Who’s Afraid of Public Schools?

January 27, 2008

by Tammy Drennan

Everyone. Don’t think so? Think just because public schools take a lot of flak from every Tom, Dick and Henrietta that we’re in charge and they’re not?

All the flak, all the blustering criticism, all the demands for reform, all the threats from politicians — it doesn’t mean a thing.

You see, we’re afraid to do anything different from public schooling because we actually stand in awe of it. Maybe it’s the nerve of the system that intimidates us. No matter how miserably it fails, it still defiantly claims dibs on the definition and delivery of education and arrogantly insists that it is what makes America great.

A small percentage of Americans have the nerve to opt out, sort of. They opt out of the system, not its definition of education. A smaller percentage yet truly opt out.

Back to who’s afraid. All blustering accounted for: media, politicians, presidents, reformers, critics, parents, private schools, homeschoolers, pretty much everyone.

The mammoth public school system takes all our little darts and arrows with the equanimity of the most lethargically arrogant and impenetrable dragon, occasionally nodding our way with a condescending pretense of moving its big body out of our cornfield, then just when we think we’ve made some headway, it breathes a blast of fire and brimstone at us. We discover that while we thought we were reforming it, it was actually teaching our kids to wallow in immorality or that their religion was irrelevant or that parents are to be dismissed as out-of-touch old fogies. It was showing them R-rated movies and telling them all about the virtues of Fidel Castro. It was laughing behind our backs and smiling to our faces — we just misread the smile; it was actually a smirk.

The time comes when we must grow up and stop pretending. This is not a fairy tale that will come out pretty in the end because a knight in shining armor becomes president or governor or a fairy godmother comes along and fixes things for us while we slumber. Nor is it a fairy tale in which all the king’s reformers and all the king’s crusaders put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

This is real life. Public schools are really hurting children. They’re really robbing them of their intellectual, moral, social and spiritual health. They’re really messing up society and destroying families. And they’re really not going to stop.

The question is: are we going to do something about it or are we just going to keep cowering in our little corners throwing darts and yelling at the dragon to at least move his tail over a bit?

Our children do not belong to the state and we do not have to turn them over. Education does not belong to the state and we do not have to accept its definitions.

It is time to reject the false claims of the state and begin crafting lives of our own, families of our own, a society of our own, a world of our own.

Real education reform means taking it back from the state.