CA-11: Teabagger David Harmer Wants to Abolish Public Schools

Mother Jones has a very important article up regarding David Harmer’s desire to, in his own words, “abolish public schools.” Harmer is the teabagger candidate and Republican nominee in the 11th Congressional district against Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney, and a new SurveyUSA poll found Harmer has a 48%-42% lead, making this race and this issue even more important.

The Mother Jones article is based on Harmer’s own op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle published in 2000, titled “Abolish the public schools”. In it, Harmer advocates for vouchers, but says that’s the best we can do until we eliminate the state constitutional requirement for free public education – and then proceeds to argue for exactly that:

To attain quantum leaps in educational quality and opportunity, however, we need to separate school and state entirely. Government should exit the business of running and funding schools.

This is no utopian ideal; it’s the way things worked through the first century of American nationhood, when literacy levels among all classes, at least outside the South, matched or exceeded those prevailing now, and when public discourse and even tabloid content was pitched at what today would be considered a college-level audience….

More fundamentally, we should reconsider where ultimate responsibility for schooling anyone’s children resides. Having fathered my children, I am responsible for their welfare. Providing for their education is my duty, not anyone else’s.

This is extremely radical stuff. Free education is one of the bases of an equitable society. It’s also responsible for much of the prosperity we enjoyed in the 20th century, which teabaggers like Harmer are determined to destroy.

The notion that privatizing education would lead to better outcomes for people is simply absurd; it would merely recreate the inequalities we see in society while locking into place poverty making it impossible for people to ever escape its grip.

Mother Jones also explained how Harmer’s history is flawed and how universal single-payer public schools were key to improving educational outcomes. It’s worth quoting at length:

Yet historians say the early American education system was nothing like that. Back then, even high school was a luxury. “The high school at that point is a kind of elite form of education pretty much limited to the inner cities,” says John Rury, an education historian at the University of Kansas. The rest of the system was far from comprehensive. What early schools taught, Rury says, were “very basic literacy and computational skills.” Many schools only met four or five months a year, and their quality varied widely. “To get to a higher level of cognitive performance, you needed to have more teachers and longer school years, and that drove costs up,” he explains. That led to modern taxpayer-supported schools. “Look around the world,” says Rury. “Do we have an example of a modern, well-developed school system that operates on the model this person is advocating? We don’t.”

Early education was also far from inclusive. Minorities and the poor often had a lot of trouble getting schooling in early America, even in the North. “We’re talking about going back to times when very, very limited numbers of people in the society had access to education, access to power, or access to elevating themselves in society,” says Heather Andrea Williams, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who has written a book about African-American education in early America. Many young women were also excluded or saw their schooling limited, according to MaryEllen McGuire, a former Obama administration education adviser who’s now at the New America Foundation. “Education was not something that was available to most of our populace,” she says. And until about 50 years ago, children with disabilities often couldn’t get a proper education.

Still, Harmer deserves credit for being open about this. The “education reformers” such as Michelle Rhee, the makers of “Waiting for Superman,” and the billionaires and hedge funds that fund the reform movement also want this same outcome – privatized education where student achievement is left up to the market and one’s ability to pay – but they’re more clever at how they mask this ultimate goal.

It’s another example of how the teabaggers are much, much more than a 21st century form of white backlash – they are determined to destroy the middle class in the service of their corporate lords. They must be stopped.

5 thoughts on “CA-11: Teabagger David Harmer Wants to Abolish Public Schools”

  1. I get so sick of hyperbole during election season.  Republicans say that Democrats would release all prisoners and put everyone on welfare.  Democrats say that Republicans kill puppies for breakfast and kittens for lunch.

    So I saw this headline that David Harmer wants to abolish the public schools and wondered if he had said something like, “Let’s reduce spending on birthday parties for principals.”  

    Then I read a little deeper and the “evidence” that he want to abolish the public school came from…wait for it, wait for it… an op-ed piece that he had written in the San Francisco Chronicle called “Let’s Abolish the Public Schools”.

    Oh, my.

  2. for California, especially given that right now our schools are leaning heavily on ARRA (stimulus) funds from the federal government.

    Given that even the most minimal private school education runs $5,000 a child, and in a district like CA-11 probably $10,000 + is more typical, I am not certain how exactly young families at the beginning of their careers could possibly manage such a feat.  Frankly, such a proposal makes paying taxes look like a pretty good deal.

    Education has always been California’s economic engine, from K to UC. A man so ignorant of this should not represent the Bay Area in the House.

  3. I was more than a bit surprised to read this post so I did what my HS History teacher (thanks Mr. Sewell) taught me- went to the original source material… and the story IS a little different.

    First, the SF Chronicle in the Sunday paper of 8/27/2000 ran 2 opposing Op-Eds to stimulate a discussion about Education Reform under the title of Teach Our Children Well. Meredith Maran wrote 1 piece and Harmer wrote the opposing piece.  Maran’s #1 recommendation was to abolish private schools (her #2 was to make public schools more like private schools).  Harmer took the 180 degree opposite position- abolish public schools.  I’m surprised he was able to make this argument as it is indeed radical, and bad. But it was to create a public forum through the Chronicle… and it was 10 years ago!

    So I called Harmer campaign HQ yesterday and was told that Harmer does not advocate shutting down the California School system, that his children all attend/ attended public school.

    So I’m going with the 2010 position, not 1/2 of a 2000 debate….. but I still hope the voters re-elect McNerney.

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