I think the idea is to undermine exactly what Umair lists as the benevolent power of public education: it sets a floor, a unifying standard, norms, values, it is a civilising mechanism.
I’ve been saying this a while and I say it again, the underlying political struggle of all time is not so much left vs right as civilisation vs barbarism. And by “civilisation” I mean not “the glory that was Rome” (just barbarism on a much bigger budget) but the benefits of a civil society, one that guarantees… a social contract, a consistent and fair code of law, reasonable personal security, some kind of safety net for the disadvantaged, basic decencies of life and civil rights for all persons, democratic mechanisms for hiring and firing civil servants (up to and including Premiers and Presidents, as well as police chiefs and mayors), some kind of redistributive mechanism to prevent wealth from super-accumulating into black holes of privilege that suck all ethics and restraints into oblivion…
Barbarism is easy, in that it is easy to fall into through civil laziness (not paying attention, not enforcing standards, not bothering); but it’s hard, in that it means life is very hard, arduous, precarious and anxious for most people in the barbaric state. Only a handful of nobles/warlords get to enjoy anything like a “civilised” lifestyle. Everyone else scrambles, never safe, never secure, never able to relax, always at risk from above and below as well as horizontally in a tiger-eat-dog-eat-cat-eat-mouse world.
The entity that calls itself the Republican Party in the USA is no longer even advocating republicanism (which is not quite the same thing as democracy, please note). It is now the Barbarian Party. It advocates against the rule of law, in favour of a universally armed and mutually suspicious and fearful society of “me against my brother”. It accepts as its titular and national leader a man whose politics are strictly those of the mafia clan: “me and my family against the world.” It worships accumulated wealth, which is morally indistinguishable from worshiping big muscles and a long sharp sword. It adulates “winners” and spits on “losers”, roots for the Overdog and sneers at underdogs.
And not surprisingly it seeks to erode and dismantle all mechanisms of levelling and compassion, be they pensions that cushion the vulnerability of old age and a worn-out body, medical services that save ordinary people from untimely death from preventable diseases, schools that educate the masses, parks where ordinary people can relax and enjoy a bit of “nature,” laws that protect the rights of the “Other” of various kinds. All public goods are elements of a civil society. Public health, public safety, public transportation, public schools. All are under attack from the Barbarian Party. Tim Rice was on point when he described the right-wing party of pre-war Argentina as “slightly to the right of Attila the Hun” (lyric from ‘Evita’).
A country where you need armed guards to protect schools and houses of worship, where citizens feel the need to be heavily armed for self-protection, where only the rich live reasonably free from fear, is a failed state. And a failed state is a struggling mob of barbarians, each trying to claw his way to the top or at least fortify and defend a little compound within which his word is law. It’s “I Me Mine” all the way, and devil take the hindmost. Welcome to the right-wing vision of America 2020.