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Abolish Public Schools? Glenn Beck Thinks So.

Abolish Public Schools? Glenn Beck Thinks So.

Glenn Beck thinks the American public school system is a hotbed of indoctrination that ought to be abolished. No word on what he thinks should replace a system responsible for the education 50 million children every year, but Beck is a vocal proponent of home schooling and vouchers for private school education. 

And to be fair to Beck, he believes that the media, the federal government and being alive in general is agenda-laden and bombarding us average Americans from “dawn to dusk” with propaganda filled rhetoric that subverts the great truths.

Abolish public schools?

Normally, I dismiss Beck as a shrewd huckster who willingly plays along with the “indoctrinating” machine of the moment because it’s profitable for him to do this, so it pains me to have to agree with him.

Not about abolishing public schools.

That’s just nonsense. Access to education regardless of race, gender, religion and socio-economic standing is the American way. It’s one of the pillars holding up our way of life, making it possible for people to climb from one level of the social strata to the next and providing as level a playing field for getting ahead in life as most children will ever have again.

And from a practical standpoint, abolishing public education would cripple our economy even more than the current recession because for the vast majority of parents in the U.S., public schools are an important component in their day care strategies.

Are We All Indoctrinated?

But Beck’s right about indoctrination on all counts. We are subject to messages designed to convince us of the rightness of this or that point of view all day long. These value systems filter through our collective consciousnesses via television, the internet, social media, entertainment, our jobs, our houses of worship and it is most definitely in our children’s schools.

Yes, schools are about indoctrination to some extent. It isn’t all reading and math. The recent uproar caused by the Texas Board of Education’s wholesale revision of American history proves Beck’s point. Local schools exist to push the values of the community, the state and the federal government.

I was thinking about this very issue yesterday while sitting in the gym of my daughter’s elementary school. We live in Canada now, but the aim of public education is basically the same. Teach children basic skills and instill the foundations of good citizenry.

Is Canada Different?

At the beginning of the assembly, the children stood and sang “O Canada”, the national anthem, as they do before all assemblies and at the start of each week. It was no different than the Pledge of Allegiance I led my middle school students in every Monday morning for several years after 9/11. Nor was it any different from the fact that sporting events began with the Star Spangled Banner and that at some point between grade 8 and grade 12, every child in my Iowa school district learned about the Founders, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Becoming Citizens

While we are born Americans, we learn to be United States citizens just like we learn our creeds in church and about our culture through the media.

And it is indoctrination, if one wants to get all technical about it.

Beck is part of it too

The irony of Beck’s rant is that he is as much a part of the machine that seeks to mold minds and souls as any of the culprits he named. He is part of the “problem” and offers no viable solutions. If indeed this “indoctrinating” is an issue for him at all or just something to rant about on a slow news day.

Abolishing public schools would actually leave our kids more vulnerable to the misinformation and self-serving agendas passing themselves off as truth because they wouldn’t have the intellectual skills to disseminate fact from fiction, leaving them at the mercy of indoctrinator’s like Beck himself.

The pot was calling himself out with the kettles and making an excellent argument for the necessity of public education as the lunatics are clearly in control of the asylum and our kids need all the protection we can give them in the form of a good education.

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Defense of Public Education by Fibonacci Blue

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149 comments

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1:33PM PDT on Jul 11, 2010

Ann, you are 100% correct here. A good way to test the theory is to have public school graduates read Howard Zinn's "Columbus and the Indians" from his book A People's History of the United States. When they finish, simply ask them how many of them had heard this part of the story previously, the part that talks about what was essentially genocide of the indigenous people by the conquistadors and colonizers. Few hands will go up.

Of course, at some level, indoctrination of a positive sense of one's country, one's duties as a citizen and the value of its peoples - all of them - are good things. At a very basic level we do ourselves no favors if we fail to inculcate citizenship and we do the world no favors if we implant a superiority complex with no reality checks.

I'd also add that teaching students how to think critically is absolutely essential in a world dominated by corporate media. Beer is not necessary to have a good party, people may not like us despite our clothing and cologne and there are any number of impulses we should resist even as we are being exhorted to "Just do it!"

