While Republicans generally oppose spending any money on anything other than corporations, the military-industrial complex or their wealthy donors, they hold a special hatred for spending on education. Obviously, an informed and well-educated populace, while crucial for a democracy, is anathema to Republicans who would not exist without the level of ignorance infecting America. After Kansas voters re-elected failed trickle-down advocate Governor Sam Brownback after he single-handedly decimated Kansas to enrich the already wealthy, it is glaringly apparent that the level of stupid in Kansas is epidemic.
Knowing their population is prone to fear, religion and idiocy, Kansas Republicans have wholly embraced a Koch-Libertarian policy position with the intent of using it to finish destroying Kansas public schools once and for all time. As if Kansas’ embattled public school system had not been attacked mercilessly, and unconstitutionally since Brownback has been governor, the new tactic may not provide immediate success, but it will pay dividends the Kochs will celebrate when Kansas voters start supporting the abolition of public education.
The tactic is a simple semantic shift of sorts with Kansas conservatives using the term “government schools” in a major rebranding of the Kansas public school system. Of course like everything Republicans do, this propaganda serves the Republican anti-government and privatization agenda to starve public schools into extinction and shift taxpayer dollars directly to for-profit religious, corporate and failed charter schools and help fund trickle down tax cuts for the rich.
Last year in an op-Ed, a Kansas Republican state senator, Forrest Knox, wrote publicly what Republicans say privately about Kansas school system: “Our local grade school is now ‘the government school’” and his intent was nothing less than frightening Kansas residents to advance Koch and conservative propaganda that the “liberal” government was inserting itself unnecessarily into education to indoctrinate children and interfere with parents involvement. Republicans comprehend the government is not in the indoctrination business, unless teaching facts, history, and empirical data are indoctrination tools, but using catch phrases and buzzwords has proven successful with stupid people in the past.
A columnist for the Wichita Eagle wrote the obvious last month and said state legislators’ “deaf and blind” ideology threatened the state’s public schools. The columnist, David Merrit said, “Some have begun to call public schools ‘government schools,’ a calculated pejorative scorning both education and anything related to government.
According to a highly-regarded linguistics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, George Lakoff, who tracked the GOP’s propaganda trend for decades, what Kansas Republicans and conservatives are doing is extending the semantical positioning of “liberal government” to education to “convey the message that public schools are a form of government imposition.”
The idea of government intrusion into Americans’ private lives did indeed begin with B-movie actor and trickle down advocate Ronald Reagan, but this idea that “government” schools are a nasty liberal plot, the idea Kansas GOP are embracing, was an important plank of the 1980 Libertarian Party’s anti-government platform. The party and platform, by the way, that boasted none other David Koch as its vice-presidential candidate. The platform opposed public education out-of-hand and said precisely what Kansas Republicans are saying today; “Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals.”
In Kansas, Republicans have started regularly using the “government schools” term as a political wedge to convince Kansas residents that Brownback’s drastic education cuts are really about protecting children from the nasty government and preserving parents’ ability to raise their kids without “government” interference. The truth is something quite different and convincing voters that public schools are dangerous is only to rob more money from public schools to enrich corporate, religious and private charter schools, protect trickle down tax cuts, and put the Kansas Constitution and State Supreme Court in the toilet.
Two years ago the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that Brownback’s education cuts violated the State Constitution. The Justices kindly afforded the governor and Republican legislature leniency by giving them ample time to rectify the situation. Brownback refused and a second ruling slammed him for violating the State constitution and the High Court’s ruling.
Brownback’s response was tasking the GOP-controlled legislature to pass laws to punish the Court for daring to cite the state’s Constitutional requirements for education spending and defying Brownback as dictator. In another retaliatory move, Brownback’s Republicans launched an attempt to nullify the Kansas judiciary’s authority and to put the entire state judicial system’s existence in jeopardy; all because the Court would not allow him to violate the constitution to enrich corporations and the wealthy.
Like many Republican states across the nation, the far-right and libertarian wings of the Republican Party are demanding that states either abolish or drastically scale back laws regarding the funding of public schools. The reason is typically Koch and ALEC: Republicans demand that they are allowed to shift public school funding to private religious and horrendously underperforming for-profit corporate charter schools. Something the American people overwhelmingly reject as an abomination.
In fact Republicans so hate the idea of anything going to public education that they have blatantly opposed school programs offering free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches. Their contention is that feeding poor students makes schools an integral part of the liberal “nanny state” that was created to usurp and eventually completely eliminate the role of parents in their children’s lives.
According to experts, and any American with a brain and a pulse, this is not the first time that conservatives have embraced twisted semantics to sway an ignorant and religious voting public’s opinion. Professor Lakoff noted that the right has been successful at framing issues related to abortion, health care, labor unions and the very concept of functioning government. Devising carefully crafted catchphrases to fool ignorant Americans, Republicans have used terms like “Tax relief, Pro-life, The Democrat Party, and Death panels” to a fairly high degree of success in advancing their dangerous agendas with support from their ignorant base.
Rebranding the public school system as liberal “government schools” to indoctrinate children and erase parental involvement in their children’s’ lives, although absurd on any level, will certainly have great effect on Americans suffering from rank ignorance and religious fear. That is very bad news for Kansas public schools because despite saddling the state with enormous debt, incurring several credit downgrades, and slashing social services, transportation funding and most importantly public education, frightened religious ignoramuses re-elected Brownback and Republicans seemingly to systematically dismantle whatever was good about Kansas.