Opposing Charter Schools Equals Defending the Common Good

There is no shortage of convoluted and bizarre “arguments” for creating and multiplying privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools.

The rich and their conscious and anti-conscious allies in politics, the media, think tanks, higher education, and many other spheres have spent an astonishing amount of time, energy, and money promoting and imposing privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools on society.

The crux of these top-down antisocial efforts is to advance a capital-centered outlook and agenda by erasing a human-centered outlook and agenda. Charter schools represent the partial victory of narrow private interests over the public interest. In this sense, charter schools are a big step backward for society.

Since their inception several decades ago, privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools have functioned effectively as pay-the-rich schemes while self-servingly posing as arrangements that “benefit the kids.” They have funneled billions of public dollars to private interests with impunity. They have also seized public buildings and assets worth billions of dollars. And to this day charter schools nationwide remain segregated, unstable, low-performing, unaccountable, non-transparent, and afflicted with racketeering.

No amount of “well, things are really more complex than that” or “not all charter schools are the same” or “we can’t just make such blanket statements” can hide the core essence and antisocial consequences of charter schools. Form and content are not the same. It is critical to move past the former and go much deeper into the latter, especially in a sector prone to hype, over-promises, and exaggeration.

Once an individual takes up their responsibility to actively and consciously investigate and analyze charter schools, warranted conclusions become clear relatively quickly. It becomes easier to distinguish between appearance and essence and to appreciate the underlying nature of all types of charter schools. One becomes less vulnerable to all the hype and disinformation surrounding charter schools.

Shooting from the hip, talking off the cuff, making drive-by statements, or promoting contradictory arguments and statements without even recognizing how incongruous such arguments and statements are is unhelpful; such methods serve only to increase confusion and undermine the general interests of society.

Above all, capital-centered aims, interests, agendas, and arrangements cannot be reconciled with human-centered aims, interests, agendas, and arrangements. “Capital” and “human” are different categories with different properties. They do not mean the same thing. They actually negate each other. This is precisely why treating capital-centered arrangements such as charter schools and the public interest as the same or as somehow being compatible with each other is disinformation. A clear demarcation must be made between “capital” and “human;” they should not be confounded.

The main aim of owners of capital is to maximize profit as fast as possible, no matter the cost to the natural and social environment. This is at the core of their existence and purpose. It eclipses all other aims and roles. No owner of capital is going to go into business if no profit can be made. To be sure, both non-profit and for-profit charter schools engage in a variety of covert and overt activities to enrich the private interests that own-operate charter schools.

Capital, to be clear, is not a thing or many things, it is an unequal relationship between humans. Capital can only grow by reproducing this unequal relationship every hour of every day, thereby ensuring greater social, political, and economic inequality over time. The growth and development of capital guarantees that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

To put it another way, the more capital prevails, the more everything is commodified (e.g., education, healthcare, municipal services, transportation, etc.), and the more it is damaging to the general interests of society. It cannot be otherwise, which is why the affirmation of human interests necessarily requires the negation of capital.

This is why rejecting and opposing privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools is, in effect, the same as affirming the common good. Wavering, riding the fence, succumbing to ambivalence, or pretending that charter schools serve the public interest even though they serve owners of capital is irrational and harmful.

The task confronting the polity is how to combat the elimination of the public interest and the wrecking of society by the rich and their entourage. Fortunately, and not surprisingly, across the country we see more and more resistance to charter schools. It is clear that people from all walks of life are developing more creative ways to oppose these pay-the-rich schemes and other forms of privatization. This movement is precious and must be nurtured. It has become clear over the years that when people unite to defend their rights, the rich and their allies can be thwarted, and even defeated, and often quite easily. Capital-centered forces are far from invincible.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.