Finally, your take on Beck is right on target. He is a pitiable character, so blinded by fear and vitriol. I cannot imagine living inside his skin for even an hour. He and all the other talking heads are part of the problem. But the fact we are not teaching our children to use their heads is also a part of the problem. Even Beck has to have a willing audience.

3:37PM PDT on Jun 28, 2010

Donna, I hear you about the schools and President Obama's speech about the importance of doing well in school! I live in a school district which had no problem airing Bush's speech in schools before, yet when Obama was going to give his address, they refused to do so and gave us some folderol about how "they couldn't readjust school schedules to fit it in."

Yeah, right.

Regarding homeschooling, I did that for the preschool years for my older daughter, but not for indoctrination purposes. In our case, there's no pre-K in the elementary school here in town (we live in a rural county), the secular private preschools here are ruinously expensive (especially on a working-class, single-income budget like ours), and the only other option was church-based preschool (which I trust to not indoctrinate our kids, who are being raised Wiccan, about as much as I'd trust a rabid alley cat not to attack me!).

And the reason behind the lack of discipline in public schools and the decline of morals and manners, is NOT due to the public schools themselves, but due to parents not bothering to actually PARENT their kids and actually teach them limits, respect for others, and respect for themselves! Too many parents jump all over the teacher or the other kid's parents when their "sweet little angel" is accused of misbehaving, bullying, or what have you, and we wonder what's wrong with kids today?

Not that I pay attention to Glenn Back anyway...he's got athlete's tongue!

10:26AM PDT on Jun 28, 2010

I agree that any article involving Glenn Beck is not one I would take interest in, but this article is about public education. I am a public school teacher, and I was shocked last fall when our president wanted to address students across the country, but was not allowed to because his speech regarding the importance of a good education was seen as indoctrination by Glenn Beck-like folks in this country. I was outraged and saddened at the same time.
That said, I strongly believe that in our consumer-driven society, maybe a free public education is being eschewed by too many of the students who would benefit from same. Maybe we should charge money for a public education in order to improve its "worth" in our society!

11:10PM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

I have a hard time reading any article that includes the words "Glen Beck thinks.."

8:56PM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

If Glenn Beck (and others) think that the solution is to abolish and replace it with home schooling and private schooling, he is forgetting some very basic facts.

Firstly, most parents are not qualified to teach their own children, leastwise not beyond the earliest grades, and even then I would assert that their lack of pedagogical training in child mental develpmental abilities and teaching strategies mean that their teaching is sub-par to a properly trained and certified public teacher. And in the higher grades, most parents don't have the subject knowledge necessary to teach most subjects. How many of you remember your high school geometry classes well enough to understand it yourselves, much less explain it and teach it to your kids?

Secondly, socialization is part of the education process. When kids are isolated at home and do not interact with kids their own age, as at school, their social development and skills at interpersonal relationships are compromised.

Thirdly, if the only other education source is private schools, in this day and economy, few average families and almost all poor families cannot afford the tuition.

Forthly, if families cannot afford a private school, how much less can less-well-off families afford the loss of one parent's income in order to stay home and teach the kids.

Finally, where would all the specialized educational equipment (like gym equipment, science labs, computer programs, etc.) come from and be paid for?

7:07PM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

If the Texas Textbook Masssacre continues, however, pretty soon public schools WILL be houses of indoctrination-and far right ones at that. Hopefully teachers can combat those horrible textbooks, but who knows...

2:40PM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

Well, I think everyone knows Glenn Beck is a reactionist, illogical freak with no concept of reality and it makes perfect sense that he would like to get rid of public schools. It's a ridiculous idea based on a framework of insanity. In Canada we do sing O Canada at assemblies but we don't have assemblies very often (at least in my public school experience) and most people didn't sing. Anyway, Glenn Beck should be jabbering on a street corner with one of those "the end is near signs" and not spouting his garbage on tv.

12:55PM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

If public school system abolished, that meant most people cannot read and write after abolition of public school system and US families immigrate to other countries!

7:30AM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

We all need to accept the challenge to keep improving our schools each day. Let's not base our actions on Glenn Beck, he isn't a good criteria!! Marylyn

4:19AM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

To stop public education is negative. To improve it to a respectable level is what is necessary and positive.

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