This op-ed originally appeared in Daily Herald on August 3, 2023.
Public schools are a shipwreck, and it may be time to save ourselves.
“We shipwrecked in 2020, but it was already a leaky boat,” John Arthur said during a panel on learning loss at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute in Salt Lake City.
It’s a good metaphor. Public schools were a sinking ship well before the pandemic smashed it to pieces.
Before the Pandemic
In 2019, the cracks in the metaphorical ship were large, and the boat was tilting. Less than half of public school students were proficient in language arts, mathematics, and science. Teachers were complaining about increasing student behavior issues. One in five parents were unsatisfied with public schools.
But problems with the public education ship were identified back in the 1983 report “A Nation At Risk.” The report summarizes the problem with education, “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”
I challenge anyone to find evidence that the public education system is better today than it was in 1983.
The problem with public schools is in their very foundation. Horace Mann wanted to create a standardized education system — one that would create a common school where children would be taught his view of American values. He was worried about the rising diversity in curriculum that private schools brought to the table. It is why he created common schools and advocated for compulsory attendance at these public schools.
The intent of Horace Mann was clear. He wanted to indoctrinate children. His own words clearly show his intent. “We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause.” There is no concern about the individual students’ needs in this statement.
It is why reforms of public education have failed and will continue to fail. They are based upon a state-level bureaucrat deciding what is important for children to learn. It leaves out the desires of the child and the parents. There is no opportunity for individuality.
Most teachers and school principals want to change the system. They know students who don’t fit the standardized model. They see the problems it creates for families and children, but they don’t know how to fix it. When they try, they often inadvertently perpetuate the problem.
You can solve public education for your child. You can find an education that matches the greatness that you see in your child. Take control of your child’s education. You don’t have to participate in an education system that doesn’t fit.
Look for a school or style that matches your values. Look for a school that honors your child’s unique abilities. They are out there, and more choices are coming.
When determining what is best for their child, parents should ask: does the public school match the greatness and potential they see in their student? If not, it may be time to walk away.