“Harvard Professor Paul Reville, seated as a panelist to discuss the controversial standards, dismissed critics as a ‘tiny minority’ and a ‘small voice.’
He went on to suggest that states should follow the same set of standards because ‘the children belong to all of us.’
The panel discussion was hosted by the far-left Center for American Progress in late January.”
That kind of attitude and thinking is familiar to anyone who has worked inside the school reform movement. The worst part, though, is that too many conservatives cede the point. Instead of the debate being about educational liberty, too many school reformers argue endlessly over proposed adjustments and tweaks to the system. While school choice is based upon parental choice, the God-given right of parents to educate their children does not get discussed nearly enough.
Imagine bringing the Founding Fathers back from the dead and telling them that in the United States — when a family moves into a neighborhood — the local school district takes ownership of that child’s education. The Founders would have to assume that the country is no longer free.
Not long ago Anthony Esolen, a Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, posted one of the best articles yet on the topic of educational liberty at the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse website. This intro blurb got my attention:
The Common Core exists only because we have forgotten that parents have a right to educate their children. The state has no educational authority of its own apart from what parents delegate to it.
The title of Esolen’s article is, “Peonage for the Twenty-First Century.”
I admit that I had to look up the word “peonage” — here’s the defintion to save anyone else the trouble:
Definition of PEONAGE
1) a : the use of laborers bound in servitude because of debt
b : a system of convict labor by which convicts are leased to contractors
2) : the condition of a peon.
Here are Anthony Esolen’s opening two paragraphs:
A young man and woman arrive at the office of the town clerk to procure a marriage license. They’re all smiles, until the secretary hands them a document to sign, wherein they read this remarkable sentence: “The State, conceding to the parents the making of their children’s bodies, asserts its primacy in the making of their minds.”
So bald a proclamation of totalitarian power might cost the party that made it a percentage point or two at the polls. Thus, it will never actually grace a marriage license. Yet there is no need to make that proclamation when the arrogation of that power is an accomplished fact. An underling who does not realize his subservient position is more tractable than one who does.
Not surprisingly, Anthony Esolen doesn’t like “Common Core”:
I’ve lately been involved in the fight against the latest move to nationalize public education, this one called the Common Core. It is a bag of rotten old ideas doused with disinfectant; its assumptions are hostile to classical and Christian approaches to education; it is starkly utilitarian; its self-promotion is sludged up with edu-lingo, thick with verbiage and thin in thought; its drafters have forgotten, if they ever knew, what it is to be a child.
But my point here is not that the Common Core is dreadful. It is this: that there should even be a Common Core proves how far we have fallen into peonage to the State.
Here is his summary:
I can sum it up this way. Any land in which parents, singly or in groups, do not have first and last authority over what and how their children learn is not free. The fact that we might countenance national authority over the mind of a child shows our abjection. It is as if we were to accept educational instructions from managers in Brussels, or from a federation of experts hailing from Alpha Centauri, and then were to comfort ourselves with the assurance that we were still free, because we could exercise one vote in a hundred million, or three billion, or seventeen trillion, or whatever number you like that reduces our actual influence to that of a speck of dust on an anvil, a proton against a planet, or one parent’s cry against the massive deafness of money, power, and arrogance.
Read his entire article here. It’s not that long and worth the few minutes it’ll take.
Excerpts reposted from December 2013.