President John Adams was crystal clear in his desire to see a public system of education. The public, he said, was responsible for educating the public.
The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves. — John Adams
Adams’s political arch-foe, Jefferson, agreed and even tried to set up a system of public schools in Virginia.
People generally have more feeling for canals and roads than education. However, I hope we can advance them with equal pace. — Thomas Jefferson
These two men, along with a good number of their colleagues supported public schools paid for and supported by the public. Education is a public good…something that the public benefits from…an informed citizenry.
It was about 60 years later, however, when the nation finally began the process of setting up public schools, paid for by the public, and controlled by the public.
Those same public schools, scorned and debased throughout history by sectarians, privatizers, and elitists, helped build the nation. Those same three groups of people have, once again, joined together to dismantle America’s public school systems.
The religious right has been trying to do away with the public schools for decades.
I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be! — Jerry Falwell
Today’s privatizers stand with Alexander Hamilton in the belief that the wealthy are superior by virtue of their wealth. Graduates and supporters of elite private schools like Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee are co-opting the language of civil rights and claiming that privatization — through vouchers and/or charter schools — will provide true equality of opportunity. The fact that the privatization movement is increasing segregation, and that privately run schools regularly screen out difficult to educate students doesn’t seem to matter to them.
Vouchers are the privatizers’ answer to Brown vs. Board of Education. Vouchers don’t segregate children by race or economic status, they just give all parents a “choice.” The fact that vouchers don’t provide enough money to allow the very poor to attend private schools doesn’t matter. The fact that the vouchers don’t guarantee that the corporate-school-board will accept all students doesn’t matter. The fact that vouchers don’t prevent private schools from dumping hard to educate children back into the now underfunded public school system doesn’t matter.
It’s the nation’s — and by extension, the state’s and the community’s — responsibility to raise up an educated populace. It’s good for everyone. That’s why tax money for public schools is so important. Everyone benefits from educated citizens.
How do you respond to voucher supporters who claim that they should be allowed to take “their tax money” out of the public school system and use it to send their children to private schools? What good are public schools to people who don’t have any children or whose children have grown?
- What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for public libraries because they wanted to buy their own books instead?
- What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for fire departments because they had purchased a fire suppressant system?
- What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for roads because they didn’t drive a car?
- What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for parks because they never used them?
- What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for police departments because they hired their own, private security force?
The government — local, state and national — is responsible for various aspects of our lives, from safety to clean air to public parks. Public money is spent for these “public goods” because everyone benefits — even those who never use the services.
Public education is a public good. An educated citizenry benefits the entire nation. Every state constitution provides for a system of free, public schools because they know that increased education improves the lives of their citizens.
Public education benefits all of us…but we, as a people, must choose to support it.
Parent Michael Charney, whose two children attend a Catholic school, remarked, “I pay my taxes every year and do not get anything from the state other than receiving this check, and now they’re thinking about taking even that away?”
Charney’s attitude is unfortunate – and it’s all too common these days. He asserts that he doesn’t get anything from those public school taxes. Mr. Charney, you could not be more wrong.
Let me tell you what you get: You get an educated public. You get kids who learn things and go on to contribute to society. You get literacy and numeracy. You get an appreciation for science. You get a school system, subject to local control and in most parts of the country governed by a democratically elected board, which educates 90 percent of our young people.
The unwillingness of Americans to pay their fair share of taxes…the unwillingness of Americans to support the public infrastructure of the country…the unwillingness of Americans to pay forward our civilization and our national security…is an indication of our selfishness. The “what’s in it for me” attitude is a selfish sacrifice of our children’s and our nation’s economic future.
PUBLIC EDUCATION: FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD
Dr. Wendy Robinson, Superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools, put a privatizer in his place. When you believe that everything should be privatized you assume that everyone is a selfish and greedy as you are. They just can’t believe that public schools help everyone.
Enlow responded by noting that food stamp recipients are allowed to choose where they can go to use their assistance.
