“Anger is a gift” -Rage Against the Machine
Public school teachers should be angry. During the last decade, public school teachers in the United States have been forced to realize the brutal truth about their profession: everyone hates them. Most teachers did not seek fame and riches; they simply wanted to teach children, to have a positive impact on someone’s life. For me personally, I thought that society supported my endeavor to help nurture its future citizens. But I learned quickly that no one seemed to share my desire to teach the children; not administrators, policymakers or the general public. I did not realize that the public and policymakers would not only neglect me, but would actively work to degrade and suppress me. They are actively working to dismantle my profession, the public schooling system, which is the quite possibly the greatest achievement that America has ever produced.
Public education, in a democracy, may be on the most powerful institutions that mankind has ever created. A true republic cannot be sustained with an uneducated and illiterate population . In 1779 Thomas Jefferson wrote a bill called “for the general diffusion of knowledge” for the Virginia state legislature. It laid out his visions of a public education. Underneath the assumptions of the bill however lie an even more profound idea; that of social progress. A truly revolutionary public education can be a vehicle for social progress.
Yet, this potential for social progress is brutally stamped out with Gestapo-like boots as education is made subservient to the global market. The main institutions of the global market are multinational corporations such as Exxon-Mobil and General Electric, as well as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. The IMF, WB and WTO, along with massive backing from multinational corporations have all helped to restructure education around the world, in both developing and developed countries toward a more market driven model . In line with (and usually backed financially by) the institutions of the global market, policymakers in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa demand that students be able to compete in the global market. Education is cast as driver of global motion because it creates the workers and the product makers. In addition, the IMF and the WB, as part of their assistance packages to developing nations, require these developing nations to completely restructure, in some cases wholly dismantle, their public education systems in favor of privatization and an education that promotes the priorities of the global market. While education is supposed to produce knowledge workers, profitable products and profit makers, education is now also supposed to be profitable. The standardized testing company Pearson has multi-million contracts with a number of US states and sells educational products and software worldwide. They are a billion dollar industry. The drive to standardize education has also had a deleterious effect on democracy. Truly engaging and civically based education is rejected for more standardized and easier to quantify pedagogy . Needless to say, it is difficult to learn how to be a democratic citizen by taking multiple choice tests and online tutorials only. Education worldwide, education that formerly was supposed to be the cornerstone of an enlightened republic, is made subservient to the market. And the global market is not democratic; it is animated by greed, avarice and blood.
So, not only is the potential for positive social change stamped out, we may be moving backward. Education as job training retards citizens instead of enlightening them – turns them into obedient workers and pliant consumers. The communal bond that education can foster and that must undergird a truly republican polity is shredded in favor of the atomism that drives the global market. Forget the controversy over teaching Darwin and evolution in schools, we are de-evolving. We are regressing to cavemen with nukes and drones.
And so now, with that anger I turn to all the charlatans, the purveyors of false knowledge, the cronies, the greedy and all who seek to discredit my profession and change it from the social good that it is. My anger is a call to other teachers, professors, educators, parents, citizens and anyone else tired of this. I used to inspire my students, and I still do. But now I have something else to give, my anger. My anger is a gift and I give it you. I want society to be angry and fight for its public education system, perhaps its greatest treasure and its key to progress.
1. Gutek, 1995; Johns, Morphet & Alexander, 1983
2. Gutek, 1995; Johns, Morphet & Alexander, 1983
3. Spring, 2008
4. Kincheloe, 2007; Giroux, 2011, McLaren, 2007
Giroux, H. (2011). On critical pedagogy. New York, NY: Continuum
Gutek, G. (1995). A history of the western educational experience. (2nd ed). Illinois: Waveland Press.
Johns, R., Morphet, E. & Alexander, K. (1983). The economics and financing of education. (4th ed). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Kincheloe, J. (2007). Critical pedagogy in the twenty-first century; Evolution for survival. In Critical pedagogy: Where are we now? Edited by Peter McLaren and Joe Kincheloe. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
McLaren, P. (2007). The future of the past: Reflections on the present state of empire and pedagogy. In Critical pedagogy: Where are we now? Edited by Peter McLaren and Joe Kincheloe. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Spring, J. (2008). Research on globalization and education. Review of Educational Research, 78, 330-353.