Public Schools Are Not For The Children

Yeah, I mean it.  Public schools are not there for the children, were not created for the children, and are not the sole province of the children.

Public schools are there for the country, society, economy, republic. America created the concept of publicly funded and mandatory schooling to 16 years old in order to have an educated and skilled adult workforce, community and electorate.  Schools are a general public good, benefiting the entire society by ensuring the American people know how to think and communicate.

Children and parents do gain additional benefits from our public education of kids from five to sixteen.  It reduces the cost of child care so parents can work, gives kids socialization and education so they can support their families, provides exercise and food so they can grow healthily, etc.  

But these are ancillary benefits to public education, not the intended result.  more below

All sides of the fight over public education seem to forget this.  We get “No Child Left Behind” programs from the right, “Remember the children” from the left.  Parents vote for school board budgets because they have kids in the schools, and seniors vote against budgets because they don’t.  

The whole of the private school public voucher arguments are about helping the poor (in all senses) children who are festering in bad schools.  And while that is a good thing, it is not the point of publicly funding education.

It’s about time that we started making this point all the time, that we argue for public education as something that benefits everyone in the United States, that helps us create vibrant and new industries, run and elect talented and educated people for public office, and — hell — get the proper change at the grocery store.

The better educated our adults are, the better a country we have.  For those screaming that the government shouldn’t take care of everyone, well-educated and skilled people can take care of themselves and their families better.  For those who want to create a safety net, the better our workforce is the more funding and less need we’ll have for it.  

A well-funded, properly run and focused public education system results in a better America.  It is patriotic, and should be something that all sides and politics can agree on.  At one time it was something we all could agree on because it was not just about taking care of those cute little tykes over there on the playground.  It was about the United States of America being the best, greatest, awesomest, most powerful and most benevolent country in the world.

By not talking about public education this way we walk into the trap that right wingers like Michael Doherty are setting for us.  He talks about “fairness” when proposing that state government for education should be based on a set per-student figure, and not on a need basis.

Well, if it’s all about the children and all children are equal in the eyes of God and country, then this makes sense.  It is surely a compelling (if moronic) argument on the face, one that can convince people who are not paying a lot of attention and are willing to accept the word of an “authority” like Doherty.  After all, it helps the children and for those of us who live in the burbs it’ll save money to.  I get more in my pocket and help the sweet little tykes — win win!  

But it is a load of crap.  We don’t pay sales and income taxes in order to give the same dollars per student living in Summit as opposed to a student living in Newark.  The people of Newark are far less able to afford education than the people of Summit, and yet the benefit of well educated adults coming out of the Newark and Summit school system accrues to both communities.

People who go to school in Newark will work for businesses in Summit that pay taxes in Summit, that provide services to people in Summit.  They will, perhaps, move to Summit and run for school board or city council.  Or will own gas stations or grocery stores or rental homes or retail stores in Summit.  Or Topeka, Kansas.  Or Seattle, Washington.  Or Newark, New Jersey.

They’ll vote for freeholders, state legislators, members of Congress, Senators and the President of the United States.  Or maybe they’ll serve in those offices.

As New Jersey residents, as Americans, we need to provide a funding and education formula that creates the largest educated adult populace possible.  It’s not about fairness to the individual taxpayer, child or parent but about creating the best American electorate, workforce and people we can.

Doherty and the rest of the right wing never knew that, and are only interested in protecting their money from being used in ways they can’t touch or see.  We on the left have either forgotten that or can’t figure out a way to say it clearly.

Patriots Support Public Education.

Comments (3)

  1. 12mileseastofTrenton
  2. Alex

    Education is a social good. Most societies figured that out a long time ago, which is why the only matters open to debate are curriculum standards and minimal years of schooling needed to ensure that individuals develop into responsible, capable and socialized citizens. Unfortunately, many people, including people who might describe themselves as liberal, too often forget this and think that they have no skin in the game of public education. Forgetting that means accepting a fate as a second-rate society as other countries embrace the need for strong basic education for all.


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