Once in a great while, a conservative policymaker will condemn the existence of public schools in the United States. They’re usually not quite as direct, though, as Ohio state Rep. Andrew Brenner (R), who recently published an online item insisting, “Public education in America is socialism.”
In the post, titled “Public education in America is socialism, what is the solution?,” Brenner laid out his argument. He noted that the Tea Party, which “will attack Obama-care relentlessly as a socialist system,” rarely brings up “the fact that our public education system is already a socialist system […] and has been a socialist system since the founding of our country.” […]Brenner’s solution: more privatization. “In a free market system parents and students are free to go where the product and results are better,” he wrote.
Did I mention that Brenner is the vice-chair of the Ohio House Education Committee? He is.
For what it’s worth, the Ohio Republican apparently looked up “socialism” on Wikipedia and found that the word means “a social and economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy.” And since he sees public education fitting this bill, and because he believes all socialism must always be bad in all instances, Brenner seems to think it’s time to close the doors at public schools.
Of course, the same could be said for public police departments and fire departments, which would also have to be privatized, but one assumes Brenner and his allies will get to this on another day.
To be sure, even most far-right policymakers rarely talk this way publicly – most Americans celebrate the nation’s public-school system as an important institution and would generally oppose candidates eager to close them all down – but it’s worth noting that Brenner isn’t entirely alone.
Indeed, former senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, just a few years ago, made very similar noises about public education. “Just call them what they are,” Santorum said in 2011. “Public schools? That’s a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools.”
In early 2012, CBS’s Bob Schieffer asked Santorum, “Are you saying that we shouldn’t have public schools, now? I mean, I thought public schools were the foundation of American democracy.” The Republican didn’t back down, reemphasizing his belief that federal and state governments should not be involved in public education.
Republican pollsters have frequently suggested that it’s a mistake for party officials to call for shutting down the federal Department of Education because it gives the appearance of hostility towards public education.
But this apparently doesn’t stop some GOP candidates and policymakers from going even further.