‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever.
State-run schools have undercut two fundamental conditions of a healthy tolerant society. First, they’ve created millions of civic illiterates who are disconnected from long-held communal values and national identity. Second, they’ve exacerbated the very inequalities that trigger the tearing apart of fissures.
If you’re interested in ferreting out “systemic racism,” go to a big-city public-school system. No institution has fought harder to preserve segregated communities than the average teachers’ union. And I don’t mean only in the schools.
Prosperous Americans already enjoy school choice — and not merely because they can afford private schools. Anyone who has ever tried to buy a suburban home in a major metro area can tell you how acutely school districts influence home prices. Many middle-class and working-class families are priced out of areas with good schools because of inflated home values and high property taxes. And families who might otherwise choose to live in more diverse areas are kept out because of failing schools.
This entire dynamic is driven by the antiquated notion that the best way to educate kids is to throw them into the nearest government building. It’s the teachers’ unions that safeguard these fiefdoms through racketeering schemes: First they funnel taxpayer dollars to the political campaigns of allies who, when elected, return the favor by protecting union monopolies and supporting higher taxes that fund unions and ultimately political campaigns. So goes the cycle, decade after decade, one failed student after the next.
Even in cities where limited choice exists, most poor parents, typically black or Hispanic, are compelled to send their kids to inferior schools, even if there are better-suited schools within walking distance. More than a decade ago, I sat in a Denver auditorium with a single Hispanic mom who was, quite literally, praying that her kid’s number would be picked in a charter-school lottery. The mother wept as her number was passed over, not because she was a partisan reactionary — she didn’t care about politics — but because she knew her son would now be forced to attend a subpar and unsafe high school rather than one specifically designed to help first-generation kids assimilate.
It was a heartbreaking scene. And it’s only gotten worse. Colorado has since become a blue state, and Democrats have killed or obstructed numerous school-choice initiatives once supported by moderates in their party. In Denver, schools systems have helped solidify segregated communities, and the achievement gap between white and minority students is one of the worst in the country.
Nevertheless, Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden says he’ll create not a child-oriented Department of Education but a “teacher-oriented Department of Education.” By teachers, Biden means unions. Teachers unions spent $30 million on federal elections alone in 2016 — virtually all of it on Democrats. It’s about more than the money they give, however. Unions organize, campaign, and march for liberal causes. As a Washington Post piece (“Teachers’ unions may not raise pay — but they do bolster the Democratic Party”) aptly put it not long ago:
But teachers’ unions do accomplish something politically notable: They are a vital part of liberal coalitions and the Democratic Party. Teachers’ union organization and mobilization, like that of other government workers’ unions, have long compensated for the declining membership in traditional organized labor. What’s more, they’ve advanced the causes of women’s and LGBTQ rights — rights that are important to many or most of their members. They’ve done that by delivering money, mobilization and organization to both the Democratic Party and to feminist groups.
It’s likely that left-wing ideologues run your school district. They decide what your children learn. They are the ones who decide that your kid can protest the Second Amendment of the Constitution, but never, not in a million years, march for any cause the Founders might have championed.
Anecdotally speaking, I can confirm that the teaching of American history in at least one D.C. suburb — perhaps a better way to put it would be the un-teaching of American history — is detestable. Most events are couched in relativism; or, worse, the textbooks accentuate every sin and downplay every accomplishment. It would be one thing if this kind of ideological shading were relegated to history class, but it has infected plenty of other things.
If you have no interest in funding campaigns for “women’s and LGBTQ rights” (euphemisms for pro-abortion and anti-religious-liberty causes), well, that’s too bad. If you can’t homeschool your kid or send her to a pricey private school, you lose.
The embedded left-wing nature of big school districts is so normalized that parents rarely say a word. Mom and Dad can buy virtually anything from anywhere in the world, but they can’t use their tax dollars to buy Timmy an education that aligns with their values.
It was one thing when these schools were producing mere Democrats, and it’s quite another now that they’re churning out hordes of chillingly ignorant voters.
A recent study found that 60 percent of Americans couldn’t pass a U.S. Citizenship Test. It comes as no surprise that those 65 or older scored the best, with 74 percent correctly answering at least six out of ten questions. Of those 45 and younger, only 19 percent passed the exam — and the younger the test-takers, the less likely they were to pass. Sixty percent of those tested didn’t know which countries their grandparents fought during World War II. And only 24 percent knew why Americans colonists had fought the British.
Now, I’m under no illusion that higher education is the sole driver of common sense and patriotism — intellectuals are susceptible to some the dumbest ideas ever conceived–– but if state-run schools can’t even teach the Founding, how are we going to move forward as a nation?
Some pundits point out that elite private schools have even worse problems with progressivism than the average public schools. That’s probably true — and also largely irrelevant. But a voucher system creates opportunities for all kinds of students, not just wealthy ones. It stands to reason, when one considers virtually every other marketplace in existence, that competition in education would generate a diverse array of schools offering an array of teaching methods and cultures to meet the needs of consumers. It would also pressure traditional public schools to do a better job retaining students.
There is no panacea. School choice won’t instantaneously fix our problems. Yet without closing the gap in educational achievement, it seems unlikely we’re going to fix inequality. Without fixing the corrosion of civic education, it’s unlikely that American liberalism is going to survive. We can’t fix either problem without smashing “public education” as it exists. It might already be too late.