Saturday, June 30, 2012

Michele Bachmann's Core of Conviction 7

I finished Michele Bachmann's Core of Conviction: My Story.  In the Appendix to this book, "Goals 2000 in the Context of a Global Power Grab", Bachmann criticizes Goals 2000 and also provides the text for the National Education Goals that were a part of that program.  She discusses in that appendix her concern about world government, which made me wonder what the John Birch Society thinks about her, since it has long had a similar concern.  According to this article on the John Birch Society's web site, Michele Bachmann was the second most consistent advocate for liberty among the Republicans running for President in 2012 (next to Ron Paul), yet she has problematic positions on such issues as the Patriot Act, war, foreign aid, and other issues.  

The Appendix on Goals 2000 reminded me of an earlier passage in Bachmann's book.  I was going to write about it in a write-up, but I forgot to do so, so I'll do that now.  On page 119, Bachmann discusses the Minnesota Profile of Learning curriculum that she opposed.  She states:

"Yet it was not just a power grab of our schools, but a power grab of our whole way of life as free Americans.  Students were now to be seen for their value to the economy, for their usefulness to a future employer.  No parent sees his or her child only in such utilitarian concerns, but central planners do----and that was the problem.  Embedded in the Profile was a vision of top-down control in which children became mere cogs in a vast bureaucratic machine."

This reminded me of a class that I took at Harvard Divinity School years ago.  The class was about religion in public schools, and one of the books that we read concerned attempts to subordinate public education to the marketplace.  This book criticized charter schools and also Channel One, a news program that was sponsored by a corporation.  Schools that accepted Channel One gave the corporation the opportunity to provide them with televisions, which helped the schools.  But a question that the book was raising was this: At what price?  Was education becoming subjected to the marketplace, with its dehumanizing focus on the bottom-line?  And did that compromise public schools' status as a place of democracy, equality, and diversity----one of the few such places in the world?

I'll admit that it's been a while since I read this book, and so I'm a little fuzzy about its overall argument.  But I do remember my professor for that course making a point that has stayed with me.  She said that there are different views about what the role for education should be, and one view is that it should be to train people for the marketplace.  

Students in my class equated that particular view----about education's primary role being to train people for the marketplace----with the right-wing, which supports capitalism.  But, as you can see from what Michele Bachmann says in the quote above, things are more complex than that, for Bachmann is opposed to seeing students primarily in terms of their usefulness to the economy.  Moreover, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly was an opponent of Channel One.  It's ironic that Bachmann, who defends the free market for page after page in this book, should be critical of the public schools focusing on making students into reliable cogs in a dehumanizing capitalistic economy.  But she probably would say that she's not against capitalism but the corporatist union of government and business, or that she's in favor of balancing out the free market with other things, such as family.

I'll stop here.  Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I still don't particularly care for Michele Bachmann's worldview, especially how she criticizes people for receiving government handouts when she herself has been a beneficiary of the government, and how she is part of a movement (the religious right) that (in my opinion) tries to shove conservative Christian ideas down people's throats in the public square (though she'd probably say that it's the secular left that tries to shove its views down people's throats, and she'd have a point there).  Her criticism of taxes, even as she supports taxes for the middle-class, also irks me.  But I feel as if I know her a little better after reading this book, and I've enjoyed reading her story.

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