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Why We Need Democratic Socialism to Fix Our Educational System


Why We Need Democratic Socialism to Fix Our Educational System

Paul Buchheit

Latoya and Jalesa, both 26, grew up on the west side of Chicago, attending Calhoun Public School during the day and stepping across the street to Marillac Social Center for after-school programs. They lived in a tough neighborhood. Latoya said the summer gunshots came as often as the sound of ice-cream truck bells in the suburbs. But everyone knew each other on those two blocks; kids walked together, to and from school and in the evenings. Parents—most of whom had gone to Calhoun—also knew each other, often through volunteer work at the social center.


Having taught junior through doctoral level engineering students for a quarter of a century, I can attest to the diminishment of the "feedstock" into my classes over that generational period.

At the K-12 level, computers should be removed for all courses except those that are technical in nature and only to reinforce skills that have been learned with pencil and paper (I'll allow calculators and the like).

With more people in need of meaningful work, our society faces an opportunity to put more and more highly paid teachers in the class. Their education should stress subject over "education" theory (aka behavioral science modification). Bring the money out of the technology and the (bloated) administrations. Cast the charter crazed likes of Arne Duncan (I know he's gone; his damage is not) into the sea.

Let's take back America's public school system. The option is to circle the bowl more fully into turd world America.


Technology can be a great tool for educating, but not so much for a 19th and 20th century system designed to produce industrial workers. Exciting and successful experiments in the use of technology in education have shown some remarkable results, and could be easily replicated elsewhere.

One study used the computer to deliver the lecture, asks questions for comprehension, allowing the student to review and re-answer until the concepts are understood. That's the homework. At school the students participate in teams with teacher advisors on projects using those concepts. The teams include children of different ages, so older students teach younger students, and all students learn from one another. The teacher isn't lecturing. She is now free to hone in on those students who are exhibiting difficulties and can provide necessary instruction (or intervention) as needed. This is a greatly improved social environment and it has proved very effective in teaching more children at once in less space.

Whatever we do we need to haul public education into the 21st Century, where the students already are.


We need public schools. I have heard before that there are some things to be learned from Finland. Of course right here in the US we have many of the best public schools in the world in our upscale suburbs where the competition to get into Ivy League schools is fierce and in addition to the schools with excellent teachers and physical resources there are armies of tutors available for those willing and able to pay.. The challenge has been how to improve the quality of schools in many of our poorer urban areas and in rural areas. It certainly will take higher taxes than taxpayers have been willing to spend. Unless taxpayers are willing to pay more for schools in disadvantages areas improvement will be difficult. Somehow people have got to made to care about this. Obama has described why this is so important to the future of the US in addition to giving every child a chance to succeed but I don' think the country has responded.


My experience has been that taxpayers want good public schools across the board, it's ALEC backed legislatures that are defunding it. Defunding public education is the pathway to privatization and the billion dollar industry drooling for more profits, while major corporations are the recipients of tax breaks which education defunding subsidizes.

The politics of hate is at work here. The last thing the 1% wants is a public capable of critical thinking, and they have deployed their resources to confuse and manipulate voters into voting against their best interests. Meanwhile, the electorate grows less capable of making informed decisions. Driving voters to the polls with anti-Muslim, anti-gay, and anti-abortion rhetoric, results in the defunding of public education, science denial, and extreme inequality, not by choice, but by pre-determined accident.


I don't see any evidence that taxpayers are willing to pay for good public school across the board. The majority are willing to pay high property taxes in their own district for good schools. This not only is good for their own children but good schools help raise real estate values. Big cities and poorer districts have to rely heavily on the states to fund their schools. And states generally don't pay what is really needed. The costs are enormous. In New York State a law suit was won that required the state to pay enough for equal education throughout the state. The amount ran into the billions. I don't believe the money has ever been paid. Taxpayers don't even want to adequately fund their own state colleges and universities. That is why we are seeing such high tuition in states school which used to be a great bargain. The states are basically responsible for education and in too many instances are not doing enough. Another issue is that conservatives have been demanding accountability which has resulted in a great deal of standardized testing which I think has had a negative effect on education. The reality seems to be there is no easy way to assess education or even agree on what a good education is. Conservative don't seem to be willing to accept these limitations and have created a problem with too much testing. I think a more realistic view is needed and the overemphasis on standardized testing needs to end.


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Some other considerations are that local environments frequently exhibit conditions that can be traced to being made legacy victims of corporate profit taking and abandonment in the past. Perhaps we should be viewing this as an argument against the economic metric of 'externalized costs' as even more pernicious when they boomerang back into reality and manifest following abandonment by corporate practices focused on colonizing "new" markets.

Then the hephalump in the rum - the exorbitant % of taxes that go into military adventurism because of the inequities fomented world wide by precisely the same corporate dynamics and marketing of its societal life-style model. The snake eating its tail is a heck of a boa constrictor and education is getting a hungry hug.


The money is there, it is just that the funds are diverted to charter schools, investors on Wall Street, police and the military. Raising taxes is not nearly as important as reallocating the funds to needs of society at large. In Canada property taxes are generally a fraction of what they are in the U.S., yet the schools are much better funded than in the U.S. Once we eliminate the 'profit motive' from education by eliminating charter schools all together and divert more funds from the military and law enforcement to public schools and reducing poverty, the quality of education will improve quickly and substantially.


This superficial diagnosis doesn't look at the insidious way that HUGE sums are being funneled OUT of public education into private charter schools. And while Mr. Buchheit cites 3 key factors, he's left out the 4th: that many (if not most) of the charter schools are really an end-run around the wall put in place to separate church from state.

Charter school funding typically goes to Catholic Schools and Christian Schools.

Not enough pundits mention this FACT.

