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Arthur Camins: Don’t Be Fooled: In a Democracy, Public Schools Are Better than Private Schools

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Arthur Camins, scientist and specialist in innovation, kicks off our celebration of April Fools Day with his timely warning not to be fooled by Trump and DeVos: in a democratic society, public schools are better than private schools. They are the only path to a better education for all. We need them. We do not need to resurrect the segregation that existed before the Brown decision. We have not achieved its democratic goals, but we should not abandon them.

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He writes:

“It’s April Fools Day, which reminds me: Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos want us to think that private schools are better, not just for rich folks like them, but for everyone else too– Just like with Paul Ryan and health care. Don’t be fooled. It is a ruse. Public is better!

“Growing up, I knew the meaning of private places. Private places were about gates, both physical and de facto. Private meant, “Keep out!” Private schools were not for me, but for someone else. Private clubs were for someone else. Private roads were for someone else. I understood that the people who were saying, “Stay on your side of the gate,” were usually rich and Christian, and always White. That meant not me as a Jew. I knew for certain that it also meant, not for Blacks and not for poor folks. Sometimes, private meant no women. The message was always clear: “We do not want you around us!”

“As a nation, we need to be better than that.

“Make no mistake. The folks inside the gates of privilege aim to stay there. However, to do so they need the rest of us to believe three things: First, that they have privileges because they deserve them and the rest of us do not; Second, that there is a chance, however slim, that a few of us just might get inside and become privileged too; Third, having just a few folks inside the gates and the rest of us outside is the way things are and always will be.

“Unfortunately, in the minds of some of those standing outside the gates looking in, private implies, “That’s Better than what I have. I want that too.” Growing up, I also knew about some outside folks who managed to slip inside the gate. I grew to despise them because once inside they chose to identify with their former gatekeepers. They did not join struggles to remove gates or to make things better for everyone….

“If we want a country in which the greatest good for the greatest number of people is a high priority, public is better. I think most folks think so too. That’s why we have public schools, roads and bridges, police, firefighters, parks, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid just to name a few public services. These are common-good activities that we cannot afford as individuals, so we share the costs. Not everyone goes to school, but we all benefit from an educated citizenry. Not everyone drives, but without good road and bridges, we would all suffer. Some of us are not old and in need of extra medical care, but we might be someday. Cost sharing brings broad access. It makes economic sense. For most of us, it is also a moral responsibility.”

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