When immigrants and refugees from Eastern and Southern Europe immigrated to the US in the late 1800s and early 1930s found work and could provide for a family the education of their children became the first priority. These people knew the value of education from experience and provided it sometimes at great sacrifice. In fact, they demanded it and insured that their children understood its importance. All of these people had felt the inequality imposed by inherited wealth and property. The social capital of the ruling classes in Europe was an intolerable burden for the rest of society to bear and that’s why my grandparents and millions of other American’s grandparents and great-grandparents fled Italy, Poland, Ireland and nearly every other European country. For these immigrants education was liberation, it was freedom, it was dignity, a path to a life as middle-class families. Enormous sacrifices were made to put kids through college and university where they became professionals in medicine, law, education, and science. It was the “New World” indeed. It was the embodiment of the “American Dream”.
Here we are a century and a half later facing a relentless political battle to deny that dream, to denigrate public schools, to destroy the education system that made attaining the dream possible. Empty arguments like third grade retention are employed to mask the real intent of the so-called reformers. Their arguments sound like they know what they are talking about but, in fact, they are meaningless. They want total control over school budgets to use as carrots on a stick to force compliance with their dictates. The ultimate mission of these foot soldiers for the ultra-wealthy is to destroy and privatize the strongest most important force in a democracy—education. Those being served by these soldiers want social control and there is no better way to achieve that than to determine how the society is educated. How better to control people as adults than by controlling their childhood education? This is why totalitarian regimes throughout history have always taken control of education from madrasas to universities. To obtain the finished product you desire you have to control the production line from start to finish. You must control to achieve control.
Control and destruction of public education is a large factor in right-wing thinking at all levels. The Kochs “give” money to hundreds of colleges and universities. The Kochs even have their own guy at the University of Kansas who previously worked directly for them who is now Chairman of their endowed, “Center for Applied Economics”. This guy conducts seminars and conferences and publishes “helpful” articles - he’s their boy. The Kochs are also helping him pay his legal bills as he tries to shield himself from disclosure of the extent of their support. Is education important to these people? You bet it is, they want to control it and they would rather you not know the extent of their influence over State legislatures who are deeply influenced (and controlled) by campaign contributions and promises of placement on the national stage. How about a steak dinner and free drinks? Or even better, an all expenses trip to an ALEC seminar for you and your spouse being held at a lovely island resort? Whatever it takes.
If aliens from outer space flew in, took over Washington DC, and began to dismantle government we would be outraged. We would be engaged in a counter revolution within hours. The same is happening except the aliens aren’t from outer space they are home grown, an ideological ISIS in three piece suits. Sadly the threat is being met by the public with passivity because they don’t know what’s at stake. It’s time to wake people up and have them smell the influence and the consequences. The “reformers” are relentless in their quest for “more” of everything including your schools. The motto is: “Only More Is More!”