GOP Hammers Public Education


“Walker’s Silver Hammer came down
Upon their heads,
Walker’s Silver Hammer made sure public education was dead,
Whoa, whoa, whoa,”

-Adaptation from Maxwell’s Silver Hammer by the Beatles

“Now surely nothing but universal education can counterwork this tendency to the domination of capital and the servility of labor. If one class possesses all the wealth and the education, while the residue of society is ignorant and poor, it matters not by what name the relation between them may be called: the latter, in fact and in truth, will be the servile dependents and subjects of the former.”

-Horace Mann, Education and National Welfare, 1848, (Twelfth Annual Report of Horace Mann as Secretary of Massachusetts State Board of Education)

“Your father and I know how important it is for us to be directly involved in your education. These are our schools here.”

-Charlotte B. Sobottke explaining to 14-year-old Thomas Martin Sobottke why she was considering a call to run for the Hinsdale Consolidated School District #86 Board of Education in 1969.

“As one of the few social institutions which rural people encountered daily, the common school both reflected and shaped a sense of community.”

-David B. Tyack, The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education.

At the very same moment that public education in Wisconsin is absorbing a billion dollar cut in funding, support for charter schools and the expansion of vouchers to fund private education statewide in Wisconsin are being greatly expanded.

What does this say about the priorities of Governor Walker and the GOP and their understanding or lack thereof of public education in Wisconsin?

The same can be said for GOP governors across the United States this winter as public education budgets are slashed to meet budget deficits that are funding corporate interests instead of those of children. Democrats are not making such huge cuts where they are in control. This distinction is partisan but deadly accurate.

In that speech by Horace Mann, he also said that Europeans of his day divided people into economic classes where “some toil and earn, others to seize and enjoy.” He said that in his state of Massachusetts, the adoption of a universal, free, public system of education was a theory of political economy of a different sort: “all are to have an equal chance for earning, and equal security in the enjoyment of what they earn. The latter tends to equality of condition; the former, to the grossest inequalities.”

Mann was not a socialist or communist at all. He was a New Englander who understood and lived the connection between the promise of America in the Declaration of Independence and its great vision of equality of opportunity and its realization by the people of his state and the nation. He spoke the words cited here in 1848. This is hardly before a gathering of hippies at Berkeley, California or in the delusional minds of conservatives bent on portraying American citizens as a rabble that must be controlled and dominated for corporate profit.

In American history, the public schoolhouse has become the great engine of our democracy: educating each successive generation for their role as active citizens and providing them with a means to escape the poverty of their ancestors in foreign lands, to come here, where the all men are born free and equal principle is a living presence and reality.

And Horace Mann provides us with a stark and clear reminder that the battle for public education is tied directly to the battle between capital and labor; between the worker and those who hold the wealth and power and position in our society. Labor unions cannot exist in an America without a vigorous and healthy public education system. And a vigorous and healthy public education system cannot exist without labor unions and professional educators who themselves are union members representing the labor interests of their trade.

The other great connection that must be made in the fiery trial through which we pass today, is that public schools are indeed an expression of and a support to community in our lives. Not only our tie to geographical place in some small town or large city, but those personal human ties that are so important to the health and well being of the social fabric that holds our very nation together.

The premeditated, conscious, and intentionally harmful acts of the Wisconsin State GOP and the national party and so many of its leaders in hammering public education in the United States is a direct assault on democracy and economic equality promised every single American at the founding of the country. We must be able to see, to grasp, and to understand these dimensions of the struggle. Those who have supported the GOP in the past must awaken to the bald fact that their party has miscalculated badly; that they have broken faith with the American Dream, and with so many ideals held by the founders of the nation that they should be shamed. It was no coincidence that when Wisconsin State representative Glenn Grothman entered the Wisconsin State Capitol the other day and was met by an angry and very loud but peaceful crowd they repeatedly yelled “Shame, Shame, Shame.”

We are engaged in a struggle for the very heart and soul of what America is and ought to be. Equality of economic opportunity is etched into every act of the founders of our nation and their vision of the just society. The ability to construct the educated and active citizenry envisioned by Jefferson is today dependent on the health and vigor of our public education system. Struggles for Justice can only yell to the mountaintops and cry out for God to rescue the children and to tell our GOP leaders what they have done. Shame! Shame! Shame!

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2 thoughts on “GOP Hammers Public Education

  1. It is very rare to find informed individuals with this topic, however you seem like you are aware of what you are speaking about! Thanks a lot

  2. Why is that public schools are so much better than private schools. The truth is that on average parents pay a heck of a lot more for their children to go to private schools than public schools. The teachers in private schools are paid less, and they have no barganing rights. I feel that the government should provide at least a $2,000 per student relief fund to private school children, to average out the costs of public and private school. This way parents can decide if private schools are better than public schools without the factor of money being such a major role. Maybe this will allow more kids to go to private schools, which will cause public school districts to be more strict on their teachers, causing them to teach better. That way their is competition between public and private schools, for the best teachers. Do not get me wrong, Mukwonago is a great school. For all the complaining I hear about MHS, I like the school, and I see a bunch of teachers, who do more than just teach, but they coach, and some even mentor kids. I have a few teachers that I would consider friends. But the GOP is not destroying the public system. It is 800 million in cuts, not a billion. Ever since 1998 students of public schools in wisconsin have had the same reading ability, however money towards each student has gone up. So giving more money for each student is not helping their reading scores at all. Teaching salaries, and teacher benefits have gone up, however reading scores are still the same. So is the GOP really hurting the public schools, or are they just saving the state money, by taking away money from something that is not improving when given more money?

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