The John Birch Society or some facsimile thereof is on the move, and they're aiming at charter schools in Michigan.
Chris Savage at Eclectablog has an alarming post about it:
Back in 2011, a man named Pasquale “Pat” Battaglia posted a blog entry on the website of the Lapeer County Tea Party Patriots titled “The God and Country Education Project”. In it, he introduces something he calls “American Christian Academies” and denounces the “progressive” movement who he says have taken “less than 3 generations to completely obliterate our schools”.
Fast forward two years to 2013. The American Christian Academies website no longer exists but Battaglia is still trying to set up a charter school to fight off evil progressives. He published an eerily similar post on the Brighton Tea Party’s website, this time titling it “K-12 Tuition Free Classical Academy for Brighton”. Keeping the ACA acronym, Battaglia rebranded his Christian Academy to be a “Classical” Academy. In the post, he uses much the same language but has snipped out references to religion.
The reason for stripping out the religious references is a simple one. With several notable exceptions, public school funds cannot be used to fund religious schools. Yet.
The term "classical education" is just a euphemism for religious education, particularly when the charter school sponsor is Hillsdale College, noted for its "classical" Christian education standards. Hillsdale has been the beneficiary of millions in right-wing grants from the DeVos family and other anonymous conservative donors via donor-advised funds such as Donors Trust and Vanguard Charitable Fund.
Pasquale Battaglia is the kind of guy who categorically has no business heading up any school, much less a charter school designed to mold young minds and steep them in conservative principles. He uses social media as his personal bullhorn to spew more hate into the universe. Here are but a few examples:
Downstate near Holly, Michigan, lives a man named Pasquale “Pat” Battaglia. Self-labeled as a Christian husband father grandfather, he wants to open Hillsdale College-style charter schools in Southeast Michigan. Currently, he is working on securing a building to open a school in Brighton and another is projected to open in Warren in 2015. These schools according to him are based on the Hillsdale Academy model, which the college publishes reference manuals for $100 a pop so you too can run a for-profit charter school cleverly disguised as a Christian private school that fleeces public tax dollars.
He’s written impassioned letters on nearby local tea party websites asking people to help him open up new charter schools so he can bring back real education to American children based on what the founding fathers would have wanted.
The letter begins with an obvious dog whistle:
I guarantee to you folks that the kids that we see who are in the process of completely soiling the tenants of our Western Civilization are a products of the government run school systems, kindergarten thru grad school. What do we do?
Those are just a few. There are many others. This guy shouldn't be anywhere near kids, much less in charge of a charter school, but the state of Michigan has already given him a start-up grant of $100,000.00, and a mystery benefactor has entrusted him with nearly $1.5 million to purchase a closed school to reopen as a charter school.
Claire Conner wrote about how the John Birch Society used public education as their scapegoat for everything that's wrong with government in her book Wrapped in the Flag. It was terrifying to read what they had planned, but it's even more terrifying to see those hopes come to fruition in the guise of "classical education."
Watch this space. There will be more to come.