“When these people talk about ‘government schools,’ they want you to think of an alien force, and not an expression of democratic purpose. And when they say ‘freedom,’ they mean freedom from democracy itself.”
Katherine Stewart, author of the book “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children,” writes in the New York Times about the historical origins of attacks on democratic public schools.
When the DeVos crowd and rightwing think tanks refer to “government schools,” they are drawing their rhetoric from a dark and ugly history, tainted by racism, anti-Catholicism, and hatred of democracy itself.
Trump, DeVos, the religious right, and conservatives today promote “school choice” so children do not have to attend “government schools.” But where did this language come from?
Before the Civil War, the South was largely free of public schools. That changed during Reconstruction, and when it did, a former Confederate Army chaplain and a leader of the Southern Presbyterian Church, Robert Lewis Dabney, was not happy about it. An avid defender of the biblical “righteousness” of slavery, Dabney railed against the…
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