Establishment Protects a Wretched Public Education System

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Keep Right – Column by Ralph K. Ginorio

The recent proposal to mandate the teaching of the history of Western civilization to every Idaho high school student was killed, for the moment, by two people. Idaho’s Superintendent for Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dave Lent were adamant that any such change not be imposed legislatively.

Despite the fact that Critchfield herself bypassed the state educational bureaucracy in order to require instruction in economic literacy, she now shields her department from unwanted public pressure and ideas from beyond its groupthink. Thanks to her, for now the bureaucrats are safe and the status quo reigns.

The West is unique among all world cultures in developing both industry and inalienable rights. Every American high schooler deserves to understand the culture that unifies us all. We do not acquire culture by osmosis. It is elitist to assume that only teens in “the best schools” deserve to understand their own shared cultural heritage.

World history, by any other name, is what has displaced Western civilization since the 1960s. It proceeds from the false premise that we have transcended our Western identity and can become post-modern, post-cultural global citizens.

I decry such utopianism, and deplore its deleterious effects on the unity of our culture and the civic education of our young people. America’s schools exist to teach American citizens.

If we are politically farther apart than ever before, it is because for the past fifty years schools have de-emphasized that which connects us in favor of internationalist relativism coupled with a proliferation of identity politics. The effects are inescapable. E PLURIBUS UNUM cannot work if the UNUM is constantly eclipsed by PLURIBUS.

The real shame is the wretched system of public education that Critchfield and Lent protect. An unholy alliance of teachers’ unions, pedagogical theorists, and their credentialed disciples who administer our schools have reshaped every aspect of American education. Everything wrong with the educational establishment is on display here in Coeur d’Alene School District 271.

A year ago, in a series of two springtime elections, many district employees disgraced themselves when they involved students in an adult dispute about school funding. The local educational establishment spread the propaganda of fear.

Schools would close, teachers would be fired, courses would be eliminated, sports and activities budgets would disappear; all if local voters refused to fund their levies supplementing the official district budget. Students and teachers were mobilized to engage in a partisan political campaign.

Teachers need not pretend to be nonpartisan. However, to use one’s position to exhort students to engage in specific acts of political activism is nothing less than a betrayal of public trust.

Far from being rebuked, local voters gave these educational leaders much of their levy money. They became stronger than ever.

At no time in any of these controversies did anyone within this system seriously propose trimming back the bloated bureaucracy in the superintendent’s office. Were the entire set of assistant superintendents, curricular specialists, media spokesmen, grant writers, conference organizers, and their staffs to be excised to save money, the actual school budget would suffice without levies to give Coeur d’Alene students a fine education.

More than this, power would flow back from bureaucrats to school principals, classroom teachers, parents, and students. However, such sanity would rob zealots within the education administrative system of their current control over agendas designed to reshape the American mind, one generation at a time.

Now, a year later, we are once again experiencing a budget shortfall. Once again, hucksters are likely to threaten all that is popular in local schools. A four day school week is even being touted to sweeten the deal, consequences to learning be damned. How soon before students “spontaneously” demonstrate for citizens to once again bend the knee to educational bureaucrats and their pet programs?

The educational establishment being protected by Critchfield is exemplified by this local leadership. In its corporate hubris, it has no interest in genuine constructive criticism from outside of its institutional echo chamber. Experts know best, and citizens should be grateful to follow their lead.

Only citizen action to impose reform from without can cleanse the Augean stables that American public education has become.