Albuquerque has a weekly alternative newspaper called the Alibi, and it is as left-of-center as any of these tabloids from around the country. In the interest of balanced journalism, I’m sure they feel they have to provide space to commentators such as Paul Gessing (described below his article as, “president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an organization that promotes limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.”
The title of the op-ed piece is, “New Mexico’s Education Debacle: Where’s the outrage?,” and here’s the link to the full article – http://alibi.com/index.php?story=32704&scn=news
Gessing begins his article by claiming that, “unlike so many topics with a partisan bent, Republicans and Democrats can agree: 1) New Mexico’s K-12 educational system has been in crisis for some time; 2) reform is necessary to save our state’s children from low-wage jobs and lives on the margins of our society; and 3) education is one of the greatest concerns facing New Mexico.”
Here are a couple of definitions of “crisis:”
- an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty; “they went bankrupt during the economic crisis”
That’s the one I suspect Mr. Gessing is trying to get us to think of. But here’s another:
- a crucial stage or turning point in the course of something; “after the crisis the patient either dies or gets better”
This one sounds more like what we are facing, both in New Mexico and across the nation. We have created and attempted to preserve a factory-oriented education system that no longer functions in the modern world. It’s the equivalent of a dependence on fossil fuels: futile, wasteful, and unsustainable. The free-marketeers want to take the “fetters” off of “free enterprise” and let the market decide what survives and what does not.
Of course, in the real world, this utopian fantasy does not itself survive against the inexorable forces of greed and lust for power that corrupt unfettered capitalism. The purpose of regulatory structures is not to put government in charge of business, but to safeguard the average person from the rapacious nature of soulless corporations that are defined as legal “persons” but have nothing resembling conscience or accountability.
Along these same lines, the purpose of public education is not to deliver a uniform, “national” curriculum, with all the states and districts marching along in lockstep and turning out identical student “products.” Public education’s purpose is to provide every child with the opportunity to learn about her or his world and to interact with it positively. This is properly the function of the state, because the state has no profit motive in providing such public services, like police and fire protection.
Gessner concludes his essay with the assertion that, “choice remains one of the best ways to force traditional public schools to improve while creating innovative options for children. If vouchers are not politically feasible in New Mexico—and at this point it seems they are not—tax credits allowing individuals and businesses to fund educational alternatives are the best option.
“Liberals and conservatives alike must recognize New Mexico schools are in crisis, and no amount of funding will help. It is time for policy-makers to tackle the issue head-on, to try an array of remedies and see what works. Our children simply can’t wait.”
Clearly, this is not one of the brighter lights in the free market, but he is just one of the first to begin pounding the drumbeat: vouchers vouchers vouchers PRIVATIZE vouchers vouchers… Is anyone asking the question, who really benefits?