by Mumia Abu-Jamal
Have you noticed that politicians flit from boogey-man to boogey-man, a process of demonization that is usually little more than misdirection from more pressing problems? According to a number of new governors across the country, the newest boogey-men (and I guess boogey-women) are teachers, who are portrayed as greedy, selfish, and overpaid.
Now—honestly—who better fits such a profile: teachers, or politicians? But politicians control the public purse—and the microphones of power. They are thus well placed to scapegoat people who are often the hardest working, least thanked, least respected, and poorly paid public workers of them all: teachers.
Every school year, tens of thousands of teachers dig into their own pockets to purchase pencils, markers, paper—and sometimes books—for other people’s children. Each year, some local government or school board slashes staff, divides a budget, or cancels a school construction contract, for they know that teachers—being teachers—will make do. They accept it, because many of them love teaching children, and see it as more of a mission than a job.
At bottom, this is about politics—not economics. It’s about crushing teachers unions that trend Democratic, and donate millions to Democratic candidates. It’s also about the goal of weakening and destroying public schools, the better to promote the business of private education. Like many political ideas, it’s penny-wise and pound foolish. For it discards the central role of every society, since antiquity, to teach the young how to survive in the world to come.
Public education is failing today not because teachers are paid too much, or educational institutions are awash in too much public money; rather, they are getting too little. This is especially so where the need is greatest, in America’s central cities, where funds are raised through property taxes and many parents dwell in rental housing.
The erection of the business model means those who can afford the luxury of education—and only they—will be able to buy it. It also means the further crumbling and erosion of the empire.
> This article was originally published in the April 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.