The war on public education
Today’s capitalist public school curriculum called “Common Core,” coupled with impossible-to-pass examinations, is facing growing opposition all over the United States.
The president of a parents’ group on Long Island called Common Core and high-stakes testing “child abuse.” Some 30,000 children, with their parents’ permission, opted out of Common Core examinations in New York state at the beginning of April.
In Brooklyn, N.Y., teachers, parents and students filled a schoolyard to protest Common Core tests administered by the school. In one Connecticut high school, only 47 of 530 high school juniors sat for the Common Core English examination.
In every state, opposition to Common Core is growing.
War on public education began with Reagan
The war on public education began when Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, gutted one of the best university systems in the U.S. Cutting funding for higher education by 20 percent and ending free tuition, Reagan famously said California “should not subsidize intellectual curiosity.” He also cut funding to public kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12) schools in the state, devastating already poor and inner-city schools.
Once he became president, Reagan tried to shut down the Department of Education. Failing that, he appointed William Bennett to head it. That heartless reactionary relentlessly attacked teachers’ unions.
Reagan cut federal funding to education by half. The most destructive part of his legacy came from his creation of a so-called “blue ribbon” commission that produced a 1983 report entitled “A Nation at Risk.” The report promoted the lie that the U.S. educational system was a “rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”
This report justified the defunding of the U.S. public educational system and the privatization of schools. It led to the DOE’s development of the “No Child Left Behind” policy. Initiated under the George W. Bush administration in 2001, NCBL required all public schools that received federal funding to administer standardized tests to all students. The plan was to give a school federal money if students did well and take it away if they didn’t.
A decade earlier, James D. Watkins, an admiral appointed by President George H. W. Bush to head the Department of Energy, had commissioned the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico to develop data on the so-called decline of U.S. public education. The charts and graphs in the labs’ findings, published in 1990, absolutely disproved the later conclusions of the NCLB act. Instead, Watkins found there were improvements at every level of U.S. public education. The report was buried.
The second Bush administration moved forward with No Child Left Behind. Corporate-funded think tank policy wonks looked for ways to suck money out of the public school system. Using the carrot and stick of federal funding, along with high-stakes tests devised by corporations, NCBL began the slow destruction of U.S. public schools.
Corporations sold the tests to the states and “teaching to the test” became the job of millions of educators. Profits from the sale of millions of tests redounded to private capital.
Some schools curtailed recess, fearing that bad test results could shut them down for failure to “perform well.” Many eliminated art, music and other creative programs because they lost funding.
In poor areas, lower NCBL test results became an excuse to close schools and launch the charter school “movement.” Thousands of these profit-making academies opened all over the country, promising, but rarely delivering, better schools.
The capitalist media and their corporate-financed politicians relentlessly attacked public school teachers and their unions. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, on the defensive, were unable to halt this corporate assault.
Part 2 will expose how today’s Common Core is part of the educational-industrial complex. For the entire article, see workers.org.
Heather Cottin has been a teacher in public high schools and colleges for 48 years. She is also an administrator of the Facebook group “Radical Moms.”