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Re: The Struggle to Preserve Public Education

-----Original Message-----
From: Dr. Leo Casey <

Dr. Leo Casey's overview of the crossroads at which we stand was very
helpful and so well put. (LeoCasey@AOL.COM,
Thursday, September 02, 1999 9:56 AM, "The Struggle to Preserve Public

My comments on some aspects are intended as thoughs on the questions raised.

>There is no more important question facing us, IMHO, than how to preserve a


===> Not to split hairs, but perhaps rather than 'preserve' it, we could
'renew' it; the system that was meaningful at one time, is no longer
meaningful because people's consciousness has changed towards self-reliance
on the one hand and collaboration on the other. As Dr. Casey has
eloquently observed in this and other posts, the top-down, central control
institution has had its day. <===

>viable, meaningful public education system ...

===> The term 'public' itself is problematic. As consciousness changes,
new words need to be found. If we want the public's education is to become
relevant to today's cultural, social and economic realities, we need to
figure out a way to de-'regulate' it. And that's the rub: regulation is
what we want the state to do! The state is not going to change its purpose.
What we have is a classic culture clash between the purpose of education and
the purpose of government. The purpose of education is to 'draw out' the
love of learning. Education is messy, takes detours, has surprise endings,
and requires committed one on one relationships among inspired people.
Education needs form, of course, but it needs a form suitable to a creative
and scientific process. The purpose of government is to protect our
self-determined rights through legislation and regulation. We depend on
government to be fair and un-messy. Government and education are like oil
and water, they are not one and the same. 'Privatization', IMHO, is the
messy stress reaction to the continued forced commingling of social
institutions that should start to funcion separately. <===

>in the face of the growing campaign for privatization.

===> I also think it is important to distinguish between two kinds of
privatization. One is commercial privatization - as in for-profit
corporations - and the other is citizen privatization. Commercial
privatization is out of the gate and there is no point wasting energy on
moaning over it. Citizen privatization, on the other hand, is the key to
transforming public education from a government bureaucracy to a citizen
partici-pocracy, to coin a word.

In their fabulous book, "Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship,
Democratic Action, and Solidarity", the authors Charles Spinosa, Fernado
Flores, and Hubert L. Dreyfus introduce the concept of the "history making"
capacity of the "virtuous citizen". Entirely removing government from
education would throw away the baby with the bath water -- we want to
continue to 'preserve', through regulatory mandate, the right of every child
to an education. But, I'm suggesting, we don't want to continue to give the
students government pre-served (as in reheated leftovers) lessons and tests,
do we? The actual managment of 'education' could really be left to the
"virtuous citizen" sector, couldn't it? (How can we event entertain the
idea of non-centalized decisionmaking if we don't believe in the intellignet
decisionmaking power of each and every person.)

Underneath the different proposals for change from well-intentioned people
are two new things: We are looking for government enforced true economic
equity so that every child has equal access to education (which we don't
have yet) and we are looking for virtuous citizen educational autonomy so
that the calling of teaching can move from 'labor' to 'professional
educator'(which we also don't have yet). We have not yet discovered the
legal and economic forms to get us there and our political decision-making
process, in any case, has become a hopeless bottleneck. Meanwhile, the
for-profit sector goes ahead, since it is not subject to political
decisionmaking. So, the desire to 'privatize' by the virtuous citizen
sector is understandable -- why stay loyal to a system that excludes
parents, teachers, researchers and students from meaningful decisionmaking
about vital interests? <====

>The long term health of public education in the US rests upon our ability
>transform it, to move it beyond the current factory model schools governed
>centrally and bureaucratically, and to develop a new form of public
>capable of meeting the new challenges of the emerging knowledge based
===> Yes, yes. <===

>and of a polity with ever greater problems of civic disengagement.

===> Maybe civic disengagement is appropriate when the virtuous citizen
sees that 'civic' engagement, in its present form, is a dead end. Maybe a
civic engagement time-out is not a problem, but a healthy period of rest and
re-thinking about what a more self-reliant and entrepreneurial polity
actually needs from its government and what is best alone. <===

>What form
>that new system would take, and how the transformation to that system could
>occur, are very important but extraordinarily complex questions which I
>not attempt to answer here. Suffice it to say that without any significant
>movement in the direction of such a new system, it is my belief that the
>long-term future of public schooling in the US would be quite bleak. The
>question that faces American education is not whether change will occur,
>what the nature of that change will be.

===> All of that is very true. However, the nature of the change is already
clear: control is shifting from the government sector to the private
sector --mostly the for-profit part of the private sector. What we -those
of us who want to 'preserve' the humanitarian aspect of education and keep
it from becoming hopelessly commercialized and politicized -- need to do is
stengthen the impact of the 'virtuous citizen' part of the private sector.
The only way to do that is to give parents, teachers and students
decisionmaking power. Is that 'privatization' or a more evolved form of
'democracy'? <====

>The fact of the matter is that, at this historical juncture, the primary
>engine of change within public education (as opposed to against public
>education) is the "standards" movement...and its move toward criterion
based, rather than norm
>referenced, standards are positive developments. Ways must be found to
>that movement, and to influence it in more positive directions, rather than
>just bewail and lament the forces of change.

===> A variety of non-government accrediting organizations would offer
parents assurance of quality and also offer schools with different
pedagogical philosophies a rallying point for continuous learning. We can't
have it both ways: we either de-centralize or we don't.<===

>movements of the 1960s began, for a whole series of reasons we do not need
>discuss here, as movements of moral witness. They were never able to
>establish the balance, or to understand the necessary relationship of
>interdependence between morality and politics, between moral vision and
>political power, and so they devolved into an unfettered and unbridled
>moralism, ever more disdainful of the mass of 'unenlightened' American
>people. This devolution ensured their political isolation and defeat.

===> All this is true. It overlooks an important thing though. The
Sixties did give birth to something very important and enduring that is
cultural and not political: a critical mass of people (24% of the american
adult population according to Stanford sociologist Paul Ray) who share a
committment to ecological sustainability, alternative health, gender
equality, the renewal of family and community relationships, and spiritual
growth and service to others. Most likely these people would send their
children to schools that are 'criterion based, rather than norm referenced'
if they were more widely available. Many of these parents found charter
schools or home school. Does this mean they are abandoning public education
or hinting broadly about changes they'd like to see? <====

>What was lacking was any
>notion of how to link an alternative vision to politics, in no small part
>because virtually all of these visions were, in a fundamental sense,
>apolitical -- envisioning a moral world in which politics had been
>and transcended.

====> The issues above do transcend politics. The personal is not
nescessarily political. It is true though that since education is still
political, it will be necessary to do something political to de-politicize
it. <====

>The schizophrenia which Monty cites, where the Sixties Movements seemed to
>alternate between postures of "smash the state" and "the state should
>more," is symptomatic of this apolitical moralism, of the inability to link
>moral vision and politics. It was also symptomatic of an incredibly crude
>reductionist "political thinking," in which political strategy could be no
>more sophisticated than millennial calls for total revolution (establishing
>heaven on earth) or total surrender to the existing set of power relations,
>just demanding a larger piece of the pie.

>.Only a moral vision rooted in the possible, engaged with the
>political, can be realized. Visions of "true," total alternatives,
>as the antithesis of that which is, remain either stillborn or appear in
>real world in the most deformed shapes, unrecognizable in terms of the pure
>idea from which it germinated.

===> So well put. <===

Joan Jaeckel

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