Right Wing Lies: Our Public Education System is a Disastrous Failure

One of the main reasons that I have such extreme contempt for conservatives everywhere on Earth is that in general, conservatism is always based on lies. Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies and more lies. One of the most annoying things about conservatives is if you care about their lies, you have to spend a lot of your time doing research about their endless lies (new ones come out every single day) to figure out how and why it’s a lie. In other words, conservatives come out with a new talking point (most every day there is a new one, or many more than one). I automatically suspect that it’s a lie because it seems implausible. But I am often not able to prove whether or not it’s a lie, so it goes into the “possible rightwing lie” category until some progressive person does the research to uncover and expose this latest lie. Rightwingers have a hardon for the US public education system. This is probably unusual on a world scale because I am not aware of any other country on Earth where the rightwing wages and ongoing, vicious and explicit war against public education. Furthermore, I am not aware of any other countries on Earth where a vast segment of the population has extreme hatred of public education. If you can find such a country, let me know. So in this sense as in so many other ways, the US is pretty much the most fanatical rightwing country on Earth. Why does the US rightwing hate public education. I am not really sure. For one thing, the US rightwing has probably always hated public education. In most of the Third World, the Right attacks public education simply by funding it very poorly. Here in the US, we have a very well funded public education system. Rich jerks send their kids to private schools, but their taxes pay for public schools that they never use. That really chaps their hide I imagine. So the rich jerks want the state to issue them a check to help pay for their spoiled brats’ private school education! The gall of these jerks! Why should the taxpayers, the people, you and me, pay for some rich weenie to send his preppie brat to some elite academy? This is the poor and the middle class funding the rich, which is really the essence of US Republican Party politics. If rich pricks want to send their kids to fancy private schools, they can pay for it out of their own deep pockets. Another reason is that public education is a multi-billion $ sector of the economy that is presently off-limits to profiteering by capitalists. Capitalists don’t like the idea that any aspect of the economy is walled off from rent-seeking, so they seek to privatize this realm in order to get in on hundreds of billions of dollars which can be directed at the private sector into capitalists’ bank accounts. Another reason is that the US rightwing, probably again unique in the world, has been engaged in a decades long effort to prove to the US people that government can’t do anything right or at all, and everything it touches, falls apart. Government always fails. Government can never do anything good for you. Don’t ever expect government to help you in any way or better your life in any way. Government is useless at best and toxic and evil at worst so it must be reduced to a minimal size where not phased out altogether. Since public education provides tremendous benefits for all citizens for free at the K-12 level, it’s a common good that needs to be devalued by the sneering and lying Right. If it can be proven that public education is crap, people will stop supporting it, and the Right will be able to defund it. This is really what is behind the endless lies the corporate media runs about our “failing public education system.” Except for one thing. It’s not failing. Not only that, but it’s never been failing. But the disgusting lying corporate media will never tell you that. And so it is that I present you with the following post from Daily Kos which shows that not only is the US public education system not failing, but it’s doing better than ever. American students, as a whole, are smarter than they ever have been, based on the gold standard National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). This assessment began in 1971. Forty years later, our students are scoring as high, or higher in every category. Moreover, black students have made gains at a much faster rate than white students. The gap is closing. You can browse the executive summary HERE, or read the summary report HERE. We need to get better at teaching and educating as a whole society. We need to do this because it is the right thing to do. We need to do this because it will make our country stronger. We need to get better because all kids can and should get a world class education. However, we don’t need to do this because somehow we are losing our competitive edge. If you believed popular culture and the latest education deformers, you would think that American education has gotten worse over the last forty years. You would have to think the achievement gap has increased. For example, Michelle Rhee and the A.L.E.C.-aligned StudentsFirst released a despicable ad analogizing our education system with an obese, effeminate Olympic athlete. It was offensive on a myriad of levels. Just like the Olympics, the most obese nation in the world needs to improve its athleticism, but that doesn’t mean we are not competitive. Heck, I am pretty sure we crushed the field. The bottom line is that the education deformers’ narrative is divisive and dishonest. It is a misrepresentation of the real landscape. We need to be honest about our weaknesses and address them aggressively. It is not helpful to distort the entire system, tear down all public education and savage teachers in order to address our gaps. We will never stop trying to help ALL students get smarter. Supporting education, teachers, and students as a whole community is the way to do it. Burning the entire village to save it is certainly bold. Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst, and A.L.E.C. are bold in this way. You can go with bold, or you can go with smart.

