WE CAN ONLY HEAR THE RICH

10/1/10

   Corporate money continues to drive out serious discussion of improvements to public education. Why is it that we seem to believe that because people have made billions of dollars they know something about educating the nationís young? Why even at the recent convention of the American Federation of Teachers, our leaders brought Bill Gates to lecture us on teacher evaluation, as though he knew the first damn thing about it. Last week, that renowned educator Oprah showcased Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Chris Christie and their alliance with Mark Zuckerberg a 26 year old who has surely spent significant time thinking deeply about the plight of children in the Newark ghetto and how they might be better taught. Oprah brought them all together to announce Zuckerbergís gift of $100 million dollars to the Newark schools.  The voice of the rich grows louder and louder.

    Why is public education in the richest country in the world increasingly becoming the preoccupation of the rich? Why are hedge fund managers the biggest contributors to the political movement to increase the number of charter schools? Does anyone think they send their children to public schools? Are we to believe that altruism is their sole motivation? If the rich are so smart and knowledgeable about education, why are they putting their money behind schools that have proven themselves no better than their public counterparts? If altruism is their motivation, I have a modest proposal to make.

    Why donít the super rich of the United States start a movement to restore the tax rates in effect when the Republican Dwight Eisenhower was our president? At that time people like Gates, Oprah and Zuckerberg were in the 90 percent tax bracket - thatís correct 90 percent. Somehow, they managed to survive. Somehow the economy produced middle class jobs. Most of the rich were content with the millions they had from the 10 percent of the income they could keep. Somehow the government wasnít the enemy of the people. Most remembered how but for government action during the Great Depression, they would have suffered even more severely. I donít recall any of the DuPonts or Vanderbilts telling us how to run our schools then. Sometimes their foundations did, but at least these employed people who spent their professional lives studying the issues they were addressing.

    The current economic aristocracy clearly has the ear of the political class in Washington. Do we have to wonder about why the so-called Race To the Top and the Gates agenda are so similar? I think not. Itís no wonder that unions and the middle class they helped to create are dying.  Our voice needs to be heard soon!

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