“Common Core” and Public School Thuggery

We’re told that public education is about the illumination of young minds, preparing them for life in a free society.

When it’s suggested that the government should not be involved in funding or controlling the content of education, those of us advocating this are met with a blank stare. If you point out that the government–by its nature–will impose its definition of “good little citizens” on students rather than actually attempting to train their minds into becoming rational, thinking and independent individuals, you’ll be told that you’re exaggerating or even crazy.

Yet consider this most recent example of a professional, (indirectly) government-funded and sanctioned educational official (in New York State) doing what he sees as his job.

Video surfaced on Thursday showing Michael Mulgrew, president of New York’s United Federation of Teachers, as he unloaded a hateful rant against critics of the Common Core Standards Initiative.

“If someone takes something from me, I’m going to grab it right back out of their cold, twisted, sick hands and say it is mine!” Mulgrew bellowed clownishly. “You do not take what is mine!”

The union boss also challenged opponents of Common Core [a controversial educational curriculum mandated for public schools] and union control over education to a fist fight.

“I’m going to punch you in the face and push you in the dirt because this is the teachers’!” Mulgrew threatened.

The teachers union bigwig made the speech at a convention in Los Angeles last month, according to the New York Daily News. [Source: TheDailyCaller.com 8/8/14]

The reason Mulgrew is so fired up is because of parental (and some teacher) opposition to the federal public school curriculum known as Common Core. Many parents, through their state governments, are voicing disgust with a program that teaches students one-sided approaches to various educational topics, such as global warming.

Whether Common Core is a good educational approach for primary school children is not the biggest factor here. The biggest factor is that Common Core is being imposed on all students and parents, like it or not, through the force of the federal government. Parents are forced to accept these principles of education, like it or not. And if they’re in the minority who can afford to send their children to a private school, they’re still forced to pay for schools they would never use. Ditto for those without children, or whose children are long since grown.

All this coercion is done in the name of “educating children.” What could be wrong with that? Such a floating abstraction tells you nothing about whose children are to be educated; by what methods; what say the parents and children have (if any) in the content of the educational methods; and whether funds are collected voluntarily (via tuition payments or charitable donations) or by the IRS agent backed by the guns of police officers and prison guards.

When government establishes a monopoly, the people with an interest in that monopoly will stop at little or nothing to defend it. Public education is a virtual monopoly. It’s not an absolute one, because the federal government still allows private schools to exist. However, there’s no market for private schools as there would be if government stayed out of education altogether. As a result, private schools are much more expensive than they otherwise would be, and consequently most parents can’t afford them.

Consider the chronic emotional state of someone entrenched in this public school monopoly, particularly as a union official. They’re angry, and they’re frightened. On some level, some better part of them (if it exists) knows that they haven’t earned their status, power or income. They’re only garnering it because the government guarantees it by funding and legislation. When people criticize or question them, it reminds them that they haven’t really and honestly earned what they’ve got. While not all public school teachers or even union officials are necessarily like this, the fact remains that they hold their jobs as a protected monopoly. As a system or enterprise of education, they’re never going out of business. Year after year, the worse they perform, or the more questionable their practices (as in imposing political views via Common Core), the more money and power they attain.

Mr. Mulgrew is intoxicated on that power, and he’s not hesitant about expressing it in public.

To some extent, a debate is going on about the “Common Core” approach to educating children. It’s a one-size-fits-all mandated approach to every American child, designed to stamp out what the reigning pressure groups consider to be the perfect little citizen. Conservatives will clamor for a different approach, and because they’re in the minority, they’ll lose. But I don’t see many conservatives challenging the one-size-fits-all government monopoly. It’s just they’d rather have a different version imposed, one more in alignment with their own political and social views. They’re just as wrong as the left-wing establishment who controls the show in Washington.

What we need to consider is questioning the whole one-size-fits-all, educational monopoly in the first place. There’s no reason to have a monolithic federal bureaucracy in Washington D.C. determining what schools should look like, what their teaching methods should be, and what political and social views (if any) they should be spreading at taxpayers’ expense. At a minimum, we ought to shut down the federal Department of Education and completely return public schools to state and local control. That’s not a real or just solution, however. The only real solution is to completely privatize education and thereby enable a completely free marketplace to develop for one of the most important endeavors: educating young minds. For all the reasons we’re told that education should be public and government-controlled, education should be precisely and completely the opposite.

We’ve got to reject and get past this idea that because education is so important, we must put it in the hands of a central government. When you do, the kind of mentality expressed by Mr. Mulgrew with unusual candor is what you get. Nothing could be more at odds with what education requires.

In a free market, educational thugs like Mr. Mulgrew would be free to speak and attempt to sell to parents and students whatever they wish. Good luck with that. But so long as we use government force and tax money to prop up and give people like this status and power they would never otherwise have — it’s beyond disgusting.

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