Thanks to Thomas J. Mertz, who sent me this item from his regular blog.
This post contains Samuel Gompers’ views on the importance of public education for working people and for democracy.
In Gompers’ time, the rich took care of their children, as they always had, with private tutors, boarding schools, and private academies.
The role of public education was and should be to make possible a good public school for all of the people. Its goal is not to raise test scores but to enable the fullest development of children and young people and to prepare each to participate as citizens in our society in the fullest sense of the word.
Public education made education a right, not a privilege. Be it noted that at every step in the expansion of public education, such as the opening of high schools, there was opposition, typically from industrialists, business leaders, and others who did not see why their tax money should be used to educate other people’s children. They were willing to pay for basic literacy, which future workers needed, but they saw no point in paying for high school and “frills.”
Let’s mark this Labor Day by noting that we are today in the midst of a movement for privatization of public education unlike anything we have ever seen in our history.
In the past, the wealthiest elements of society railed about paying for education and spoke out against expanding opportunity to others, but there has never before been an organized effort to turn public schools over to private hands on the scale that exists today.
Never before did the wealthiest people find allies in rightwing think tanks and at the highest levels of both political parties for policies that would eliminate neighborhood community schools, that would give public school funding to private management, and that permit for-profit entrepreneurs to open publicly-funded schools.
If education were privatized, you can be sure that the wealthy will continue to get the best for their children, and everyone else will be left to rummage through the offerings of private vendors, or to seek a school that will accept their child.
And with the loss of public education will come the death of an institution whose overriding purpose was to prepare the next generation of citizens. And as we are already seeing in cities around the nation, privatization shatters communities, when the one institution that held them together and reinforced communal ties is handed over to the marketplace.