Peggy Noonan had a scorcher of a column in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal taking New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to task for his public schools’ über alles approach to education. De Blasio is blocking charter school expansion in New York City, a move that Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo isn’t keen on — Cuomo sides with the charter school supporters. Noonan points out how some liberals are taking an understanding view of de Blasio’s actions, saying he’s not going as far as the ultra-left would like, he’s staking out “middle ground.” She has little sympathy for those “nice liberals” who want to tsk-tsk over de Blasio’s actions while cutting him a break:
It is not the job of nice liberals to make excuses for pols who take a good thing from kids just to satisfy a political agenda. It is not the job of nice liberals to forgive a politician acting in a brutish way, throwing poor children from hard circumstances out of good schools. It’s not the job of liberals to explain that away. It’s their job to oppose it….
The fact that we’re having this discussion now, when charter schools have become an accepted part of the educational landscape, tells you something about de Blasio and his fellow progressives. They’re not really for progress. They’re for regression and control. They’re educational totalitarians, wanting the government to control the schooling of America’s children. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that de Blasio might support requiring attendance at public schools only, an idea that was championed by folks like the Ku Klux Klan and anti-Catholics who saw such measures as a way to turn “papists” into true Americans back in the day. They lost at the Supreme Court level in 1926, but perhaps de Blasio’s history knowledge doesn’t include that. A similar battle to steer kids away from nonpublic schools is happening in Vermont, where progressive politics is thriving. As I’ve reported before, Vermont is home to a 150-year-old school choice system that allows parents to have their children “tuitioned” to the approved schools of their choice in towns that don’t have a public school. It’s worked well for more than a century; small towns haven’t had to go to the expense of building and maintaining public schools, and parents get quality educations for their kids. (In this case, “quality” is measured by the parents.) But, as the state seeks to save money by consolidating some public schools into bigger districts, some Vermont towns with public schools have decided they’d be better off shuttering their public school, turning it into a private one, and becoming a “tuition town” that could then attract kids from other tuition towns, as well. Progressives are rebelling, fighting this movement, trying to pass laws that would forbid towns from turning themselves into tuitioning districts. Apparently, the Progs in Vermont are all for public involvement in schools—only up to the moment when the public doesn’t do what they want. Then, their totalitarian streak emerges. They want to decide what’s best for you. To heck with what you think — you obviously don’t know what’s good for anyone, let alone yourself! Local control–phht! Local control is no good if it doesn’t echo their views. When will Americans wake up to the fact that Progressivism is misnamed? It seems to imply that this is a group of people who want to move forward into the future in a positive way, enacting reforms hither and yon to improve lives. In reality, Progressivism has always had a totalitarian/control streak. Progressives were closely aligned with the Prohibition movement, for example, which wreaked so much havoc on America and included the government-mandated poisoning of industrial alcohols to discourage using them for potable liquors. Progressives embraced fascism and eugenics, and now most progressive pols wrap their arms around assisted suicide and abortion rights. Ironically, they usually don’t like the death penalty much, leading them to be in the odd position of supporting death for the innocent (abortion) but not for the guilty. Progressives might think they stand for progress, but it’s toward a future that few reasonable people would embrace. It’s a future that leads to ever-increasing control over individual lives. It’s a future that centralizes control in an autocratic authority. According to Merriam-Webster’s, that’s totalitarianism.