Standing up to the bullies

“If you want a classic formulation from our new Gilded Age, here it is, as described recently in the Guardian: “A head-on assault on teachers for their long summer vacations would ‘sound tone-deaf when there are dozens of videos and social media posts going viral from teachers about their second jobs [and] having to rely on food pantries.’” That’s advice for what not to criticize in a “messaging guide” produced by the State Policy Network (SPN), an “alliance” of 66 right-wing “ideas factories,” funded by the Koch Brothers, the Walton Family Foundation (Walmart), and the DeVos family (that is, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s billionaire relatives and Amway heirs). It’s part of a right-wing stealth strategy for finding just the right approach to discrediting America’s restive red-state teachers, chafing under seemingly never-ending tax-cut regimes in states like Oklahoma, programs sponsored by those same plutocratics. As an approach to governing, such tax-cutting, now decades old, has been a giveaway to the rich (just as Donald Trump’s recent tax “reform” bill will be). When it comes to what formerly were known as public schools (what the right now calls “government schools,”) the results have been catastrophic. Oklahoma, for instance, has cut per-student funding by 28% in the last decade.

“In the past, SPN went after the unions, who are fought an inequality gap that has recently come close to reaching the record heights of the previous Gilded Age in 1913. Now, however, it’s those ungrateful striking teachers that are SPN’s target and for good reason. In red states like Arizona, Kentucky, and West Virginia, their recent protests, walkouts, and strikes in favor of saving schools that have been put on a financial starvation diet (like teachers’ salaries) and increasingly lack everything, even in a few cases the time to teach. They are beginning to shake up state politics, and not in ways that either those billionaires or the Republican Party much likes. After all, those teachers teach… well, students (from whom we’ve heard quite a bit recently)… and those students, unbelievably enough, have… parents, and when you add up those teachers, parents, and students (future voters all), they turn out to be a group with the kind of numerical heft that billionaires, despite the way they’ve been multiplying year by year in this country, lack.” (Tomgram 4/19/2018, reporting on a Guardian article).

And yet… ordinary citizens in states like Arizona, Kentucky and West Virginia continue to vote for a political party that is in hock to the grabitocracy and gives every appearance of despising “schooling” (education being another thing altogether – you have to learn how to learn before you begin a true education). Were Epicurus alive today I am convinced that he would want us to give priority to having the best schools, the best teachers, an informed populace and an ability to think for oneself. One can’t help concluding, however, that some people with extreme right-wing views don’t believe in school at all, but want a compliant and ignorant electorate that watches Fox News and does what it’s told. This could end very badly, but then if you are taught no history you have no idea what could be in store for you.

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