Henry Giroux, in his new book Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education, defines “organized irresponsibility” as “a practice that underlies the economic Darwinism and civic corruption at the heart of American politics.” The culture this has engendered is going off the rails, as the sauntering gangs of “open carry” proponents, among so many other things, demonstrate. Unfortunately, it is not just those who unleashed the myth in the magic of “market forces” (a smokescreen for organized irresponsibility) who will reap the consequences. It is all of us.
We are losing control of our society. When Cliven Bundy can parlay greed into armed and popular anti-government sentiment; when David Coleman, now head of the College Board, and a few cronies can foist a copyrighted and unchangeable set of Common Core State Standards on our schools that benefits no one but the corporations “servicing” the change; when a ‘tea party dead ender‘ can force even one of the most conservative of US senators into a primary run-off (as only the latest of a series of political travesties foisted by a primary system heavily weighted in favor of easily manipulated nuts); when Duke power, one of the richest corporations in America, can endanger the population of the state of North Carolina in order to protect the flow into its already overflowing coffers; when… when… this list goes on, and on and on. When these things are happening, our control of our own country is slipping away.
When we stopped producing citizens–or, at least, trying to–but bowed to corporate demands for training instead of education (this starting as far back as the 1970s), we sowed the seeds of the disaster we are now facing, abetting the growth of a new sort of selfishness growing out of the American tradition of individualism. Ayn Rand has conquered all, becoming an excuse for doing just what one pleases–with the protection, today, of groups of like-minded graspers.
One of the delicate balances of our society has always been that between rights and responsibilities. Today, “your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights.”
The bastion of responsibility has always been our commitment to universal education exhibited through community-based school systems that gradually expanded to include everyone–until trumped by “choice,” that mask for greed (and racism, if truth be told) portrayed as an individual right. The commitment to responsibility was manifest through the vaccination programs that we all accepted the need for (and that were executed through schools), programs now also being weakened through “choice.” No longer are we willing to admit that there are times when the only way the individual can survive is through the group.
If we are going to right the balance between individual and society, schools (and colleges) are a good place to start. And, within them, we can begin by reasserting the importance of teachers as leaders–and not as employees. Teachers–career teachers and not parachuted-in instructors from Teach For America (who stay in the community only for a short period)–are part of their communities and reflect those communities. When they are trusted and respected within those communities, they strengthen them.
The attacks on teachers, this past generation, have resulted from the “organized irresponsibility” of those who see ways to profit, if schools are removed from public control and funding and who don’t care a whit for the common weal, and of those who don’t believe in universal education–at least, not for their own kids (who shouldn’t have to mingle with them, whichever them bothers the parents) but see each as being for themselves alone. Both groups mistrust unions, for unions are inherently communitarian and have always attempted to balance the desires of the few with the power of the many. And unions have been a bastion for our teachers (not to mention the wider community).
Our best way to restore “organized responsibility” to American society lies in returning it to our schools. For that reason, for me, education is now the most important issue in determining how I will vote. Last time around, in New York State, I voted for Andrew Cuomo for governor. That won’t happen again: He’s committed to charter schools and the Common Core–and the destruction of the American system of education. No matter what else he may be for that I agree with, I cannot vote for him. The situation of education is just too important. People in Connecticut are feeling the same way about their governor, Dannel Malloy.
Yesterday, canvassers came around with a petition for someone wanting to run for NY State Senate. I said I was concerned with only one issue… education. To some, that may seem an extremely narrow way to decide for whom to vote. But even other issues–such as the demands of climate change–turn on education. We cannot address what is happening to our planet unless we are willing to educate ourselves enough to understand it. The same is true of just about every other issue.
No. The same is true about every other issue. The only way we are going to be organized enough and responsible enough for our society and our world is through schools that work for all of us. That is the heart of organized responsibility.