The Louisiana Department of Education has stonewalled attempts to make public records involving the discussion process for how private and parochial schools were deemed eligible for vouchers, which are funded by tax dollars. This is yet another insult to teachers, students and families who witnessed entire schools shut down following Hurricane Katrina and massive teacher layoffs. Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, went on the record stating that “transformation was made possible not just because of the need to rebuild physical infrastructure, but because the displacement and layoffs that resulted from the storm sapped the power from the local teacher’s union, whose opposition would’ve otherwise made change impossible.” A rare victory was scored when a New Orleans judge ruled that the state and School Board illegally fired thousands of teachers and school employees.
For those involved in public education around the country, it is not difficult to identify the various tactics that have been undertaken to dismantle and marginalize public education in the United States. These include the weakening of teacher’s unions, No Child Left Behind/Race To The Top, Common Core and the flow of public funds to quasi-public and private schools. I do not want to rehash these events which are already well documented by websites such as Schools Matter. What I want to explore are the underlying currents that often serve to distract from the source of the oncoming floods. It’s easy to observe and quantify the lava (effects) but not as easy to calibrate the minute shiftings of the earth’s crust (cause) that results in an eruption at just the right time and place.
In my humble, non-binding opinion, there are two decisive factors that are at play besides the obvious elephant in the room, which is the staggering profits to be made off public schools by the testing companies, education “specialists” and corporate captains such as Rubert Murdoch and Bill Gates who are chomping at the bit to take their “manifest destined” piece of the public education pie. The reality is that Murdoch and Gates have enough money to build their own damn schools and pay the salary of every blessed employee in their own Gates-Murdoch private Idaho school district. So perhaps there’s more than money that motivates these types of persons. Remember, also Gates and Murdoch have built their empires and made their brillions (billion/trillion) already. This is about legacy for them, which leads me to the two reasons for their meddling in the public sphere, that is camouflaged by the various private interests that are the focus of many education watchdogs.
The first reason is ego; these are self-made men who pulled themselves up from their bootstraps to realize their version of the American Dream. These are men for whom the rules of mere mortals do not apply. If they set their mind or their money to solving a problem, then consider it done. Their access to the corridors of the power culture’s prestige and privilege are merely a by-product of their entitlement, for they deserve everything they have. Please disregard the monopoly behavior of Microsoft when Gates headed the company or the sub-ethical behavior of Murdoch’s employees in the pursuit of tabloid journalism. The second reason is their utter disdain for the public sector, otherwise known as the unwashed masses. The public are the marks, the ones to consume the software or newspapers they respectively hawk. But when it comes to matters of importance such as public education, of which Gates was in private school by the 7th grade and Murdoch attended one of the most expensive boarding schools in Australia, then these are the smartest men in the room. The transparency required when overseeing public dollars is beneath such men, no one will tell them what to do or how to do it, least of all a bunch of public servants or their collective bargaining representatives.
In future posts, I will explore public education and the role of critical thinking in shaping our consciousness, which I feel is one of the most important struggles taking place in our society, even more important, dare I say it, then whether or not to eat at Chick-Fil-A …oh yes, he did go there!