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Public School Criticism
By David W. Kirkpatrick (August 22, 2007)
Senior Education Fellow
U.S. Freedom Foundation www.freedomfoundation.us
Few institutions are as sensitive to criticism as the public school establishment, particularly teacher unions. Any critique, however mild or soundly based, is likely to be countered with name-calling or worse.
Arkansas Gov. Mick Huckabee has written that the National Education Association describes those who disagree with it as "congenital reactionaries," "dangerous witch hunters," "wayward dogma peddlers" and "vitriolic race haters."
Former NEA President Keith Geiger said school choice advocates are "voucher pushers." Former Executive Director Don Cameron termed the idea of vouchers as "corrupt," "wrong-headed" and "un-American."
One Pennsylvania state representative suggested the Catholic Church supports vouchers so it can get money to pay off pedophile lawsuits against priests, while another said vouchers would permit the KKK to use tax dollars to fund "Hate High." A president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association referred to voucher proponents as "voucher vultures."
Columnist Molly Ivins described voucher supporters as "fruitcakes unlimited, flat-earthers, creationists..." North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt said vouchers are like "leeches." When school choice was proposed for the District of Columbia, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said its supporters "should stop acting like plantation masters and start treating the people of D.C. with the respect they deserve." Since, rather than allow people to decide for themselves, plantation masters want to decide for them, Kennedy's rhetoric was a self-description.
Kennedy has also defended actions by those such as himself by saying it is necessary to be the voice for the voiceless. Why doesn't he make it possible for people to speak for themselves?
David Berliner, Dean of Education at Arizona State University said vouchers could resemble "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo. Public school superintendents in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, made this same charge while opposing former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge's 1999 school choice plan.
Another Pennsylvania school superintendent said permitting people to choose a school for their children would create a "Hitlerian regime." Giving them no options is apparently his idea of democracy.
On the other side of this issue, who are some of these terrible people who support school choice?
In 1968 Hubert Humphrey favored giving parents a tax credit so they could send their children to private schools. Another is Sen. Patrick Daniel Moynihan (D-NY) who said he favored school choice "long before it was either conservative or liberal," and, "if it prevails only as a conservative cause, it will have been a great failure of American liberalism..."
Former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White, said "We've got to stop having a knee-jerk opposition to school vouchers..." Wisconsin state Rep. Annette "Polly" Williams, twice state chairman of the Jesse Jackson for president campaign, sponsored the state's school choice plan in Milwaukee. Is she a racist? A plantation master? A reactionary?
All of these school choice supporters are liberal Democrats, among a growing list who could be cited. Would Sen. Kennedy include them with his vicious remarks?
Colin Powell, when interviewed by the NEA, said, "I support using vouchers and seeing where it takes us..." Does the NEA regard him as among "vitriolic race haters," "congenital reactionaries," "dangerous witch hunters," or "wayward dogma peddlers?"
A national survey of 2,732 public school teachers some years ago found 53% believing "schools would be better if students could attend the school of their choice." A decade ago, a poll of 26-35 year-old African-Americans found 86.5% supported vouchers, up 16% in one year.
If these are "fruit-cakes," "voucher vultures," "racists," "communists," or members of the "radical right," public schools are in real trouble. One might also ask where were these dangerous people educated? The answer for most is the public schools.
As for those who could be listed as school "bashers"they include former NEA President Keith Geiger who said inner city schools "are absolutely terrible -- they ought to be blown up." He also said that we "can't let the kids escape." If we take his words literally, the public schools are prisons that ought to be blown up with the kids inside.
And it was the late Al Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said, "It is time to admit that public education ... more resembles a communist economy than our own market economy."
How should Geiger and Shanker be described?
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"Now that I'm off the board and able to think more calmly, it is even clearer to me that the system can't be rehabilitated, only replaced." p. 59 Howard Good, "Losing It, The Confessions of an Ex-School Board President," pp l54 & 58-9, Education Week, March 17, 2004. Good is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is the author of Educated Guess: A School Board Member Reflects (ScarecrowEducation, 2003
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Copyright 2007 David W. Kirkpatrick
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