Today everyday American parents and teachers look to their federal and state departments of education to determine what is going to be taught in public schools. Today, politicians of left and right alike have stakeholder meetings regarding curriculum. There is a scary stranglehold on our American education system and it is woke and void of civic knowledge and real-life application; it is void of parents, intentional educators and selfless intent. The past several years have seen the pendulum swing sharply to the right when it comes to public education. School boards across America have been flipping and parents have been keeping closer tabs on the curriculum taught their children. Governor Ron DeSantis banned critical race theory in Florida and many others have been championing the same in other cities, states and school boards. Wokeness has been creeping into our education for decades and we are just now starting to reap the terrible rewards that it brings. But merely being against the woke and blatantly racist teachings is not enough, we as conservatives also need to have a vision of what we want public schools to teach. I have read that we need to get back to “readin’, writin, and arithmetic,” but is that truly all we want schools to teach? Do we want our schools to have a more classical education and what comes with that? When it comes to government force, what should schools teach?
The core of reading, writing and arithmetic is basic communication skills and math. While I understand the reaction to pull schools back from their “progressive” education, I do not necessarily agree that we should pull that far back. There is a plethora of subjects that many could benefit from. High schools have largely turned into higher education feeder schools and have turned away from the model of preparing kids to become productive additions to society. If kids are going to be forced to attend school, why can’t basic life skills be taught so they can thrive when they reach adult society? We should be teaching them how to budget, file taxes, write a business plan, create resumes, cook, clean, how to do the laundry, and basic workplace etiquette. Teaching personal responsibility can only help our society and create a benefit to everyone.
But there is also a place beyond preparing children for life that is beneficial: science, foreign languages, technology, sports and physical education. The list is not exhaustive and certainly the curriculum would need much more extensive vetting, but these subjects can be very useful. Giving parents and kids the opportunity to learn these subjects should be offered (but not required). Would it be beneficial for kids to learn a different language and be exposed to different cultures? For some, of course! For others who struggle with just learning English (i before e is clearly not a rule if it is broken so often), of course not! For some, learning about biology would be incredibly helpful, for most trigonometry might not be. While basic math is necessary, even I, as an engineer and math geek, don’t use Algebra every day and can see how some do not need to take it. With all this flexibility, it is worth inputting that having the ability to try different trades, to get a head start on a career right out of high school, seems like a prudent and wise option for kids. Why shouldn’t they be able to try different vocations, learn of the different careers available, shadow a professional for a day and start to see what they are adept to? College is not and should not be for everyone and high schools need to better equip those who choose not to go to college.
What about those who say we need to offer a more classical education and a return to the “great books” and Western history? The great problem with classical education is it requires unbiased, excellent teachers. Unbiased because to teach a student how to think and how to learn, students must be allowed to question and explore principles and ideas. We have clearly seen a lack of unbiased teachers through the pandemic, so would we want these teachers passing on their biases to students? Would reading Shakespeare, Plato’s Republic, Keats and Dickens truly be of help when given through the lens of a virtue signaling leftist ideology? If we are to give our children a classical education, then we have to acknowledge that there is a trust between the educator and the parent; that the educator will be passing on morality and virtue onto the kids. Are you ok with public schools teaching morality? What virtues should be forced onto children by the government?
At the end of the day, I can truthfully tell you that my situation may be different than yours. My wife and I will have a different priority on different educational standards, and we will enroll our children accordingly. That should be the brilliance of the free market system: schools who provide the most benefit to children will be in the highest demand. Teachers who provide the most to their students should be compensated accordingly. But for me to sit here and write what the government should force kids to learn would be hypocritical to all the principles I hold so dear. The government should not force any educational material on our children that the parents do not consent to. I do believe that our country will not last without the most basic of civic knowledge of our government, and we have been living in the generations that prove this is the case. I trust the parents to decide whether schools need to offer more trade programs or higher education opportunities. I trust parents to decide whether a school should offer classical education or not. This requires schools be open and transparent about the curriculum offered, and that parents treat educators with respect and quit acting as if their children can do no wrong. This requires the government to take a step back and for parents to remember that the education of their child is their responsibility. This requires all of America to wake up and realize the stakeholders in the education system are not politicians or bureaucrats, but rather parents, teachers and the children.