We’ve all heard the criticism leveled at public education in general; large classes, poor facilities, under-qualified teachers, outdated textbooks, weak curricula, illiterates receiving diplomas. Many students graduate woefully unprepared for life after high school, be it college or the work force.
The two pillars of BushCo’s education travesty are school vouchers and standardized testing. The right touts these legislative gems as panaceas, but their real purpose, as with any BushCo policy, is the subverting and crippling of American democracy (do tax cuts for rich folks and suspending civil rights come to mind?). These policies’ long-term consequences could be chilling, but nevertheless cruelly logical by BushCo’s perverted and power-mad standards.
Ostensibly, school vouchers would allow the parents of children in ‘failing’ school districts to use Federal (read: taxpayer) money to pay tuition at a private educational institutions. The program’s most obvious failing is that it would funnel public money to private schools, the vast majority of which are, not coincidentally, church sponsored, related, or controlled.
Vouchers are nothing but an illegal, albeit clever, way of circumventing the Constitution’s prohibition against church/state entanglement. Since the right passes this voucher nonsense off as ‘choice’ for parents, many have been lured in to supporting them. Oddly enough, certain Christian groups oppose them since there is no preventing fringe religions from feeding at the trough, too. And Lord knows, the Christians don’t like competing with anybody for souls or money.
Then there are the standardized tests mandated by BushCo’s ironically named ‘Leave No Child Behind’ pipedream. The tests, they say, guarantee academic accountability. Essentially, schools whose students fail the tests lose Federal funding and those whose pass are rewarded (I often wonder how well the brain-deprived Bush would do on one of these tests?). Despite being skewed toward schools districts that can already afford superior everything, testing critics believe this would force most teachers to drastically stray from quality academic variety and instead teach ‘to the test’ to ensure the school’s future funding.
To any thoughtful person (i.e., progressive), these policies are wrongheaded, misguided, and unconstitutional. Seen as weapons against democracy exposes their inherent cynicism and BushCo’s interminable disdain for the fundamental ideals of self-governance, freedom, and equality.
Here’s how the voucher scam really works. First, conservatives continually bemoan the sorry state of public schools, blaming it on everything but lack of money – money the corrupt and stingy GOP-controlled Congress refuses to cough up for anything save war. Then they claim vouchers are the only way to ‘escape’ those schools and do right by the children (it’s always the children with them, isn’t it?). Parents then pull their kids out and send them to private religious institutions; traditional bastions of discipline, conformity, and conservatism.
Fewer public school students means fewer public school teachers. Fewer teachers means fewer NEA union members (one of the right’s most hated groups). Fewer union members mean less political power for the union, and since unions are traditionally full of Democratic voters…well, you get the picture.
Vouchers kill two birds with one cynical BushCo stone – they significantly decrease the heavily Democratic pool of public school teachers while unconstitutionally diverting funds to religion-based schools that each year crank out another dangerous flock of conservative Bush-loving Christian drones.
The testing scam is a lesser joke. This policy forces students to periodically pass mandated standardized tests (developed by rich white folks, no doubt). Such testing has already meant undue emphasis on test-passing strategies and much less on actual knowledge acquisition. Less time on other subjects means a less educated student, a decreased chance of advancing to a decent university (whose priorities are often suspect as well), and fewer opportunities at the highest levels of corporate America .
If the students pass, great, the school gets money, but the students aren’t any better educated. Meanwhile, students in failing districts are then given vouchers to attend private religious schools. See how nicely the two policies dovetail? Any given school will be either wealthy, in which case it passes the tests and supports BushCo, or poor and failing, in which case its students go to private religious schools where they’re taught to be good little Bush-lovers. Win-win.
By the time college comes around, the anointed and moneyed elite get the prime educational opportunities at all levels while the poor and minorities are back to square one. These elite can then freely pass on to their entitled positions as presidents of fraternities and captains of industry and government – securing the right-wing conservative Christian GOP’s political future for generations.
The only thing BushCo’s education policies will do is dumb students down while manipulating and undermining American democracy.
Allen Snyder is an instructor of Philosophy and Ethics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is copyright by Allen Snyder and originally published by opednews.com but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.
Other Articles by Allen Snyder