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The Growing Progressive Movement to Save Public Education


The Growing Progressive Movement to Save Public Education

Ruth Conniff

All over the country, a growing movement of parents, teachers, and students is rising up against over-testing, school closings, and shady schemes that channel public funds into private schools.

Saving public education is shaping up to be a key issue in the 2016 Presidential campaign.

In a front-page article this week, The New York Times described Hillary Clinton’s dilemma on so-called education reform.


If you tell me that a movement is growing, I’d like to see more than a couple of examples, neither of which is given any quantification



Always here to play devil’s advocate in attempts to take the air out of very real movements. Seattle showed blowback for standardized tests, and parent-student-teacher opposition to this BS–used as a pretext through which to close down public schools–is taking place in MANY states.

Who is paying you?


So the notion we are supposed to take away from this article is this: If Killary, the warmongering, corporatist sociopath, just takes up the banner of “education,” that will make her acceptable to so-called Progressives.

How sad. No wonder the world is such a mess. If this is the bar we set for Progressive candidates.


We lost track of some of the most basic aspects of education. First, hungry children, growing up in families that are already homeless or a single job loss from homelessness, can’t learn. These children live with the anxiety of being taken from the parents who love them, for the crime of being jobless/poor. In additional, political interference with education since the 1980s has resulted in a measurable deterioration of the quality of US public education. Finally, there is simple hopelessness. Without a college degree, one will remain poor, no matter how long and hard they work. College is unaffordable to the masses. Since the 1980s, the government’s focus has been on building a two-tiered economic system, corporations and the masses who enrich them. As we have quietly been transitioning into just another source of third world labor, making products to be sold in the more successful nations, higher education is unnecessary. The dirty little secret: US corporations are no longer dependent on US workers or consumers.


It can’t be done. Labor has lost most of its rights and protections. We have a huge surplus of job-ready people who are desperate for any job at any wage. Those who walk off the job can easily be replaced by those who have no options.


No, it’s legitimate to ask, “What movement”? The US has been in this mess before. Each time, the poor and middle class, workers and the jobless, ultimately united to push back, to the benefit of all. That can’t happen this time because we’ve been deeply divided and pitted against each other.


In the 1930’s, Wall Street did not have complete control of the mass media as it does today.

Yes, Hearst was still very powerful in print media but radio was still in its childhood and locally owned stations were the norm.



Concurrent with “Seattle showing blowback for standardized tests” Washington State voters approved an initiative that legalizes charter schools. Needless to say that Bill/Melinda Gates and other billionaires funded the initiative campaign.


During the first half of the 20th century nearly 10% of US voters voted for socialist or communist presidential candidates, thereby giving Congressional Democrats (and even a few Republicans) cover to toss the 99% a few crumbs (in the form of the New Deal and labor friendly legislation). They could always say they helped the 99% to keep the US from going commie.

With 98% of US voters voting for the corporate Democrat or the corporate GOP presidential candidate (6 more populist candidates were on the ballot in most states) with the 2 socialist candidates getting less than 1% of the vote combined, the Democrats have zero incentive to do anything for the 99% and have every incentive to take back the crumbs they tossed us in the 1930s.


You are correct that many are waking up to the corporate propaganda behind the school privatization campaign. Diane Ravitch’s “Reign of Error” is an excellent indictment of the hoax of failed public schools as a false meme. It is this Big Lie that underlies Bill Gates’ charter school initiatives and the film “Waiting for Superman” - teachers union bashing propaganda for the charter school movement.

As time passes, we have seen how privatization, outsourcing and deregulation have hurt our nation since being ushered in by libertarian Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980. We have seen the extreme costs of Private Military Contractors in George W. Bush’s wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Barack Obama’s continuation of the same policies there and in Libya and Syria. Privatized intelligence gathering, privatized voting systems, privatized highways, parks, libraries, hospitals and a privatized for profit prison system which has helped rank the U.S. as number one in the number of people incarcerated. Shameful.

Privatization of our public air waves by the likes of GOP TV “Faux News” which continues to pump out libertarian pro-war, pro-privatization, pro-corporate anti-government propaganda.

Privatization of public services and assets is no less than the systematic destruction of our commonwealth and civil government. Privatization is a nice world for Theft. Just like Corporatism is a nice word for Fascism. In practice, libertarianism is a Trojan Horse ideology of so-called “free market” anarcho-capitalists. Thinly veiled vehicle for the steady movement toward a new form of Friendly Fascism via the “inverted totalitarianism” which you have aptly described in the past.


I agree with just about everything in your post except the description of Ronald Reagan as a libertarian. I believe that Reagan was a corporatist with a libertarian veneer.



You put two words into quote marks that tell the whole story: “failed” (referring to schools) and “reform” (reform efforts).

First, it is true that our schools have “failed” to educate all students well; oh, we still send some to MIT, but far too many fall through the cracks. Americans are regarded around the world as among the dumbest, least aware citizens–and this in a so-called superpower.

Second, we do need to “reform” our schools, and that is much more important than “saving” them, if by saving what you means is keep them just as they are.

Third, the red-herring about billionaires: If you remember, Gates pushed a small schools initiative a decade ago, and this would have been a positive change: students closer to teachers, teachers in better communication with each other. It was a terrific idea, but teacher union and parent pushback (parents riled up by teachers who are opposed to change of any sort) killed it off.

I do agree that money being taken from public schools is not good; that is a problem. But your article really ignores the elephant in the room: our schools and our teacher force need to be transformed, upgraded, supported. Why? Because they are not doing a very good job right now.


I think I know where you’re coming from. And it’s the semantic difference between the theoretical or ideal libertarianism (with the small “L”) and true libertarian politics under the Bush’s, the Clinton’s and now Obama. Search: “8 ways Ronald Reagan was a libertarian” for a good explanation of why and how he truly embraced libertarianism. The three legs of the Reagan Revolution were, after all, “privatization, outsourcing and deregulation.”

Reagan said, “I believe the heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” He said, “As government expands, liberty contracts.” Also, “Government is not the solution to our problems, it is the problem.”

He was definitely a “corporatist,” and the “smaller government” he wanted still had a huge military budget, including a classified black ops budget in Central and South American and support for the Contras in the U.S. proxy war against the Nicaraguan Sandinista government.

A libertarian idealist would be a non-interventionist when it comes to foreign policy, almost “anti-war.” They would also abolish the failed War on Drugs and decriminalize drug use to eliminate the state’s involvement in propping up a huge black market and a system of citizen surveillance which has continued to expand under the pretense of the War on Terror.

So Reagan and every other president since him cherry pick those libertarian ideals that best serve corporate America and ignored those which would have interfered with the “free market” in things like military arms sales, “guns for drugs” and private prisons - the very things that libertarian idealists despised for their negative impacts on life, liberty and human rights. In that sense, Reagan was not a “good libertarian” but one of the very worst.