Public Comment

Saving Public Education is Crucial

By David Esler
Saturday June 12, 2010 - 08:52:00 PM

I reading the Planet’s report on the failure of Measure C to rehab Berkeley’s public swimming pools, a phrase in Measure C supporter Robert Collier’s statement jumped out at me, to wit: “...will we also allow our public education to crumble and decay?”  

I have fervently believed for many years that universal public education is one of the greatest achievements of the American experiment, however, it has become painfully obvious over the last 30 years that public education -- especially a system that promotes enlightened, independent-thinking citizens -- is anathema to the right wing, since the last thing it wants is a truly educated electorate. Why? Because educated people figure things out -- like how the political system really functions and who (or what) controls the nation. Enlightened people are much more difficult to manipulate, as well. I’m sure that the same forces that defeated Measure C with a palette of lies would just as soon be happy to see our public education system “crumble and decay,” as it most certainly will if its funding is strangled. Such is the case right now on the state level, as our Republican governor slashes the education budget in favor building more prisons and in lieu of raising taxes for the wealthiest Californians. (Meanwhile, one of the wealthiest residents of the state just spent $71 million to buy her nomination as Republican candidate for governor -- imagine what $71 million [added to the $28 million her opponent spent on his campaign] could have done for higher education in the Golden State.) 

Dumbing down ‘Merica (pardon the Bush-speak) has long been a goal of the political and religious right, and I give you Texas, with its recent move to inculcate fundamentalist religious principles and Orwellian revisionist history into its text books, as an example. Teaching students Creationist claptrap and that the Civil War was fought over “states rights” and not the issue of slavery may fulfill a fundamentalist right-wing goal of controlling young minds,but it doesn’t produce incisive intellects versed in the scientific principles necessary to compete in a globalized economy or independent thinkers able to decipher the political dialogue and make decisions in the best interest of the nation. And it does nothing to ease ongoing race tensions or address the stain of slavery on our national tapestry, all of which begins with enlightened education. But I digress.... 

Cutting funding for education on the local level is the first step down the road of institutionalized ignorance, and our democracy -- and the ultimate abilities of our youth to make their way in a changing world -- will be the poorer for it. The fundamentalist political right may endorse home schooling as the ultimate means of controlling its childrens’ minds, but the lack of both an objective curriculum and the peer socialization that public education provides and is based on is a deficit from which they -- and our country -- may never recover. Yes, taxes are a pain in the wallet, but nothing is free -- or a greater and more productive investment than the objective education of our youth. Thank you, Mr. Collier, for your observation. 


David Esler is a Berkeley resident and voter.