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15 thoughts on “Right Wing Lies: Our Public Education System is a Disastrous Failure”

  1. The reason is that conservatives have to pay twice for education. You can’t go to public schools in many areas because the Black kids destroy the schools.

    1. So because of that, conservatives should destroy public education for all of us. Blacks are only 13% of the population. In many places, they are much less than that. How can 13% of the population destroy public schools all over the US. I know plenty of public schools right here in California that are overwhelmingly White.

  2. Dear Robert
    There are many states in the US where blacks are under 5% of the population. Surely, in those states, race can’t be a big factor in the overall quality of education.
    A real conservative would be skeptical about all education in the first place. Unlike progressives, who tend to believe in the perfectibility of man, conservatives are more prone to believe in the unmalleability of human nature. Wasn’t it Victor Hugo who once said, “If you build a school, you can demolish a prison”? Such educational salvationism should be foreign to conservatives, who, having a more realistic view of human nature, don’t expect schools to be able to produce a law-abiding, scholarly, enlightened citizenry.
    The truth of the matter is that there are limits to the capacity of absortion and especially of retention of most people. Most of what is taught in highschool will be forgotten by the age of 30, if not sooner. For instance, all Canadians are taught the difference the mean and median at a fairly young age. However, most adults couldn’t tell you what it is.
    To really find out the success of education, we shouldn’t test highschoolers but people at the age of 30. If an 18-year-old American can speak some French at the age of 18 but by the age of 30 he’ll have forgotten it nearly all, then we can say that teaching French to him was a failure. It is retention that counts, not short-term absorbtion. Knowledge is like wealth, it presupposes some permanence. If you know something for the exam today but will have forgotten it a year from now, then it isn’t part of your knowledge.
    If you don’t believe me, ask someone who learned Latin at a classical highschool to translate something from Latin into English.
    Regards. James

  3. ‘Why does the US rightwing hate public education. I am not really sure.’
    They are committed ideologues and they don’t want to give their money away in tax. I think it all comes down to not wanting to pay tax.

  4. I think you nailed it regarding the war of attrition the Right have been waging using lies, out-of-context statements and specious reasoning as their ammo. The barrage is so relentless and fatiguing, what with having to constantly “prove it’s not true”, that there’s barely any timeor air left over with which to make arguments that can be heard and understood by the public at large. It’s the fucking bum’s rush.

  5. I think both the right and the left have bought into this idea that the American public school system is horrible.
    The right obviously supports this myth because they want to undermine public schools and privatize education, just like they want to privatize everything else in this country.
    The left also buys into this myth, because it fits into their narrative about horrible inequality and the underdog status of blacks and Hispanics. Since there’s such a disparity in educational attainment between whites and blacks/Hispanics, then obviously the schools are to blame for not sufficiently bringing them up to speed. That the norms of the students or the poverty/culture of poverty they live in, all completely outside of their respective schools, might have something to do with it completely eludes them. Rather, it’s up to (presumably white) teachers to reach out to black and Hispanic kids, or practice “culturally competent teaching.”
    Here’s an interesting article that demonstrates that, when controlled for race, and overall demography, the U.S. actually has an excellent educational system, equal to or better than various European and Asian countries. Granted, this blogger has a generally Libertarian/right wing approach to most issues, particularly economics, but I think this post of his is excellent, and refutes the whole “American public education is horrible” myth.

  6. I read that kids from Minnesota/Massachusetts have comparable test scores to kids in Sweden/Denmark. Much better comparison than lumping all 310 million of us against a 8 million pop white country.

