One view I run across from time to time holds that all parents are morally obliged to send their children to public schools for the greater good. Googling produces:
If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person (From Slate, you’ll be stunned to learn)
There’s a Simple Solution to the Public Schools Crisis ban private schools! (Gawker – likewise shocking.)
Why not ban private schools? From some education blog doing its part to normalize the concept. Warren Buffet is a fan, bringing to mind a quotation from the otherwise forgettable I Robot movie:
Let’s complete our sources with the Huffington Post: Warren Buffett Is Right: It’s Time to Ban Private Schools Well, that should about settle it. When such luminous examples of enlightenment and right thinking come thundering together like a herd of cliff-bound buffalo, what is a mere mortal to do but agree?
A smarter dumb person might refer such thinkers to the 1925 Supreme Court case Pierce v. Society of Sisters, in which the Court stated that
Under the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska,262 U.S. 390, we think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control: as often heretofore pointed out, rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the State. The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.
(Aside: interesting to note how the Wikipedia essay and a few other sources I looked at – they possibly all came from some one common source – ignored, or all but ignored, the passage above and its implications, but focused instead on how the court determined this law unconstitutionally put legitimate businesses – schools – out of business without cause or compensation. So, let’s talk money instead of the rights of parents and children? Hmmm.)
But we only like legal precedent when it backs up what we already favor – it is only to be ignored when it doesn’t. So I suppose this is unconvincing, and we must now rehash the ancient, ancient history of 90 years ago, when people were much less sophisticated and enlightened than they are now.
All this came to mind while reading a rather preposterous essay at something called the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal which, to be fair, seems to have its heart in the right place. The essay, A Letter to Conservatives: You Need College and College Definitely Needs You, applies roughly the same logic the above thinkers cooked up for k-12 public schools to public colleges and universities.
You can read it, if that floats your boat. Lots to talk about. Here, I’ll confine myself to just one little thing, something that often infects postmodern popular thinking when its pretending to be fair and is the unspoken crux of this pro state colleges and universities argument:(1) that, simply because the positions can and have been separated along a pre-existing political conservative/liberal axis, they must each be treated as equals, having equal weight and deserving of equal respect.
The thing is, state colleges and universities are not the voting booth, where we have an opportunity free from coercion to express our political beliefs by picking candidates and laws we like. Even more important, we spend maybe a few hours of our lives each year on voting, and even then only if we want to. Colleges and universities, especially if you don’t live at home, are all but 24/7 with comparatively rare and temporary escapes, for as long as you attend them. You won’t merely be harangued for a few minutes while you gut your way through the opposite side’s arguments in the voter’s pamphlet. Nope – teachers will harangue you in class, pester you with homework, grade you on how well you can regurgitate their views and otherwise force-feed you their positions.
And the college student is typically 18 to 22 or so, which is by no stretch a mature adult. These days, at least.
What if, say, one side is happy to argue with and make space for the other, while the other side attempts to exclude and silence their opponents? Forget the political associations for a moment. This isn’t traditional Republicans and Democrats here, who have (had?) some incentive to work together at least some of the time. This is between ideologues who believe their end is so wonderful as to justify any means, that the individual is nothing and the collective everything, who believe rights accrue to people only insofar as they are true believers, and even then only so long as those rights don’t interfere with the goal – and people who reject all those claims. The latter position welcomes argument; the former sees rational discussion as something dangerous to be shouted down, and those who insist on it to be vilified.
So, pretending like subjecting your kid to Marxists is just another learning experience, like a field trip to the sea shore, and at any rate is comparable to subjecting them to classical liberal education is mind-blowingly clueless, at best.
What about indoctrination by leftist professors? The lack of viewpoint diversity in the academy is definitely a problem. It frustrates me to see how ideologically-biased the social sciences and humanities in particular have become. Academia has long leaned left, but, as has been revealed in a number of recent surveys, this is increasingly the case. In some disciplines, it is easier to find a Marxist than a Republican. Classical liberalism is giving way to left-wing fundamentalism.
As a result, you feel like the college campus is not a welcoming place for your kind. But do you like the safe space movement on many college campuses you keep hearing about? Well, conservatives don’t need safe spaces either.
Your sons and daughters should go to college and take the full range of classes, even ones from Marxist sociologists. They will learn something. In fact, if your children share your conservative views, they will receive a better education than the progressive students who are getting their beliefs reinforced, not challenged. Your children’s thinking on important issues will become more nuanced and sophisticated.
Education is about expanding knowledge and being exposed to new ideas, not affirming existing beliefs. Plus, many college courses have little or nothing to do with political or social ideology.
Note how little concern is shown for the intellectual (or moral) fate of the already liberal kids being indoctrinated by Marxists – and learning not to argue and to condemn as hopelessly benighted any who are so unenlightened as to disagree. That’s presumed to be just dandy, except insofar as they won’t get quite as good an education as those conservative kids who take those same classes and – it is presumed – are immune to all the social and psychological pressure to conform such classes bring to bear. Mom and dad are presumed to have never taken such classes or heard of Stockholm Syndrome.
Anyway: a parent’s first loyalty and duty are to his kids, not the public schools nor the state control such schools represent. The Supreme Court has made that the law of the land! You’re not letting anyone down, and certainly not your kid, by refusing to send them to a public school, or state college or university.
(My kids were told they could go to any college they wanted, but if they wanted my financial help, it needed to be on the Newman List.)
- In the articles linked above, there is no pretense at withholding judgement: those who disagree – conservatives and other on the Wrong Side of History, one can safely conclude from who the publishers are – are dismissed with a sneer. Only the last essay, which is attempting to reason with conservatives, doesn’t do that – but it doesn’t sneer at the Liberal position, either.