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Back to School, Neocon-Style
September 4, 2003
By Brad Odland

Neoconservative values promote privatization of public services under the assumption that private enterprise can better manage services in an environment of free-enterprise and competition. Riding along with privatization is the promotion of Christian religious morality and ethics through public policy. The Bush administration has made significant efforts to set the stage for the privatization of many public services, including education, through programs like "No Child Left Behind" and the promotion of "school choice vouchers." The result is that public schools will ultimately be reduced to remedial education services by shifting resources to private religious schools and eroding the funding to public schools.

The methodology to which the neoconservatives will achieve the goal is subtle, but the result is extremely harsh. It involves the decline of public school infrastructure through funding cuts and tax freezes. By cutting the funding and freezing taxes at the local and state level (as is being done with property taxes in Wisconsin) neocons are slowly strangling education until privatization is the only option left.

Once public schools are crippled with inadequate funding and crumbling infrastructure, school choice vouchers will be the final nail in the coffin. Schools are deteriorating to the point where learning is impossible because of dangerous facilities and underfunding, and as the schools struggle they will spiral into the neocon accountability trap. As test scores decline and enrollment drops, students and teachers will flee to the salvation of private schools, precipitating further funding cuts until schools are "rescued" by private education corporations or faith-based organizations.

Neocons will place the blame on poor performance and accountability, not their mean spirited policy. Neocons are adapt at setting the environment and parameters for failure and then shifting blame from policy to individual performance. The neoconservative ethic is to create an environment where failure is just a step in the process towards privatization. They shift the blame to superficial symptoms allowing public opinion to support extreme policy.

An example would be a smokescreen of misinformation over long periods of time resulting in the collective belief that a school failed because students and teachers did not care enough to learn to be successful, rather than admit that failure was because of eroded funding, "brain drain" and concentration of the poor in public schools. In other words never have a neocon toss you a life jacket when you are drowning - it will be an bright orange anvil with LIFE JACKET painted on the side in large easy-to-read letters.

Public education is the "canary in the coal mine" in our society. When our schools are in trouble it is an indicator of much larger systemic problems. Without free quality education our society will erode further into chaos and class warfare, and we will return to a quality of life more like that found in the late 19th century, a time when monopolies were allowed to flourish and government was rife with corruption. Some already compare the policies of the Bush administration to that dark time in U.S. history.

A free and quality eduction is the most powerful tool to enable people to escape the bonds of poverty - unfortunately the Bush administration is making significant gains in eliminating what hope is left for a quality life for most. Middle class jobs continue to slip away to countries where wages are a fraction of what is required here. These jobs, once commanding middle class wages, have now become comparable to flipping burgers.

Allowing public education to crumble creates an uneducated workforce that will be satisfied with the abundant low-wage service jobs a consumer economy generates. What ultimately will be the result is that minorities and the poor will be left to sit in the decayed schools, forced into a never-nding cycle of poverty as private education costs soar and the school voucher pays less and less of the tuition. One only needs to look at health care to see the results of deregulation and privatization. Millions are without adequate heath care.

Religion will drive education when the public abandons it. Many of the successful private schools will be faith-based and fundamentalist in doctrine. The country will begin funding the mis-education of America as education becomes bible-based rather than fact-based. Public funds will be used to educate children in creationism as scientific fact. Books will be restricted in these schools and history will be re-written to paint a bible-colored picture of America.

Parents will be left with the choice of risking their child's future in a public school that will surely fail to one where the image of education is provided. Clean facilities, new equipment, computers, sparkling sports facilities and uniforms will replace the arts, literature, culture and freedom to explore the great achievements in science.

To stop the spiral we need to recognize that schools are funded through tax revenues. Taking away tax revenue and freezing local municipalities to generate income will take away education from our children; we need to stop punishing education using the poor argument of uncontrolled spending by other government bodies. Neocons use examples of a cow dung study costing $500,000 to promote tax cuts and spending cuts. They take tripe and spin it into a policy argument.

Everyday neoconservative voices use the same empty arguments for tax cuts over and over again - "Stop the uncontrolled spending!" they scream and promote tax cuts as the solution to all of our problems. The real problem is the neoconservative values. Privatization equates to greed and faith based policy creates isolation and conformity, and in the end public schools will be run by another giant contractor with the eye on the books and the bottom line rather than the education of our children.

Brad Odland is a Database Administrator, musician and artist in Waukesha, Wisconsin

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