In the neoliberal era, Democrats adopted an elitist approach that emphasized education as the key to individual success. Only the revival of an inclusive social democratic politics can reverse economic inequality and defeat reactionary populism.
Jon Shelton is associate professor and chair of democracy and justice studies at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay and author of Teacher Strike! Public Education and the Making of a New American Political Order and The Education Myth: How Human Capital Trumped Social Democracy.
If education is nothing but a provider of the “human capital” that will help students get a job, the argument to privatize public education will be far too convincing. Instead, we should look at our schools as institutions to educate kids to be citizens in a democracy with expectations for better lives.
Corporate leaders, reactionary Republicans, and neoliberal Democrats have told Americans to keep lowering their expectations — a better world isn’t possible. They’re wrong. But we’ll only be able to win that improved world by mobilizing workers.