Peonage for the Twenty-First Century

This is the best article I’ve ever read about the taxpayer funded public school system. The author is Anthony Esolen, a Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and the author of several books.

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.

Finally I found someone writing about educational liberty!

I had to look up the word used in the title of the article, “peonage”:

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

First Known Use of PEONAGE

1847, peonage, noun (Concise Encyclopedia)

Form of involuntary servitude, the origins of which date to the Spanish conquest of Mexico, when the conquerors forced the poor, especially Indians, to work for Spanish planters and mine operators. In the U.S., the word peon referred to workers compelled by contract to pay their creditors in labour. Though prohibited under U.S. federal law, peonage persisted in some southern states through state laws that made labour compulsory. Another form of peonage exists when prisoners sentenced to hard labour are farmed out to labour camps.

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.