After the recent Supreme Court decision upholding Affordable Care Act, a retired teaching colleague of mine posted a rant on Facebook in which he referred to “The United Socialist States of America,” mandates, violations of the constitution, the failure of the President to lead, and a fear that debts incurred now will become a burden on his grandchildren. I, and another colleague, took him to task for some of his comments. Upon reflection, I am concerned that his mode of thinking is true for many people, possibly a majority, in the country.
Mandates are official, authoritative commands made by a government. There can be consequences for not following a government mandate. For example, it was mandated that all states raise the drinking age to 21 or face the loss of federal highway funds. In the 1970s, it was mandated that the speed limit be set to 55 mph or also face the loss of federal highway funds.
Educationally, the Bush administration mandated states accept No Child Left Behind or face loss of federal funding. Obama continued the trend with his educational mandate requiring states to accept Race To The Top or also face loss of federal finds.
My former colleague also complained that the United States was becoming socialist with Supreme Court affirmation of the Affordable Care Act’s legality. Socialism is usually defined as government ownership of the means of production and distribution of wealth in a society. According to this definition, we do have aspects of socialism in the USA, and have had it for decades. Examples are as diverse as Medicare, Amtrak, and The US highway system.
Many people would consider public schools and universities a form of socialism. Everyone pays through taxes, whether they have children attending or not, and they are controlled by either the elected officials of our government or/and elected boards. Aspects of socialism have been around in the United States for decades, and are considered appropriate by many, if not most, Americans.
As educators, the current situation raises several concerns. There has been a concerted effort to demonize public educators and their unions by those on the extreme right. There is a movement to open more and more charter schools, many of which are for-profit charters. If there is money to be made, there are people who will “game” the system to make a profit. Manipulation of the the curriculum for political reasons has always been with us, but it seems the cry to instill a religious and politically unbalanced curriculum has become more shrill.
My former colleague and I are still friends, but I hope he realizes his thoughts are based more on emotion than on fact. I’m very worried that many of the decisions that will affect myself and others in the future are also being made emotionally, without proper reflection and information-gathering.
Good luck to all of my colleagues who are still in the classroom, and to all others who care about the health of a strong system of public education. Our democracy demands it.