The content of this text relies on several generally accepted truths about democracy, liberty, and the role of education. The first principle that must be agreed upon is that education, regardless of institution or model, is essential to our democratic republic. The second, that American democracy requires individual liberty. And the final principle, that liberty within the boundaries of the law, include both negative and positive freedoms. That is to say that individuals are free from certain impositions, but also free to choose what is in their best interest. This freedom is exemplified in where we shop, what we eat, what we read, what we watch, and how we vote. Thus, each of these principles are transitively connected:
Education = Democracy = Liberty
In fact, the relationship between education, democracy, and freedom is so commonly agreed upon that if one were to read the following two quotations without context they would seem in near perfect alignment.
“Teachers have always had a huge responsibility for the next generation: To teach and nurture students so they have the opportunity to live fulfilling lives. To make our classrooms and schools safe and affirming. To help young people develop the skills, confidence and sense of responsibility to be engaged citizens.
Today the role of America’s teachers is even bigger — they are called on to be defenders of decency and guardians of democracy because, while our democracy has never been perfect, today its very existence is threatened.”
“A stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens. Education contributes to both. In consequence, the gain from the education of a child accrues not only to the child or to his parents but to other members of the society; the education of my child contributes to other people’s welfare by promoting a stable and democratic society.”
Without knowing who is attributed to each quote it would seem that both speakers agree upon the ideals that relate education, democracy, and liberty. More specifically, that education is essential to assuming the responsibility for one’s self as an active and engaged citizen.
However, it would be difficult to find two people that are more diametrically opposed on the subject of education. The first quote is attributed to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, a labor union that outrightly supports district schools and systematically opposes the expansion of school choice. The second is Milton Friedman, an economist and one of the pioneers of the K-12 educational choice movement.
Although intellectuals, politicians, economists, educators, and academics continue to argue the role of government in education, no one really contests the notion that education is one of the cornerstones of a free society. The question then arises, “why shouldn’t families in a free society be free to choose the education that best suits their needs?”
The events of 2020 have caused more families to take ownership of their child’s education by choosing a school outside of the district mainstream, this has also caused many state and local policymakers to respond in kind to protect government hegemony in K-12 education. What follows in Part Two is an examination of several recent examples the demonstrate a concerted effort to preserve a specific system of education over education itself.
Cody Bendix, Guest Contributor | Serving as the Corporate Communications Director for StrongMind, Cody has dedicated his professional career to advancing K-12 education across the country. Starting his career with Great Hearts Academies, Cody was instrumental in the marketing, public relations, and advocacy for one of the nation’s fastest growing public charter school systems. Since joining StrongMind in 2019, he has dedicated his efforts to driving innovation and expanding access to high quality schools for all students.