As the global economy stumbles deeper into crisis, baldly revealing the bleak future capitalism has on offer, youth across the globe are moving into open revolt. With unprecedented budget cuts raining down everywhere, the struggle over public education has emerged as the main battleground.
Even before the economic crisis, big business on a global scale was pushing an agenda of budget cuts, privatization, and enforced standardization to ensure curriculum corresponds to market needs. But with the “Great Recession,” the public education system, as we know it from our universities to kindergartens, is being systematically dismantled.
Now the bones of the public education system are also being broken, as a powerful juggernaut of economic and political interests uses the budget crisis as cover to push for a fundamental reorganization of education to serve the profit-driven needs of private corporations.
In higher education, the “corporatization” of public schools has gone much further. For big business, the budget crisis is seen as an opportunity.
The idea that public education should serve the common good, providing equal opportunity to all regardless of our class, race, or gender origins, is under fundamental assault. In its place, the idea that institutional priorities should be guided by the demands of the market already dominates the thinking of most university leaders and the corporate-sponsored politicians who appoint them.
The corporate agenda is to maintain public financing of education, albeit at lower levels, but to place management of education under the direct or effective control of the private sector.
Everywhere you look, from the way research priorities are decided to the treatment of faculty and campus workers, the “corporatization” of education is rapidly transforming the very nature of our schools and universities.
The good news is that students and education workers are fighting back on a global scale. The struggles of students and education workers, currently at the forefront of the fight to defend the public sector, can act as a spark. But lasting victories will require conscious efforts to build wider coordinated struggles alongside public-sector workers and everyone impacted by the budget cuts.
The starting point is united actions clearly opposing all budget cuts and demanding big business and the rich foot the bill for their crisis. However, it is not enough to simply defend the status quo; our movement must elaborate a vision of society where education is prioritized above war and profits, and where democratic bottom-up control of educational institutions replaces the corporate model.
by Ty Moore
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