Education in the USA falls on its face when it comes to teaching how to be a citizen. The system may work well enough to give a person the technical training they need to find a job, or make them obedient, but in the day-to-day business of liberty, it actually provides experience that conflicts with what it means to be a free, independent person living their own life.
Clearly, the first twenty years of life for any person are dominated by the state monopoly known as the school. In a State run school, at least until the 12th grade but sometimes longer, the Bill of Rights does not always legally apply. Students in State run schools have far lower standards of legal protection from criminal search, and that includes searching a student’s physical person. A few years back a thirteen year old girl in Arizona was strip searched nude, in front of school personnel, to see if she was hiding drugs (she wasn’t), without her parents even being notified. Free speech is certainly not allowed, not even in school newspapers that are supposed to teach free speech. Much as in prison, school administrators routinely use zero tolerance policies to suspend both perpetrators and victims of infractions, going so far as to punish those making a gun shape with their fingers. Carrying a real gun in your pickup while on school property for hunting after class can lead directly to hard time in the slammer. Under some circumstances, self-incrimination can be legally coerced for a student, and due process is certainly of a different nature than it is for an adult. After growing up year after year like this a person’s view of individual rights gets terribly skewed. It takes an exceptional person to know that this is not how they are expected to live for the remaining decades of their life. The problem isn’t so much that Johnny can’t read, rather he has no sense of self as a citizen.
The results of this kind of education can be seen everywhere in American society. Free speech is often prohibited by administrative rule or reserved for “free speech zones.” The fact there are such zones means there is no free speech. Weapons free zones exist everywhere creating the double whammy of denying unalienable rights while providing ready places for psychopathic criminals to wreak havoc. Millions of travelers are forced to submit to TSA searches in violation of basic laws (sexual battery for one), while some of these unlucky passengers get picked, by government policy, for horrendous full body searches. No fly lists exist, and the due process for determining those lists is still secret, which is no due process at all. Mandatory bank reporting laws made individual financial privacy extinct. Our President has used a “kill list” on American citizens overseas without presenting public evidence, charges or a trial. There are so many laws of all stripes (literally millions) that prosecutors in the local pub boast over drinks how they can criminally convict any person, no matter who they are or what they are doing. Even the Third Amendment can get violated. A Nevada couple refused to allow their home to be used for police surveillance of a neighbor, and were charged with obstruction of justice. The daily litany of outrages certainly doesn’t end there, but most people blithely accept them. They are too busy working or obeying the rules to consider how their rights morphed into serving the government.
The solution is, of course, greater competition in education, but even private, parochial or home schools must currently live under stifling State bureaucracies and taxation that hinder real competition. The essence of Common Core is that it is just another proposal making education even more centralized and dependent on government taxes and bureaucrats.
Americans don’t know about rights. They know something akin to individual rights. As Stephen Colbert might say, they know “rightiness.”
The purpose of education is to fill in holes in experience. In this regard our State run schools are setting a very bad example.
Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party and a retired military officer.