Crusade Against Education
When our eyes are suddenly opened to a wider reality, we remember where we were at the time.
Not Everyone Believes Like You Do
Richwood, Ohio, it was a cold, rainy day in the fall of 1954.
I was in second grade. Outside our school building, the ground
was muddy because they were building a new wing to accommodate the
larger classes that would be required as we baby boomers grew
older. Rather than go outside for recess, many of us in Mrs.
Matlacks class stayed in the room and gathered around a table
with crayons for an informal seminar. Someone posed a question
to the group: Do you believe in Santa Claus?
Yes, I answered; I believed. Some of my friends agreed with me, others didnt. But the mere fact that the question had been raised got me thinking. I began considering the evidence, and by the time Christmas rolled around, I had figured out the scam. However, just to humor the adults, I continued acting as though the presents really came from Santa.
As I got older and learned more about science, I began considering the evidence for other stories that the adults told me, and I gradually realized the truth. However, just to humor the adults, I continued acting as though the world is really controlled by an invisible old man in the sky.
Not Everyone Desires Like You Do
In Oberlin, Ohio, it was a dark evening in the fall of 1966. I was a college sophomore. Around the table at our dining hall, someone revealed a surprising fact of which we were not all aware: There are actually people who prefer having sex with others of their own gender, rather than the opposite gender. I had never heard of such a thing.
That seems hard to believe in the 21st century, when homosexual relationships are debated daily in the newspapers and depicted nightly on TV. But back then, gay merely meant happy, and any deviant behavior was illegal and kept locked away in the secret closet. In grade school, a boy who behaved in an insufficiently macho manner, such as reading poetry or avoiding fistfights, might be called a sissy, but thats all that was said.
Learning about the World
Those are just a couple of examples of what I discovered while a student. As Robert Fulgham wrote, All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. In kindergarten not at home, but in school, interacting with other young people from families unlike mine and discovering new things that my parents might never have told me.
For example, it turns out that there are other religions. In our little town, there were a few kids in school who for some strange reason werent allowed to eat meat in the cafeteria on Fridays. When questioned, they admitted this was because they were Catholics. On Sundays they had to go to a neighboring town where there was a Catholic church. So not everyone believes as my family does? Interesting. Whos right?
At college, I met representatives of even more groups, such as blacks and Jews and Asians. Also interesting. They were people too.
So public schools and colleges are important for the knowledge we gain there not only academic knowledge about subjects like spelling and chemistry, but also personal knowledge about the people unlike us with whom we share the planet.
Avoiding Worldly Influences
That may be one reason why social conservatives dislike public schools and colleges. They prefer home schooling.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum noted approvingly that centuries ago, Parents educated their children because it was their responsibility. Yes, the government can help, but the idea that the ... government should be running schools is anachronistic. After all, the government might not be willing to teach your particular attitudes and prejudices.
Its even more anachronistic, I would add, to expect parents in this modern world to quit their jobs to stay home and educate their kids, or to expect them to competently teach the kids skills and subjects that they never learned very well themselves.
Nevertheless, when conservatives have the power to do so, they slash government spending on schooling. Adjusted for inflation, state support for higher education has fallen 12 percent over the past five years, writes Paul Krugman. In California, support is down by 20 percent.
In my own state of Pennsylvania, learning is no longer a priority. Republican governor Tom Corbett says we can no longer afford our traditional support for education.
Public schools: If the Republican-controlled legislature passes his 2012 budget, elementary and high schools will have lost a billion dollars in funding since he took office two years ago.
State-owned colleges: His 2011 budget proposed a 50 percent cut. Penn State University might have to give up its status as a public institution. At least theyre investigating the possibility: Penn State, tuition $15,984, could turn itself into a private college like Cornell, tuition $41,541. Columnist Reg Henry writes: If Penn State were to go private, it would betray the public trust. Pennsylvanians have supported the school with public money for many years with the understanding that it would remain affordable for their children. It really is up to the governor to recognize the importance of higher education on future prosperity. To boast that he didn't raise taxes today, Mr. Corbett is prepared to beggar Penn State (and Pitt and the rest) tomorrow.
Time to Be Real
Or consider this rant, which I heard on March 9, 2012.
That was Bill Maher on his HBO show Real Time.
Personally, Im in favor of knowledge. Learn about the world any way you can. And dont keep your kids locked up at home or cloister them in closed-minded parochial indoctrination factories. Let them go to school in public, where they can meet the rest of us.