PED Sec: US legacy of racist “Manifest Destiny” justifies charter schools… What?

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This weekend, the Albuquerque Journal reported that the New Mexico Public Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski pointed to the racist concept of “Manifest Destiny” as a “fundamental principle” of United States history, and utilized it to promote controversial plans to close public schools in favor of more charter schools in the state.

“This is a country built over the last 250 years on things like freedom, choice, competition, options, going west, Manifest Destiny – these are the fundamental principles of this country,” he said.” That’s why charter schools make so much sense – high-quality options – in the context of where we are as a country.

Here is the historical definition and explanation of Manifest Destiny:

“Manifest Destiny is a term for the attitude prevalent during the 19th century period of American expansion that the United States not only could, but was destined to, stretch from coast to coast. This attitude helped fuel western settlement, Native American removal and war with Mexico.

The term manifest destiny originated in the 1840s. It expressed the belief that it was Anglo-Saxon Americans’ providential mission to expand their civilization and institutions across the breadth of North America. This expansion would involve not merely territorial aggrandizement but the progress of liberty and individual economic opportunity as well.”

Ruszkowski’s comments at the Charter School Coalition’s annual conference come just a week after a report that shows New Mexico is spending less on education now than it was before the 2008 economic collapse. Also remember, Governor Susana Martinez, stripped public schools of their cash reserves earlier this year to pay for other budget deficits around the state, then vetoed the entire education budget after it was legally passed by the legislature. 

While the data on charter schools can appear to show greater successes for students, there is clear evidence that across the country charter schools suffer from being less racially diverse than public schools.

New Mexico’s education system is constantly in the news for the failings that have plagued schools at every level for nearly a generation. Just last week it was announced four schools in the state could be forced to close their doors without “rigorous intervention” while OVER 200 other schools around the state were found to be very nearly in the same position.

While the administration refuses to adequately fund schools around the state they now simultaneously seem to be calling for greater “school choice” which, apparently according to the Secretary-designate, shares a common trait with Manifest Destiny. It’s hard to understand how invoking the racist and violent act of westward expansion correlates to “school choice” but Ruszkowski’s reasoning is potentially less important than it is alarming.

Check out this great video on how the concept of Manifest Destiny has been controversial since it was first used in the 1840s.