All politicians who run for office say they support education, at least for young people. Yet, in his book Savage Inequalities – Children in America’s schools, Jonathan Kozol documented how some schools in this country resemble country clubs, while other inner-city schools are literally falling apart.
To further along this process, Philadelphia has become the city with the most school closings in the nation. There will undoubtedly be more school closings because the district has borrowed $300 million just to pay its bills for this year.
However, on the other side of City Line Avenue, there is the Lower Merion School District where per student funding is double of what it is in Philadelphia. The student population in Philadelphia is largely Black and Latino, while the student population in Lower Merion is largely Caucasian.
The Supreme Court ruled in its Brown vs. The Board of Education decision in 1954 that segregation in education is illegal. However, these savage inequalities continue to exist.
What is the purpose of education in capitalism?
In order to get a full appreciation for what these cuts mean we need to look at what purpose education fulfills in the capitalist society we live in today. First, we can look at the fact that the Labor Department argues that most of the jobs needed in the future will not require much education. These are jobs include: security guards, nurse’s aids, and housekeepers. The highly skilled jobs only account for a small percentage of future employment.
When we look at the jobs workers have that supply everyone with the things we need, very little education is necessary. Workers who toil at auto manufacture, or construction, or the garment industry, or food production do not need, for the most part, to be literate. Clearly, if the workers in these industries were trained to think for themselves, they would soon demand union representation and improved working conditions.
The progressive aspects to education are that it teaches students to read, write, compute, and study. Sitting down in one spot for hours analyzing information takes effort and a basic education sometimes teaches students to have this kind of discipline.
This state of affairs points to the fact that there is something fundamentally wrong, not just with the educational system, but with the way people who have power view education. Therefore, we need a different kind of government where human needs are seen as more important than profits.
What education might be with a workers government
In his pamphlet, The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning – The fraud of education reform under capitalism, Jack Barnes gives another view of what role education can play in society. A workers government would begin by making education a lifetime endeavor. Young people would become inspired to learn new things. This desire to learn would carry on for a lifetime.
Instead of the regimentation that teachers indoctrinate students with, teachers would inspire students think for themselves. Instead of holding down jobs where we do what we are told, we would participate in the continuing process of improving the standard of living throughout the world.
Today we can only imagine what it would mean if the entire workforce was engaged in a continuing effort to educate ourselves. Most production jobs can be automated. There are more than enough people to supply humanity with the food, housing, clothing, health care, communication and transportation we all need.
A continually educated workforce might work to allow humanity to live in harmony with nature, to improve our diet and prevent injuries and illnesses, or to produce top quality housing for all.
These ideas aren’t just abstract theories. The nation of Cuba had a political revolution and today there is a workers government of the island. This has meant that today, Cuba has more teachers and doctors per capita, than any other nation in the world. As a result, Cuba has the highest literacy rate in the world and millions of adults take advantage of continuing their education.
No more cutbacks
Understanding all of this makes it even more imperative to oppose all school closings. We need to say clearly that the children in Philadelphia deserve the same funding for their education as the children who live on the other side of City Line Avenue.
City officials argue that there is no money to keep the 23 schools open. They ignore the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars in city taxpayer money was used to build sports stadiums, the convention center, and in interest payments on municipal bonds. Philadelphia also has the largest tax abatement program in the nation where the owners of the largest skyscrapers in the city pay no taxes.
The federal government has spent trillions of dollars in a stimulus plan. All of these payouts demonstrate that the United States government is nothing more than a cash-dumping machine that dumps obscene amounts of money on some of the most affluent people in the world.
Capitalism is an extremely unstable political economic system. This explains why we are currently in a period of increased unemployment with no end in sight. Capitalists have responded to this downturn by investing unbelievable amounts of money in derivatives, or bets on future stock prices. The amount of money invested in these funds might be as much as one quadrillion dollars, or one thousand trillion dollars.
For the capitalists these derivatives are clearly more important than the education of young people. We can also see how these investments also point to the fact that there are more than enough resources to vastly increase investments in education. All of these facts support the demand: Stop the School Closings, and No Cutbacks in Education.