In what is most likely a sign of things to come in next year's election, three Republican presidential candidates, albeit fringe candidates at the moment, ripped public schools during a homeschoolers convention in Des Moines Wednesday.
The Tea Party darlings threw red meat to a receptive crowd, which ate it up.
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota noted that she homeschooled her five children and was not allowed to home school 23 foster children, thanks to the evil government.
Herman Cain, former Godfather's Pizza CEO, said, "That's all we want is for government to get out of the way so we can educate ourselves and our children the old-fashioned way."
And then there's Ron Paul.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul told the crowd government wants "absolute control" of the "indoctrination" of children.
"The public school system now is a propaganda machine," Paul said, prompting applause from the crowd of hundreds of home schooling families. "They start with our kids even in kindergarten, teaching them about family values, sexual education, gun rights, environmentalism -- and they condition them to believe in so much which is totally un-American."
I don't know what public schools Paul has been around, but the ones I have been around for the past half-century as a student, newspaper reporter, and teacher have generally been reflective of the community. Most teachers go to church, shop at Wal-Mart and Target, and spend almost no time thinking about how they can increase the level of indoctrination of the apparently empty vessels that fill their classrooms.
The teacher in the room next door to mine even listens to Rush Limbaugh every day during his lunch hour.
The idea that teachers are lying in wait to gain control over our society is an outright lie.
If we were as powerful as these Tea Party dandies would have you believe, we would probably not be used as a convenient whipping boy for politicians who could have used some time in our classrooms.
If we were bent on domination of our society as they seem to be indicating will be one of their talking points in 2012, then we should surely have done a better job of controlling the so-called "liberal" media, which has featured one fawning story after another about so-called educational reformers whose bag of tricks is limited to closing schools and firing teachers and promoting charter schools even when confronted with evidence that charter schools perform no better than public schools. When the bulk of the mainstream media is sounding like a John Stossel echo chamber, you know we have done a poor job of indoctrination.
If we were truly as diabolical as Ron Paul appears to believe, would we be standing idly by while billionaire businessmen and the politicians whose campaign accounts they are bankrolling are systematically destroying a public education system that has been a foundation of American greatness?
It could be considered a hopeful sign that the three candidates who spoke at this gathering were supposedly on the fringe of Republican politics. We did not see Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, or even Newt Gingrich at the convention. However, we have seen plenty of evidence that they share the disdain the Tea Party wing of the party has for public schools and teachers.
Sadly, that same disdain appears to be the sentiment of our president, whose Race to the Top idea of "reform" has embraced many of the same concepts that have been the hallmark of those who been the most critical of public education.
If you don't want to fire teachers, close schools, or open charter schools, you are an enemy of improved education. The heroes of the educational world are pictured on the cover of national magazines wielding a broom to sweep out the lazy unionized teachers who have been holding back our educational system.
The villains are those who serve in the trenches day after day, providing the best possible education to students whose only meals come from the school cafeteria, the ones who find a way to reach many young people who deal with broken homes, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, the kind of existence that most of those who are raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars by pandering to the "reform" movement, cannot even imagine.
In this nightmarish scenario, where concepts of right and wrong have been turned on their head, is it any wonder that the possibility of a Ron Paul or Michele Bachman candidacy next year does not seem outlandish, and that they may even be considered mainstream candidates by the time 2012 rolls around?