Pursue freedom in education

Published 9:02 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2014

By Clay Scott

With the vast majority of the power education policy located in Richmond, the rest of us, even teachers, are little more than spectators.

Richmond decides what is taught and by whom it may be taught. They also decide who is taught and set parameters on when and where lessons may occur. Teachers, principals and even superintendents must carry out the work of educating young people according to the vision and ideals that come from the central authority.

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What is left for parents? Virginia has fully supplanted parents in at least this one component of childrearing. Those with adequate knowledge and/or resources can educate their children at home or pay tuition for private schools. The remaining 90 percent of us are left to either accept our roles or speak out against an oppressive system.

The bureaucracy would have made any autocrat proud. The genius is in the illusion of local control. By making us believe a school board, superintendent or principal can make a major difference, they have successfully averted attention.

Lest I be branded as a heretic, consider that the people holding positions within our system are unable to alter the ideals of the system. Answering the central philosophical question — “What does it mean to be an educated person?” — is reserved for the central authority.

As an illustration, think of the ideal cheeseburger. Now imagine a place that sets strict rules on the creation of cheeseburgers, such that the only ones that qualify come from McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.

How would the people of this place describe the ideal cheeseburger? It would likely be very different from yours. Would they have any understanding of your ideal cheeseburger, even when explained in great detail? In fact, many people so conditioned would be unable to recognize a truly great cheeseburger.

We can talk about quality cheeseburgers, because we live in a society that allows for freedom of cheeseburger creation. In discussing educational ideals, however, we find most people are just as blind as the cheeseburger-deprived people in the analogy.

Superficial matters are easily debated, but truly substantive topics are rarely broached. We blithely and blindly look at SOL scores, accept state-mandated curricula, request only fully licensed teachers and believe everything else the central authority tells us matters.

But you are the parents. These are your children. They do not belong to the state. As a parent you make decisions regarding physical, emotional, religious and other vital components of your children’s development. Why blindly trust the alleged specialists when it comes to education?

Furthermore, you teach your children considerably more than their school does. Their academic success depends far more on you than it does on the school.

The secret to American greatness is separation of powers, yet in education we consolidate them. We are represented by the most noble and brave bald eagle, because it represents independence, but when it comes to education, we forget who we are and act like sheep, eager to fall behind whichever expert happens to be most popular at the moment.

It can be dangerous to venture beyond the sheepfold. If we open our eyes, it becomes plain that the safety of our current system is little more than a prison. We know what a free system with distributed power looks like. Our Founding Fathers gave us that template many generations ago.

My invitation is simple. Virginians — be free.

Clay Scott, a resident of Franklin, teaches Spanish at King’s Fork High School. He holds a degree in Spanish from Brigham Young University, an MBA from Ashford University and is a doctoral candidate at George Washington University. Email him at barroescot@gmail.com.