Valedictorian Tells Truth

July 28, 2010

by Tammy Drennan

[Many thanks to Frances for sending a link to this story.]

Graduate Erica Goldson, valedictorian of Coxsackie-Athens High School’s (NY) class of 2010, shares on her blog her deep disappointment with her education and explores what it means to become educated.

A look at the school’s web site will let you know immediately that its personnel think it’s doing quite well. The photographs paint a picture of a happy, nurturing and exciting place where children are living up to their potential, Erica’s contrary opinion aside.

This is what happens when school becomes a bureaucracy of the state — committees are formed, special interests are lent an ear, agendas are proposed and plans fashioned to execute those agendas. Everyone is so excited to see that others will now be required to concede that their ideas are wonderful enough to elicit the backing of the state.

And what about the people — children — upon whom these agendas are enacted? Tsk, tsk. What a question. The agendas and plans and programs speak for themselves. Aren’t they beautiful? Aren’t they so organized? Aren’t they so measurable? Won’t we get the niftiest stats out of it all? Isn’t this a good cause? If the children rebel or balk at them, well, clearly the problem is the children. It’s obviously not us.

And if children are a problem, we clearly need more committees and agendas and plans, all informed by “experts” and special interests who know exactly why children are bucking our beautiful plans for them. So we form our committees and we get medicated children and therapized children and specially educated children and labeled children and children pressured by frightened and threatened parents.

It’s all so much fun. And to prove the children are having fun, we catch them in moments of laughter, at least the ones who are laughing, and we take pictures of them and put them on our web sites and in our PR materials. Aren’t our children happy?

And then a valedictorian comes along and suggests she was ill-educated and bored in school and that over a decade of her life has been wasted by the well-meaning people who run her school. And, well, what do we say?

That’s the great part. There’s no need to say anything. Public education is too big and powerful and useful to be brought down by a few cranky kids who get a glimpse of what their education might have been.

But it’s important for the kids to keep speaking. It will inspire other kids to take a look at their own situations, and it might even inspire a few teachers to take a closer look at themselves. Maybe it will help some of the children under “remediation” realize they are not the problem.

Neither the kids nor the teachers will be able to make much of a dent in the system, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll consider freedom.

The more who do, the more opportunity will be created for others. That’s how something worthwhile grows — people act freely and inspire others by their example. Then more people act freely. In freely acting and exploring and seeking, people find meaning for their lives and create possibility.

This is what America is about — the liberty to create a fulfilling life, to live for a purpose other than the growth of government and the gratification of do-gooders and do-badders who have learned they can employ the state (in every sense of that word) to effect their various agendas.

Hats off to Erica and to every other young person who has the courage to question the system. May many more follow in your footsteps.