Will Bunch: America gave up on truly educating all its kids. Then Jan. 6 happened. Coincidence?
Will Bunch is a national columnist with some strong opinions. In this piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer he notes the significant of one quote from the Pennsylvania school funding lawsuit.
This lightbulb moment occurred in the middle of weeks of arduous testimony over unequal K-12 funding during the Harrisburg trial. On the witness stand was Matthew Splain, superintendent of the underfunded Otto-Eldred School District in sparsely populated McKean County and board president of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools. His inquisitor was John Krill, a lawyer representing the state’s top Republican lawmaker, defending a political regime that’s made Pennsylvania 45th in the nation in state support for its public schools.
Splain, who advocates for Harrisburg to do more for schools in rural areas experiencing economic hardship, testified about his belief that lack of resources is linked to lower student test scores in subjects such as biology and math in recent years. Krill then basically said the quiet part of Republican education policy out loud in the packed courtroom.
“What use would a carpenter have for biology?” asked Krill, questioning the need for learning for learning’s sake in a locale where many of the available jobs don’t require a college degree. In stating so plainly the modern conservative philosophy that public schools exist solely to develop a workforce — one in which not everyone need be a rocket scientist or a philosopher — the Harvard Law-educated Krill didn’t stop there.
“What use would someone on the McDonald’s career track have for Algebra 1?” Krill asked. The big, implicit but unanswered question of who decides who’s on “the McDonald’s track,” let alone why we would even have one, is largely what prompted a Twitter backlash after Krill’s comments were covered in The Inquirer. It’s hardly surprising that two of America’s leading Black public intellectuals — New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie and Nikole Hannah-Jones of the Pulitzer-winning 1619 Project — weighed in. After all, horribly misguided decisions about school resources, staffing, or just the prevailing mind-set that some poor kids won’t ever be college material have loomed over many urban public schools for decades.