We need more than resistance to Betsy Devos… we need a strong alternative

Democrats are united against Betsy DeVos, Trump’s school-privatizing, private-school attending Secretary of Education. Democratic lawmakers and even a few Republicans resisted her appointment. But in the wake of their failed last stand against the heiress’ nomination it’s worth asking: What do Democrats want for education?

It is possible that Democrats wish for a return to President Obama’s longtime Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who looked to New Orleans’ massive post-Katrina shift to charter schools as a blueprint for public education, which was accompanied by the firing of nearly all of the cities’ union teachers. Or perhaps Democrats are looking towards blue states for a public school model, like the state of Delaware, where a combination of private and charter schools segregate the public system by both race and class. Continue reading “We need more than resistance to Betsy Devos… we need a strong alternative”

On education and opportunity in American society

Before engaging in discussions of educational funding and resource distribution; before arguing over college debt and pre-K programs; even before the polemics of presidential candidates promising more educational opportunities for more people, we must ask: what is the role of education in society today? Is education merely the acquisition of serviceable skills in the existing economy–skills to train people to perform economic tasks? Or is the purpose to equip individuals to rethink economic and social activities in ways that enables them to remake and transform the economy?

These two different purposes are necessarily opposed in the educational field. The former treats education as instrumental action undertaken for a predetermined purpose of obtaining a specific skill in order to make the individual disposable on the contemporary job market–a machinist, for example. The latter teaches the individual to exercise his or her mind; to learn not a certain skill, but rather the methods and ways of acquiring the necessary knowledge and practices. It develops interpersonal communication, cooperation, and flexibility. More importantly, the latter teaches the student to be an individual that challenges and disrupts, rather than one who simply reproduces and conforms. Continue reading “On education and opportunity in American society”