Training Our Way to a New Oligarchy? Not Yet!

students protest
Students in Jefferson County, Colo protest forced changes in U.S. History standards by local school board. Credit: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

In Texas and now in Colorado conservatives on the far right have been in a panic about history students actually learning history. Whether being earnest in their own beliefs or being duped by corporate propaganda efforts, these conservatives want desperately to put a lid on history study at the high school level that might explore all of American history.

Top-down prescriptions

Prescriptive plans that call for studying the conservative heroes from the past only, downplaying the progressive leaders, and not studying any wrongs or failures in America’s past have been handed down from the Texas State School Board, producing embarrassingly stupid textbook passages that seem more like spoofs generated by The Onion rather than a statewide school board.

All of this has to do with feverish efforts to establish a new American oligarchy — which is the dominant, systemic rule by a wealthy minority.

Wait. An oligarchy? In the U.S.?

And if “new”, when was the last one?

Oligarchy in our past? Oh, yes!

The U.S. last saw an oligarchy in the pre-Civil-War Southern slave states where only 10% of its population controlled 90% of the wealth and controlled all decision-making and education in that society. That 10% was made up of self-perpetuating wealth within the same families and based upon inherited slaves, with little chance of anyone outside of those families moving up into their ranks, except by marriage.

All white residents in those states for multiple generations where taught from childhood that they owed their loyalty to that 10%. Thus, a bloody Civil War was gladly fought mostly by men who had never owned even one slave, but were taught and believed that they were fighting for their state, or some concept as “states rights”.

In actuality, they were fighting, suffering and dying for a small, powerful oligarchy who would rather start a war against other Americans than give up the institution of slavery that had made them so rich.

So, yes, we do have a history of oligarchy in the U.S. and a new one is very possible again.

Education vs. training

A dictatorship simply demands compliance daily at the point of a gun. But an oligarchy needs to train people from childhood to comply.

Education creates an inquisitive mind in children that can cause them to question the actions of those who are in power. Education teaches the process of using logic to evaluate what one is seeing and experiencing against general long-held standards. Education shows the power of logic and individual thought.

Training, though, is far more focused. It’s goals are more specific and limited to what particular tasks or behaviors are desired.

Over the last decade the growing takeover of charter and private schools by corporate investor-owned companies has injected a model of training instead of education, especially for poor children in predominantly poor cities and neighborhoods. Compliance to specific, minute behavior demands is valued over all else in city-wide corporate charter organizations such as the ones now in complete control of New Orleans, Detroit, and Newark “public” education. I showed the realities and liabilities of that process in three previous posts HERE, HERE, and HERE.

And so independent administrators, teachers, parents, and students are considered a threat, because we actually are. We seek education and not just limited training. The investor class wants compliance from small business people, working people, and anyone else that they want to use and use up for their own purposes. We teach thinking.

For the last ten years, teachers in general and teachers unions in particular have been the focus of special, intense attacks because an educated, independent teacher corps values independent thinking over compliance to a small minority of powerful people.

Push-back in the reddest of states

In Oklahoma, even superintendents and principals are joining teachers in pushing back against an agenda that demands compliance to a training, rather than education model.

Also, in Oklahoma and other states, parents are wising up to the mythology of “parent choice” and understanding that they have far less choice after the breakdown of public education than before.

Despite the lies about valuing competition, corporations do everything they can to eliminate competition and choice every chance that they get as I POINTED OUT IN A RECENT POST. And so parents are organizing into PLACs, Parent Leadership Action Committees that are asking questions and causing trouble for those who thought they were stupid enough to buy the “parent choice” lies.

A time of promise and danger
Newark Students Union protest
Newark, N.J. students protest the takeover of public schools by corporate charters. Credit: Newark Students Union

Now, students are organizing nation-wide and causing big headaches for those who think of them only as widgets to be produced on a training assembly line.

It is an exciting and dangerous time for public education. It’s exciting because of the promise of protests that show a desire to resist compliance training and oligarchy.

It is also dangerous because of the panic of those who have the most power and the most to lose. Remember, the oligarchs-to-be are not used to losing any contest. And they sure aren’t used to losing the millions that they have already bet on the privatizing of American education.

It is a crucial time to resist, organize, and fight along with brave students who are standing up for true education and truth.