Sunday, October 24, 2004

Whither progressive education?

As we near Election Day, I get so bummed when I think about what's going on in education policy.

Under Dubya, no doubt it will be "more of the same", meaning a continued assault on public ed, and certainly more of that push towards vouchers and, ahem, nonreality-based 'science' education. Ugh. Nope. Not okay.

Under Kerry, we'll be sure to see more help for schools. Except for the sad fact that Kerry shares the same corporate/conservative education paradigm as Dubya, I can live. Kerry's solutions, though well-meaning, will be the equivalent of using flourescent Scooby-Doo bandaids on an open wound. They'll just slide off when everything gets too bloody.

Which means that the larger picture for progressive education policy is it simply just ain't.

Says Rethinking Schools:
Over the past several years, we have seen George W. Bush and his allies solidify the power of a right-wing coalition of Christian fundamentalists, corporate free marketeers, and "preemptive strike" ideologues that currently guides U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

As educators, we are especially concerned about recent educational policies, particularly the counterproductive and misnamed No Child Left Behind act (NCLB). The legislation cynically used people's legitimate concerns about educational inequality and academic achievement gaps to promote an agenda of narrow testing, punitive sanctions, and privatization. (Test your knowledge by taking the "NCLB Test."

What's at stake is not just the future of public education. We are defending the very concept of a public sector that serves the common good.

The Democrats share blame for many of these disastrous policies, including NCLB. And a Democratic administration will not guarantee progressive education policies. Regardless of who wins November's election, we need to get off the defensive and promote policies such as equitable funding, smaller class sizes, and programs to enhance teacher quality that are essential if public schools are to fulfill their promise and provide a quality education for all regardless of race, color, nationality, or zip code.

The current administration has led a privatizing mania. There is escalating concern that NCLB will be used to label all of public education a failure, paving the way for privatization via for-profit companies and vouchers for religious schools.

James Jeffords of Vermont, a former Republican who is now an independent, has called NCLB "a back door to anything that will let the private sector take over public education, something the Republicans have wanted for years."

Bush's fealty to privatization and right-wing economics is unquestioned. But one should not underestimate his commitment to the religious right and its dream of universal vouchers providing public dollars for religious schools.
The solution?

For the short term, elect John Kerry. He's the only option we have. My quibbles with his education policy are minor compared to the importance of electing someone who will be better for America.

For the long term, policy development, policy development, policy development. Oh, and did I say we need progressive policy development from the thinktanks (and, puh-leeze, don't be fooled by that faux one).

In the meantime, sign the FairTest petition asking for legislative change in NCLB. Here.

And Vote For John Kerry.