Education in America

I had a dream last night. In this dream I saw hundreds of hard-working employees heading into work and starting their jobs on the manufacturing floor or in the administrative offices. Not everyone looked happy but, realistically, they were receiving a decent salary, healthcare benefits, and the cafeteria had an ersatz coffee machine that also dispensed lattés. The corporate officers were earning their inflated salaries by keeping the cost of doing business at an absolute minimum thereby assuring themselves of continued profits and benefits.

I was amazed at the time and expense a corporation took to maintain its employees at a level which would cost the least and still give it the right to boast about how much it did for the average worker. The trick was to keep lowering the employees’ share until it was just above the level which might result in outright revolt (vilifying labor unions helped a lot here, too). Economic downturns were an added plus, giving the corporations the excuse to further abuse employees who were made to believe that the corporation was doing them a favor letting them work for for them adding more and more profit to the beneficent officers. Workers took pay cuts, took on the tasks of other employees who were dismissed in a cost-savings move, paid more for their rapidly disappearing health benefit packages. Workers didn’t dare complain and lived in fear that they would lose their so-called voluntary employment.

Wage slaves are almost as good for capitalism as was traditional slavery.

Going to work

But these employees were not fresh from the crib:  they were educated and capable of working for the corporation with little preparation. How did this happen? Many believe it is the American idea of public education. Public schools are possibly the greatest subsidy to American businesses.

We’ve all heard the conservative anthem that businesses are made great by the business owner: the person who started and built the business. Any thinking individual knows this is bull-shit but I ask you to image a start-up business in a community without the support of training people for prospective employees:  would the “I made it” business leader hold classes to teach employees how to read and write and cypher? Then would he (or she) go out with a pick and shovel to work on building a road to his place of business? Imagine customers who would come into his store, unable to read the labels, unable to add-up costs, hovering around the coffee dispenser wondering how to make it work.

How would it be if every business in town had to run a school to develop their own employees? Do you think that eventually these business-types would decide they needed some form of central authority to train people for employment? I wonder who …

This is what I think of public education. It is there to serve business. It is a business subsidy. It does a disservice to students in that all it does is train them for future employment. I suggest often that it should be called training, but even the idea of “education” suggests we are expecting schools to mold young people into the approved and correct form which will allow a minimum of future trouble while successfully stifling any individualism or imagination.

True, it doesn’t always work. There are always individuals who escape the mind numbing of public education and rebel against the conformity required of the typical wage slave. Notice, however, that there is a consistent attack being waged against these individuals: look at the conservative responses to art that doesn’t conform to the corporate vision; look at how Hollywood is inevitably pointed to as a hotbed of ungrateful wrong-thinking; watch ten minutes of Fox News; notice the lack of politicians who reject Christianity, the NRA, and refuse to take bribs from corporate lobbyists.

Public education is done at taxpayer expense so the corporations have a steady feed of prepared prospective employees. I think education requires a radical reform but turning it over to private businesses which would then make further profits will result in further and more evident abuses and the students themselves will end up benefiting less from privatized education than they did from public education. I think the first thing we have to do about public education is the throw out the idea that education is a quantifiable activity, both for the students and the teachers, and that there is a standard for individual education which is applicable to all students. I agree that we need to get government out of education but it isn’t the Federal government … it is the local and state school boards that tend to operate from their own agendas, seldom are valuable in providing education, and for the most part are the problem and not the solution.

School Room

The quick fix, it seems to me, is to dump all the oversight and turn the education of our youth over to the teachers. They are not all good but many are hugely valuable to the future of our children. I would suggest that even the worst teacher is more beneficial than the best politician when it comes to education. It has even been suggested that educational demands be left to the parents. Despite the fact that this is a very regressive idea and would assure continuing and expanding class differences, it is also a stupid idea. For every enlightened parent there is probably two who are more concerned with social standing, not to include the uncountable parents who have little or no concern for the education of their children.

Education reform demands some “out-of-the-box” thinking but don’t look to conservatives for a solution. We need to re-purpose public education and to acknowledge its benefit to private corporations. Furthermore, those that benefit from the education of our citizens should be eager to pay their fair share of its cost.

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