Sunday, September 19, 2010

America, Inc's newest Corporatizing of a Fundamental Public Good: Education--Inc.

Editor Sachetti’s recent choice for an “education reform” Op-Ed is thin on fact and long on thinly veiled propaganda for America, Inc.’s newest appropriation of a public good: education. “Online schools do more with less” by The Heartland Institute’s Ben Boychuk and Bruno Behrend is a billboard for privatizing public education by replacing it with enterprises that use tax dollars to fund FOR-PROFIT ventures (Think: Phoenix). The “hybrid” examples B&B offer—the Khan Academy, for example—aren’t the schools your children would attend if B&B had their way (unless you’re rich).

In fact, there’d be no PUBLIC education at all, and this is the real message of this editorial.

The Heartland Institute: a rightwing think-tank whose “Tea Party Tool Box” mission is to promote corporate interests (major donors: Big-Tabacco/Big-Energy) and the conversion of public services into for-profits. In addition to denying climate change, opposing all environmental regulation (including clean water laws), and promoting the deregulation of healthcare, Heartland advocates “education reform” that would funnel tax dollars to private schools, including parochial schools.

Setting aside violations of the Establishment Clause, “letting the money follow the child,” and “parental choice” is code for transforming tax dollars into venture capital. As the hybrid examples show, moreover, “privatize” is code for transforming “brick and mortar” into cyberspace, and hence into a caricature of what an excellent educational experience should be.

No doubt, public education in the United States needs to be far better, but the notion that the solution is to privatize and corporatize a fundamental public good, vanquishing the classroom, makes about as much sense as allowing BP, Phillip-Morris, Aetna, the natural gas industry, or Bank of America to regulate themselves. We all know who gets screwed—our kid’s futures.

Privatizing public education is inconsistent with democratic principle: without the pressure of good public education accessible to every child, (a) curriculum will be determined by ideological, religious and/or market demands, and (b) only the wealthy will have the opportunity to become truly educated. Heartland includes pictures of brown kids on their website, but this isn’t because they’re looking to equalize education for the disadvantaged; it’s because they can leverage the fears of economically vulnerable families (and the racism that equates “brown” with “poor”) into accepting an inferior on-line “education” that comes with the false promise of jobs.

Boychuk claims that because the Constitution says nothing explicitly about education, it should be left to the states, that doing so will “empower parents.” Nonsense. He knows tax dollars siphoned away from public schools by edu-corporations will insure their demise, and thus the demise of their unions, the real obstacle to the rise of the edu-industry. He knows that poor kids will be left to the public schools whose languishing revenues will not be able to keep up with America, Inc’s education “market,” a “market” every bit as free as Big-Energy, Big-Box, Big-Bank, Big-Pharma, and Big-Health—that is, it will have us by the proverbial cojones.

No surprise, of course, that Sachetti would choose this editorial—if it opposes education, who cares about motives? But you’d think he’d do better research. Boychuk’s “Constitutionalism” is a lie; he advocates repealing the 14th amendment: “Birthright citizenship, a medieval idea, has no place in our Constitution.” He calls it “wrong and crazy,” revealing his real motives—a nation of citizens selected for their “rightness” for America, that is, for their ability to pay for America Inc’s newest product: education—Inc.

Wendy Lynne Lee (571 words)