A while back, a Facebook Trump-Troll stated matter-of-factly that government “should be run like a business.” I’ve often heard the same thing said about schools. Invariably, purveyors of such sound-bite wisdom don’t know much about government or education; they don’t seem to know much about business, either. Maybe a business should be run like a business, but that’s about it.
The point of a business is to make money for the owners of the business, the private or public owners. The law goes so far as to require maximization of profits for stockholders, the owners. The business serves the owners.
Paying as little as possible to workers and cutting material costs increases profit. Busting unions and sending jobs to impoverished foreign lands reduces labor costs; purchasing foreign-produced materials cuts costs. All of that, plus avoiding taxes also increases profit. And, if you think about it, it’s all, in a way, required by law.
The personal accumulation of wealth is the singular goal. There is no consideration of the workers’ condition, the environment, or the public good. Consumers, beyond keeping them purchasing the product, are not important, either.
Only those “burdensome” government regulations we hear so much about require the attention and concern of the businesses’ owners. Health, safety and environmental regulations cut into profits, and profits must be maximized.
And so, should schools and government be “run like a business?”
The first problem with that is: who owns the public schools and who owns the government? You can’t find such folks on the stock exchange, and would anybody claim that the purpose of schools and government is to make money for an individual, a family, or a group of stockholders?
Schools and governments (at least for now, in America) don’t exist for that reason, but there are those – many of them – who think they should.
Public schools serve children and their families; their purpose is to nurture children and prepare them to do well in the world and to strengthen the ethical, intellectual, and financial health of our nation. There are those who push privately owned/tax-payer (publicly) paid-for charter schools that DO have owners motivated by profit. How much self-deception is required to believe that these “owners” care more about children than they do about money? Recent revelations indicate otherwise.
As for government, there are some who think it is, and should be, owned by the big money folks. John Jay, one of our sainted Founding Fathers, said that the country should be run by the people who own it. The money folks? Well, in that day only propertied, white men could vote. Those guys not only owned slaves and the country but their women, too. Under those conditions, in those days, maybe the government was run like a business, one dedicated to enriching slave-owning, landed, male gentry.
There was a time and place, too, where education was run like a business: in the antebellum South. As documented by Nancy Isenberg in her “White Trash, The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America,” educating EVERYONE was seen as a mistake. Those who “owned” the South, the plantation lords, weren’t bashful about making their position clear. As one writer in 1837 argued regarding not only slaves, but also the masses of poor degraded Southern whites, “It is better that a part should be fully and highly educated and the rest utterly ignorant.”
Donald Trump says wages are too high and that we must compete with low-wage foreign competitors. How better to calm savage workers than via ignorance, as was the approach with slaves? How better to control oppressed white workers than to keep them ignorant of their true oppressors and focused on blaming blacks, Latinos and other minorities?
Now, that’s how you minimize labor costs and maximize profits! Let the wealthy send their kids to posh private schools; let the poor white, black, and brown children go to impoverished public schools in dilapidated facilities with uncertified, low-wage teachers, outdated technology, and insufficient materials. That cuts taxes, and that raises profits. Better yet, the illiterate will have to work for less. To hell with the kids.
And when private business folks (as with many charters) own the schools which are paid for by tax money, they not only make a profit, but have the government skin the public to pay for it. Yes, sir!! Now that’s simultaneously running education and government like a business.
Anyone who favors such schemes is either a criminally selfish, amoral jerk or an ignorant dupe. Unfortunately, like Santa Claus, they’re everywhere.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal