Traditional American principles of liberty could make schools better
By SETH GROSSMAN, Political Columnist
(Reprinted from June 2, 2010 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/index….ls-better.html)
?The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man, if he has not formed any idea of them already. But the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man, if he is firmly convinced that he already knows, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.??
? Leo Tolstoy, 1897
This is how Michael Lewis explains the financial disaster of 2008 in his latest book, ?The Big Short.? The book exposes the Wall Street ?experts? who run our banks, retirement funds, and most of our economy as greedy, dishonest, and incompetent frauds. (They are enabled and bailed out by the Federal Reserve banking system created by ?progressive? Democratic President Woodrow Wilson in 1913 to ?stimulate? the economy. The inflation it deliberately creates each year is a hidden tax on our savings.)
Most of the men working on the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico (and at the Tropicana Garage construction site before the collapse) knew that dangerous shortcuts were being taken. But all important decisions were left to the ?experts? of big government, corporations and unions.
Last week, I blamed 100 years of progressive politics, and its faith in government ?experts? rather the Constitution and ordinary citizens, for making a mess of our public schools.
How can traditional principles of American liberty make things better?
We Americans still have lots of liberty in our personal lives. We still decide which house, car, airplane/cruise vacation or TV we buy, which doctor or lawyer we use, and which hospital we go to for non-emergency surgery. We decide which colleges our children attend. These are all complicated and expensive decisions with major consequences, but we are free to make those choices and live with the results.
So why can?t we all have the same freedom to decide which elementary, middle or high schools are best for our children? The rich already have that freedom. They can afford private school tuition plus the high taxes for the public schools they don’t use. It is also often too expensive or too far from work for many parents to buy or rent homes in towns with excellent public schools.
Taxpayers now pay more than $18,000 each year for each child in most suburban public schools ? $26,000 in ?poor? cities. If any parent chooses to pay tuition to send his or her children to private schools instead, shouldn?t we reimburse that parent for up to half the money saved by taxpayers? That way, even poor and middle-class parents could also enjoy the liberty of deciding which elementary, middle, and high schools their children should attend.
Liberty also means self-government ? government ?of the people, by the people, for the people.? If the ?people?s? school board finds a talented teacher who can do a better job, shouldn?t it have the right to hire that better teacher? Suppose a very talented and well-educated professional wants to be home when his or her children get out of school, and is willing to become a teacher and work for reduced pay. Shouldn?t a ?people?s? school board be free to take advantage of that opportunity?
Professional sports teams are free to recruit the best talent they can get for the money they have. That is why we Americans have the finest professional sports teams in the world. If we want our children to get the best education in the world, shouldn?t we be free to run our public schools the same way?
Every public school teacher is forced by state law to either join three labor unions, for $1,200 per year, or pay 85 percent of those dues should he or she choose not to join. One of those unions alone, the NJEA, collects $131 million per year. When I was a kid, the corrupt Republican political machine of Frank S. ?Hap? Farley stayed in power by forcing every cop, fireman, lifeguard, and ice-cream vendor in Atlantic City to pay “ice money” each year. A free country does not allow this.
Public schools should be free to experiment with new ideas. Why not hire licensed trainers from private gyms to teach physical education in public schools? Why force our best high school athletes to spend an hour each day in gym class if they need more academic time? Why not give obese kids a vigorous workout each day? Why not set minimum physical fitness standards for all students and let them test out of gym class by passing a physical fitness test every few months?
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears live on WVLT-92.1FM, heard throughout South Jersey 8-9 a.m. every Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Athena Diner, 1515 New Road, Northfield.