How many of us get the big picture about what is happening to American Education?
How many of us have seen the grand scheme? Scholars have followed the attempts to privatize education, one of the biggest industries in America, for 100 years. John Bellamy Foster wrote a paper in Monthly Review (referenced below) about that. But up until now these attempts were not successful.
What is different now is that this movement has become successful and it will take everything we have to hold it off. We must fight with every ounce of strength and try to capitalize on our numbers, not just in voicing our concerns on social media but also by financially supporting efforts to fight their media machine by supporting pro public education documentaries so they can be screened at well known film festivals.
I recommend these two as starters.
Jack Paar’s “Corporatized” (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/261761415/corporatized)
Bill Baykan’s “The Public School Wars” (http://www.publicschoolwars.com)
As we know, commercial concerns look constantly for new markets and areas of activity. In the last quarter of the twentieth century there was strong pressure to ‘roll-back’ state regulation, and to transform non-market and ‘social’ spheres such as education into arenas of commercial activity.
According to Colin Leys, such a transformation – the making of a market – entailed the meeting of four requirements:
1. The reconfiguration of the goods and services in question so that they can be priced and sold.
2. The inducing of people to want to buy them.
3. The transformation of the workforce from one working for collective aims with a service ethic to one working to produce profits for owners of capital and subject to market discipline.
4. The underwriting of the risks to capital by the state.
What we have here is a process of commodification – and the development of attempts to standardize ‘products’ and to find economies of scale.
Do those four look familiar?
In the 1980s, a powerful conservative political coalition, led by corporate interests, was organized against the public schools. Ronald Reagan sought to institute school vouchers, while frequently indicating his desire to abolish the U.S. Department of Education—established as a cabinet-level department during the Carter administration. Reagan appointed a National Commission on Education, which issued its report, A Nation at Risk, in 1983. Its message was that the U.S. education system was failing due to its own internal contradictions. (No mention was made of slowing economic growth, increasing inequality, growing poverty, etc.) In the words of A Nation at Risk: “If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves….We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.
The Reagan administration, which initiated a huge Cold War military buildup while cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations, used the rhetoric of reducing the skyrocketing federal deficit to justify jettisoning federal support for schools—including a 50 percent cut in federal Title I funding for schools in low-income districts.28 The late 1980s and 1990s saw the first dramatic shifts toward more rigid standards, accountability, and assessment systems, backed up by coercive mechanisms, in states like Kentucky and Texas (the latter under Governor George W. Bush). This general approach to educational reform was pushed forward within the federal government in the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, and materialized as a major bipartisan national program for the transformation of elementary and secondary schooling in the presidency of George W. Bush.