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There are days when I wonder if our republic will survive the attacks of the right-wing. Their policies are the antitheses of or founding fathers' views yet the right dredges up images of our founders for almost every argument they have—even though the beliefs of the right align more with the beliefs of the Tories than they do with our founders.

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules
A working class hero is something to be - John Lennon, Working Class Hero

Education is one of the areas where the right seems to want to attack. It used to be that you went to school to get an education. Not an education that concentrated in one area of study, but a broad based education that gave you a better understanding of the world. A person typically had four choices post high school graduation. One, join the work force with just a high school education. Two, go to a trade/technical school (in many cases as part of an apprenticeship with a union) to be trained in a specific field such as welding, auto mechanics, nursing, or court reporter. Three, go to college and get a bachelor's degree. Or four, go into the military. Of the four choices two of them, going to a trade school or joining the military (unless you were an idiot like me and signed up for combat arms), in most cases would prepare you for the working world.

If you got a job right out of high school the employer that hired you (or the union you were in) would take on all the training required for the job. In may cases that is still the case today for anyone who is hired directly out of high school. If you chose to pursue a bachelor's degree the goal was to become a well rounded person with varied interests regardless of your major. When you were hired out of college the company that hired you would train you.

Today it is a much different story—corporations expect workers to come to them already trained. The idea of a well-rounded person who has the ability to think critically is less important to employers today than getting a round peg to fit into a round hole. Now I don't know if this is the explanation for the attack on public education but it sure seems to fit. Critical thinking is less important than passing a multiple choice test.

Of course when you have Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum saying things like:

[T]he idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools, is anachronistic. It goes back to the time of industrialization of America when people came off the farms where they did home-school or have the little neighborhood school, and into these big factories, so we built equal factories called public schools.
Other than that he knows nothing about schools and who actually runs them, his statement only drives the point even further. Corporations need an educated workforce; however, they don't want their employees so educated that the workers can think for themselves, and corporations do not want to pay for that education. Taxes are slashed for corporations and the tax burden to pay for the educated workforce that corporations need is placed on the back of homeowners and other individual taxpayers.

Here in Madison, Wisconsin there is a battle going on over the achievement levels of African-American students vs. those of white students. One of the solutions was to open a charter school that would serve minority students. Other counter proposals have been made by the superintendent of schools; however, the problem is that the charter school and the superintendents proposals do not address the root cause of the achievement gap. Santorum's idea of home schooling would not address the issue either and neither will privatizing our schools.

There are a couple of reasons that our schools are failing, and neither of them have to do with teachers, teachers unions or some big union boss. The first reason is funding—there is just not enough money in in the system to pay for building maintenance, textbooks, library books, computers and other school supplies. Teachers often have to take money out of their own pockets for classroom supplies. Imagine if your boss said you had to bring in your own copy paper and pens to do your job. The second reason so many of our schools and our students are failing is because of poverty. The cycle of poverty must be broken in order to raise achievement levels. How can you expect a child whose stomach is grumbling while learning multiplication tables to grasp the concepts that are being presented to them? How can a child who has to go "home" to sleep in the family minivan be expected to understand the implications the Missouri Compromise has on our world today?

How can a parent who was born into poverty be expected to teach their child these things? How can that parent who is working two and three jobs just to stay one step ahead of starvation going to help that child learn? How is that parent going to be involved?

The reason we have so many children at risk in our public schools is not because of race. No, it is because of poverty and thanks to the "Great Recession" we have seen the ranks of those in poverty swell. Opening charter schools or giving vouchers out for private schools is not going to solve the problems our educational system faces. Our nation needs good jobs that pay well. We need corporations to pay their fair share so that they can have the educated workforce that they need. We need to allow children to learn and grow—no more teaching to a test. Above all we need to wipe out poverty. Poverty is the reason behind failing schools and students—not bad teachers, not teachers unions or any other hogwash the right wants to spew.

There is nothing more American than public schools it is where the working class heroes come from.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Feb 23, 2012 at 01:00 PM PST.

Also republished by EconKos.

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