Fire Teachers; Hire Guns: The New Plan for National Security

This week’s civics lessons for America’s schoolchildren: Your education is a threat to national security.

The connection between war spending and education budgets was thrown into stark relief as Congress wrestled with the passage of a $33 billion supplemental war bill. To recap: the House tried to add $20 billion in new domestic spending to the bill, including $10 billion to save teachers’ jobs. But last Thursday, the Senate struck out the education assistance needed to save teacher jobs in the fall. Majority Leader Harry Reid conceded that the Senate will have to look for other ways to pass education funding. Yesterday, the House approved $37 billion in new spending for the war in Afghanistan in a 308-to-114 vote.

Welcome to America’s New Plan for National Security!

The U.S. war budget is already greater than the combined military spending of every nation on the planet. But never mind. Even as the damning Wikileaks report underscored the fact that our present war efforts are a dismal failure, Defense Secretary Robert Gates admirably won the day with his warning to Pelosi that the gargantuan sum for ongoing operations in Afghanistan was needed before August to “avoid severe consequences”.

Secretary Gates is right to be worried about our national security. The word “secure” has a curious etymology, from the Latin securus, meaning “without care”. Security is the thing that’s supposed to make us safe from worry, to believe that everything will be A-OK. And if we began to value education over war, we might end up very worried indeed about the suicidal short-sightedness of supporting the armaments industry with perennial and pointless military exercises. We might find it disgraceful to abandon ourselves to second-class lives in a shittily-paid service economy. We might balk at being fleeced by the credit card and mortgage industries. We might even decide that when Wall Street robs the country and the deficit swells as a consequence, our children are not the ones who should be placed on the sacrificial altar.

What, us worry? No, thank you.

So let’s fire the teachers committed to young minds and democracy, and hire more private contractors loyal to shareholders and profits. Let’s keep bilking the poor and rewarding the robber barons. Let’s stop thinking altogether and resign ourselves to a savage and stupid state of affairs that secures nothing but the profits of the war mongers.

The consequences of education are just too severe.

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