The organized Right has had a longtime campaign against the public sphere, continually selling the idea that dynamic private enterprise is always preferable to public program solutions. This is undoubtedly true from the point of view of maximizing profits for private businesses, although it is a dubious claim in many areas, like education, fairness, access to opportunity, good public policy, etc. You’d think the failure of the charter schools and the explosion of privatized for-profit prisons (along with mandatory sentences and vast increases in the number of incarcerated Americans — including, today, the confiscated children of asylum seekers) would put this zombie theory to rest. You’d be wrong. Private freedom trumps improving the public sphere every time. Winners vs. Losers, it doesn’t get any simpler than that, chumps.
I was talking to a friend last night who told me that the only reason he got a decent public education in NYC in the 1960s was because he went to schools with a lot of white kids. He was not a white kid, nor is he a white man today. The elementary school he’d attended in the Bronx was like the one I attended in Queens, outwardly integrated (in the case of the school I went to only after an ugly battle among the parents and teachers) but internally segregated. Each grade had classes ranked from one on down, the one class being the top students, down to two, three, and, in the case of most larger public schools, four, five, six, etc. As my friend reminded me, the further down you went, the more predominantly non-white the classes became.
In my friend’s case, he was in a class closer to the one class every year and as a result had mostly white kids as classmates. Because of that, he got the same education as the local white kids. Expectations were higher for them, and the level of teaching was higher and more challenging. He had the same experience in Junior High School and High School, both schools having populations approximately evenly distributed between “whites”, “blacks” and “Hispanics”. He said the schools he went to are no longer integrated, neighborhood patterns having changed, and we agreed that the schools had probably all declined along with the exodus of “white” kids and the general lowering of educational expectations.
At one point I mentioned that I ‘d grown up about a mile from the birthplace and childhood homes of our current president. I recall my mother telling me that small, intimate P.S. 178, my alma mater, was the top rated public school in New York City. That was one reason some of the parents and teachers were so adamant about not admitting black students from nearby Jamaica. Jamaica was a predominantly black area and the schools there were much lower rated than P.S. 178, obviously.
The neighborhood around the school was called Jamaica Estates, and its tree-lined streets contained mansions and the children of some very rich people. (I grew up in the adjacent, more modest neighborhood called “Flushing”). Many of the kids from Jamaica Estates attended 178. I figured our current president might well have attended the highest rated public school in the city ten years before I did. I’d figured wrong, as Jeeves informed me when I asked what elementary school The Man had attended:
Trump grew up in Jamaica, Queens, and attended the Kew-Forest School from kindergarten through seventh grade. At age 13, he was enrolled in the New York Military Academy, a private boarding school, after his parents discovered that he had made frequent trips into Manhattan without their permission.
Imagine my surprise to find out he’d grown up in Jamaica, among the blacks! Puts the man and his alleged racism in a whole new light, as they say. Then again, not surprising that his parents would raise him to be truly elite — a man of the right people. Good breeding and all that. No need for the best public school in the city, a ten minute walk from his home, when he could meet the children of the truly elite at a private school where his childish bullying could blossom unrestrained by the laws of the schoolyard.
If you go to public school, you never know what kind of ruffian you might encounter as you begin to intimidate your little classmates. In a private school, where the student is also the child of a customer (and the customer, if wealthy, is always right) a lot more leeway can be given for this kind of behavior. In the interest of curbing their son’s impulse to bully, to ignore rules, to put himself always first, the parents sent the young man to military academy. The results speak for themselves.
If you have a limousine waiting to take you wherever you want to go, and a helicopter, and a private jet for longer trips, you are much better off than the sad sack who has to wait for a public subway train at eleven pm and squeeze into a crowded car where he will stand for the long ride home. There is no question about this.
As a matter of public policy, even if only for purposes of reducing traffic and air pollution from millions of cars, it would be best to have a first rate public transportation system in New York City. This, sadly, is not a priority of the wealthy people who make these decisions. As for the people who ride the subways at night, standing room only, fuck ’em. Seriously. What are they going to do about it, no matter how intolerably bad the service gets? Spend $50 for an uber? A rich person need never even know about this situation, and it is certainly not remotely among their problems if a bunch of low-income losers have to stand on a late-night subway train.
Those people who stayed in New Orleans during that hundred year hurricane and flood a few years ago. The question was asked: what, are those motherfuckers stupid? Didn’t they hear the warnings? Couldn’t they have gotten out, moved temporarily to one of their summer homes until the shit blew over in New Orleans? What were they doing on the roofs of their houses, crying for help as alligators, snakes and dead cows floated by? They fully expected the rest of us to save them from their own bad life choices. What can you do with those kind of people?
That’s why many of the most wealthy are so devoted to reducing the size of government so that it can be drowned in a bathtub. The public is dirty, overused, crowded, smelly. The private is clean, comfortable, plenty of space for everyone, smells nice. Why do poor motherfuckers keep acting like there is supposed to be a better choice? Who gets to choose? You, loser?