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May, 2006

Vision and the Fight for a New World
This column is a place for revolutionaries to debate why a cooperative society is a practical solution to the problems people are fighting out. We welcome your thoughts about the articles we are running and we welcome your articles. You can view all articles at here. E-mail info@peoplestribune.org or write: People's Tribune, P.O. Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654

Vision of a new public education system

By Steven Miller

Editor's note: Steven Miller has taught in the Oakland Public Schools for 21 years. His comments are excerpted from the April, 2006 People's Tribune Radio program which can be downloaded at http://www.ptradio.org.

Kindergartners in Southfield, Mich.

The privatization of public education is openly taking place across the country from Chicago to New Orleans. In California, the state seizes so-called "bankrupt" school districts and then the process begins. These districts are all poor and heavily minority. A state take-over means that the state-imposed Administrator has total and absolute power. Oakland public schools were seized when it was supposedly $60 million over its budget.

People in Oakland have lost their civil rights over public education. We no longer have the power to make decisions or hold legal meetings. A true dictatorship is developing. For example, the state overseer eliminated $47,000 for high school newspapers. He felt this was an unworthy expense. Then, he approved spending one million dollars for a new student surveillance system. No explanation was given. The State Administrator has never even published a real budget.

Now Oakland has closed or charterized over 30 schools. Many will become corporate charter schools. Wal-Mart funds a charter school corporation that had been planning to take over an elementary school here in Oakland by using Wal-Mart written textbooks. Such steps occur without any public discussion or vote.

Across the country, we are seeing a massive change in what public education means. It's all being engineered from behind the scenes. No one can comment on it. Public regulation is weak or non-existent. The amount of revenue in private schools is one trillion dollars and the market is growing rapidly. So public education is on the chopping block. Privatization means private. Corporations are not accountable.

Privatization in public schools is aimed at destroying a set of values that every American believes in: that every child should be educated to their full capacity. That education is for society's benefit, that the youth build the future. From the first day a kid comes to school they are taught to share, play fair, and that everybody gets to play. But, this is never applied to corporations. They don't intend to share. They cut in line. They don't intend to clean up.

With the cost of the war in Iraq at $2.5 billion for one week we could create the most beautiful and wonderful education system, one that completely surpasses what the world has ever seen. We are talking about true education for lifetime learners, starting from childhood and extending into adulthood, not just for children. If we don't, only a few will "deserve" to be educated, and they will be the rich. Do we want a world where narrow corporations decide our fate and most children will not become intellectually developed human beings?

We are witnessing the greatest wave of privatization the world has ever seen. With technology, corporations are privatizing everything -- our bloodlines, cells, our species, water, health care, even our dreams! They are aggressively expanding the sphere of what is private. Privatizing water, which makes up 70% of your body, means that each person's life will in effect become someone else's property. If you don't pay, you don't live.

To counter this trend, we need to expand the sphere of what public means.

Let's extend public control to cover and to guarantee the essentials of what it means to be human and to live a healthy, educated and productive life.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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