Saturday, August 2, 2014

Education, Unions, Politics, and Eating your Own

I recently came across a collection of Harper's Weekly from 1872 in the house that I live in. In it on the front page of the August 3rd issue it talks about President Grant and Education regarding the ongoing election of that year where President Grant was running against Horace S. Greeley. The issue was that President Grant (while he wasn't a perfect president) had expanded education access in the South to all people. The South had been until President Grant's term the most culturally backwards place in the Western world (to compare apples to apples) with the lowest literacy rate and the slavery being the worst in the entire world. The article talks about how Horace Greeley would reverse the policies, but looking at more detail it turns out that this was not true how Horace Greeley would change such policies and he had been campaigning for years for progressive policies. This is a classic case of media twisting the words of a politician in a way that is dishonest and misleading.

Besides the deliberate misrepresentation of Greeley the article does have some really good points. Democrats had historically been the party of racists, and the period of 1865-1909 was the period when they moved from their racist roots that extended back to 1825 when Andres Jackson became President, so it is natural to not expect a party with such deep roots in fascism to change overnight. There were also a lot of Democrats in the South who had maintained their earlier convictions all the way up until Richard Nixon courted them in 1968 in his Southern Strategy which made them realize that the Republican Party post-1968 had the policies that they have agreed with since before the founding of our nation. The opposition to that great progressive American ideal of equality of opportunity has always been a deeply held Southern tradition.

This movement in the North to expand public education by using the resources of the Federal government has been one of the great accomplishments of American Democracy. The Southern Economy is much more diverse today than it was in 1965 and the gap between Whites and African Americans is smaller today than it used to be. It is still too large, but the campaigns of Lincoln, Grant, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and LBJ have made immense progress. This is a major threat against the traditions of the South of subjugation and their goal of slavery because it proves that the federal government can be immensely successful when used appropriately at making sure everyone has the opportunities they need and when these programs are done the leaders of freedom gain more power which means that those who would turn the South back 200 years to a nation of slavery if they could is more difficult.

In response to this by 2001 the Old Southerners needed a new strategy so they proposed the No Child Left Behind Act. This misallocation and destruction of the American education system was never designed to improve education and everything in it has been disproven by professional studies of what works and what doesn't. It gives money to massive testing companies who have a stake in politics which is the short-term benefit in higher campaign funding for them but the larger long-term benefit is it helps turn teachers off of looking for a more egalitarian system where people can get a high-quality education through the state because the state's system has been severely damaged. This is working to undo almost 150 years of American policy to ensure that every American child has the ability to get as far as possible and how it shouldn't matter how much your community has you can still get a high-quality education with the latest technology, and it doesn't mater how much your family or local community has. This was what President Grant begun and has continued, which ended up with high schools and public education extending all the way through college. The highlight of the time was when in the 1950s and 1960s college was extremely affordable and it didn't matter how much your family had you could still go get yourself an education. The result was a growing middle class and a booming economy.

The issue for these people who oppose public education is that in their misguided view on the economy they think there must be someone who has to be subjugated in order for themselves to get rich. Only recently are we finally seeing them listen to the reason of economists and the voice of reality that you can be wealthy and treat your employees extremely well. With this misguided viewpoint they (the business owners and the politicians they pay) have tried to destroy our public education system. The beginning of this resurgence against education was under Ronald Reagan when we saw massive increases in tuition for college which effectively priced a large number of working poor out of the system. The latest action in this success for the Republicans at elimintating opposition to their destruction is opposition to common core without any real proposal to make certain students aren't learning creationism in science classrooms and other fairy tales. This is a direct response of the No Child Left Behind Act, which I believe was calculated, and has succeeded remarkably well at giving local school districts the ability to destroy their education systems which has resulted in a remarkable amount of doublespeak and killing of opportunities. With teacher's unions moving away from the common core which is the way to end this destruction of our education system it is a victory to people who would move our country away from science. This removal of the best advocates for our schools from the public debate and their attacking politicians who want to ensure no student leaves high school without ever touching a real science book harms everything that makes this country great. This is the classic eating of your own which I have observed the left to be so fond of doing. Teachers should be collaborating with the government to construct a common core that has the pieces that are essential and gives teachers time to work with their students without being rushed. They should advocate for policies based on research as opposed to running away from the issue and demonizing those who are proposing to end the destruction that has been done to our education system particularly by Reagan and Bush either directly or indirectly.

The next step for the Confederates is the privatization of schools which if the public schools degrade far enough should get teachers moving to private schools which will price even more students out of getting even a basic education. The ideal of education as a human right, while not codified in law, has become an important part of American politics and is being constantly targeted by these Southerners which will destroy our economy.

This will lead to a less educated work force which will push our country back in time to a place more similar to what President Grant was fighting in his advocacy of public education which did make an impact in the South (since the vast majority of African Americans can now read) and decrease our competitive advantage which is the engine of American economic growth. The decrease in civic knowledge as well will hurt our democracy.

For the racists of the South (such as Bush and Perry) they cannot speak out today in racist terms so instead they use more nuanced terms this is a great threat to the deeply held Southern Traditions of slavery and segregation. This is why they talk about privatization and other Trojan Horses, but in the end they have always been looking for the same thing for over 200 years. Nothing about these people's goals have ever changed in the history of this country.

Fortunately, not all is lost. There are still some people who are trying to ensure that students do not leave high school without a science education with President Obama and Arne Duncan pushing to make it be required that students learn science in the schools among other important topics which are frequently omitted by the truly crazy inheritors of the Stars and Bars. Hopefully in the future we will see a further resurgence of Progressivism in American with Elizabeth Warren speaking her mind and being able to make sure that the American people hear the truth and hopefully not try to whittle it all away with Compromise. President Grant's second term was marked with great compromises which destroyed many of his accomplishments and gave more power to the Confederate Democrats who wanted a return to slavery. Fortunately the first term made immense progress that not even compromise could undo, it only slowed the march to freedom for all people in this country.

Note: I unfortunately cannot get an online copy of the article that prompted this besides going past a pay wall.

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