The Founding Fathers certainly didn’t agree on everything, but when it came to a public education, a seriously radical idea at the time, they were of one mind.
Jefferson tried in vain to get the state of Virginia to institute a free, public education system and after initial failures stated: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
James Madison, in a letter supporting the state of Kentucky’s public education system wrote: “a popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both.”
Some who quote the Founding Fathers seem to conveniently forget the passion for public education. On one Facebook page, I found this quote: “How did we end up in a nation where reactionary lunatics were in charge of running our ‘public’ schools?
“The answer is that our schools were captured by the left, a process that started with the subversion of our teachers’ colleges to leftist dogma, and was completed with the capture of teachers’ unions by adherents of this same malignant ideology.”
If the public education system has been taken over by leftists and even Marxists, we have a solution that is as foundational as the U.S. Constitution. Public school governing boards are elected bodies. Elect those who represent our views.
Instead, we apparently have a blame game where the classroom has become the target. For shame. Those aren’t just little chairs, those seats are our children! How dare anyone use my child’s educational needs as expendable collateral for your political agenda, left or right. I don’t care which. How dare you!
I have served on school governing boards for nearly 30 years. I have yet to meet my first Marxist. I have met a number of leftists. We had tea. We had coffee. We occasionally shared an adult beverage. Yes, we actually spoke to one another. Sometimes we would agree, sometimes we did not. But we voted in open public meeting. That’s where we can affect change by working together.
And while the strategy of “defunding” public education is not unique it is heartless, cold and shamelessly arrogant.
Nor does casting stones at school finances without engaging governance rid us of the evils of progressive, leftist leaning school districts if that be the malady of choice. Defeating classroom budgets leaves us with educationally undernourished children, their brains starved for food. And that, my friends, is the real travesty. Shame on us all if we make our children and their education the victim of our political agenda; left or right.
No, the “lunatics” are not running the asylum. But they might just be running in the streets Ahwatukee, opposing school finances by the absorption of ignorance, where the light of education should instead be allowed to shine. And if they are successful, that’s something we should all very much fear.
• Dick Foreman is co-chair of the Yes-Yes Support Our School Campaign for the Tempe Union High School District.