Separate and Unequal

What the Government Has in Mind For the Schools

February 6, 2014

Education "reform" has become a major part of the program of both the Democratic and Republican parties. But just what kind of "reform" is the government carrying out? Rather than "reforming" and improving the schools, the government – through incessant propaganda and incremental steps – is undermining and dismantling our system of public education.

For several years now, politicians and education officials have kept up a barrage of propaganda cursing the public schools and blaming them for just about every problem – from drugs and violence to the economic difficulties facing the capitalist class.

But let us start with the basics.

Our nationwide system of public schools from kindergarten through high school is one of the great achievements of our country and people. Beginning in the days of British colonial rule, American people came out against the feudal system which reserved education as an exclusive privilege for the rich. The colonists insisted that education was a public responsibility and struggled to create the "common school" system to guarantee equality in education for everyone. Every generation of Americans have continued and extended this struggle for the right to education.

Are there problems and shortcomings in today's public schools. Yes.  But the outrageous thing is that it is the very government officials who are attacking the public schools who are responsible for the  problems. For example, even while the government itself admits that 2/3 of our public school buildings are in serious disrepair, the government refuses to make the investments needed to bring these schools up to the minimum level of safety and repair. Similarly, the government's own studies admit that smaller classes are a key to improving education, yet school officials – especially in working class and minority areas – often crowd twice the recommended number of students into classes.

Thus while the government has abdicated its own responsibility for the education of the youth, it cynically curses the teachers, the students, the parents and the very concept of public education in order to prepare conditions for further undermining the schools.

In order to "prove" its points, governments, all across the country, are making a big fuss about standardized tests to insure "performance." This is only a means through which government seeks to certify that certain schools are failures. On this basis, many states are already slashing investments for schools with poor results on standardized tests; other school districts are forcing "disruptive" students into special schools designed as virtual prisons. These attacks on schools serving the working class are accompanied by more propaganda which blames the youth themselves for "lacking morality" and "American values."

The immediate result of this entire project is to intensify the system of dual schools. The capitalist government wants to spend large sums on a few schools chartered to train technicians, professionals and managers for the capitalist class while condemning the majority of working class and minority youth to medieval schools which serve only to "discipline" the youth in "holding centers."

The aim of such "school reform" is to set-up a system of charter and voucher schools. The charter school system uses public funds to create a few elite institutions which are free of government oversight and public accountability and which can serve to train managers, technicians and professionals. This system drains vital funds from the public schools treasury, further eroding schools for the majority. The voucher system, which has already been legalized in some states, authorizes public funds to be used to defray part of the cost of private school education.

Both the charter and voucher systems go directly against the modern demand for universal, free and public education. Both charter and voucher schools are ways of entrenching a system of privilege in education, turning back towards the medieval system which kept education as an exclusive preserve for the rich and powerful.

In opposition to the government's program of slashing investments in the public schools and intensifying the dual system of separate and unequal schools, the working class and people must demand a thorough-going modernization of the public school system. This includes creating a federally-funded nationwide system which guarantees equality in education for everyone. It includes modernizing the curriculum on the basis of enlightenment and making the investments needed to bring the school infrastructure, class-size, etc. up to the requirements of the times. It includes extending the system of universal, free education to include pre-school and university education. Only such a genuinely modern public school system is compatible with the democratic renewal of our country.