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Donald Trump Is The Only One Who Should Be Going To School This Fall

“In thinking specifically about the abolition of prisons using the approach of abolition democracy, we would propose the creation of an array of social institutions that would begin to solve the social problems that set people on the track to prison, thereby helping to render the prison obsolete. There is a direct connection with slavery: when slavery was abolished black people were set free, but they lacked access to the material resources that would enable them to fashion new, free lives. Prisons have thrived over the last century precisely because of the absence of those resources and the persistence of some of the deep structures of slavery. They cannot, therefore, be eliminated unless new institutions and resources are made available to those communities that provide, in large part, the human beings that make up the prison population.”

—Angela Davis

Our infantile President needs to be taught some lessons. It’s not just the lessons that the liberal meritocracy wants him to learn. Trump’s opposition in the majority of the Democratic Party and the corporate media who backs them up wants Trump to start listening to the experts—who are often in their position of power through many of the same tactics as Trump: ability to bullshit, lack of empathy, being boring enough to have ambition. Our country may be full of idiots but they are mostly at the top.

The larger problem with our society is a lack of education of citizenship a la Ralph Nader. Nader hits another home run in his latest radio hour with educator Barbara Lewis. Speaking of home runs, couldn’t the Marlins use Ralph more than ever right now with most of their team sidelined with COVID? Lord knows the blue team could use a person who can catch some bases being stolen in Florida. Which is exactly what Nader does on the second half of his show with Greg Palast.

When cases inevitably pile up in the schools wouldn’t Trump be just like the baseball commissioner who said the players need to “be better”. Trump’s only governing strategy is deflection. Without at least some checks and balances of power the virus would be far worse. With the country structured as it is he can blame local officials who are cleaning up his mess because these officials do have some power. However, the dictator-in-Chief will do anything he can to get rid of all checks until we are the hoarded toilet paper in his bleached shithole of a country.

Just as Trump’s fascist state has abandoned public health, public democracy and public lands it has abandoned public schools. The disinvestment from poor and minority schools can only be met with a reparations policy that considers all aspects of oppression in an intersectional and dynamic way. But why put the cart before the horse here? If the neoliberal state continues to present itself as incapable of funding public programs why should the public have to take on the health risk of partaking in them?

Mandatory schooling prevents another dynamic of criminalization of people with health conditions who can not afford to let their children take the risk. The dangerous rhetoric of children being “immune” from COVID obscures how the disease spreads between even mild cases and prevents a false security to children who could suffer permanent damage to their body even if they don’t die.

One of the unique risks of children specifically being infected is paradoxically that they often don’t show symptoms meaning they are more likely to spread to others at school because we can’t tell that they are sick. According to Harvard Health, children exposed to COVID have developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) which results in life-threatening organ failure.

Trump is criminally threatening to remove funding for schools that don’t reopen. While this blackmail may be the only kind of black or mail Trump supports, let’s remember too that he is cutting the budget by tremendous amounts regardless. The fiscal year 2021 proposes cuts to education by 6.1 billion according to the National Education Association. They point to cuts to English Language Learners, Title I (low income students), Title II (disability) and rural. Our taxes are also being funneled to private schools through 5 billion in Freedom Scholarships. Public service loan forgiveness would meet its death like many of the American people and work-study funding would fall by 55%.

Schools in free fall are being abandoned by the federal government. Those who can stay afloat amidst budget crises are the schools funded by property taxes—namely where the rich kids live. The other truth is that safely reopening simply isn’t realistic unless the budget radically changes. The estimated cost of safely reopening is 245 billion dollars according to The Council of State Chief School Officers. Compare that to Republican Senator Lamar Alexander’s estimation of 50 billion. The aid is also being disproportionately allocated to private schools already as Betsy DeVos changes the formula of distribution to one based on distribution of total number of schools in a district rather than total number of low income students in a school.

The coronavirus is forcing us to consider space in a new way. In what ways is space utilized to reenforce inequality? How have closed spaces such as prisons and immigrant detainment centers left communities vulnerable to the virus? In what ways has the home been a similar trap for women, who now experience an alarming rise in domestic violence thanks to the enclosed space of the home? In what ways would the closed space of the school be a similar entrapment for children without access to health care and already suffering health consequences of a polluted environment? In what ways do the rich create their own spaces to be free of the dangers of being poor and dark skinned, whether that be policing, environment deregulation or austerity defunding through the logic of neoliberalism?

However to avoid cynicism we should also be asking what type of schools we want for our children. If we can determine a safe way for return then we should be looking at it. However, the numbers simply don’t add up between what is needed for a safe reopening and what is being proposed to be given. While a district by district approach has some appeal we also should be problematizing this segregation of policy because it is obvious that for the richer schools with more funding there is less safety risk. Accepting a district by district approach does accept this inequality and leaves poor children further behind.

