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The sad irony of the right wing’s open school enrollment proposal

041211_1720_Publiceduca1.jpgIn a rare happy development in the North Carolina General Assembly, a study committee decided yesterday to table a proposal (for now) that would have brought radical and disastrous upheaval to North Carolina’s public education system by letting students enroll at any school in the state. The proposal was so extreme that even Rep. Edgar Starnes — once one of the most conservative lawmakers in Raleigh — derided the idea as one that would have caused “utter chaos.”

Good for Starnes and other members of the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee who apparently recognized the proposal for the nightmare that it was and would have brought about. Let’s hope the idea remains dead and buried. Here’s, however, why that may be wishful thinking:

Modern “conservatives” have all but abandoned their movement’s once central commitment to duty and sacrifice for the common good. With the exception of military service — which many but not all conservatives still embrace — government and its services are now something to be treated as, at best, commodities to be obtained at the lowest possible price or, at worst, a godless enemy. Whereas conservatives once soberly decried the self-absorbed consumerism of baby boomers who sought to both “drop out of society” and enjoy its bounty, modern “conservatives” have, in a sadly ironic development, doubled down on such attitudes and turned them into a faith.

All of which brings us to the absurdity of the proposal to turn public schools into some kind of bizarre Ayn Randian bazaar — think Black Friday at Wal-Mart meets the Haight Ashbury of 1967. Clearly, this is nutty idea. It is also a recipe not just for chaos, but for effecting the final transformation of public schools from a common good structure that binds our democracy into a collection of private, segregated and sectarian education factories.

Put simply, vigilantly monitoring and combating this effort must remain at the top of the agenda for all who care about preserving the American experiment as we know it. And while yesterday’s action was encouraging, you can bet your bottom dollar that the people behind the idea haven’t given up.

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