Connecticut State law says: "Local boards of education are not agents of their towns but creatures of the state." Therefore, the local school board does not represent the people of the town; it gets its orders from the state and federal governments. The same can be said about every superintendent. There is no such thing as local control of public schools, except in trivial details. Bottom line: Public school is a political enterprise having to do with social control. Add to this the fact that the daily operation of the public schools is dominated by the teacher unions, and we have our current septic and ill-fated education situation -- a disaster.
Are the educational interests of the state the same as those of the parents or the children? No, in fact, the goals of the state are largely the opposite of those of parents, children and communities. Parents want their children to learn basic skills and knowledge; but the government wants its schools to turn out a workforce -- masses of docile employees, predictable consumers and obedient soldiers -- not independent, creative-thinking individuals. Thus, we have perpetual conflict -- the school wars.
The "public" school system is not owned and/or run by the public even though we are forced to pay for it. It is owned and run by the government. In contrast, private schools are owned and run, and paid for voluntarily, by members of the public. When there's ownership, there is accountability and control; and with those, there is satisfaction instead of conflict.
How does the government produce this mass populace? The same way states always have: with schools. In 1820 the American public school system was copied from Prussia (which became Fascist Germany) -- an authoritarian, top-down system of obedience training. It was designed to change society from agrarian to manufacturing, from independent farmers to virtual factory slaves, from self-sufficient individuals to dependent groups. Little has changed.
Even though local residents elect school board members who "campaign" for the post by claiming to want "better schools," the fact is that the board is bound by the state, not by any promises made to local voters. Confounding the entire issue are the teacher unions (NEA and AFT) that make constant demands for more money and less work for their members. Those demands, of course, work against the interests of children, parents, and communities.
What about education quality? The schools were never intended to offer more than the basics, and today they have been transformed from academic learning to psychological conditioning; from education to indoctrination. The books have been watered down, the courses are dumbed down; the teachers are poorly educated and trained. The purpose of school is now social engineering -- creating a mass of predictable consumers instead of creative-thinking self-governing individuals.
The result is the worst of all possible worlds: a government monopoly directed by self-serving politicians in concert with special interests (labor unions, business, etc.) with counter-productive agendas prescribed by non-elected bureaucrats in distant offices, all doing the bidding of invisible global planners. Add to that the extreme likelihood that every school district contains large areas of corruption, and you have our sad condition. In case you believe it's for the good of the children, you're wrong. While it serves many political and economic masters, it is designed for the convenience and benefit of its employees, but not our children.
Ned Vare is an architectural designer, and author; a former private school teacher, rancher, businessman, elected official.
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