I am a retired educator with 38 years of experience in the New York City public school system. I write the following in support of charter schools and in opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to close them.
Let’s say you’re passionate about pizza and you live in a neighborhood where only one establishment is permitted to produce and sell pizzas. Imagine those pizzas are unappetizing but you are compelled to purchase them by law and are forbidden to make your own. Substitute “education” for “pizzas” in this scenario and you will begin to comprehend the true nature of compulsory public education.
In a free market, anyone who produces an unsavory pizza would soon be out of business because people are free to find and choose a better pizza. However, in the sphere of scholastic instruction, competition and freedom of choice, which nurture creativity and excellence, are conspicuously missing. Except for education, most services we use offer a choice of providers as well as an assortment of options to accommodate our individual needs.
Many who rail against the power, control and influence of Wall Street, corporations, banks, and the “one percenters” readily accept government’s absolute control of education. The education bureaucracy’s monopoly mandates a one-size-fits-all curriculum, awards accreditation to approved colleges and professors to teach that curriculum, requires everyone to read approved text books, administers approved tests, certifies and awards tenure to approved teachers and supervisors, and provides pay raises based on date of birth rather than merit. To make matters worse, compulsory education laws compel all students to attend approved institutions.
After reviewing results of recent achievement tests, some have suggested the education monopoly should not only be charged with violating our liberties but with intellectual genocide.
The assertion that a primary purpose is “to train” children rather than “to educate,” is consistent with the history and origins of “public education.” In Germany, Martin Luther in 1524 proposed establishment of public schools arguing “civil authorities are under obligation to compel the people to send their children to school, because in this case we are warring with the devil.” In 1816, North Carolina state Sen. Archibald Murphey, also known as the “father of public education,” declared “all children will be taught in public schools. In these schools the precepts of morality and religion should be inculcated, and habits of subordination and obedience be formed.”
Inevitably every politically controlled educational system will inculcate the doctrine of state supremacy. Murray Rothbard, in his book “Education: Free and Compulsory,” writes: “Once that doctrine has been accepted, it becomes an almost superhuman task to break the stranglehold of the political power over the life of the citizen. It has had its body, property and mind in its clutches since infancy.”
What we desperately need is separation of schools and state. Where are the pro-choice progressives when we need them?
Ed Konecnik is a retired teacher who started at JHS 204 in Long Island City and later served as media center director at PS 171, also in LIC. He and his wife, Linnie, have lived in Flushing since 1978.