THE BLOG
06/12/2007 12:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Getting Rid Of Public Schools -- They MEAN It

I've said before that when you try to tell people about the right's agenda, they think YOU are the crazy person.

I've said before that when I try to talk about the stuff that the Republicans are up to, to people who don't really follow the news, they think I'M the crazy person!

I remember a few years ago telling my liberal aunt that the right wants to get rid of public schools. She's STILL mad at me for saying such an extremist, ridiculous thing. I MUST be an exaggerator, making up these things I say about the conservatives...

Today, another example. In the LA Times: Do away with public schools talks about "government-lovers" and "political correctness" and "bureaucrats" and mocks public schools for teaching about the civil rights movement. And there it is in the LA Times.

The right uses a tactic called "The Overton Window". This is the Overton Window at work. In a talk to an education group recently I discussed how this works:

The Overton Window is a sophisticated tactic to help move the Right's self-described "unthinkable" ideas all the way to becoming policy.

The strategy is to make radical ideas seem acceptable and comfortable.

They describe a "ladder" of steps -- degrees of public acceptance. They say they work to walk the public up this ladder step by step.

According to the Overton Window concept, when the public FIRST hears ideas like getting rid of public schools, they consider them unthinkable, but with time and repetition, these ideas begin to be considered only radical, then with familiarity they become acceptable, and eventually sensible and worth putting into policy.

This is another example of the use of this tactic. It is intended to shock us. Then, we get used to it. Watch this video clip I used in my talk to introduce the topic. As I said in my talk,

Anything LESS extreme sounds almost moderate by comparison - in the window of "thinkable." THIS is why they say those outrageous things. They're walking people up the ladder. It's part of the long-term strategy.

These people are serious.

A few years ago I worked on a report titled, Responding to the Attack on Public Education and Teacher Unions, describing the organized effort to attack public education, and making some suggestions for countering this effort. Countering this effort requires more than just informing some people about facts and issues. The effort to privatize schools is part of a larger, coordinated attack on community and government itself. They MEAN it. It is past time that we understand what we are up against here.