  7. One thing I wonder about: Sometimes it seems as if Americans are devolving right before my eyes. And yet I can’t help but think people in general are getting smarter. Compare popular television shows from 40-50 years ago with now. Childish plots about 2 dimensional characters using crude stratagems to deceive one another… “Social relevance” that amounts to transparent propaganda… Laughably unrealistic scenarios… Then compare it with something like “Family Guy” or “House.” Not great art by any means, but one would have to at least register an intellectual pulse to keep up. Hell, just look at the difference between the old Star Trek and the Next Generation.
    Of course American television is still pathetically formulaic as compared to British television, even bad British television, but that’s another issue.
    BTW, I’d like to write a book called “Everything I know About How to Get FIred I Learned From 70s Workplace Sitcoms.”

    1. I agree, it’s truly bizarre.
      I recently started watching the TV show “Third Rock from the Sun” again, a show I loved when it first aired. A second time through, everything — direction, acting, etc. — seems cheesy. But that probably has more to do with a change in culture (the way we see things) or a change in my personal taste than anything else.
      Another good example would be video games. Comparing games of today to those just three years ago would make you think the industry was in a completely different generation. What’s even more interesting is that it isn’t those “intelligent” Japanese (they dominated the industry in the last two decades) that are making the breakthroughs (in technology, gameplay, storytelling, etc.); rather, it’s those “dumb” Americans and to a lesser extent Europeans.
      Odd, indeed.

  8. @James Schipper:
    Conservatives always want to talk about the imperfectability of the human species. It sounds very deep, but I think the issue is that they don’t want to try. Few today would argue that man is “perfectable,” whatever that means, so to argue against that position is to set up a straw man, a position no one really holds. But can anyone deny that education is beneficial to the individual and society? More schools might not mean *no* prisons, but they probably darn well mean fewer prisons. Conservatives on the other hand seem to be saying that we can’t reach this state of “perfection,” we should just let everyone wallow in the proverbial mud and forget about the stars.
    What is this *really* about? I think conservatives aren’t so much skeptical of the possibility of social progress as they are antipathetic to it. We can see this clearly in the way even intelligent American conservatives scorn intellectual pursuits or knowledge that doesn’t immediately result in profit. And then there’s the deification of cultural backwardness evident in the Tea Party and its ancestors.

  9. Dear Matt
    You made many good points. What I was trying to say is that conservatives who denounce public education because it does not produce highly cultured, very literate, very numerate citizens are inconsistent. If they were real conservatives, and not just plutocrats, they wouldn’t expect public education to produce such citizens.
    You are right, imperfectability doesn’t mean unimprovability. We can’t turn every person into an intellectual, but we can impart basic literacy, basic numeracy and the rudiments of science to nearly everybody. Between educational salvationism and “most people are too stupid to learn anything” there is some sensible middleground.
    Regards. James

  10. Robert,
    Australia is undergoing a continuous shift of funds to the private education sector. This has in fact seen our standards as compared to the rest of the world, DROP!!! If the Tories win the next election the full blown Americanisation of Australian life may materialise.

  11. The main purpose of public education (which was inspired by the “prussian model”) is to inculcate nationalism. The weird religious awe that americans have about the american flag is deliberately trained into them in school.

  12. Our public education system is excellent.
    Steve Sailer analyzed a couple of years ago that we educate our whites better than almost any other white country, our Asians better than any Asian country, our Latinos better than any Latino country, and our blacks better than any black country.
    It’s just outrageously expensive, because the marginal costs of it go to educating the un-educatable.

    1. “It’s just outrageously expensive, because the marginal costs of it go to educating the un-educatable.”
      It’s unfair to attribute the excessive spending entirely on “educating the uneducatable,” as it is an injustice for them as much as it is for us, and schools in poor neighborhoods are underfunded and neglected. Where the waste lies is the more frivolous programs and items. I’m not saying that we should eliminate funding for cocurriculars (we called them specials), Physical Education, assistive technology, school trips, Health Ed and other educational programs, but they should be more practical, and take the place of the general curriculum and be more practical. Spoiled American students don’t really apppreciate what is given to them, rarely do they take much with them, and you can’t generate creativity or innovation by spoon feeding it.

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