A nice short essay about for-profit education in the age of the end of capitalism. Schools are scrambling to turn themselves into little corporations just in time for the entire paradigm of profit to unravel. The question is, as the country bankrupts itself and the markets dry up, how will schools proceed? Not just universities, but high schools, kindergartens, technical schools, etc? What will education look like in a post-capitalist world?
Will it be more authoritarian, based on mindless discipline and punishments in order to train students to be soldiers or prisoners? Or will it be more democratic, based on the free development of the potential of each child, and preparation for service to the community? That choice is up to us. [alex]
Milton Friedman’s Dream
Something for advocates of public education to keep in mind now is the changed face of the enemy. The oligarchs; Gates, Broad, the Walton Family, the Bush Family, Bloomberg and the CEO’s represented in the Business Roundtable, had a plan for the destruction of the public schools. They were supremely confident they could bring to fruition Milton Friedman’s dream that education could become a highly profitable industry. Unbeknownst to them though, they had an Achilles Heel. Their plan was fatally flawed because it was inextricably bound up with the dynamic growth of a global capitalist economy.
That’s over with now. Why? For one, because globalization was so successful in its brief heyday. It penetrated every market on the planet. Who would have thought China could become the largest market for autos the way it has this year? It found the absolute lowest wage possible in the undeveloped world. They bumped right up against outright slavery and where possible went over the edge.
The effect of this success was profits on a scale heretofore unimaginable but it also exhausted the systems possibilities for growth. And growth is its lifeblood. Growth kept it healthy and dynamic. When that growth became impossible capitalism turned in on itself. It began to cannibalize itself. That’s when you get Wall Street turning investment banks into casinos and investment vehicles into logarithms. No more real wealth was being created so the bankers turned to magic tricks, in the form of derivatives, to give the appearance of wealth creation. That’s when you get some of the largest corporate entities ever created disappearing into the history books. So long General Motors!
The other thing a global economy had to have if it was going to work was a plentiful and cheap supply of oil. If the world is not now on the downside of the Peak Oil curve, its close enough for government work in the US, China, India, Russia, the EU. Rulers in these developed and developing countries have begun to act along those lines. For instance, the US won’t be getting out of the Middle East anytime soon for the oil supply it offers. US military presence there has nothing to do with silly bleatings over “underwear bombers” or terrorist threats. And for another instance, economic nationalism, in the form of US tariffs on Chinese steel to give one example, is the wave of the future. Globalization cannot withstand the end of free trade or oil driven trade but it faces both.
A US soldier or two, away from the harrowing places they have been sent, given time to consider, has probably wondered why their government has contracted with Blackwater now Xe-type mercenaries at ten times the price to pull duties once assigned to them. It is completely absurd on its face. The product of a hidden agenda is always absurdity. Globalization, which seeks privatization of all things, is that agenda.
Teachers across this country have come to live everyday with this absurdity. Incessant testing with no relation to the real world, the mindless collection of trivia classified as data, forcing the “business model” (like Enron or Lehman Brothers or General Motors) on the public schools, driving the arts and the social sciences out of the curriculum, and having every Chancellor, Superintendent, Commissioner, and Secretary of Education promote charter schools over their own public schools at every turn. Absurd! But why? Globalization.
There is the temptation to believe the global economy will enjoy a “recovery” and in the US we will visit even greater heights of material prosperity. This is a delusion that is being foisted on the American people. There is no rational reason for this system to be revived and there are oligarchs, and people at Goldman Sachs, and people in the US government and military that know this. They have left behind some people in the public schools, “dead-enders” like Michelle Rhee in Washington D.C. and Joel Klein in NYC to soldier on with the corporate catechism. But they are no longer a credible threat.
The new danger appears in the rise of the seamless melding of the corporation and the state in the US. Our new corporate-state is reflected in the unprecedented amount of money Secretary of Education Arne Duncan suddenly has at his disposal to disrupt the public schools. Duncan has put the 50 states in a competition, he calls it the Race To The Top, to become the most effective at destroying public education and building the charter school movement. Over $4-billion will be spread among the winners. The denial of funds is expected to finish off the losers.
Some people are confused as to why President Obama’s education policy is indistinguishable from that of George W. Bush. It is because both are servants of the corporate-state. In regards to the public schools and every other vestige of democracy in US society the corporate-state is the last stage where fighting back will be possible. Next comes the national curriculum from Winston Smith’s world.