Government Schools

Author: Gary Hart

The State of Kansas now calls its public schools “government schools.” Thomas Jefferson, who linked public schooling to democracy and vice versa, now has yet another reason to roll over in his grave.

So, I guess we now have government highways, and government parks and wilderness areas and government forests, and government libraries, and government State boundaries, and a whole lot of other government things. Before Kansas enlightened me I though these were all facilities that belonged to the public, all the people of America, and that we administered them on our behalf by electing a government to do so.You have to ask yourself whether federal farm subsidies to Kansas farmers also makes them “government farms.” It would be interesting to know how many Kansas farmers send the subsidies back.

But now Kansas tells me all these public assets and resources belong to the government, not to the American people. I went to public schools in Kansas and they didn’t teach me that back then. But perhaps I had a premonition because I migrated to Colorado well over a half century ago. I thought it was just that Colorado had mountains and Kansas didn’t have any. But, no, I anticipated that Kansas would give its public schools to the government. Thank goodness, Colorado hasn’t chosen to do so.

Sometime between Abraham Lincoln and Barry Goldwater, the Republican Party became the anti-government party. And, to quote a Republican president, “the government is the problem.” Which reminds one of Gertrude Stein’s last words. When asked, “Gertrude, what is the answer?” She replied: “What is the question?”

The government is the problem of what? Last time I checked, we the people elect the government—president, House of Representatives, Senate. Two of these are now in the control of the anti-government party. What’s the problem?  The president was elected twice by a majority of American voters.

And that Republican president who claimed the government he was responsible for running was the problem didn’t reduce its size or budget one bit. Anyone with an ounce of knowledge of American history knows that public education from the time of Jefferson until today has been in the hands of local people. The State of Texas has a committee that selects school books and it insists those books not contain anything about evolution and only a footnote about slavery. Any State or local schoolboard that wants its children to be ignorant is free to make them ignorant. Presumably Kansas is as free to turn out ignorant students as Texas is. So, what’s the beef?

The Kansans who elected their current government (yes, government) claim to love their country but hate its government. That kind of thinking requires an agile, some might say demented, mind.

Few would argue that we do not have a government Army, or Navy, or Marine Corps. That doesn’t seem to bother Kansas. But to the arch-conservative, anti-government mind, that’s alright. It’s everything else the government does that is bad, especially those programs for poor people and civil rights laws and government interference like that. What business is it of the government if we want to leave people in poverty, including a fifth of America’s children. We don’t need no stinking government. But, rest assured, even the most ardent right-wing Kansan insists that you keep your dirty government hands off his Medicare and Social Security. “Those aren’t government programs because they benefit me.”

There are some very good people in Kansas, including relatives of mine, and I enjoyed as good a small town upbringing as any young American could want. But I always knew I was an American before I was a Kansan and I learned to respect the Government of the United States that so many have died defending. History provides reason to hope that we will eventually grow up and out of this latest know-nothing spasm that brings the demagogues out from under their rocks. But politicians in Kansas or elsewhere who don’t know the difference between the public interest and the government we elect to protect it will not ease the transition back to sanity.

5 Responses to “Government Schools”

  1. UncleStu Says:

    We are well on the way to having, if we don’t already have, a corporate oligarchy so effective, so advanced and fine tuned, that the citizens still call it a democracy.

    Citizens are now called “consumers”. That is our designation and what our role in this country has devolved to.

    Corporations blatantly buy legislators and their staffs, at every level of government, through contributions and the “revolving door”.

    When legislation is open for public comment, corporations are given the powerful status of “stake holders”. Meanwhile, the citizens, who actually have the most at stake, have little or no input or effect on the outcome.

    And our citizens allow this to continue.

    When some citizens achieve a certain amount of awareness, they blindly run to an authoritarian figure – any loudmouth will do, as seen in the Republican party in 2016.

    Democrats who found in Sanders, someone who spoke to their party’s traditional beliefs, learned that their party barely tolerated him. No wonder they are angry.

    Other Americans simply don’t vote.

    We do get the government we vote for. How can we be shocked at what Brownbach or Scott Walker does?

    Enraged? Yes. Shocked? No.

  2. Paul Borg Says:

    Dear Senator Hart,

    Many among us no longer identify with the “Public” unless it suits us. Critique after critique is published about the poor state of what we share in common. The willingness to meaningfully invest ourselves collectively in preserving and improving our Commonwealth is not easy to muster. We are a disillusioned people retreating into smaller and smaller enclaves for fear of being overwhelmed by a depression we make less painful by constant distraction. Government is the Public in its KINETIC FORM and it has been found wanting in the eyes of many. For the citizenry to vilify government is no different than the citizenry expressing disgust with its own reflection. If we don’t like what we see we are obliged to improve our state or suffer further degradation and loss. We should not disengage from responsibility for that which we share.

