Wednesday, September 14, 2005

#196 - Imperius Barber

Terrific post by La Shawn Barber regarding one of my favorite topics.

Education, more than being a privilege, is a responsibility. I made the comment (scroll waaaaaay down) that we who are citizens share the responsibility for providing an education to all who want or need one. That does not mean that I support mandatory or compulsory education, and also does not mean that I support giving public money to private homeschoolers (or, for that matter, private schoolers, period). I also happen to believe that no matter what nonsense the atheistic NEA throws at our schools, parents who are actively involved in their kids' educations can and do make a difference. I just prefer to make mine at home.

I also do not believe that homeschool is the only answer for any given family. I've seen far too many families that I would actively discourage from homeschooling simply because I don't believe they have the capacity to pull it off. Homeschool requires incredible devotion and patience. Yet another reason I love Mrs. Woody so much! She has patience, devotion, incredible smarts, and loads of talent. My two young firecrackers are well on their way.

Shucks, even ol' Woody can larn a thing or two right along with 'em!

UPDATE: Chris Naaden of neighboring Corona, California, responded to my comment on La Shawn's blog. His comments, in part:
My disagreement comes when Woody comes when he talks about education being a civic duty. Exactly when did that come into the picture? At what point was it figured that the masses are uneducated, and the government needed to step in? I object strongly to my taxes being used to educate someone else. My supposed indirect benefit, that those around me receive an education, is neutered by the amount of spending, which takes more taxes, which kills the benefit. I wish every school was private, and market-driven, but I’m a raging capitalist.

It was never a question of the federal government "stepping in." There's a difference between government interference and public support. Or, at least, there should be. My views on public education mirror those of Thomas Jefferson:
"I... [proposed] three distinct grades of education, reaching all classes. 1. Elementary schools for all children generally, rich and poor. 2. Colleges for a middle degree of instruction, calculated for the common purposes of life and such as should be desirable for all who were in easy circumstances. And 3d. an ultimate grade for teaching the sciences generally and in their highest degree... The expenses of [the elementary] schools should be borne by the inhabitants of the county, every one in proportion to his general tax-rate. This would throw on wealth the education of the poor." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:70

Obviously, we've strayed from the purer faith since this proposal was first considered. Jefferson and several others realized that one of the greatest protections we could have for our unprecedented republic was an equally unprecedented education of the general public. He saw rampant illiteracy as a great danger to our democratic principles, and envisioned publicly supported education as a means for ensuring that our citizens had all the tools at their command to make informed decisions with their votes.

Jefferson, as with all the Founders, was educated privately. He recognized, however, that this was a privilege reserved for the wealthy. What he wanted was a way to provide at least a fundamental education to the rest of our citizenry, and deemed it our civic duty to support those who couldn't otherwise afford it. Those who wished to continue beyond the "elementary" education might be supported by other means, usually involving trusts or donations set up by landowners and others.

I don't disagree that privately run institutions can and often do a better job of educating than the public schools, but the federal government was never supposed to jump into the education arena in the first place. The Dept. of Education leeches their funding from my income taxes. However, I directly support public education in California via my property taxes. That's the civic duty to which I refer. And I'm glad to do it.

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