I am willing to believe that Gov. Rick Scott means well when announcing his intent to run the state education system as if it were a business. Although he is obviously a savvy businessman, it is very apparent that he knows little, if anything, about the institution of education.
Unlike business, the quintessence of education is to make moral sense out of life. It is imbued with the doctrine that when people know what is right, they will do what is right.
Education teaches what is true – to the best of human knowledge. It helps people think for themselves and to be able to distinguish between truth and propaganda and, thereby, make choices that are consistent with their personal interests, as well as those of the general society.
On the other hand, the foundation of the American economic system is one of profit-making. There is really no way to make a profit without receiving more than your fair share or by cutting corners.
If the governor succeeds in obliterating public education and replacing it with privatization, he will have succeeded in the complete destruction of public education in the state of Florida, while creating tremendous wealth for a few cohorts.
There are business people sitting in the wings salivating, just waiting for the voucher system to be put in place. These are not educators, not even advocates of education, and they couldn’t care less about schools. They are opportunists already perched
to establish proprietary schools where exorbitant profits can be made.
They will make an attempt at getting “qualified teachers” but, because they must make a profit, they will not want to expend the kind of money that will recruit and retain such professionals; that would lower the profit. The infrastructure for these schools will also have to consider costs and are likely to lead to even more cost-cutting and, therefore, less quality.
No democracy can exist without a literate citizenry. That is why education is free and compulsory for all children up to age 16 in this country, except in the state of Mississippi. Being able to read, figure and think critically are requirements for active participation in one’s governance. The absence of these critical elements or the diminution of them makes any country ripe for tyranny.
So, I urge our new governor to reconsider this approach to public education in Florida. Not only must it be preserved; it must be strengthened. Business is business, but it has no business in education.
Gilbert L. Raiford is semi-retired after a career in teaching and working for the U.S. Department of State. He lives in Miami where he volunteers at homeless facilities, the Opera House in Miami and after-care school programs as a fund-raiser. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org