Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Saving democracy by saving public education

Here's one of the clearest arguments I've seen connecting the imperative for good public education with democracy. Not surprisingly, this piece, which comes from a book scheduled to be released soon, is called Defending Public Schools. Authors: E. Wayne Ross (University of British Columbia), Kathleen Kesson (Long Island University), David Gabbard (East Carolina University), Sandra Mathison (University of British Columbia), and Kevin D, Vinson (University of Arizona)

And why is saving public education so important for democracy?
...the truth about NCLB goes beyond any ineptitude on the part of its architects. NCLB sets impossible standards for a reason. Public access to institutions of learning helps promote the levels of critical civic activism witnessed during the 1960s and 70s that challenged the power of the state and the corporations that it primarily serves. The current reform environment creates conditions where public schools can only fail, thus providing "statistical evidence" for an alleged need to turn education over to private companies in the name of "freedom of choice." In combination with the growing corporate monopolization of the media, these reforms are part of a longer-range plan to consolidate private power's control over the total information system, thus eliminating avenues for the articulation of honest inquiry and dissent. In the end, as evidenced by Secretary of Education Rod Paige's recent characterization of the National Education Association, anyone who contests state-corporatism will be labeled a "terrorist" or, in more Orwellian terms, a "thought-criminal."
And our duty, as good progressives, include these tasks:
Progressives everywhere must begin doing more to demand that our institutions of public education foster critical citizenship skills to advance a more viable and vibrant democratic society. They must push for schools to become organized around preparing young people for active, democratic citizenship through engagement with real-world issues, problem-solving, and critical thinking, and through active participation in civic and political processes. Informed citizenship in a broad-based, grassroots democracy must be based on principles of cooperation with others, non-violent conflict resolution, dialogue, inquiry and rational debate, environmental activism, and the preservation and expansion of human rights. These skills, capacities, and dispositions need to be taught and practiced in our nation’s schools.
I love the map. I hope they will offer more specifics and resources in their book.