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The Drug of Choice for Public Schools

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Dependency on government is as detrimental to a society as drug addiction is to an individual. A situation in Pennsylvania — likely similar to situations in other states — reflects a continued unhealthy dependence on the federal government.

Briefly, Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed 2011–2012 budget had $1.1 billon less for education. That’s the same amount of money the state didn’t get from the federal government for education. The Parent Teacher Organization moms want the governor’s political head.

During a multi-district meeting, the parents from 12 different school districts gave an earful to legislators from eight different senatorial and legislative districts in parts of Chester, Delaware, and Lancaster counties. It’s an area of the state where the elephant rules, and has ruled for generations. To say the region is predominantly Republican is an understatement. So naturally, these parents, most of whom are registered Republicans, want more taxes on Marcellus shale, corporations, cigarettes, and gasoline, more taxes all around for public education.

True, some of them might be RINOs and a few others are Democrats, but most talk a straight Republican line. Yet, they want largess from government, state and federal. They’ve grown so dependent on largesse from the state and the feds that they give up on their own traditional values.

Some of the state budget cuts are steep, but steeper on some districts than others. The Coatesville School District will lose $8.5 million in one year while the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District — in a more affluent area — loses $1.1 million. All the districts are laying people off and cutting programs.

PTO moms and dads, and school board members as well, can only see one thing: Get more money from Harrisburg and Washington so the districts don’t have to pare back anything and the board members won’t have to make those types of tough decisions. Indeed, they want more money so they can build new and larger schools and have sports fields that are as immaculate as those in the professional ranks.

Few of them think outside the box, of sending their kids to a private or parochial school or homeschooling or, heaven forbid, even contemplating the idea of completely ending all government involvement in education and letting the free market provide educational services. Some do pursue other alternatives, of course. One artistic 7-year-old home-schooled girl taught herself Abobe PhotoShop and Illustrator simply by watching videos on YouTube.

Another family transferred their daughter from the Chadds Ford Elementary School to a private school in Delaware after comparing a third-grade English class. The public school kids were writing book reports based on cereal boxes — with the ingredients as characters — while the same age group in the private school was reading Supreme Court decisions. Using Cap’n Crunch as a school teacher may be a novel way to approach reading and writing, but which group of kids stand a better chanced of understanding the world around them, the first group or the second?

What government-hungry folks fail to look at are historical facts. The United States became the leading industrial nation on the planet and raised the standard of living for more people than any other country long before the federal government ever got involved in education. The Department of Education didn’t come into existence until 1980 under the Jimmy Carter administration.

And long before that, the United States came into existence because of such men as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin who were never forced into a mandatory 13-year, K-12 sentence of government-controlled and government-programmed education. They had a few years of formal education, learning to read, write and do math, but beyond that they were mostly self taught or worked with tutors or family members. They read history and philosophy, much of that on their own. They weren’t strapped to a school desk for six hours a day.

A government-provided education is not necessarily an education at all. It works well for some, but in all too many cases it’s just a way to socialize kids, teaching little more than obedience to authority or simply acting as a babysitter who is boring kids half to death.

What has happened during the past decades of government intrusion into education is that people know more about reality TV shows than they do about the Constitution. Worse yet, they care more about those TV shows than they do about the Constitution or their own liberty.

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    Rich Schwartzman is managing editor at Chadds Ford Live in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.