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California | Education & Student Activism

What’s there to defend in public education?
by Ruthless Criticism
Tuesday Mar 2nd, 2010 5:43 PM
A dissenting view on the March 4 Strike and Day of Action to Defend Public Education
The state is certainly imposing financial hardships and worsening conditions on students, teachers and staff. But that fact alone doesn't make public education desirable or even worth rescuing. Maybe one should first ask some basic questions: what kind of society is it that public education serves and what kind of interests are so easily served by its privatization?

So far, California – and the rest of the US, like other countries – seems content with the amount of knowledge its schools dispense. A few intellectual elitists and a majority barely able to read and write are prepared for their social services: the latter as cheap labor for an economic interest that is certainly not their own and the former to manage the smooth operation, continuance and further improvement in this use of others. Modern rebellious academics do not question this hierarchy of jobs and wages; rather, they view it as a rational division of labor. But if everyone just takes their rightful place in “our” workforce, why is it that their lives look so different? Students nowadays find this rather normal and, since they seek the good life ahead of them, believe they have no reason to question their future importance to society. But, unfortunately, a higher price must now be paid for these goals. So the upcoming generation of better-off citizens screams foul play: the danger of ending up like the rest of this society – that is totally unfair!

Their leaflets and slogans show their real criticism and concern: “public education.” They claim money on that is always well spent. That’s why they ask: “If there’s money for wars, bank bailouts, and prisons, why is there no money for public education?” (National Call for March 4 Strike and Day of Action To Defend Public Education) If education – meaning: their education – has to suffer as a result of these state necessities, then mismanagement must be at work. Because if there is money for other state necessities, then shouldn't there be money for those who in the future will run the wars, banks and prisons?! From what point of view is it suggested here – or is it just sarcasm? – that perhaps money would be better spent on education instead of killing, speculating or imprisoning others? From the interest of the state that does all these things? Is the suggestion on better use of government money supposed to be a critique of the ends that the money is being spent on? From this point of view, doesn’t it seem to be cynical when war is opposed not because human beings are killed for national interests but for wasting money?

Probably not, but students should at least note: The state didn't “neglect” education – it cuts it, to get the same outcome cheaper. And it does so to spend money on speculators and wars. It finds the business demand of speculators more important. The state declares this practical. It finances their business – everyone knows it is a systematic necessity of this economy, regardless of the pain that it inflicts on people, that they enrich themselves. And pretty much the same logic applies to wars: the state interest finds it more important to kill people in other places than to finance education or other such idealistically-labeled obligations as helping the victims of this system, for instance the poor. Because in reality money given to education, just like any money spent on people, is a cost burden. In capitalism the state is fine with the fact that knowledge is held in short supply. For this society, it is not a contradiction that everybody can't have as much education as they need and therefore are well-informed. So rather than constructively suggesting a possible alternative spending, one should take the fact that money spent on banks and wars contradicts public education as a revelation about the logic of money and the wealth in this society and what purpose it serves.

A last question: isn’t it odd to be in a coalition with exactly those who caused all this hardship? With politicians! Because even if they express their regrets on the latest consequences of the market economy, poverty in education, health care, the housing situation, the loss of income, etc., it shouldn’t make one overlook the fact that all these problems they vehemently try to solve for us citizens wouldn’t exist if it wouldn’t be for the interest and logic of their society.