Thursday, October 8, 2020

Democracy Is Not The Point

 Twitter is often a fine place to catch people saying the quiet parts out loud. For instance, this tweet from this morning:

Mike Lee is a Senator from Utah who tilts all the way over into Libertarian rightness. He loves himself some school choice. He's also part of the crew that got Covid-19 as a parting gift at the White House Amy Barrett soiree. 

As a blogging master of multiple typos, I'm not going to dog him for clearly meaning "prosperity." But I am going to whoop and holler and point at the "democracy isn't the objective" part. That was a follow up to yesterday's tweet "We are not a democracy." (Don't bring any "but we're actually a republic" argument in here--that just signals you aren't ready to seriously discuss this).

It's the quiet part out loud, the part that we've been hearing in the assault on public education. It's in the arguments by guys like Reed Hastings (Netflix) that elected school boards are a hindrance and should be done away with. It's in the cities where mayoral control has been implemented. It's in the communities where charter operators come from outside and make education reform something they do to the community rather than with it. It is in the education disruption model that says what we really need is a powerful visionary in charge who isn't held down by regulations or unions and who doesn't have to be accountable to the community. This Wise and Powerful school leader will provide people with what he believes they need, and they should be grateful. 

One powerful part of the reformsters disruptive narrative has always been that "rank democracy" gets in the way of real reform. Just put that visionary CEO in charge, and let him be accountable to the invisible hand of market forces. Focus on how we're giving families a choice and direct attention from the fact that 1) they can only have the choices that we decide to give them and 2) citizens who don't have children get no say at all. 

We could dig deeper. Why is democracy so "rank"? Under the current administration, the working theory seems to be that the Wrong Sort of People have been allowed a say. People ask how this administration can even pretend not to be divisive; the answer is that they see themselves as uniters of Real Americans, and they're uniting them against all Those Others who are not Real Americans but have somehow been allowed to have votes and voices and some kind of control in the national conversation. America will be Great Again when the Right People are in charge.

That means schools, too. Or maybe even especially. 

I'll add the usual disclaimer--reformsters come in many flavors and types, and there's virtually nothing you can say that will be true of them all. 

But. This thread of anti-democracy, of just-sit-down-and-let-your-betters-run-the-show runs through much of the ed reform movement, and it's there not strictly because of the education world, but because it is part of a larger movement in this country to clamp down on democracy and put the Right People in charge, so that the Right People can enjoy their liberty and prosperity in peace, and so they can dole out whatever amounts of such things they believe all those Others deserve. 

"Democracy is not the objective." It would be a mistake to think that just because we're here in the United States of America, there couldn't possibly people--certainly not people in positions of power--who believe that. Lee says that he likes school choice because it involves the community, but always remember-- democracy is not the objective.

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