Fixing Our Public Schools

No public education, no democracy

I teach English at Montgomery High School. I love my school, but I hate what is happening to public education.

From the national to the local level, our schools are under attack. The brutal cuts to education are only half of the picture. The other half is the violation of our public trust by private interests.

The vultures prey on the fiscal damage as they prepare to insert an artificial heart of learning into a wounded public school system. Lost in the vicious scramble of privatization is the societal commitment to education as a human right.

Education should not be a degrading “race to the top” for vital funds. There is more segregation in our schools today than at any time since 1968, the year that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Charter schools and high-stakes tests have exacerbated segregation while shamefully distracting us from the poverty that goes hand in hand with it.

Wal-Mart’s Walton Family has spent $1 billion on remaking schools in the image of big business. Ask yourself what the Wal-Mart standard of education might be: a “chain” school network force-feeding one standardized diet of junk learning to scores of unique kids across the nation? With budget cuts pumping up class sizes to 40-plus students, we are getting the fast food of education. How big can an online class get? Super-size me.

Occupy was a verb before it became a noun. Whatever your politics or status in America today, please occupy your conscience. If America continues to blame teachers for everything, then we might forget to tax the millionaires. We must remember the real scope of the problem.

By threatening public education, corporate power endangers our democracy. Education belongs to the public! We are the decision-makers, and “we’re the people—we go on.” And I’m not just quoting The Grapes of Wrath because I’m an English teacher.

I would never have become a teacher if I didn’t believe in the power of young people to change the world. Students, you can change the world! I believe in you.

Simone Harris is a high school English teacher, activist and blogger who writes about the politics of education at

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 considered for publication, write [email protected].

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