Most of the rhetoric we’ve heard from Republican Presidential candidates can be boiled down to one theme. They want to take government apart, piece by piece, and move its services over to the private sector, where their rich contributors can make a profit.

Their specific proposals — lowering taxes, cutting regulations, privatizing Medicare and Social Security and eliminating the Department of Education – are just so many items on their “Dismantle Government” shopping list.

This is nothing new, of course. Republicans have promoted an anti-government agenda for decades. And they have developed a simple three-step process to sell their “government is the problem” mantra to voters as they enrich their friends.

The process is: Step 1: Demonize. Step 2: Privatize. Step 3: Monetize.

During my years as a teacher and since I retired, I’ve watched them employ the three-step process in their relentless war against public education, so I’ll use that as a example of how this works.

Step 1: Demonize public schools

It’s not enough for Republicans to say our public schools need to be improved. They need to convince us public schools are beyond any hope of redemption. Schools are teaching the wrong things when they teach anything at all, Republicans maintain. The super-educated children in other countries will outsmart and out-compete our next generation.

It wasn’t too long ago teachers were honored for their devotion and service, even when schools were criticized. No longer. Republicans lash out at public school teachers, calling them lazy, incompetent and overpaid, coddled by the evil teachers’ unions, which exist only to fleece taxpayers.

Republicans rely on half-truths and distortions when they demonize schools. The truth is, many public schools are excellent, and some areas of the country, like the Northeast, do as well on international tests as top scoring nations.

Our biggest educational failings have more to do with problems connected with poverty than with the quality of our schools. A strategy combining socioeconomic and school-based improvements is what we need to lift the achievement of our lowest performing students.

But you’ll never hear that from the public education bashers. They need to convince us our schools are beyond any hope of salvation so they can move on to . . .

Step 2: Privatize schools

If public schools are beyond salvation as they maintain, the only possible remedy is to let the marketplace succeed where government has failed. That means putting education into private hands.

Vouchers are Republicans’ favorite form of privatization

— giving parents money to pay for private school tuition. But the public has never liked the idea of vouchers, so Republicans began with a half step: charter schools. Charters are still public schools, but they’re run by private individuals and companies. Teachers don’t need formal credentials – or even college degrees – and they’re not union members. When it comes to privatization, charters are the best thing around until vouchers come along.

What the privatizers never tell us is, most studies have concluded there is virtually no difference in the academic achievement levels in traditional public schools, charters or private schools. When you compare similar students, all three types of schools appear to be equally successful.

But Republicans aren’t really concerned with educational outcomes. They need privatization so they can move on to . . .

Step 3: Monetize schools

It used to be common wisdom, no one makes money from education. That was before privatization. Now, corporations and hedge funds have figured out how to turn schools into cash cows. They’re buying school buildings and making healthy profits renting them to charters.

School Management Organizations are taking large chunks of money from willing charters in return for supplying books, curriculum and administrative oversight. The result? Less money for students’ educations and more money for educational profiteers.

If Republicans succeed in passing serious voucher legislation, expect the same profit motive to worm its way into private education.

You can apply this three-step process to any number of Republican proposals. It makes their strategies for dismantling government easier to understand – and to prevent.

Dave Safier is a regular contributor to Blog for Arizona. 

(3) comments


Mr. Safier;

Given the recent escalation of protests under the guise of Occupy (fill in name here) it is possible that the voters in our nation are weary of such displays of frustration and nihilism from students and teachers. Part of the frustration is due to the fact that our education system has failed spectacularly from pre-school to college.

Many of our schools today produce an inferior product with skill sets that barely qualify their students for menial tasks much less the work that is done by those in the hard sciences. Republicans don't demonize public schools as you posit in step 1. The quality of the product from underperforming schools is self-demonization. In fact, many students are semi-literate upon graduation requiring remedial this-and-that to qualify for what passes for higher education at the college level. Throwing money at schools to continue the stasis of mediocrity is a waste of money and robs the children of a meaningful education.

Privatizing schools at least makes private schools competitive with each other allowing them to succeed or fail on their business plan. If parents aren't satisfied with results they can relocate their children to better performing schools. As it stands now, students are passed along without regard to their abilities or grades, assuming they receive a grade and not a "smiley face" or some other feel-good blather with an emphasis on how the student feels. Hopefully, you didn't get your job because the editor didn't want to reject you and hurting your feelings.

Step 3; monetizing schools; Students today are incurring tens of thousands/hundreds of thousands of dollars in education expenses happily provided them by our government. These are serious amounts of money that arguably is being laundered through to management heavy school administrators who provide worthless pieces of paper in return.

The current Occupy crowd has a good reason to be mad. Namely, they realize they have been sold a bill of goods built on false promises and smoke-and-mirrors. They inadvertently correctly point out that those with money, the one percent group, are not only the capitalists who provide jobs but the very school teachers and college professors who preach instead of teach. The education system is not only producing semi-literate professional students but making them failures in analyzing the very system that takes their money.

What kind of job do students think they will get if the sum total of their education demonizes America, capitalism, our military, and American exceptionalism? The occupy crowd, with the exception of anarchists, psychos, and layabouts on the dole, are mad at themselves for having swallowed the big liberal lie.

