Home > Uncategorized > Public Schools Linked to the Election of President Trump? Peter Schrag’s Op Ed MUST be Tongue in Cheek!

Public Schools Linked to the Election of President Trump? Peter Schrag’s Op Ed MUST be Tongue in Cheek!

November 2, 2018

Peter Schrag, identified as the former editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee and the author of “Final Test: The Battle for Adequacy in America’s School,” wrote an op ed for the San Francisco Chronicle titled “Did American public schools help give rise to Trump?“. Given Mr. Schrag;s background, I have to trust that he intended this to be satirical, though I am sure that the DNC’s neoliberal wing that supports the privatization of public schools might agree with his analysis. In his essay, Mr. Schrag bemoans the fact that public schools have fallen short in teaching children how to think critically and how democracy works. He writes:

maybe the biggest educational shortcoming of the past 50 years has gotten almost no attention, and that’s the failure to adequately teach government, civics and history.Nearly four in 10 American adults, according to the latest polls, still support the presidency of a self-confessed sexual abuser, a chronic liar, an abettor of every form of bigotry, public corruption and violence. Millions still support politicians who work hard to deny the voting franchise to ethnic minorities and other opponents in their own communities. They watch with equanimity as the nation’s prestige and influence abroad, not long ago as great an element of our security as our military, are systematically undercut by the very people sworn to uphold them. They watch quietly as the courts, even the Supreme Court, are politicized…

What did they learn in school? What did the schools not teach? Are we surprised when people deny the science of climate change and global warming when, according to Gallup, some 38 percent of us still reject Darwinian evolution?

Mr. Schrag doesn’t lay the entire blame on public education. He rightfully notes that the decline of unifying institutions, including the press, has also eroded voters’ understanding of how democracy is supposed to function:

No, not all of that can be blamed on the schools. The great industrial unions — the autoworkers, the steel workers, the mine workers, the garment workers, the communications workers — now badly reduced in their membership, once were also great teachers of democracy and great introductions to our democratic institutions.

Our media, the newspapers, the TV networks, most of them, once fostered and catered to national and local communities. They sought to appeal to the common elements in their viewers and their readers, sometimes at the cost of mind-numbing blandness.Some still do, but with ever smaller resources. The internet and so-called social media (really the anti-social media) — few of them with editors or fact checkers — foster and play to separatist subgroups of true believers. As such, they undercut whatever communitarian civic sense the schools still instill.

And he also flags the local school board’s for their small mindedness by banning the reading of books “…that might challenge local prejudices” and thereby promote the kind of open-mindedness needed to function in a democracy. He concludes his assessment of public education with this on point critique: :

More broadly, the “reforms” of the past decades emphasized reading and math, testing and the so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects — fitting students for the economy, not for the arts, the humanities, and not for community and citizenship. We’re now paying the price.

I completely agree with Mr. Schrag that schools have lost their unifying mission, their commitment to providing all students with a fundamental understanding of how democracy operates. Worse, they are increasingly militarized, resembling armed fortresses more than ivied halls of learning, And… as I’m sure Mr. Schrag realizes, students didn’t learn about these things in public schools because they weren’t on the high stakes tests that were designed to identify “failing schools” that could be taken over by privatizers. Until we get the profit motive out of schools and get the focus on public education back to the arts, the humanities, community, and citizenship we ill pay an even higher price in the future.

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