I write this essay with a heavy heart.
I’ve always considered myself an ardent advocate for education. But a recent rally staged by teachers and students in favor of school funding forced me to reluctantly acknowledge an awful truth:
We have to destroy education in order to save it.
Let me explain how I came to this miserable conclusion.
The May 13 “State of Emergency” School Funding Protest
A few weeks ago (on Friday, May 13, to be precise) teachers up and down the state of California protested for more school funding. This mass multi-city “State of Emergency” protest was meant to be a Big Deal, a headline-grabbing statewide walkout, but you probably didn’t even hear about it at the time, since I suppose the media and the public have grown weary of endless political demonstrations.
But not to worry — blogs to the rescue! Fellow photojournalist Ringo of Ringo’s Pictures fully documented the Los Angeles protest, and I myself had camera duty at the San Francisco rally, the results of which you’ll see here (along with a selection of L.A. pictures).
You may be wondering: if these protests happened back in May, why are we only seeing the pictures now? Very, very good question.
These photos have been languishing on my hard drive for three weeks because every time I got the notion to blog about them, something stopped me. I’ve been making fun of protesters for over eight years now, but this time, I felt conflicted. I mean, c’mon, what have you got against poor teachers and young kids pleading for a few more pennies to keep their schools open? What are you, some kind of cruel anti-education knowledge-hating sadist?
I had some serious cogitatin’ to do. And each time I pushed this report to the back burner, unbidden thoughts kept percolating, simmering in the back of my mind. And it was not until today that I figured out why these otherwise unremarkable protests were so disturbing, and why I could only grumble under my breath at what ought to have been a legitimate social complaint.
(Photos and videos from both the S.F. and L.A. rallies are scattered generously throughout the following short essay. When you come to a photo, soak it in but then keep scrolling down — the essay continues all the way to the end! In each caption, “[SF]” indicates a photo by zombie of the San Francisco rally; “[LA]” indicates a photo by Ringo of the Los Angeles rally.)
An unapologetically political teacher leads students in march favoring tax increases. [LA]
For most of my life I was what you might call an apathetic leftie — I didn’t particularly care about politics, but I always voted Democratic and if the conversation came up I would inevitably concur with my friends’ inevitably “progressive” opinions. And that most definitely included education. It was one of the few things I always had a strong opinion about: education was A Good Thing under all circumstances and maximizing everyone’s education level was ultimately the solution to all problems: unemployment, intolerance, ignorance, public health — everything.
In my youthful brain I couldn’t even conceptualize anything other than “public education,” so that’s what I imagined I was in favor of: Making public school, from pre-school up through graduate school, accessible to everyone and of the highest standards. I was like, Duh, how can you have any other opinion?
Elementary public school students learn radical chants from their teachers while posing for the cameras. [SF]
But then 9/11 happened and like many once brain-dead liberals I awakened to a new reality. I didn’t particularly like this harsh new world, but I could see quite clearly that I had been drifting in a haze before, unaware of what was really going on. Mostly, as with most 9/11 Newborns, my new political awareness at first focused primarily on foreign policy and American Exceptionalism, but little by little, once this end was tugged, the fuzzy yarnball of my former political self unraveled entirely.
(Now it just lies in a jumbled heap on the floor.)
I can’t blame the adorable children; most of them probably only had the vaguest grasp what their adult-made signs even meant. [SF]
But one belief never changed: Good education is necessary for a healthy society. This isn’t even a left/right issue: even conservatives will say that an educated America means an economically robust America means a strong America. And I still believe that.
Each one of the three signs depicted here merits a full analysis of its own; but I’ll simply let you the readers deconstruct the underhanded logical flaws in each message. [LA]
But as I walked around the rally in San Francisco, and later scanned the pictures taken by Ringo at the L.A. rally, I found myself thinking uncharitable thoughts about the protesting teachers: I hope your funding gets cut even more! Your demands are futile because the state is bankrupt anyway and there’s no more money to give; but even if the economy were to eventually recover, I would still want to see funding for public education slashed to a minimum.
Horrors! I was taken aback by my own thoughts. How could I be so cruel? What evil right-wing influence was making me think this way?
Class war = class war! Get it? Man, Marxist humor is funny. [SF]
And then I looked around me and realized: It isn’t the right-wingers who are making me think these awful thoughts: It’s the teachers themselves at this very rally who have forced me into it!
Teachers escort their classes from San Francisco’s public schools to the rally. The kids were obviously enjoying their first taste of progressive street politics. [SF]
Indoctrination as Education
Last year I published a massive five-part essay about the miserable state of education in America (and no, I won’t even link to the thing, because it would take you a week just to read it and this essay is long enough all by itself). Part 3 of that essay was called “Indoctrination Nation” and discussed the extent to which public schools have ceased to be places for educating America’s youth but have instead become indoctrination centers where our children’s brains are marinated in political correctness and leftist thought patterns. But a few thousand words were not enough to do the topic justice; entire books have been written about the leftist takeover of education. Yet it’s even bigger than that. Political bias in education is by now its own field of study.