    Our pre Columbian brothers have long tried to awaken us to our spiritual malaise.

    “In the government you call civilized, the happiness of the people is constantly sacrificed to the splendor of empire. Hence the origin of your codes of criminal and civil laws; hence your dungeons and prisons. We have no prisons; we have no pompous parade of courts; we have no written laws; and yet judges as highly revered among us as they are among you, and their decisions are as much regarded.

    We have among us no exalted villains above the control of our laws. Daring wickedness here is never allowed to triumph over helpless innocence. The estates of widows and orphans are never devoured by enterprising swindlers.

    We have no robbery under the pretext of law.”

    Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) – Mohawk (1743-1807)

    This indictment comes hard on the ears and given recent events is very familiar. This is more an indictment of the British colonial legacy, however it could be argued we retained much of the old world mindset at America’s founding.

    We are counseled further:

    “The True Peace

    The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Taka (the Great Spirit), and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.

    This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is known that true peace, which, as I have often said, is within the souls of men.”

    Black Elk – Oglala Sioux

    The government school is the Public School and word play won’t change this fact. Are Americans capable of realizing the True Peace Black Elk speaks about? Are American’s capable of transforming their government into one that reflects them in a pleasing and satisfying way? I certainly would like to think so.

  3. Eric C. Jacobson Says:

    I believe the key word in the host’s characteristically incisive mini-essay is “demented”. Hart uses the apt word to describe the Republicans’ obtuse position that it is possible to “love [one’s] country but hate its government.”

    But there is always a “method to conservatives’ madness” and in this instance it is (in significant part) the knowledge that governmental power is the only force capable (short of a French-type revolution) of policing and correcting the abuses conducted by personnel in the private sector.

    Conservatives seek the widest latitude for such private business operations which all too often veer into criminality and near-criminality. Just watch any episode at random of CNBC’s show “American Greed” (AG); the entire show is itself an effort at “damage control” by business elites (who own the network), done for the purpose of suggesting that there is a distinction between the protagonists in those outright criminal plot-lines and the activities of the rest of the private sector. Alas nowadays there is (at best) a difference in degree but not in kind between the scofflaws shown on AG and the manner in which many if not most big businesses now operate.

    For example, Bernie Sanders was 100% correct is pointing out that “the business model of Wall Street is fraud.” Just as Gary Hart was right in saying in his 1987 announcement speech: “We can have public officials who represent the ethics of Donovan, Deaver and Boesky. Or can demand the highest standards for our elected officials and say to those people in Washington and Wall Street: ‘You are out of business.’ One choice is in the national interest and that choice is clear.” (Which is, in sum, the real reason Hart himself was put “out of business” via malicious unmerited character assassination 3 weeks later.)

    But I digress. I take it as a given that the conservative cause is (in sum) a form of hemlock that has poisoned the American body politics beginning in earnest with the election of Ronald Reagan in November 1980. What is most dismaying is that the Democratic Party has swallowed the same poison, albeit in a slightly lighter dosage (and no — NOT the trace homeopathic dose said to function as an antidote). Here is how I put it in an lengthy article I self-published online last August:
    For at least 4 decades the vast majority of Democratic politicians have been eagerly (they might say “pragmatically”) doing the Republicans’ “dirty work” for them on one score after another:

    • Reverse Robin Hood economic policies producing evermore extreme inequality? Done!

    • Paramilitary domestic policing except in affluent areas, mass incarceration, the world’s largest prison-industrial complex and “the New Jim Crow”? Done!

    • De-unionize the private sector in America? Done!

    • Create (without the public’s consent) a Frankenstein’s monster “one-world economy” that offshores millions of American jobs, and subjects U.S. workers (at all levels beneath the 1%) to wage and jobs competition from billions of capable but poor Chinese and Indians – and from excessive legal and illegal immigration? Done!

    • Foreign wars of aggression and plunder (Iraq)? Done!

    Since the day FDR died almost all elected Democrats have gradually made the same right-ward journey as Ronald Reagan did, albeit in slightly slower motion. Rather than fighting for traditional liberal policies and values they have switched sides: from labor to management, from consumer to producer, from oppressed to oppressor, from everyday people to elites.

