Freedom as an Option

June 18, 2010

by Tammy Drennan

How much do parents really care about the quality of their kids’ schools? To hear activists Leonie Haimson and Julie Woestehoff talk, it seems a lot. Or at least a chunk of them care a lot. And that’s good news, sort of.

“As public school parents and parent advocates, we have grave reservations about the Obama administration’s “blueprint for reform…

“…the parent voice has been missing so far from the national debate on education, and is entirely absent from the top-down, often draconian policies put forward by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“Secretary Duncan’s approach not only ignores the central role parents should play in their children’s education and lives, but also gives scant attention to the reforms we believe are necessary to improve our schools.” – Haimson and Woestehoff

Sadly, these ladies go on to sound increasingly like official voices for the NEA. We need smaller classes, more money, unfettered tenure, etc.

It’s encouraging to see parents who will put so much energy into their children’s schools, but very disheartening to hear them toe the party line (this party being unions) without really thinking for themselves.

The ultimate solution to our school crisis, and it is a crisis, is parents. Moms and dads who think for themselves, who are confident in their role as parents, who don’t give a hoot what politicians or special interests or self-promoting “experts” have to say about how their children should be reared and educated.

But the parent part is only the first step. The second step is community. Parents cannot do it alone, but they must choose their allies carefully. Any ally touting government as part of the solution is not to be trusted, however sincere. Community means families, friends, neighborhoods, churches, civic groups, businesses and other non-government entities pulling together to create solutions.

It will not be easy at first. It will be a lot of hard work. But once people see they can do it, once they taste the success and see their children thriving and experience the high of defining their own families and futures, there will be no turning back.

Over the course of our history, we started out an intellectually free, self-defining people. Even those who were enslaved, once they were free, started out educating and defining themselves. Then we slipped into slavery. For former slaves, it was a second round of bondage. Now we’re reaping the consequences of living in such abject servitude that we hand over our children to a master who was once our servant.

Have we had enough? Do we have the courage, or even the will, to be free again? To join forces with one another to turn the tide? Does the taste of freedom still linger enough in our culture to tempt us, to remind us how good it was, how good it can be?

One thing is sure: as long as our children are educated in state schools, freedom will erode. Soon it will be a thing of American myth, something that sounds quaint and that our children will believe never really existed.

We can do better than this. We can choose freedom. That’s what we need to help people understand: Freedom is an option. For now.