Who even needs school when you have Black Lives Matter? Why continue to send children to American Exceptionalism history classes when they could be attending statue removals? Now that’s a bit of hyperbole but the basic point is this: if we cannot even properly educate the public on the dangers of the virus why are we sending people to risk their lives for an alternative story?

The silver lining of this virus is that it has forced us to imagine new possibilities. Rather than working all day for capital people have turned to protest to make demands for justice. On a parallel, the false guarantee of work is exposed under the virus as people have to turn to the government to survive. Hopefully, this will be the propaganda for socialism we need. But then again the American public may already be there. Bernie Sanders mentions winning the ideological battle on “socialist” programs. The deeper problem is that there is no democracy to give voice to these issues because of the very inequality that makes the policies obvious. While we wait for corporate duopoly racketeers to catch up hundreds of thousands die from austerity politics that have completely lost track of the poor who have the virus or are at risk of it. Even if the virus brings the revolution it will be at a tremendous cost.

For now, we simply don’t have the revolution necessary to transform social relations and the idea of living to see another day politically and physically seems like an idea that will have to do. Meanwhile, children will have to deal with a multitude of problems especially from poor and working families reliant on the childcare and food from the school system. But while boycotting school may have many downsides, it also can amount to the same leverage as a strike, which teachers are already organizing. Go back to school and a certain cut will die and Trump and co. will say that’s the cost and that for those of us not dead, America is back. That’s always been his political gambit. Some of you are disposable but the country benefits from it. Cowardly.

However if we boycott school now the government is forced to respond to more civil unrest. This is the sort of exposure of the state that will be necessary to transform it. Just as protest across the country has made the authoritarian state show its brutal hand, so too a boycott of the schools will expose the inability of neoliberal relations to deal with a public health crisis.

Trump defines himself by his wealth and fame. A true public education system can teach our children to be so much more than that. But under a corporate neoliberal model the only public we have is public death. Until we revolutionize our society into one that takes care of the least of us and not just the corporate class we will continue to have cyclical but continual crisis and unnecessary death. In the absence of this society the most responsible thing to do is prevent as many deaths as possible.

When the coronavirus first started I was sadly one of those who bought into the false choice presented by the right: work and die or don’t work and die. I wanted people to be able to go back to work because I could only imagine a society where work could provide for the poor. However, the left must always fight against the reactionary politics of the right that aim to hold idealism captive. There are other ways for society to provide beyond dependent slavery to capital. It is our job to create these possibilities for alternative structures.

Examples of the false choices meant to smother idealism include: reopen the economy amidst a deadly pandemic so poor people can have enough to eat. Counter with a solution that gives people enough to eat without having to risk their lives. The worst-case scenario is the right reactionary one that only emerges because they neglected common sense and decency in their original question.

Another example: the right says invade and sanction Venezuela because their government has failed. The left could respond by pointing out that the economics are sabotaged by Empire and that by negotiating with terrorists like John Bolton we only increase the downward spiral. Resistance to the hegemony of United States must be supported in Venezuela especially when they represent almost a last stand against neoliberal free-market dominance in the entire region of Latin America.

The same logic goes on in the transition to green energy. The right says we’ll lose jobs. Well how about we stop choosing between “livelihoods” and the very existence of life on earth being threatened from climate change. Here is where an emphasis on intersectionality is so key so that the right can’t make disingenuous left arguments (rights of workers) to stop real left projects (transition to green economy which includes worker’s rights naturally).

It is that time of year again and I know it is a special election with a special shade of fascism but the same false choice argument is used for opportunistic Democrats. If you want something more than their corporate neoliberal agenda, you support Republicans is the argument. Let’s give one up for Barack Obama, not just because he didn’t use his eulogy time for a Civil Rights leader to take shots at black radicals as Bill Clinton did but also because he brought up the necessary fight for voting rights that are under severe attack by this authoritarian administration.

We can tell Obama really has the right amount of respect for his doofus successor Joe Biden. That is, zero respect. Obama would never have campaigned for himself to have a Democrat Congress because it would mean he would have to do something for progressives. Good for him for trying to fuck over Biden with a Democrat congress that he will eagerly ignore. Biden will be busy lost in his literal and political basement trying to juggle replacing what Biden called the “first” racist President with all the politically expedient racist policies that Biden built his career on.

Opening schools would be more of an argument if we had an administration that took the virus seriously. We know that this administration will not respond to the plight of children or workers and as a result, the question of catastrophe for school populations is not if, but when. The same disregard for human life can be found in the way this administration deals with public schools generally. In fact, both corporate parties have been gutting public health and public school resources. Under neoliberalism the public doesn’t even exist, only the individual does. President Trump is the embodiment of this mentality as he will kill the entire public as long as it benefits himself. It is said that reading is the best way to create empathy because it gives you access to the world of another person. So Mr. Trump, shut up and read a book. It won’t kill you.

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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