“I agree we have a civic obligation for public education — again, like we have a civic obligation for food stamps, right?” he said. “We have to help those who earn less.”
It was more than Robinson could take.
“I have to say something — I’m sorry. It’s insulting to equate public education with food stamps,” she said, as the audience erupted in thunderous applause. “Here’s why: Public education was created for the public good. Food stamps and welfare are created for people who are in need. When you say they are the same, you are assuming all kids in public school are in need.”
More on the false choice of school “choice”
When it comes to public policy and public schools, there is a responsibility to go beyond individual concerns and promote what is best for all children. In the long run, establishing two school systems — one public and one private, yet both supported with tax dollars — will only expand the ability of private schools to pick and choose the most desirable students and will only widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Rather than being sidetracked by school choice ploys, we must focus on our community public schools. We must ensure that our school leaders have the means to make every public school a great school, for the sake of all of our students…
…when one factors in the differences between the socioeconomic backgrounds of students in the two types of schools, the private school advantage disappears. Studies that take this background factor into account have found a public school advantage in achievement.
It’s no coincidence that the TV airwaves are stuffed with winner-take-all shows. This is our model for school and society now: enormous windfalls for the winner; frenzied fruitless efforts for the rest.
If you’re a child born into a poor household, you’re more likely to exhibit psychological symptoms than if you were born to a non-poor household – symptoms that are a direct result of being born poor…the children from poor families were found to have problems, about 60 percent more than their middle-class counterparts.
How did the “reformers” convince the nation that student test scores provided an accurate evaluation of their teachers?
Here’s a teacher whose students scored so high on the standardized tests that she is labeled a poor teacher because they didn’t improve from one year to the next. If a runner breaks a world record one day, does his coach get blamed if he doesn’t break it again on another day?
Telling a teacher, “you’re a failure because your incredibly high achievers haven’t scored even higher” is breathtakingly stupid.
…my name will be printed in newspapers and posted online as an inferior teacher in need of serious improvement.
Last year, many of my students had had the highest scores on the state tests possible the year prior—a 5 out of 5. That’s how they get in to my class of gifted and high achieving students. Except, last year, they raised the bar so that the same 5th graders who scored 5s in 4th grade were much less likely to earn 5s in math and reading in 5th grade. Some still DID score 5s in math AND reading, yet were still deemed not to have made sufficient progress because they did not score as high within the 5 category as they had the year before.
“REFORM” CAUSES ADHD?
Do developmentally inappropriate educational practices exacerbate ADHD?
What the team found was that high rates of ADHD diagnoses correlated closely with state laws that penalize schools when students fail. Nationally, this approach to education was enacted into law in 2001 with No Child Left Behind, which makes funding contingent on the number of students who pass standardized tests. In more recent years, similar testing-based strategies have been championed by education reformers such as Michelle Rhee. But many states passed these accountability laws as early as the 1980s, and within a few years of passage, ADHD diagnoses started going up in those states, the authors found, especially for kids near the poverty line…
It doesn’t mean that ADHD isn’t a real thing, with a biological basis. Hinshaw and Scheffler are very clear about that. But it does underscore our worry that misdiagnoses are being handed out by doctors with little time, little training in psychiatric disorders, and a lot of pressure to do something to help kids who are failing.
DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE PRACTICE COMPOUNDED BY RETENTION
We push down the curriculum and expect kindergarteners to learn what first graders learned a generation ago — and then we blame the children (and their teachers) for not learning. Retention is an ineffective practice, and it’s made even worse when students can’t achieve in a developmentally inappropriate environment.
“Research on retention has been somewhat more consistent in suggesting that holding children back a year is not the most effective practice,” said Francis Huang, assistant professor in the MU College of Education. “Requiring children to repeat a grade is not only expensive for parents and school districts, but it also can affect children’s self-esteem and their ability to adjust in the future.”
All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.