John Colson: Hit and Run | AspenTimes.com

John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly

I see that former Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, a Republican protege of former Gov. Bill Owens who now hopes to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, thinks we should do away with the U.S. Department of Education and leave education to the states, which already have trouble keeping financially afloat.

That, in my view, is a pretty stupid idea, but not unexpected from a devout Reaganaut who has been sucking at the government tit since the 1980s, so long it’s doubtful she can recall what it’s like to be a private citizen trying to get by on the leavings of Elite America.

According to news accounts, she made the pitch against government-funded education while speaking to a bunch of right-wing zealots of the “Tea Party” persuasion, making it a calculated political ploy to garner support from the disaffected radical fringe of her benighted party.

I can’t help but wonder if she, along with her own two kids, went to public schools, or if they all were graduates of a series of private institutions or “charter schools” where the student population was largely middle-class, white and steeped in the mythologies of reactionary politics.

I don’t know the answer to that question, and a cursory bit of investigation on the Internet failed to help me much.

But regardless of where and how she and her kids were educated, her suggestion that education become the plaything of anti-government forces seems to be consistent with other views espoused on her website.

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Her Wikipedia profile shows that she was raised in Grand Junction, Colo., was at one time a middle-school teacher, and was raised by a mother who also was a teacher. Perhaps that explains her disaffection for the public schools system.

Her current political positions mostly reflect a grand negativity toward any kind of social support by the government for the poor, the dispossessed and the ignored.

According to my research, she was against the recent economic stimulus package, which was built on ideas that came from her own party and president, George W. Bush, but were refined and carried out by Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, and which is generally credited with saving us from another Great Depression.

She also apparently opposes health care reform (or, as she would put it, “government-run health care”) and refuses to believe the current theories on global warming.

In sum, she seems to be cut from the classic mold of modern “conservatism,” a tag that seems inadequate to describe the anti-humanist views it is supposed to capsulize.

The things she is said to espouse, it must be noted, are just as instructive as the things she opposes.

She supports cutting down the size of government, lowering taxes and “tort reform,” the last of which is another name for limiting the ability of citizens to turn to the courts for relief from corporate malfeasance.

She is “pro-life,” another misnomer that really means she is against a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, regardless of the reasons behind that choice.

In her favor, to my view of things, is her declaration of support for “alternative energy,” according to Wikipedia. This presumably means she favors a change in how the world is powered, which betokens a more open-minded attitude than many of her political brethren.

But this idea of overturning the public school system is simply wrong-headed. Not that I am so much enamored of our educational system as it has evolved. It is a hide-bound, reactionary system that too often rewards incompetence, stifles creativity and discourages critical thinking.

But I firmly believe that the system cannot simply be chucked onto the trash heap of history in favor of some mythical, privatized and poorly understood alternative. There are plenty of examples of educational excellence and high-minded reforms in cities and rural areas across the nation.

And, although these generally are bright spots in an otherwise gloomy landscape of failed dreams and foiled ambitions, they are clear indications that the lumbering juggernaut of national education can be improved.

In advocating the end of education as we have known it, Jane Norton is showing herself to be just another cynical opportunist hoping to ride a dubious wave of anti-government unrest into office, where she will become just another naysayer against efforts for social justice and progressive national policies.

jcolson@aspentimes.com

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