The liberal elites, and you Mr. Safier, have led them down the primrose path and the truth is dawning on them. The Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street crowd have that in common.


Your whole premise is just plain wrong. Most public schools do not produce an inferior product. The facts are clear about this:

* Public schools now produce most academic skills currently demanded by employers. There is a reason that for every job opening in our economy, 200 people with necessary skills show up to apply

* Compared to what happened in the years our nation was at war in Korea or or Vietnam, or even compared to the 70's or 80's, the numbers show our public schools currently have reduced dropout rates, higher test scores for white and minority students, improved minority college attendance, and more students going into science and engineering. There is a reason so many people graduate with degrees in engineering from Stanford, Georgia Tech, M.I.T. , the U of Texas, etc.

The facts are you cannot use facts to attack public school outcomes. You can use misguided, incorrect rhetoric, but nobody respects such nonsense.

Even if you use the TIMMS tests, the international tests in mathematics and science and reading, what you'll see is when comparative samples are used for analysis, the United States is at the top or near the top in almost every category. The press reports on the averages, but those are misleading numbers because we have a lot more students tested than any other country, and or our bottom third drags down the overall average ranking. But when you compare our top third to comparative samples in the other countries that traditionally score at the top, like FInland and Singapore and Taiwan, we do as well.

An accurate statement about our public schools would be that our top third are first class, our middle third are OK, and our bottom third (the poor urban distrcits) are terrible. It is also accurate to say that according to international tests, the United States public school system produces a lot more students in the top percentages than any other country. It's also accurate to say we have a terrible time educating our poorest kids living in systemic poverty. But since the numbers show we do in fact know how to educate students very well in this country, it is fair to say that we do not have a problem with public education, but rather we have a problem wit poverty. Give me a middle clas sor an upper class neighborhood, and I 'll show you a public school that operates smoothly and that produces world class students.

Your rhetorical missives about privatization and monetizing schools are also off the mark, for this simple reason: public school spend roughly 9% of overhead on administration, and charter schools are currently averaging about 19% on administration. So you're just standing on the wrong end of the cow on that one.

Last, you deride what you call the liberal lie, but you must be forgetting the foundation of what is popularly called American exceptionalism, and the foundation of successful entrepreneurship in America has always been the result of the public investment made in our education system. Silicon Valley was made possible because of the great public education system in Californaia (back in the good 'ol days) which made it possible for a huge number of engineers to graduate from the local universities, which in turn became the foundation for companies such as Hewlett Packard. And where are today's high tech, innovative entreprenuers setting up shop? Right next to well-funded universities, because business needs a synergistic relationship with places that do research and that provide educated, skillful employees. In short, business need and profit as a result of what you snidely refer to as the liberal lie. History is clear and indisputable: American exceptionalism was built upon the foundation of a well-funded pubic school system.

In America, we invest in the future. We believe in that principle as families, we invest in our kids, we invest in their possibilities, and as adults we invest in our hopes and we invest in our dreams. and we invest in our businesses. We are optimists and we believe in public education. You call that the liberal lie; I say It has worked for us in the past, and will continue to work for us in the future.


Taking your talking points in order, I submit the following;

One of the primary reasons 200+- show up to apply for work these days is unemployment is steady at 9% and that doesn't count the people who have given up or their benefits have run out.

You can't compare the WWII/Korean/VietNam cultures with the 70's/80's etc. The dropout rates in public schools today are a direct result of single family homes where a father figure is absent as measured by increased incarceration rates. Any decrease in drop-out rates are a result of decreased academic standards to keep drop-out prone students in school as long as possible. Keep in mind that schools receive money for ADA so they have a reason to keep dropout rates low.

If you want to discuss misguided rhetoric, I suggest you study the course offerings at colleges and universities where personal initiative is suffocated under such silliness as assistant provost in charge of (fill in), various chairpersons, deans, diversity/multi-cultural this and that, self-awareness, and a host of other feel-good-about-what-makes-you-special "cool" dudes who advocate for the latest victim class du jour.

Your remark about TIMMS, SAT and other aptitude tests have been dumbed down, taught before taking the test, and available on-line as to render them meaningless. And that is assuming the questions themselves haven't been dumbed down. I used to get a perfect attendance award every year. These days, that will qualify most for admission to the honor society. Do schools still designate top scholastic achievers or did we stop that practice under orders from the Dept. of Education because it made under-achievers feeeeeellllllll bad about themselves?

As for the rest of your dreamy portrayal of our current educational system, consider the difference between teaching U.S. history in the context of the time it occurred as opposed to ideological indoctrination by progressive professors. The indoctrination of our students takes place under cover of political correctness that prohibits students from inductive thought that goes against the progressive grain.

I remember a song from years gone by about a "Cocky-eyed optimist" which characterizes your closing remark about optimism. At some point, optimism runs up against real-politik. What we are witnessing is the liberal lie in an existential crisis bereft of moral, ethical, and value guidance. Human nature being what it is, dreams require hard work, luck, perseverance and discipline not cockeyed optimism that doesn't put food on the table or shelter over your head unless paid for by someone who exhibits those sterling attributes.

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