Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Requiem for a Great Nation

By Cheryl Gibbs Binkley 

And of all the places to get the news we are dying--at a Senate hearing for (of all things) the Secretary of Education. Yes, I know, surreal, but then terrible diagnoses always are.

You see, from the days Washington and Jefferson disagreed over whether 3 years or 5 years was the needed level of education for a democratic citizen, we have determinedly progressed toward an ever stronger, broader, and deeper education of our citizens. Until now a network of locally controlled schools covers the country and delivers for one of the few or only times in history, a nearly universal education to unsurpassed levels, and yes I do mean unsurpassed levels.

With that system, loosely strung together, mostly with local taxes, but augmented by state and a few federal dollars, and a large force of dedicated teachers, we have risen to become the preeminent nation of all time, the envy of the world, and a destination to reach; a place where people still want their children to grow up.

Generation after generation our schools have turned out bright, capable, innovative and empathetic citizens who, armed with what they learned, have produced unprecedented progress in almost every field of endeavor; each generation building on the last. Yes even and especially this generation. The results of our public schools have produced a staggering list of accomplishments, mind boggling in scope.

It has been a grand run, one for the history books, not that we will have history books after the....

A Grand run, that would still be going but for the “greed is good” movement, which decided to take over our schools. Like some munchausen syndrome attention seeker, that kills what it claims to love, they started with marketing, a long and expensive ongoing campaign. The messages were simple;
  • schools are failing;
  • you want special choice schools like the rich;
  • you don’t want your children with “those” kids.
  • The mostly women who are nurturing and teaching your children are not creative, charismatic, or smart enough;
  • Teachers, schools, and children need to be held “accountable.”

Then the “good greed” promoters moved in with deprivation, stripping schools in the poorest neighborhoods of basic things like heat, safe buildings, trained teachers, and supplies. Until finally the billions of dollars PR campaign began to pay off. And the piece de resistance, they bring on massive meaningless tests that setup failure deliberately and use them for the final flogging that could convince the populace that Mr. or Mrs. Jones, their child’s beloved teacher is worse than a failure; s/he is an ill-intentioned self-serving failure.

Finally, the "greed is good" munchausen movement had reached critical mass. Enough people believed our schools were inferior, to weaken them enough for the killers to move in for the kill.

Last night, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension committee delivered the final prognosis. The schools will die, and though they don’t acknowledge it yet, the nation with them.

The schools must die, not because they are actually terminal, but because we, the “greed is good” team are making them so. It’s ok though, they tell us. Disruption is good, even when artificial and not needed. This death will create new profit centers and all those inept teachers will get paid what they can demand in the open marketplace.

Last night, the Senate HELP committee informally but firmly announced that both sides of the aisle agree with the “greed is good” movement, and they are ready to move on with hiring the person who (with the help of some “greed is good' state legislators) can finally close the deal.

They are ready to choose the person to bring the last of the poison to young Kyra while she watches Punch and Judy, and Betsy DeVos makes no bones about her desire to kill public schools in a well-tailored suit that brings her much admiration. Last night she got the signal she will get that honor. Like the hunter allowed to kill the last of a beautiful species, or sacrificer who leads the young couple to the door of the labyrinth, she can deliver the blow. She has already performed the sacred task once for Michigan.

There’s only one problem.

Without the public schools, a nation dependent on a universally educated populace cannot survive, particularly in a time of exploding knowledge and exponential change. Washington and Jefferson knew that.  They lived in a similar time of massive change and fought similar “greed is good” long-term battles using the idea of education.

The “greed is good” team have already proven they cannot and will not teach exceptional children who do not provide a profit, and though they deny it, they cannot and will not provide the nurturing stability for children to grow. They can syphon off large salaries, shut down, leave town, deny rights, hire without qualifications, use zero tolerance discipline, do all the things detrimental to growing children; in fact, that is part of their business model.

It may take 5 years, 10, or  a generation, but without the stabilizing force of community schools building communities through providing our children with safe, balanced, nurturing places to grow, and without the creative, knowledgeable guidance for learning only highly qualified and dedicated teachers collaborating with parents can provide, we are doomed to become a shadow of ourselves-- if we survive at all.

The risks are unbelievably high. Almost all the many fields that hold danger for human survival, are dependent on a school system that develops those bright, capable, innovative, and empathetic people our system has always provided. And if we are to retain even the barest essence of our humanity in the face of spiraling increased technology, there must be a place with caring capable humans where our children learn what it means to Be Human.

The highly disruptive and stratified model the “greed is good” team proposes cannot hold our society together in the face of the quantum change our society is facing, neither can their amateur efforts at educating the wide and growing diversity of our children provide our children with the developmentally sound tasks and relevant motivation to help them become healthy, proactive, knowledgeable adults.

Quite simply, our human society cannot survive without our public schools--

  • Schools that belong to the communities they serve;
  • schools whose goal is to serve the children and community they belong to (not to provide a dividend for unknown shareholders);
  • schools managed by people who put children not profit first;
  • schools that stabilize and build a great nation;
  • schools that provide a prototype and connected collaboration to the entire global community.

Today is a day for requiems.

We lost a lot last night. We may have lost everything.

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