Monday, February 14, 2011

Why I Do Not Love Public Education

Save Our Schools is hosting a Valentine’s Day blogging festival called I Love Public Education Blogging day. I’d like to participate, but I do not love public education. Here’s why:

I do love teaching and working with young people of all ages. Teaching is fun and inspiring, at least it was until the Ed Deformers really started to go crazy with accountability, testing, and attacking teacher compensation, tenure and pensions. I still learn a lot from my students and from my colleagues, which I really appreciate. I like the fact that education is free for all children, theoretically giving all kids the opportunity to grow and develop. Clearly, education is necessary so that people can learn the basic skills they need to survive in this world. It is also my livelihood, so I do not want to see it debased or eviscerated any further.

Herein lies the rub: Public Education has always existed as a tool for maintaining and enforcing the existing socioeconomic relations (i.e., ensuring that the rich remain rich and the rest of us have the minimal skills and attitude necessary to help them to do so). I do NOT love this most fundamental aspect of public education. The notion that education is the great equalizer is nothing but a liberal myth. It helps bolster the American Dream fantasy and it draws many do-gooder types to the teaching profession who make increasingly desperate sacrifices for “the good of our students,” and sometimes to the detriment of their colleagues. Yet the vast majority of people still end up in the same social class as adults as their parents, despite their schooling.

Certainly there is the potential for individual teachers to enlighten children and inspire them to resist the injustices in the world and to help some of them move up the social ladder, but even the very best teacher is fighting against tremendous odds. The fact is that the socioeconomic relations outside of school play a much stronger role in a child’s academic development than do the school or teacher. If we really want to see significant improvements in graduation rates and closing the achievement gap, then we need to be fighting for greater social and economic equity. We need to be organizing to take back the wealth that the rich have been sapping from us. We need stronger unions and higher pay for the 95% of Americans that are not part of the ruling elite. We need universal health care for all. We need childcare for all parents who want to work outside the home. We need mental health services and drug rehab for all who need it. We need affordable housing. We need to stop locking people up for nonviolent petty crimes like drug possession.

So for me, saving public education is about much more than just getting the billionaire (and millionaire) Ed Deformers off my back. Of course I would love to see an immediate end to NCLB and Race to the Top. It would be great if the voucher, charter-school and “choice” advocates would quit trying to raid public funds and even greater if we could start funding public schools generously instead of miserly. And it would be fantastic if we really did lower class sizes, provided adequate books and supplies, clean and well-maintained facilities. And while we’re at it, how about providing elementary teachers with a prep period or giving secondary teachers two or three prep periods so they had the time to really read all those essays and lab reports and to develop exciting new hands-on activities? How about providing full-time nurses and health clinics on campuses, reinstating counselors and librarians, arts and music? However, if we don’t also start organizing and fighting for some serious social transformations, even all these other great improvements will only help a fraction of our students to achieve at the high levels we have set for them.


  1. Public Education has always existed as a tool for maintaining and enforcing the existing socioeconomic relations (i.e., ensuring that the rich remain rich and the rest of us have the minimal skills and attitude necessary to help them to do so). I do NOT love this most fundamental aspect of public education." You

    I agree. Great summary of US Ed.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I agree with you and I want to thank you for your posting regarding the “I love Public Education” campaign - or in this case why you don't love it. The more awareness we can bring to the situation, the better off we will all be! And I agree that I do not like this aspect of public education either.

    You have been blogging about the recent attacks on teachers and public schools. Our national grassroots movement is asking the “real” ed reform bloggers to join with us so that we can all speak with ONE VOICE all across the country during the month of March. You are one of them! And I am so grateful.

    Our theme for March is “Waking the Sleeping Giant”, which was inspired by the events in Wisconsin and other places around the country. The public is finally beginning to wake up to what’s been happening for the last few years – we’re seeing evidence of this not only in Wisconsin but in places such as Seattle and Rochester.

    We are asking you to keep your readers informed by continuing to mention our July 30 march in D.C. and by providing a link to our website in one or more of your posts during the month of March.

    Your guest post was published on our website and if you would like to post again, send your post or your comments to Or if you would like to endorse our march, let us know and we will list your blog and url on our website.

    Posts can also be tweeted with the hashtag #WakingGiant. We offer the March and events of July 28 to 31st in Washington, D.C. as the focal point for this movement, and we ask participants to link to this event, so that we can build momentum for our efforts. We offer your choice of the attached graphics to go along with our theme “Waking the Sleeping Giant.” We encourage you to use one or more of the graphics to indicate that our organization is sponsoring the march.