The economocracy and the delivery of education, Part Two

Forrest Johnson

In an idle moment I recalled hearing the speaker of the Minnesota House tell a radio host that our schools have to be more innovative and efficient, that they have to be reform minded in these tough economic times.
Perhaps you heard that interview as well.
He mentioned that his grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse on the Minnesota prairie and he inferred that teachers in those days knew how to involve children in learning, that they took each student’s needs to heart. He said his wife was a public school teacher so he had teaching in his blood and was not about to abandon education.
Take away funding and reduce the influence of unions, yes, but abandon education? No, he said, that’s not what the Republican budget proposals intend to do even though on paper that’s exactly what they are doing. Talk to nearly any school principal, nearly any school superintendent and you’ll hear what the numbers mean. Fewer teachers and less curriculum. Plain and simple. Just what you need in this multi-tasking, attention deficit world of ours.
The time to adequately fund schools isn’t now, during tough economic times, Mr. Speaker said. Now’s the time to face tough questions and promote reforms that will bring education into the present not the past, he said.
Reform has become a very popular word as the New Conservative Neanderthal Party (NCNP), formerly known as the Republicans, pushes its weight around under a false and misled populism. Over the past decades the NCNP has been very thoughtful in choosing the right talking points, the right words, to serve up as pabulum to the masses. Reform is another of those words.
Reformers these people are not.
I have had the pleasure recently to find myself and my red and yellow shoes in the classroom as a substitute teacher. I regale the youth with swashbuckling tales of being an Alaska commercial salmon fisherman every summer, riding the swells and tides of Bristol Bay and picking fish in 40-50 knot winds before I tell them to get busy with their algebra or physical science unit on the moon. It has been a pleasure to see the youth of America in the classroom.
The job allows me to see just how far off base these NCNP folks are about education in America today.
All of them seem to harken back to a simpler time when they talk about education. One room schoolhouses. Respect in the classroom. Reading, writing and arithmetic.
I’m not quite sure what era these folks are living in today but those rosy remembrances are gone, long gone. No teacher made them go away, no teacher led education astray. The economocracy we live in is the culprit, the endless culture of consumerism.
No smack on the knuckles with a ruler is going to change that, no kick in the pants from the principal, no threat of detention. It’s gone and we’re all the culprits for embracing the constant beatification of the economy at all cost over community and a shared civil society.
Grandma teaching in the one room schoolhouse when the kids have iPods and access to the Internet? Hah. Grandma would be pulling her hair out to keep their attention just like today’s teachers. Grandma might be hooked on electronic contrivances just like her students way out there on the lonely prairie, tuning in to Facebook and Google and texting her friends that live far, far away in more civilized surroundings where there are movie theaters and the arts and restaurants that offer more than meatloaf dinners and apple pie. Grandma is a consumer as much as she’s a teacher and the economocracy knows that and will provide that with free delivery for purchases over $100.
My kids are raising children of their own. I’m a grandpa. The battle I’m going to have isn’t to keep them in good hands, it’ll be to keep the culture of commercialism and high tech out of their hands. It’ll be to keep them climbing in real trees and not trees that exist on a hand-held computer not much bigger than Dick Tracy’s wristwatch.
Education faces threats from those who don’t understand that reform means “changing what creates faults or weaknesses and hinders good qualities.”
The economocracy does just that.
Ignoring that youth and their parents are inundated with useless, wasteful consumer driven impulses is ignoring the reality that our democracy has been changed to an economocracy that swallows everything in its path including the consumers it creates.
Education is just another of the casualties of the obsessive world of unchained and soulless economic growth.