Thursday, April 03, 2014

I Love Democracy

People often chide me for my support for public schools and my opposition to charter schools, usually finding hypocrisy between that and my advocacy for progressive, play-based education.

You see, I support public schools because I love democracy, and from where I sit, democracy in America is under attack like never before. Democracy in our country has never been perfect, of course. It has always been an experiment prone to ebbs and flows, and perhaps there have been times when circumstances were more dire, but when I look around I see democracy losing on every front. And we are losing it because of money. We've long bemoaned the corruptive influence of K Street lobbyists and bought-off politicians, but recent Supreme Court rulings making corporations into individuals and money into speech, including one yesterday, has essentially opened the flood gates to unlimited money in our political system. I fear that we will not lose our nation to outside threats like commies or terrorists, but rather via a complete take-over by the wealthy. Everywhere I turn, we've sold off more of our nation's commons into private hands for the purpose of profit and the charter movement is the frontline in privatizing public education, one of the cornerstones of democracy.

I'm not here to debate the merits of your own charter school, nor the demerits of your local public school. I stipulate to both. I am here to warn that the illusion of "choice" that charters seem to offer today is merely a marketing gimmick, a stage in the plan for a corporate take-over of education in America, a place where the guiding force of schools will not be education, but rather profit on the backs of children. 

I worry that it's already too late, but I have to believe that democracy can still work in our country so I am attempting to fulfill one of the central responsibilities of self-governance and that is to speak out in the hope that others will hear me and, in turn, speak out themselves. Sorry folks, I don't have big bucks, so that's all I've got. It's all most of us got.

One of the people who is speaking out most strongly, and I believe most effectively, is researcher, education historian, and author Diane Ravitch. As one of our nation's experts on public education, she has been educating us about the dangers to both our schools and democracy for quite some time. Recently, she warned that many of our major cities are poised to be without public schools altogether. I support her call for Congressional hearings on the development and implementation of Common Core State Standards, and while I may not see eye-to-eye with her on the future of public schools (after all, I'm a progressive, play-based guy and she is not), we do agree that education ought to be based upon data, research, and experience, and not the unproven and untested drill-and-kill methods being advocated by Bill Gates and the rest of the corporate "reform" movement.

This week Ms. Ravitch, a former advocate for charters, was interviewed by the last of the great journalists, Bill Moyers, in an interview focused primarily on the dangers of charter schools and their destructive effects on democracy. If you'd rather see a transcript, it's available here. I know there are some of you poised to chide me once more, but if you love democracy and hate the corruptive effects of money on our democracy as much as I do, please watch this first.

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