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On Public Education, Bush and Gore

I want to make the strongest possible dissent from the idea, presented in
postings to this list, that it doesn't matter whether Bush (or another
Republican candidate of similar outlook) defeats Gore (or another Democratic
candidate of similar outlook). As a matter of fact, who is elected president
has probably never been more important for American public education than at
this point in our history.

We are at a juncture where the continued viability of public education as a
system of education for the great majority of American children, and any hope
that it can provide a full quality education for the poorest of those
children, has been placed in doubt. Proposals for the privatization of
education, for the commodification of this basic right and resource, abound,
and conservative Republicans have placed them at the top of their agenda.
Vouchers is the most common and dangerous initiative, but it is not the only
one. Their goal is to eviscerate public education as we know it, to turn over
the great bulk of public money to the market and private corporations, and to
leave public schools which function as nothing more than the equivalent of
housing projects in the field of education. This would be an incredible
catastrophe, not simply for education and for the poor and working class kids
for whom public education is the only path to a productive, meaningful life,
but a blow to any substantive notion of democratic life and governance in
this nation. Whatever else one wants to say about Clinton, but it is
indisputable that he -- and only he -- is all that has stood between a
Republican Congress and all sorts of initiatives for educational
privatization. Loss that office at our peril!

To ignore this threat of the "market uber alles," or worse yet, to see it but
to dismiss it because Gore (or another likely Democratic candidate) does not
have the "correct" position on "standards and assessment," is the worst kind
of ultra-'radical,' self-defeating abstentionism. If ever there was a "cut
off your nose to spite your face" approach, this is it. If this position has
any resonance among more than those who habitually mistake the tree closest
to them for the forest, it will be a tragedy of the greatest sort.

I can only say thank whatever deity or force one thanks that the leadership
of the AFT and the NEA has the elementary political wisdom to understand the
stakes of this election, and to avoid the position taken in this postings.

Leo Casey
United Federation of Teachers

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