From the article:

  1. Committing Fraud: In 2015 they wasted an estimated $1.4 billion of taxpayer money through "financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement."

  2. Lacking Transparency: The Center for Media and Democracy calls them a "black hole" into which the federal government has dumped an outrageous $3.7 billion over two decades with little accountability to the public.

  3. Discarding Students: Prominent New York charter network Success Academy has frequently been accused of "counseling out" students who are low-performing or disruptive or otherwise difficult to teach. Even worse are charters that shut down, stranding hundreds of students, while their business operators can just move on to their next project. Nearly 2,500 charter schools closed their doors from 2001 to 2013, leaving over a quarter of a million kids temporarily without a school.


Per capita education spending

This for school age children and not University or college

Finland 5543$$
USA 7753$$
Canada 5749$$

It not the spending it how that spending allocated and how much of it goes to profits over education.

The US is the highest spender per capita on this in the world much as with health care and the returns on that spending are mediocre as far as education concerned while high for the corporations

If measuring outcomes this is defined as inefficiency for all those libertarians that still cling to that "the market is more efficient" nonsense.


I find it worrying to the point of dangerous that I never see anyone mention the RELIGIOUS elephant in the room. Is it some kind of political correctness that violates the church-state separation, or are too many in this forum Christian Fundamentalists?

This is from the book, "God and Government," page 42:

"In Cleveland, the largest amount of voucher funding goes to the Roman Catholic School System. Like most other inner-city parishes, Cleveland was having trouble attracting enough Catholics to send their children to schools there. Many parents moved to the suburbs and found religious or public schools there. Most of the inner-city schools now have very high minority enrollments and most of those students are not Catholic. This voucher program was designed as a government bailout for those schools."

"Here's the problem: Our Constitutional system never envisioned having taxpayers pay to keep religious institutions from failing."

This is ONE of MANY quotes that expose the high percentage of so-called charter schools that ARE religious-affiliates.

The most obvious recipient of public funds is the ONE item you conspicuously leave out:

"The money is there, it is just that the funds are diverted to charter schools, investors on Wall Street, police and the military."


Send this to Sanders!


I think Sanders is one who gets it.

It the rest of them that are in need of an education in this regard but there are so busy lining their own pockets with corporate largesse they will never go there.


The situation is largely the same as before charter schools but they probably do play a big role. Although they certainly doesn't explain reduced spending to state colleges and universities. In any case, I don't like charter schools at all and I don't see where they have improved education. We should focus on improving our public schools. Part of the problem I think originated in California in the 1970s when property taxes were capped. This kind of taxpayer revolt mentality has spread and I think it has had an effect all over the country to a greater or lesser extent. The taxpayer revolt probably was a big reason Reagan was elected governor of California which proved to be a stepping stone being elected president. To some extent I think we are still dealing with Reaganism.


Many school systems in the US are extremely well funded. It is hard to believe the Canadian schools could possibly be receiving more money. The problem in the US is inequality of distribution of the money for schools. Places that can't support their schools with propert taxes in the US tend to be underfunded. State taxpayers are reluctant to help because they don't receive a direct benefit. Who is the most willing to pay high property taxes for schools? The people with kids in the schools, It isn't much more complicated than that. Retirees and people without children probably often vote against school budgets while the parents of the students generally vote for the budgets. I think the budgets are usually passed because turnout is low but a high percentage of parents show up because they want a good education for their kids.


The Canadian system is based on property taxes but said taxes are pooled and the money redistributed to poorer districts so one district is not over funded when compared to another . So in Vancouver as example the Vancouver school board will ensure schools in impoverished districts receive an equitable share of funding.

If the funding for schools in Vancouver is 4000 per student in the Point Grey area (rich) than it is going to be 4000 per student in the East Side (poor area).

There then a separate fund that will help top up certain districts. As example schools in poorer areas might have more need for school lunches, or added counseling/special needs and will be allocated extra funds.

I am not aware of any parents in rich areas complaining that some of their property taxes for schools will be used to help students in poorer areas.


for starters democratic socialism does not exist the word democratic is just added to allay fears. its how they like to term socialism that is not yet complete and true socialism is just control, total control of the population


Sad to say that Duncan was and is a street level dealer among the "charter crazed". Its Bill Gates and his ilk that are the global kingpins among the "charter crazed". Just as Gates and his ilk financed the voter initiative that legalized charter schools in the State of Washington, the Gates foundation will be spreading charters around the globe on the heals of their flooding third world nations with GMOs, pesticides and other imperial treats..


Agreed that history has confirmed that socialism is not much better for the 99% compared to the fascism that has evolved in the US as a result of the Raygun revolution.

History also confirmed that when 10% of Murkins voting during the first half of the 20th century cast their ballots for candidates with S or C after their names, the oligarchs hands' were forced and they tossed the 99% more crumbs than the 99% had ever received (in the form of the New Deal). Their cover was that they were preventing the US from going commie. The result was the only strong middle class the US has ever seen.

With fewer than 1% of votes cast for the 2 socialist candidates in 2012 and 98% of votes cast for oligarch funded D and R candidates, the Ds have zero incentive to let the 99% keep those crumbs and every incentive to recall the crumbs the New Deal gave them.

Basic negotiation skills dictate that you demand a mile to get a yard. Ever since the formation of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in 1985 the Ds have, at best, demanded a yard, resulting in the 99% losing many miles. "Incremental change" is code for capitulation, or middle of the road politics at best. I have lived in the rural west for the several decades and the only thing I see in the middle of the road is road kill. Middle of the road politics continues to turn more of the 99% into road kill with each passing year, Demanding socialism is the only way to redirect the ever rightward agenda back in the left of center direction that created and sustained the US middle class for decades.