Sunday, October 19, 2008

Socialism and Public School

Talking with a colleague at work (ok, my only colleague), I stated that I thought that it was taken for granted that public education is a form of socialism. As many people from the states, she didn't seem to want to go so far to say that. Why not? This isn't an isolated thing. If you talk about socialism with lots of Americans, they get nervous. So I'd first thought I'd share with you, via haphazard googling, this snippet of wisdom from someone who is very much against anything socialist. To wit:

Other famous supporters of public education include Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Mao Zedong, Mussolini, and every other 20th-century dictator, as well as virtually every politician throughout the entire world. It is thus truly amazing that private education has not been almost completely eliminated by now.

And then this telling bit:

Chase asserts, “We live in an age that glorifies the market.” Boy, you sure could have fooled me. If what he says is true, then why do we find that the government is extensively involved in virtually every human activity, including providing pornography to the general public by means of the “romance” novels that are available at public libraries?

I think it is time for people who believe in public education, health care, and political rights start seeing that education IS a form of socialism. Just listen to this libertarian:

I am amazed at how often my online arguments must detour to define socialism for people who vehemently support its principles yet just as vehemently deny that they are socialists. Therefore, to head off confusion, I'll put a working definition up front:

Socialism: "Government mandated social engineering (shaping society or shaping individuals to conform to a societal ideal)."

On the political left, that especially involves economic control up to and including collective ownership and operation of commercial enterprise. If you have a different or better definition, or if you can help me to refine mine, please let me know.

They idea of socialism from this point of view seems abhorrent from the point of view of self-described individualists--who somehow in this ideal free market thrive automatically. But it just seems delusional to think that excising all forms of so-called "collectivism" will cure all of of society's ills. (If I'm allowed to use the word society, that is.) But what I'm concerned about is not this open form of anti-socialism. As far as I'm concerned, if you are an avowed libertarian, more power to you. What I'm concerned about is self-avowed moderates or neo-liberals, or even self-avowed lefties who cannot bring themselves to utter the word "socialism." There is some visceral gut revulsion that seems to pervade all levels of political discourse. I guess partly that's part of the American Individual ideal, the frontier spirit and all that. And then it's been bolstered by neo-liberalism of the Reagan years. These people who read neo-liberal publications like The Economist and the works of Thomas Friedman see the underpinnings of the ideal free-market as a logical extension and improvement over the previous, naive New Deal and Great Society. We are talking about extremes of point-of-views here, but they are somehow reconciled in a strange way in the US. For example, take this statement, by a commenter from this website:

"Boot the Socialist Government out. Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does! I know what lies behind the generous marxist rethoric because I was born and raised in the Socialist Republic of Romania. Everywhere Marxism gets to Power, it brings Poverty, Ruins the Economy and reduces human beings to Slaves. South America, Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe - are all a living testimony for those who think Marxism is a great idea. You cannot be a Marxist and a Christian in the same time. They are pro-aborts and the biggest persecutors of Christian Faith. The daughters of Romania have become the prostitutes of Europe and the Middle East, as a result of Socialism's systematic cultural destruction post WW2. Can you feel my pain ? Vote McCain-Palin and Rebuke an Obamic Marxist today. Freedom requires action."

This is decidedly non-sober and reactionary, but in the US socialism for neo-liberals it is basically the same thing as Marxism. You could try to go into the history of socialism and try to point out that it wasn't Marx who invented socialism. But once you go down that road, most Americans will immediately tune you out. The magic word socialism and its connotations immediately drown out any other opportunities for clear thought. It is a visceral reaction that I've seen countless times.

If you look at homeschooling websites, it appears that the idea that Public Education is Socialism is at the heart of the whole movement.

Some say the socialist sabotage of school in America began centuries ago, long before the America that we know was established. Socialism itself began centuries ago and it is this philosophical and political view that many claim have the heart of America in its sights. Socialism promotes a general education for all, paid for by the government: the opposite of home school ideals. This can be traced back to Karl Marx himself who claimed that abolishing the family was necessary because it was the breeding ground of Christian and capitalist ideals. Without the family, there is no home school.

There's a host of things that this makes me want to scream and rant about, but what I want to ask my fellow liberals, is SEEEEEEEEEEEEEE?!?!?!!? Do you support the idea of public school? Do you support the idea of regulation of industry? Regulation of industry means TRANSPARENCY. Public education means equal access to the tools of political empowerment. Public education is the foundation of democracy. No system is perfect, but we shouldn't nip grassroots tools in the bud just because they have the taint of abstract concepts that have been incessantly vilified.


It's confirmed. School vouchers are socialist too. The commies in Sweden have them. Wait! I'm confused! Wait I'm thinking! Okay, I've stopped thinking. I'm not confused anymore.


Here's a guy who doesn't regret voting democratic in 2004, but has disavowed socialism:

What socialists fail to realize is that if everyone is entitled, nobody is working. If I’m entitled to three “free” meals a day, “free” healthcare, “free” education, “free” housing, “free” daycare and a big screen TV, who the heck is paying for it? It certainly isn’t me, because if I can get everything for “free”, I’ve honestly got no incentive to work. If I didn’t have to earn a living, I wouldn’t. If I didn’t have to pay bills, I’d sit around writing for my blog all day every day. And by golly, if I’m educated enough to know how to write words in a sensible manner, doesn’t that entitle me to get everything for “free”? Of course not! I don’t feel that anyone deserves anything more from society than they put into it. And if I’m not willing to get off my arse and work, I don’t deserve jack. Yes, you heard me–I just said I’m not a socialist. The great thing about my upbringing is that those values that I was taught as a child are very near and dear to me. I may have been led astray, but I’ve returned.

Somehow he survived Missoula--but just barely. He was almost brainwashed into socialism. Of course, he seems to have had access to education as a kid and an opportunity to politically empower himself. Nonetheless, he's against the very system that gave him those tools. If his parents were so libertarian, I wonder why they allowed him to go in the first place? And EVERYBODY knows that FREAKING Missoula is commie-breeding grounds--who let him and his tender young mind go there? Close call!

Anyhow, as I attempt to doff my cloak of sarcastic obfuscation, I'll try to point out that this sort of attitude is the common thread in the fabric of US discourse about socialism. Any sort of socialism is a refutation of the "individual," the independent gains of one are shat upon by the institution of enforced collectivism. Any nod to the need for some sort of collective interest is in effect pissing and shitting all over the face of the worker and his mother and their attempts to get along by their bare knuckles. The public school is a public bathroom, stinking of slapdash applied disinfectants, filth from lazy people; I would rather die trying to get rich than live a life in the waste of the indolent. (So much for losing the sarcasm.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


by the way, you might want to pick-up david harvey's "brief history of neoliberalism"