    Nowadays, among all prominent politicians, only Bernie Sanders sounds remotely like then Screen Actors Guild president Reagan did in this nationally broadcast October 1948 radio address in support of President Truman and then mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota and first-time Senate Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey: Back then, before he switched sides, Reagan, like FDR before him (for whom Reagan voted 4 times for president), “welcomed the hatred” of America’s ruling financial elites.

    With the exception of a scant few who have done so with varying degrees of rigor – President Truman (in 1948), Estes Kefauver (in 1952), Adlai Stevenson (in ’52 and ’56), Lyndon Johnson (’64), Eugene McCarthy (’68), George McGovern and Shirley Chisholm (’72), Gary Hart (’84), Jesse Jackson (’84 and ’88), Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich (in 2004) and Bernie Sanders (2016) – Democratic presidential candidates have never sternly attacked Republican philosophy at the (moral) root – as then (Screen Actors Guild) union president Reagan implicitly did (in 1948) – as opposed to at the (policy) branch. And you cannot defeat what you do not really oppose.

    Even when Democrats occasionally win the presidency, as Lyndon Johnson did in 1964, Jimmy Carter did in 1976, Bill Clinton did in 1992 and Barack Obama did in 2008, the Democrats ultimately lose by creating yawning embittering credibility gaps (amongst trusting voters) between genuinely progressive policies promised or hinted at during campaigns and their actions and inactions once in office.
    In the doubtful event the Dems’ 2016 desultory neoliberal ticket led by Mrs. Clinton can avoid being steamrolled by the populist Trump-Pence Train, the pattern will surely repeat itself.

    Could the host of this forum have steered the Democratic Party honorably into the future (instead of dishonorably as the Clintons did) had he been nominated and elected in 1984 or 1988? I believe he could and would have, and that today’s “mad mad mad mad world” (the horrific “new normal” of which manifested again in Nice, France Thursday afternoon) would NEVER have come into existence. Something Ted Turner called simply “a better world” (due in major part to the plans Hart and Gorbachev had made for a conciliatory end to the Cold War) would surely have come into being instead.

    Could the Kansas native turned Colorado statesman lead us out the wilderness today? With reports in today’s Los Angeles Times of polls showing Trump drawing ahead of Clinton I am compelled to add (for the last time given that preparations would have to begin “yesterday”) that is STILL not too late for the Democratic Party superdelegates to come to their senses, abort their nomination of Mrs. Clinton and nominate Gary Hart instead.

    After all, Gary Hart is the only American politician who (despite never having become president) can entirely credibly recite the same grace note British Prime Minister David Cameron sounded from the leadership rostrum in Parliament on his last day in office Wednesday: “I was the future once.”

  4. Elizabeth Miller Says:


    >>>After all, Gary Hart is the only American politician who (despite never having become president) can entirely credibly recite the same grace note British Prime Minister David Cameron sounded from the leadership rostrum in Parliament on his last day in office Wednesday: “I was the future once.”

    That’s putting a lot of responsibility and pressure on one man, don’t you think, even if that man is one of America’s great statesmen.

    But, you don’t really believe that Senator Hart is the only up-wing American politician with a vision for positive change and the courage to carry it out, do you?

    I mean, I can think of one just off the top of my head … okay, I can think of two. 🙂

    And, their names be Jerry Brown and Joe Biden.

  5. Paul Borg Says:

    Dear Senator Hart,

    Senator Sanders has presented many fine proposals to improve the way the Public can realize its desires through its government. Some of these improvements have made it into the Democratic Party platform and perhaps on convention day there may be some additions or tweaks. I am grateful for this much to have been accomplished given the odds against the Senator even reaching this point in the nomination campaign. What I am even more pleased about is the response from the American Public to the opportunity to make a real difference given the forces stacked against success. I too believe history has been made in this campaign cycle, and I take comfort in this fact. He crystallized the aspirations of not only many Democratic Party members but also of many independents. Senator Sanders did not secure the nomination and that’s just the way it worked out. He has a legacy which many of us are carrying forward and he has promised to be a part of the transformation to come.

    All the negative things that have been exposed about the operation of our government are in a way a God Send. We are aware and a substantial number of us want these less than honorable things to cease. Many good people have their hearts invested in the success of this effort. Let us find candidates of good character and competence to represent us in Office at every level. Let us find candidates of good character and competence to administer the day to day operation of our government in the civil service. Lets not cower before the forces that knowingly or unknowingly intend the failure of this project.

    As for the people of “the government in no damn good variety”, let us give them a reason to think otherwise. Attention to something bigger than our individual selves, whether it be our community, nation, world, or “The Great Spirit” is essential in establishing a platform that will not only support this project but power it as well. Good leaders are a blessing, a wise, educated, and caring Public is essential.

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