Removing The Public from Public Education

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men” (Plato).  We (as a society) should be outraged over what people in high places are trying to do to (our) public education.


According to Henry Giroux, “…critical pedagogy is situated within a project that views education as central to creating students who are socially responsible and civically engaged citizens. This kind of pedagogy reinforces the notion that public schools are democratic public spheres, education is the foundation for any working democracy and teachers are the most responsible agents for fostering that education.”  In short public education, which serves the public, is essential to sustaining a democratic society.  Yet the un-reformers (as Giroux refers to them) believe education should serve private concerns.  That is, the voices of the powerful advocate for free-market education through the advance of vouchers and charter schools.   Of course, the billions government provides for education each year mustn’t go to the public it must land in the grasp of the profiteers!


Accordingly, a market-driven education system will go where the money is and will be managed to ensure profitability for the few owners—after all this is the supreme intent of business.  Note privatization of public education follows and is informed by a business model not a learning model.  Moreover, the moment we turn students into customers we’ve destroyed the needed relationship between each person and their learning.  As Giroux clearly states “pedagogy is simultaneously about the knowledge and practices teachers and students might engage in together and the values, social relations and visions legitimated by such knowledge and practices.”  Learning rests on a very human relationship—a commitment—between people, between teacher and student; it is not merely an economic exchange between provider and customer.


The learning process, particularly learning where exploration and creativity are involved, though effective is not always most efficient.  But with privatization one thing that can be counted on is corners will be cut in pursuit of maximum profitability.  Hence the corresponding love affair among the un-reformers with managing by metrics and accountability.


In a 2007 Harvard Business Review article, David Weinberger coined the term accountabalism that he defined as “the practice of eating sacrificial victims in an attempt to magically ward off evil.”  In essence what this is is a management practice for exercising control over others in an effort to get results.  Though results do matter—at some time in the future—this doesn’t mean that results are all that matters.  Using results to get (desired) results is a very bad management practice.


Moreover, carrot-and-stick management needs compliant employees who will do as directed without question. Hence very few practitioners of this method want people they manage to be open-minded inquisitive critical thinkers.  Clearly quality public education wherein all people are taught how to learn and to love learning would be ruinous to this practice.  Why?  Such people would resist this operant conditioning—making management very difficult—rendering this practice far less effective.  No wonder there is a push to reform education to align with how business is managed. The trained indoctrinated individualists who is deficiency oriented, but far less self-determined and development oriented, is much more manageable—or is it malleable.


If we care about our development as people then we ought not allow un-reformers to colonize (public) education. Hence as a society, we need to take them to task!  As previously asserted, to get education right requires that we cease using the same level of thinking that created the problem we now face and begin to think anew.  A place to begin is to critically think about and explore the question, why educate?

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