Monday, July 31, 2017

The Real Agenda of Critics of "Government Schools"

Another area where Donald Trump is delivering on promises to Christofascists is in the area of public education.  His appointee as Secretary of Education, Betsy De Vos, has a long, long history of working to gut funding for public schools - as well as well documented support for anti-LGBT hate groups - is now striving to divert public education funding to "charter schools" notwithstanding the spotty record of such schools when it comes to actually improving education. If one looks at the history of such schools and especially their largest cheerleaders, one finds that beneath the supposed libertarian is a Christian extremist and/or white supremacist.  In Virginia, the "Massive Resistance" movement was powered by Christian fundamentalists who set up private "Christian academies" rather than have their children attend integrated schools.  Sadly, that mindset is alive and well decades later. In addition, the secular nature of public schools is viewed as a threat by the "godly folk" who view true science and knowledge as a threat to the made up world view.  A piece looks at the agenda of De Vos and those like here who are being abetted by Der Trumpenführer, who wants to divert $9 billion from public schools to charter schools.  Here are excerpts:
When President Trump recently proposed his budget for “school choice,” which would cut more than $9 billion in overall education spending but put more resources into charter schools and voucher programs, he promised to take a sledgehammer to what he has called “failing government schools.”
[I]n certain conservative circles, the phrase “government schools” has become as ubiquitous as it is contemptuous.
What most people probably hear in this is the unmistakable refrain of American libertarianism, for which all government is big and bad. The point of calling public schools “government schools” is to conjure the specter of pathologically inefficient, power-mad bureaucrats.
Accordingly, right-wing think tanks like the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Heartland Institute and the Acton Institute have in recent years published screeds denouncing “the command and control mentality” of “government schools” that are “prisons for poor children.” All of these have received major funding from the family of the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, either directly or via a donor group. But the attacks on “government schools” have a much older, darker heritage. They have their roots in American slavery, Jim Crow-era segregation, anti-Catholic sentiment and a particular form of Christian fundamentalism — and those roots are still visible today. Before the Civil War, the South was largely free of public schools. That changed during Reconstruction, and when it did, a former Confederate Army chaplain and a leader of the Southern Presbyterian Church, Robert Lewis Dabney, was not happy about it. An avid defender of the biblical “righteousness” of slavery, Dabney railed against the new public schools. In the 1870s, he inveighed against the unrighteousness of taxing his “oppressed” white brethren to provide “pretended education to the brats of black paupers.” For Dabney, the root of the evil in “the Yankee theory of popular state education” was democratic government itself, which interfered with the liberty of the slaver South. One of the first usages of the phrase “government schools” occurs in the work of an avid admirer of Dabney’s, the Presbyterian theologian A. A. Hodge. Less concerned with black paupers than with immigrant papist hordes, Hodge decided that the problem lay with public schools’ secular culture. In 1887, he published an influential essay painting “government schools” as “the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of antisocial nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.” Calvinist theologian Rousas J. Rushdoony. An admirer, too, of both Hodge and Dabney, Rushdoony began to advocate a return to “biblical” law in America, or “theonomy,” in which power would rest only on a spiritual aristocracy with a direct line to God — and a clear understanding of God’s libertarian economic vision.
Rushdoony took the attack on modern democratic government right to the schoolhouse door. His 1963 book, “The Messianic Character of American Education,” argued that the “government school” represented “primitivism” and “chaos.” Public education, he said, “basically trains women to be men” and “has leveled its guns at God and family.”
The critique of “government schools” passed through a defining moment in the aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, when orders to desegregate schools in the South encountered heavy resistance from white Americans. Some districts shut down public schools altogether; others promoted private “segregation academies” for whites, often with religious programming, to be subsidized with tuition grants and voucher schemes. Among the supporters of the Trump administration, the rhetoric of “government schools” has less to do with economic libertarianism than with religious fundamentalism. It is about the empowerment of a rearmed Christian right by the election of a man whom the Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. calls evangelicals’ “dream president.” We owe the new currency of the phrase to the likes of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council — also bankrolled in its early years by the DeVos family — who, in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing same-sex marriage, accused “government schools” of indoctrinating students “in immoral sexuality.” When these people talk about “government schools,” they want you to think of an alien force, and not an expression of democratic purpose. And when they say “freedom,” they mean freedom from democracy itself.

As I have noted a number of times, about the only area in which Trump is keeping his promises in the area of forwarding the Christian fundamentalist/white supremacist agenda.  Be very afraid.  

No comments: