Jonathan Cohn

Winger Zinger: Public Schools are "Government-Run Schools"

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For all of their complaints about public education, conservative Republicans have generally shied away from attacking the idea in principle. That may be changing, according to the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen.

Benen has been following right-wing rhetoric on public education and, late last week, he noted that the rhetoric has become a lot more hostile: Texas Representative Ron Paul, for example, has been ranting about the “indoctrination of children” while Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann has called home schooling the “essence” of liberty because “It's about knowing our children better than the state knows our children. Former Senator and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has also been on the attack, telling a New Hampshire audience this month that 

Just call them what they are … Public schools? That's a nice way of putting it. These aregovernment-run schools.

Santorum is right. Public schools are government-run schools--just like government-run police departments, government-run national parks, the government-run interstate highway system, and, of course, our government-run army, navy, marines, and air force.

Admittedly, Bachmann, Paul, and Santorum are part of the GOP’s fringe. But it’s not always easy to tell where the fringe ends and where the mainstream begins. As Benen notes, already this talk is picking up in right-wing media, the same place other loopy ideas (Obama's birth certificate, etc.) went before going mainstream. 

In any event, the danger isn’t so much that Republican extremists will succeed in abolishing the public schools, at least anytime soon. The danger, rather, is that they make the rest of the Republican Party, which wants dramatic reductions in public spending, seem reasonable.

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