Public Education Beyond the Pandemic

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2113 ... June 5, 2020
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Public Education Beyond the Pandemic

Dudley Paul

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair." ― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

In The New Yorker recently, writer John Cassidy raised the possibility of some good that might come in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic but worried about the other shoe dropping. On the one hand, he explained, there is the "argument for universal healthcare (in the US), competent government and better treatment for members of the working class -- such as nurses, transit workers, supermarket clerks, and employees at food-processing plants…" Simple things like decent wages and benefits, safe working conditions, planning and adequate healthcare -- all on the radar after decades of attacks and retrenchment.

But Mr.... Cassidy issued a warning to dampen any unrestrained optimism: "What if the virus ends up benefitting the big and powerful, accentuating inequality, and boosting populist extremism? What if it’s a force for dystopia rather than social progress?"

What if? On one hand, we’ve seen governments rushing in to save globalized businesses from themselves -- putting them on life-support, while propping up the people affected by their potential collapse. Sam Gindin writes in The Bullet that French President Emmanuel Macron only a short time ago declared France open for business, business that "thinks and moves like a start-up" -- rolling back worker protections and taxes for the wealthy. Today the tune is quite different as his government, confronted by the guilet-jaunes (yellow vest) movement, decided not to overhaul the retirement system, scrutinize people applying for unemployment insurance, and privatize airports. Now it intones: "Free healthcare … and our welfare state are precious resources, indispensable advantages when destiny strikes."

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