Losing My (State) Religion – Part I

Note:  This post has nothing to do with religion, per se.  At least, not in the sense that a person of faith would recognize. 

When I tell you I’m a Republican, those of you who don’t know me most likely resort to stereotypes; I’m white, male, Christian, anti-tax, anti-big-government, pro-defense (so far so good), anti-gay (not really true), pro-life (yes, but much moreso pro-Tenth Amendment), and…

…”Anti-Education”.  It’s an interesting phrase, that one; the notion of “Education” has been corrupted to refer to the institution of the educational establishment – the school boards, administrations, unions and the educational academy – in a sense that really has nothing to do with actually providing an “Education”.

So with that dichotomy understood – you’d be mostly wrong.  I was, in fact, one of those Republicans who was a big proponent  of public education.  Oh, it had problems, things that needed to be tuned up and fixed, but it was the system we had, dagnabbit!

Education was the family business, in a sense; my mother’s parents were both teachers, and my sister works in the system as well.   I even thought – briefly – about a career in education while in college, although that lasted about three days.

Most of all, my father was a teacher for the better part of four decades – and a great one at that.  Dad taught English, Literature and (best of all) Speech.  Strangers as well as friends of mine stop by years – now, decades – later and tell me he was the best teacher they’d ever had.  If every teacher were like Dad was – if every school district and administration let people like Dad teach, for that matter – we wouldn’t have an education crisis in this country.
You’ll note that everything in the previous couple of paragraphs is in the past tense.  I was a proponent.  Ten years ago, I was as strong a supporter of public education as one could find in the GOP.

That’s changed.  The public education system in Saint Paul and Minnesota has taken a guy who was once a firm friend, and turned him into an implacable, remorseless enemy for life. And it has little to do with politics – indeed, the GOP is almost (but not quite) as clueless as the DFL when it comes to education.  But it goes way deeper than that.
And now that both of my kids are at long last out of the public system, I’m going to tell their story, and mine.

There are going to be a number of parts to the story, probably two episodes a week for a couple of weeks.  Stay tuned.

(Read the whole series)

7 thoughts on “Losing My (State) Religion – Part I

  1. This syllogism was drummed into me since I was a child:

    1. Every adult person should be able to vote;
    2. The way to keep the state running well is to elect the right people;
    3. The state must educate the voters so that they have the tools to discern who the right people are.

    I’m not so sure about #1 any more, but I could probably be convinced. But even after I become convinced of #1, I’m already convinced that the state has failed miserably at #3. However, I have nothing better to offer.

  2. Vote against it though I did, that St. Paul school district hijacking of even more of my money passed. I like my neighborhood, but St. Paul as a city has got to be even to the left of, say, Duluth – and they fly the Hammer and Sickle up there. City tax increases, property tax hikes, school levies passing – good God. I’m being taxed back to the Stone Age, people!

  3. Mitch,
    Abandoning the public school system is somethig you’ll never regret. I went to public schools, and agree with your respect for the teachers. However, unfortunately, you couldn’t be more right about the disconnect between the education establishment and actual education of children. That the “education machine” cares about the kids” is the most repulsive lie imaginable

  4. Let’s be frank about education. Public schools are a neccesary tool provided by government. Without public schools, some (repeat, some) children would not be served by any level of system, short of Mom and Dad, who may not be too bright on their own!
    But the fact of the matter is that schools are far better left to the management of the community, rather than the stae,or..worse yet, the nation. I can almost see already where your father’s story is going already, Mitch. Dad was told he couldn’t “be so close to students”, or he was required to undergo “feelings training” to keep his certificate. Don’t read any sarcasm into that… I always found, growing up, that my most memorable teachers were those who worked outside the boundaries to push me. One such instructor assigned me to read Robert Heinlen’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”, but asked me to keep it quiet, for content reasons.
    My vote: ABOLISH the Federal Department of Education… Un-fund the State department of same, and allow communities to take care of their OWN children!

    “Course – that’s just me.

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