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by Stephen Lendman | SteveLendmanBlog
Democracy and an educated citizenry go hand in hand.
Public education is the great equalizer.
America’s founders believed it was insurance against loss of liberty.
“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.”
Neil Postman perhaps is best known for saying “Americans are the most entertained and least informed people in the world.” Most know little or nothing about what matters most.
Ignorance isn’t universal, but a significant majority is affected. Postman served as chairman of New York University’s Department of Culture and Communication. He also said:
“Public education isn’t important because it serves the public. (It’s) important because it creates the public.”
Benjamin Barber believed the same thing, saying:
“Public schools must be understood as public not simply because they serve the public, but because they establish us as a public.”
They give meaning to “we the people.”
They develop better citizens and improve achievement. Most people agree. A 2003 America Association of School Administrators (AASA) poll showed 95% of respondents agree with the statement:
“We need to stand up for public education to make sure that public schools continue to fill their role as a cornerstone of the common good, providing the foundation for the civic society that is critical to our democracy.”
AASA believes public schools belong to the public. Its Executive Director Paul Houston said:
“We know that people see education in a broad way. They want to see kids do well on basic skills, but they also need to do well in areas that are basic to living — being good citizens, productive members of the community and able to find and hold down a job that allows them to live in America.”
Father of American education Horace Mann called “(t)he common school….the greatest discovery ever made by man.”
He meant public, not privatized, ones. He believed all students should be educated equally and responsibly. More on Mann’s philosophy below.
Public education in America today is targeted for destruction. Chicago’s war on teachers, parents and kids reflects policy across the country.
Education is being commodified into another profit center. Bottom line priorities alone matter. Preparing kids for better futures doesn’t count.
They’re sacrificed on the alter of money power unless stopped. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Obama’s Race to the Top (RTTT) are Exhibits A and B. The former leaves behind most kids. The latter is a race to nowhere. Both reflect schemes to destroy a nearly four century tradition.
In cities across America, schools are closed, teachers fired, and students left out in the cold. Why bother educating kids when only profits matter and high-pay skilled jobs moved abroad.
In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education published a report titled, “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.” It found academic performance poor at nearly all levels. It warned that America’s educational system was “being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity.”
It’s much worse today. It’s a national disaster by design. So-called education reform is a scam. It masks privatization schemes, a society of growing haves and have nots, and no desire to educate most kids for low pay, low skill jobs if they can find one.
For over 40 years, Jonathan Kozol courageously defended public education. He still does. He believes every child should have equal opportunity in public schools. The Chicago Sun Times once called him “today’s most eloquent spokesman for America’s disenfranchised.”
He believes privatized schools “starve the public school system of the presence of well-educated, politically effective parents to fight for equity for all kids.”
“I am opposed to the use of public funds for private education,” he said.
“The greatest difference between now and (the 1960s) is that public policy has pretty much eradicated the dream of Martin Luther King.”
Privatized education creates separate and unequal. It didn’t work 100 years ago and doesn’t now, he stresses.
Quasi-privatized charter schools institutionalize class and racial separation, he maintains. Mandated robotized learning through standardized tests is “segregative and divisive.”
Culture is starved. “Aesthetics are gone. Joy in learning is regarded as a bothersome distraction.” NCLB and RTTT institutionalize “apartheid of the intellect.” Kids are “trained to spit up predigested answers.” They learn nothing.
Horace Mann is called the “father of the common school.” For him, it meant public ones. He believed universal public education was essential to ensure a nation of informed citizens. His six main educational principles included:
(1) Citizens can’t be ignorant and free.
(2) Education should be publicly funded and controlled.
(3) It should be provided equally for all children.
(4) It must be nonsectarian.
(5) It must emphasize the tenets of a free society.
(6) It must be provided by well-educated, professional teachers.
Mann’s main educational goal was to foster universal equality. Education helps lift people out of poverty. Knowledge is power, he believed. An educated person no longer is a “slave” to the status quo.
Knowledge also is essential to a true democracy. It differs vastly from rote learning. The latter, he said, “was neither effective nor desirable.”
“Children must be led to discover principles and relationship.” Learning is a means to an end. Its value is self-improvement. It separates humans from beasts. If “all mankind were well fed, well clothed, and well housed (alone), they still might be half civilized.”
In his capacity as Massachusetts State Board of Education Secretary, he said:
“Surely nothing but universal education can counterwork this tendency to the domination of capital and servility of labor.”
“If one class possesses all the wealth and the education, while the residue of society is ignorant and poor, it matters not by what name the relationship between them may be called: the latter, in fact and in truth, will be the servile dependents and subjects of the former.”
“But, if education be equally diffused, it will draw property after it by the strongest of all attractions; for such a thing never did happen, as that an intelligent and practical body of men should be permanently poor.”
He truly believed no child should be left behind. Education should be provided equally for all. He championed and campaigned for it. He established teacher training schools and district libraries. He won financial backing for public education. His influence extended way beyond Massachusetts.
He called free public education a morally mandated right. He said America “owes a vast economical debt to (ordinary people) whose labor (have) been mainly instrumental in rearing the great material structures of which we so often boast.”
He argued that “every wise, humane measure adopted for their welfare, directly promotes our own security. For (their children) will soon possess the rights of men, whether they possess the characters of men or not.”
In 1848, he resigned his post to serve in Congress. He replaced John Quincy Adams who died in office. Besides his passion for universal public education, he became an important anti-slavery spokesman.
In 1853, he became Antioch College president three years after its founding. In that capacity, he implemented his educational ideas in higher education.
Two months before his August 1859 death, he said:
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