“REPUBLICANS ARE BUIIIES,” spells this Los Angeles-area school teacher. OK — but what the heck is a buiiie? [LA (or should I say "lA")]
Even so, it’s hard to discuss the issue because the general adult public rarely gets a chance to actually perceive in person the kind of indoctrination that goes on daily in our classrooms. And without visual or experiential proof of the detractors’ claims, the indoctrinators always have plausible deniability: You wingnuts are hyperventilating over nothing! The only indoctrination going on is in your fevered dreams.
“Today, children, I want to teach you how to form your own opinions.” [LA]
In fact, the left-leaning teachers’ unions often claim the opposite: that standardized testing forces them to teach rote learning as neutrally as possible, because school funding is now tied to each school’s overall test results.
And that’s what these May 13 rallies were all about: funding. Money money money, give us more money.
And then it hit me why I had such an adverse reaction to the whole thing:
The very act of them asking for money is what made me not want to give them money, because it revealed their political bias.
The real agenda revealed. Ladies — you forget about the school part! [SF]
And here’s why:
• As you can see in the many photos illustrating this essay, their demands for more money were accompanied by many ancillary leftist slogans like “Tax the Rich!” and “Workers’ Power!” and “Cutting Education Is Class War” and so on. So this wasn’t just about requesting more funding for education: The content of the rally itself revealed that increasing school funding is just a component of a larger leftist agenda — school funding is being used as a lever to penalize the rich, increase power for unions, and so forth.
• The demand that unwilling taxpayers fund more government services is in and of itself a cornerstone of liberal ideology.
• The very act of having a street protest demanding handouts is essentially a leftist tactic, so the simple existence of teachers at the rally means that they embrace leftist ideology.
• As at other union rallies documented in earlier essays, socialist and communist groups mingled freely on May 13 with the teachers’ unions, their messages blending into a unified ethos.
• And the clincher: At both rallies, teachers brought entire classes of their students (this was held on a Friday, a school day, remember) to join in this overtly leftist behavior.
Many San Francisco teachers were apparently content letting their students carry signs from socialist and communist oganizations. [SF]
It’s this last point that really turned me sour on the whole thing. Dudes, are you seriously bringing your students from public schools to a leftism-soaked political rally? You’re supposed to be their teachers, not their indoctrinators.
The “United Teachers of Los Angeles” union brought along plenty of students — and Che stickers. [LA]
A close-up from the previous photo. Indoctrination? Where? Stop exaggerating! [LA]
And indoctrination it most certainly is. Check out this video of kids having the time of their lives shouting teacher-led socialist slogans through school-issued megaphones, and try to tell me they weren’t having a memorable and fun bonding experience:
Until attending this rally, I was still a little conflicted about school funding. In the final installment of my five-part education essay mentioned earlier, I even wrote the following:
Break the monopoly of public education, but keep it as a safety net
Public schooling will always have its flaws, mainly because it necessarily must be geared to the lowest common denominator. Even so, we cannot get rid of it entirely, for three basic reasons:
- Most parents do not have the time, patience, expertise or interest to either homeschool or spend a lot of effort choosing amongst a panoply of confusing small-school options. Large public schools will likely continue to be the default fallback option for many students.
- Some parents prefer that their children attend large public schools to help with their socialization and to increase their life experience as early as possible, and to prevent the potential isolation that sometimes accompanies homeschooling or specialty-schooling.
- We don’t want to revert to the era before public schooling when education was restricted to the wealthy elite. Public schools should remain as a safety net to ensure that all American children get an education, however underprivileged or dysfunctional their home lives may be.
That said, we need to break the monopoly of publicly financed mass-education. Attendance at large public schools should not be compulsory, or even encouraged. Charter schools, private schools, small schools and homeschooling should be considered the preferred way to go, and students should only be sent to large public schools as an emergency fallback if no better options are available in that area or neighborhood, or if (as occasionally happens) the local public school is outstanding in its own right.
San Francisco parents: Did you know that when you dropped your kids off at school that day, their teachers would take them to participate in a lynch mob? [SF]
But now, after seeing these rallies and pondering it some more — I’m not so sure. My suggestion goes off the rails in the first six words: “Break the monopoly of public education.” Oh really. How optimistic of you, zombie. And how exactly can that be achieved? As has become apparent over the last several years, the teachers’ unions and the progressive establishment have absolutely no intention whatsoever to release their grip on public education, not even one tiny bit, and they strive with all their might to crush any competition to the public school monopoly. They will continue to control the schools, and use them to indoctrinate children, unless that control is wrested forcibly from their hands.
Shades of the Cultural Revolution. [LA]