future... is nothing short of catastrophe. These people don't want the government helping poor people to achieve the American dream through education, and especially not nonwhite ones or immigrants. And to these people there is no future. They're anarchists and nihilists, and their world is dark, apocryphal, paranoid and dystopian. 

Virginia Foxx and radical right Republicans like her consistently vote against "all federal help for education-- brick and mortar projects, educational materials, funding for teachers and teacher aides." Their vision of the country doesn't include an educated population, always the bane of conservatives, who depend on easily manipulatable and ignorant masses (see the Tea Party) to maintain power even though their programs benefit something like 5% of the population. Education scares the hell out of them. 

Their vision of the country also doesn't include a high-wage consumer base; slavery for the masses is their ideal, even though it's currently out of vogue. Their idea of "freedom" is the freedom to rip off everyone else in society with impunity. "Liberty" to Republicans like Sharron Angle, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, Joe Miller, Kevin Black, Ken Buck and Pat Toomey is the liberty Big Business has to destroy the public commons for profit without government interference. Here's Black:

Contrast the conservative worldview with that of a progressive Democratic candidate running for a House seat in New Jersey, Ed Potosnak, himself a high school chemistry teacher, with a very different vision from Foxx's. This is from a guest post Ed did for DWT in March:
Our nation is at a critical juncture. As our economy struggles to recover from the tailspin that resulted from an unregulated financial binge, we are simultaneously being challenged to stay ahead-- dare I say, keep up-- with other nations in an increasingly competitive global economy. We can no longer rest on the successes of the past to ensure prosperity for the future; we must take an aggressive approach to catalyzing innovation through strategic investments in physical, technological, and human capital. It is a matter of national and economic security that we step up our efforts to maintain our leadership and unleash American ingenuity at every level. 

We must recognize:

1. Innovation is the Key to Economic Growth

2. Strategic Investments Can Promote Innovation

3. Today’s Education Will Shape the Future

...As a technophile and science nerd I may be biased, but I believe America’s economic stability depends on how seriously we respond to the challenges presented by an increasingly technological global economy. I majored in Chemistry at Rutgers University, taught science in a local high school, and worked as an Einstein Fellow in Washington, D.C. for Congressman Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley). These experiences, as well as my passion for science and technology, have enabled me to discover how targeted government policies can spur innovation, promote competition, and ensure that U.S. companies are able to remain internationally competitive.

...More aggressive steps need to be taken to ensure America comes out on top; chief among them is improving our K-12 education and investing in the creation of new knowledge.

Keeping America competitive will require a significant commitment from our leaders in Washington and in our statehouses, to ensure we cultivate and support our innovators each step of the way from pre-kindergarten to post-doc and unleash their entrepreneurial spirit.

It is critical we inspire our students currently in our classrooms to become our future innovators, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Sadly, U.S. students rank twenty-first in science and twenty-fifth in math, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is not acceptable-- we must not settle for mediocre, we need to ensure America moves to the top of the list.

Too many students are being lost in our K-12 system, either dropping out or becoming disinterested in science and mathematics. Among those who pursue further studies in STEM we see an underrepresentation of women and minorities graduating college with STEM degrees. The next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers are lost right from under our noses.

Education is the key to our future. We need to address our ailing school system to ensure each child receives a world-class education, regardless of his or her zip code. Steps we can take right now to improve education include providing qualified teachers in every classroom, supporting struggling schools, rewarding schools for improving, holding schools accountable with measures aligned with what we value as a nation such as critical thinking and problem solving, and evaluating student growth over time.

Our current economic conditions offer a unique opportunity to produce new and innovative technologies, create jobs, and create new markets. Producing clean energy, enhancing our national security, improving healthcare, and protecting our environment provide vast opportunities to strengthen America's position as the leader in technological innovation and scientific discovery.

Making innovation a top priority for our nation will ensure America’s economic stability. Strategic investments to spur innovation coupled with significant education reform are the key to making sure America can lead in the twenty-first-century global economy.

Very different vision from that of the Party of No. I don't know if Ed or Foxx will ever see RFK, but I feel safe in predicting that if they do, it would bring joy to Ed's heart and a fit of distemper from Foxx. Here's the rightist vision of public education (courtesy of Fox, of course). I'm looking for a similar critique of sports facilities. Do you have the intestinal fortitude to get through both of 'em?

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At 4:08 PM, Blogger Bula said...

My Mother worked at a public school in a bad neighborhood of Chicago. A 100 + year old school. The conditions were terrible.

The name was Lafayette Grammar School. Named after a courageous French General who fought with the Colonial American ( freedom fighters, traitors, or terrorists... you pick, all apply) who wanted their own country to create one. A free democratic society. And he also hated slavery.

He volunteered. He was not a surrender monkey. He was instrumental in the success at the battle of Yorktown. An adviser to General Washington.

But the republicans don't want our children to know that. We are indebted to the French for the creation of this country.

Education of the masses is counter productive to the republican goals.

Uneducated cheap labor makes them more money. That's their bottom line. An intelligent and unionized voter base is their enemy.....

At 8:46 AM, Blogger zombie rotten mcdonald said...

a few years back, Milwaukee School Superintendent Howard Fuller brought a 100 million dollar referendum that would repair and refurbish the existing MPS facilities, bringing them to an operable and mostly current standard. Certainly not lavish.

Of course, it was soundly defeated.

Immediately after, Bud Selig announced that the ever-mediocre Brewers would be building a new stadium, and that taxpayer money would only be used on infrastructure improvements. Of course, that was a lie, and he prevailed upon his crony Tommy Thompson to fund the project through a regressive sales tax applied to the urban Milwaukee area only. That little deal cost taxpayers 450 million.

But the rich people got a cool clamshell roof and private luxury boxes, so the Masters of The Universe were pleased....

At 8:47 AM, Blogger zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Oh, and the Milwaukee Public School children? Still attending decrepit, substandard, and overcrowded facilities.

And the Brewers still suck.

Bud Selig, however, made millions.

At 9:14 AM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

We spent millions on schools in Kansas City with a court mandate and it didn't seem to help that much. It did make the contractors and a certain lawyer a lot of money.

Now we are stuck with property taxes many of us can't afford and still one of the worst school systems in the state.

So much of education is teaching half truths (sometimes not even half like Texas) giving us credentials to work in non wealth producing jobs fooling ourselves and others.


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