Education is Irrelevant to the GOP

It was naïve of me to think that we could convince the Republicans of Nevada to avoid the proposed massive cuts to education.  Recent news reports make this obvious.

According to a story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal the Republicans in the state “remain united behind Sandoval's budget cuts and opposition to any tax increases, including the extension of temporary taxes. The governor has said he'll veto any tax increases, and the Democrats don't have the votes to override a veto without Republican support.”

"They don't get it. We don't care," said Assemblyman Mark Sherwood (R-Henderson) in “response to pressure tactics that have involved pleas for compromise, snubbing of Republican bills and the looming possibility that majority Democrats will use the upcoming redistricting process to draw recalcitrant anti-tax conservatives out of their jobs.”  The Democrats tried having a public meeting of the "Committee of the Whole."  But it did nothing to change the minds of the Republicans.  Both side are “digging further into their positions.”

Assembly Republicans have proposed five reforms “they want Democrats to support before considering a vote to delay "sunset" or expiration dates on about $650 million in existing taxes.”  These “reforms” sound a lot like what their counterparts have tried to do in Wisconsin and elsewhere.  They include the following: (1) reforms to prevailing wage law; (2) publicly funded vouchers for parents to pay for private schools; (3) cutbacks in collective bargaining rights for public employees; (4) reducing “construction defect lawsuits”; and (5) changes to the Public Employee Retirement System.

In other words, to hell with the general public, especially public workers.

Meanwhile, the effects of cutbacks have already been felt and will only get worse.  One small, but noteworthy, example is that Palo Verde High School is eliminating its theater program because of previous budget cuts. 

It will only get worse.  The University Board of Regents has proposed “cutting 2,313 courses and 46 academic degrees.”  They also “anticipate an enrollment reduction of 8,000, or 11 percent, and a faculty reduction of 1,100, or 15 percent.” Chancellor Klaich “proposed that the colleges and universities make $50 million in total cuts and that tuition be raised by 13 percent in each of the next two years.” He “asked the legislators to allocate about $100 million more to higher education and said if cuts must be made, legislators should make them equal in each of the next two years.”

What is happening in Nevada is a microcosm of what is occurring all over the country.  Education doesn’t matter – at least not the traditional kind of education where the focus is on encouraging students to think critically and independently. It is what one critic has called a “corporatized” version of education, where the focus is on “test scores” which in effect are not a grade for the students but for the teachers.  This kind of education is “about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence.  The result, writes Chris Hedges, is:

A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.

Hedges quotes a public school teacher in New York who commented that “It is extremely dispiriting to realize that you are in effect lying to these kids by insinuating that this diet of corporate reading programs and standardized tests are preparing them for anything.”

The corporate managers on Wall Street, says Hedges, “looted the U.S. Treasury. They stymied any kind of regulation. They have avoided criminal charges. They are stripping basic social services. And now they are demanding to run our schools and universities.”

“The truly educated become conscious,” notes Hedges. For them thought “is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think.”

For the past several decades those on the right of the political spectrum, along with their corporate paymasters, have done all they can to undermine education.  Of course they believe in the best educational system possible for their own children and spare no expense in this effort.  But even their children will not be prepared to think on their own but rather learn to take their place somewhere within the corporate world of money-making.  This is what they have used all the money they have made via tax cuts, which never have gone toward creating jobs for the average citizen.  Most of those jobs have gone to foreign workers.

Finally, the Republicans have done their best over the past three decades to totally undermine unions, the only protection workers have ever had against corporate power.

It appears that they want complete control, an autocracy. They already have most of the wealth in this country, which has added to the ease with which they can take control, including the mass media.

A critically thinking public is needed more than ever before to overcome this situation.

© 2011, Randall G. Shelden. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced without permission from the author.