While the current crisis in Canada and Europe’s socialized health “care” systems is a big topic these days—replete with stories of pregnant women needing special attention, but at a wait of more than nine months—let’s turn to an arena that has been socialized since the mid-19th century: public education.
Here are findings that no one can argue with…
- We spend incredible amounts of money on public education
- The majority of people, cutting across all demographics and psychographics, is dissatisfied with the results
- The official answer to improving the system is always more money
- Increased expenditures seldom improve the results
Before I go into some reasons behind this sad state of affairs, I must inject some perspective here. The deterioration of the system is not a new phenomenon. Every generation has complained about the kids being dumber than they were, and in some sense, this observation is true.
Horace Mann (1796-1859), the so-called father of American education felt that a common school would be the “great equalizer.” Mann believed that poverty would most assuredly disappear as a broadened popular intelligence tapped new treasures of natural and material wealth. He added that through education, crime would decline sharply as would a host of moral vices such as violence and fraud. [Insert sarcastic remark here.]
Mann’s philosophy of education had six basic precepts:
1. A republic cannot long remain ignorant and free, hence the necessity of universal popular education
2. Such education must be paid for, controlled, and sustained by an interested public
3. Such education is best provided in schools embracing children of all religious, social, and ethnic backgrounds
4. Such education, while profoundly moral in character, must be free of sectarian religious influence
5. Such education must be permeated throughout by the spirit, methods, and discipline of a free society, which preclude harsh pedagogy in the classroom
6. Such education can be provided only by well-trained, professional teachers
Despite strong objections from the clergy, who could anticipate the effect of secular schools, as well as old-time educators who could anticipate the breakdown of classroom authority, his ideas prevailed. Ironically, his insistence on school boards—somewhat separate from local political leadership—made his ideas unpopular with politicians, until the school boards became just one more cog in the political machine.
Few would argue with Mann’s first precept, but the second precept hardly follows from it. The third precept certainly seems egalitarian, and requires that those “diverse” groups at least have some commonality, a hope that is dashed at the moment. The fourth precept attempts to separate morality from religion, and the fifth was an early example of touch-feely language, with the expected consequences. As for the sixth, I’m all for it. Too bad it was never achieved.
Still, dating from Mann’s first Board of Education in 1837, the meltdown would not occur in earnest until 1954. The famous case of Brown v. Board of Education did far more than desegregate the public schools. It brought the Feds—and their money train—whole hog into the public education business. For all his faults, Mann cannot be blamed for this one, as the notion of an overarching Federal government, to a guy who died in 1859, would be as incomprehensible as the Internet.
Add into the mix Murray v. Curlett and Abington v. Schempp (1963), which banned prayer and bible reading from public schools, and we were well on our way to a massive, virtually uncontrollable publicly financed enterprise, that—free from any recognized moral authority—could now succumb to every single politically correct idea that came down the pike. And it surely did, and it surely continues to do so.
Even in relatively successful districts like Fairfax County, VA, the fear of giving offense has been raised to such an art form that psychopath Seung-Hui Cho, notorious for the Virginia Tech shootings, could emerge untrammeled by anything more than reports that he was a little strange. No doubt, some teacher along the way tried to intervene, and was rebuffed by the parents and administrators.
But, what else can you expect? The students are merely a vehicle whereby the state extracts billions of dollars from the taxpayers. Any form of an actual education being imparted is simply an added bonus. Thus, the teachers and students count for precious little in any school district. Ask any teacher or any student.
Could all this be the obligatory results of mindless and conceited do-gooders? As Mann would say, only two months before he died, as president of Antioch College in a valedictory address: “I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these my parting words: Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” Only an atheist like Horace Mann would try to improve on Christianity, with such grandiose and supra-Gospel hyperbole.
Perhaps Mann could not foresee that Antioch would become little more than a putrid Leftist establishment that is now in danger of closing, due in large measure to its self-imposed role as “boot camp for the revolution.” Then again, he may have relished what happened. Read his bio, and speculate to your heart’s content.
Pundit Henry P. Wickham, Jr put it best:
To step onto its campus was to experience something of a time warp. In the 1960s, it was 1950’s beatnik. Since then, it was and always will be 1968. There was something about Antioch’s campus that was like one of those colonial villages in Williamsburg where everyone dresses in colonial costumes. Antioch students certainly dressed their part with their studied shabbiness. The Bohemianism at Antioch was always a little too self-conscious and self-congratulatory, and the radicalism conventional and, dare I say, boring.
The PC orthodoxies on campus were always stifling and predictable. There was no political, social, or economic issue where anyone could doubt where the Antioch students stood. One could almost mouth the clichés and slogans as they were being spouted.
Thanks a lot, Horace.