A friend and I were chatting on FaceBook, and this is a reply I made to him. He stated that he felt that Education was under a coordinated attack by “an Unholy Alliance of big money, fundamentalists, and mean bigots.” I initially responded that I thought he needed his tinfoil hat, but after much reflection, I had to modify my response. Here it is.
OK, I’ve thought about it a lot since yesterday, and I retract my statement that your belief that education is suffering from a coordinated attack is crazy. Here’s my take….
Starting a while back, but most pronounced during the Reagan era, a deep split in ideology began to take hold in America driven by the fear that those who have made some personal financial gains might lose them to social programs. The Left began to support their more liberal ideas with emotional public appeals to engender public support at the ballot, while the Right began to realize that they could effect change and have more control through organizing and influencing key people behind the scenes…such as getting Alan Greenspan, a disciple of Ayn Rand, appointed to the Fed.
This culminated during the Bush2 years, with PNAC finding its way into the White House, leading directly to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and basically dictating American political and foreign policy at all levels. To protect themselves, they also learned to manage public opinion through a very effective spin-control campaign and rhetoric (liberal-bashing and demonizing the ‘liberal elite’, for example).
PNAC eventually got outed and shamed into submission via the press, and with the end of the Bush2 presidency their role subsided. However, the deep desire to control the American political scene, fueled by an ever-deepening ideological divide, led to continued organization by the Right and more powerful ways to influence key people. With the passage of Citizen’s United, and the formation of ALEC, the Right now has a very effective way to assert a phenomenal amount of influence on the government. And there may be other organizations beyond ALEC.
Those who participate in ALEC openly share a political philosophy that embraces ideals of increased corporate wealth, stratification of society, financial stability of large organizations and reducing the distraction of political discourse from opposing points of view.
I don’t believe they ‘target’ education specifically, as organizations like ALEC are somewhat blunt instruments. I have not seen any evidence of an ‘Education strategy’ from them, although they do have a “Report Card” that measures how closely a state educational program matches ALEC’s standards. However, their shared point of view means that there is a general flavor to the legislation they write….one that reduces the voice of individuals, treats the masses collectively as a source of labor and income, and disempowers those who identify as ‘liberal’. Unfortunately, education has always been a liberalizing process, so it does tend to suffer from their influence.
What I find most amazing is that they successfully use fear of Socialism as their rabble-rousing mantra. The thing most distasteful about Socialism and Communism is the idea that a small, select group of people can influence government and economics in such a way that the role of the masses is relegated to providing for the well-being of the overclass, at the expense of the well-being of the collective. People lose their freedom of choice, their ability to be upwardly mobile is diminished, and they become pawns of the elite and wealthy. And of course, the stratification that organizations such as ALEC and PNAC produces does just that: it achieves those same goals that corrupt Socialist regimes do. Yet the people do not see it, because they are too busy bashing Liberals and Big Government; the very people who are looking out for their best interests.
So I don’t think the Right wing is deliberately targeting Education and dismantling it…I think they are effecting their influence unfairly at all levels, and their flawed ideas about how to make America stable and powerful are having a deleterious effect on education. Just as it is on the environment, on international opinion, and on the average American struggling to get ahead in our economic system.