Failure to Support Public Schools

October 1, 2008

by Tammy Drennan


On a homeschool blog I contribute to, a lady took me to task for being unsupportive of public schools. After all, she contended, that’s where the majority of our leaders – in politics and in the rest of life – come from. And am I not pleased with the results? Don’t we have wonderful surgeons, etc.?


The question that never gets addressed is: How, really, are the best of the best educated? Does excellence derive from our public schools? Or do some of our public school students excel in spite of the system?


I find ample evidence that it is in spite of and not because of our public schools that most excellence exists.


This possibility will escape many people simply because excellence is something they’ve never actually encountered.


To see the results of an excellent education, take a look at many of our founders – Jefferson, Franklin, Madison — and yes, George Washington, who found himself lacking by the standards of his peers but who easily puts even our top academic achievers today to shame.


A close look at some of our best in today’s world reveals that they were not passive vessels of government schooling. Instead, they bucked the system and took their brains into their own hands, just as men and women who have desired excellence have done from time immemorial.


In my response to the lady who scolded me, I cited C. Everett Koop, former US Surgeon General, who even as a boy started prepping himself to become a surgeon (see his autobiography).


Albert Einstein did not depend on his schools to produce excellence in him. Nor did Winston Churchill or C.S. Lewis, or Isaac Newton or any other man or woman who has achieved superiority in some area.


Read about Dana Gioia’s education experience, and Jacque Lusseyran’s.

“All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.” – Sir Walter Scott

If Mr. Scott is right – and the evidence is all on his side – we must ask ourselves in what ways schools are preventing the majority of children and young people from exercising their ability – and right — to pursue excellence.

To that end, I offer the thoughts of John Taylor Gatto in The Six-Lesson School Teacher and Sol Smith in Education vs. Schooling.

We can do better. Much better. Excellence could be within the grasp of many more – if only so much effort weren’t put into preventing it – but standardization rather than excellence is the natural function of government. It is up to us – to free individuals acting on our freedom and empowering others to act on theirs and helping where help is needed. It’s been done before. It’s being done now. It can be done more.