One of the few beautiful moments in local public education during the past decade occurred at a School Board meeting. About five years ago, in the midst of the corporate-based reform insanity decimating our schools, former State Senator Joe Neal rose and spoke to our Trustees.
“All you need for education to take place are a student, a teacher and a tree,” he said, in an attempt to inject some sanity into the often inane corporate-based rhetoric of board members. It was as human and humane and sane a public statement as I can recall about education in the past two decades, anywhere.
Neal, perhaps Nevada’s only politician of the past quarter century to do so, truly has seemed to understand the Socratic tradition of learning that is the foundation of Western civilization’s educational system. His simple statement was a plea to stop the visceral gutting of the body of public education — with its subsequent sacrificing of children in the bowels of our schools to the gods of corporate greed, upon the altars of expensive technology, banal testing, ineffective consultants and so forth.
While most politicians have been mindlessly acquiescing to George Bush’s and Barack Obama’s untenable No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top mandates, corporations have been militantly infiltrating our schools, turning children into automatons for the future corporate agenda. Proficiency testing has proven to be little more than cattle-prodding kids to behave the corporate way. A mind-numbing, rather than enlightening, experience.
Neal, the first African-American ever elected to Nevada’s Senate (in 1972), maintained throughout his lengthy public career that casinos should be taxed their fair share (about 3 percentage points more) to pay for education. This stance often seemed to isolate him politically. Yet the result of ignoring Neal’s voice in the state Legislature has been that Clark County now has near the lowest per-pupil spending in the country, reportedly about 27 percent less than the national average.
Interestingly, this past week, a staff editorial in the Review-Journal (Sept. 8) — a newspaper that opposed Neal over the years and which has persistently promoted the anti-tax, corporate-based reform movement — has come out and proclaimed there is now “a crisis” in local education funding. (No shit!) Surprisingly, if I have read it correctly, the editorial seems to make a preliminary pitch for taxpayers, in an upcoming bond vote, to pick up the funding tab in this crisis. Furthermore, the RJ calls on politicians to pinch already low-paid teachers even more, financially, to help solve this problem. Not a word is said about casinos, though, which have the lowest gambling-tax rate in the world here.
But wait a minute. None of this really matters anymore. It has all become moot. Because the battle for public education in America has been lost, basically to the forces of evil. (Thanks, RJ!)
This corporate-based education reform movement that has brutally taken over our schools is only a small piece of a much larger puzzle, an even bigger, more horrifying scenario. It is but one tentacle of the multi-armed psychopathic corporate monster now gripping the world in a suffocating vise of control and greed. To fully understand this, dear reader, I must give you some homework, by pointing you in the direction of a profound documentary film, The Corporation (2003). Find it, and it will explain to you the bizarre nature of corporations and how they are exponentially multiplying and sucking the lifeblood out of our public institutions, including education. See it and weep.
And welcome to the Corporate Age, my friend. Kiss the ass of your democracy goodbye. And think kind thoughts of people such as Joe Neal, who tried to warn us long before it was too late.
CHIP MOSHER is a simple classroom teacher.