Governors’ decisions to shut down schools may be the least science-informed of all the coronavirus impositions we’ve had to endure nationally over the past few months. As the Wall Street Journal recently noted:
A recent study from Australia identified only 18 cases (nine children and nine staff) across 15 schools, and only two of the infected children’s 863 close contacts at the schools became ill. Another review last month, published by the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health, couldn’t find an instance of a child passing on the virus to adults and noted that the evidence ‘consistently demonstrates reduced infection and infectivity of children in the transmission chain.’
This is backed up by a host of international and domestic research that finds kids are the least at-risk population and seem less likely to infect others than adults. Besides civil libertarians, working mothers are definitely the most lockdown-irritated people I know, because we bear the brunt of both ends: the family and the financial. The Washington Post noted earlier this month that working mothers are hardest hit by our government’s response to the pandemic:
The pandemic has wiped out the job gains women made over the past decade, just months after women reached the majority of the paid U.S. workforce for only the second time in American history…Working mothers face an especially daunting recovery because they rely on schools and day-care centers that remain closed. Even if hotels and restaurants and stores reopen, some women might not be able to find the child care necessary to return to work.
Indeed, when officials discuss reopening schools, they mostly do so in terms of child care, not education. To them, schooling is all about making it possible for both parents to be simultaneously absent from parenting, not about actually educating children. This honesty is revealing, and not in a good way.
Something is horrifically unbalanced about the way Americans today treat children. Today, children’s needs are not the top priority; adults’ desires and needs are. Instead of the traditional approach requiring that adults sacrifice to meet children’s needs, these leaders and public acquiescence to their rhetoric make it clear that in today’s United States, children are the ones who now must sacrifice for adults.
I Don’t Fund Schools So They Can Provide Child Care
Amid this confusion, let’s be very clear: There is no legitimate justification for billing taxpayers for other people’s child care. The only justification for taxing Americans for schools is to perpetuate our unique system of government, the keystone of our unique way of life. Taxpayers support schools for a public purpose, which is to say a civic purpose. We should not provide public support for private purposes like child care.
The reason public education exists in the United States has been established clearly from its inception. It is that “Religion, morality, and knowledge, [are] necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind,” says the first national political document to mention public education and provide for it, the Northwest Ordinance.
The only way public education justifies its massive taxpayer outlays is if it helps ensure, as Abraham Lincoln put it, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Instead, however, today’s public schools largely undermine the American experiment in self-rule.
At the American founding, when education was a family and sometimes local government matter, the male literacy rate was better than it is today, at about 80 percent. Today, of the 85 percent of Americans who graduate high school, 19 percent are functionally illiterate, meaning about a third of Americans are illiterate or high school dropouts.
Yet today Americans spend more than any other nation in the world on K-12 education, and more than at any other time in our history in inflation-adjusted dollars, at approximately $16,000 per child per year. In addition, we no longer personally control that spending nor the institutions it upholds. We are spending many multiples more for a much worse ability to control what happens with our children and tax dollars and possibly worse outcomes.
Today’s Public Schools Undermine Patriotism
Beyond basic literacy, Americans are spending many multiples more for clearly worse and nationally destructive mind and character formation. Just take a look at polling of recent graduates’ lack of understanding of basic constitutional facts and rights.
A 2019 poll found, for example, that “more than 80 percent of Americans ages 39 and younger could not say what rights the First Amendment protects, and three-quarters or more couldn’t name any authors of The Federalist Papers.” Another 2019 poll found “just 57 percent of millennials believe the Declaration of Independence ‘better guarantees freedom and equality’ than the Communist Manifesto.” A 2016 Federalist article notes, “40 percent of recent grads were unaware that Congress has the right to declare war and 10 percent think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court.”
Recent K-12 graduates also demonstrate an anti-American understanding of civics, economics, and history. As I wrote earlier this year,
Today, 4 in 10 Americans who are younger than 39 disagree that the United States ‘has a history we should be proud of,’ according to a 2019 poll by FLAG/YouGov. The poll also found that half of all Americans agree the United States is a sexist and racist country, including two-thirds of millennials. Millennials showed the lowest level of agreement with the statement, ‘I’m proud to be an American.’ Thirty-eight percent of ‘younger Americans do not agree that ‘America has a history that we should be proud of,” according to the poll.
2019’s annual poll from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that 37 percent of millennials think the United States is ‘among the most unequal societies in the world.’ Despite their curricula’s obsession with so-called multiculturalism and diversity, they clearly have zero sense of what life is like in most of the world, and how that contrasts with the United States’ singular freedoms and opportunities.
Public Schools Undermine Religion, the Basis of Freedom
There is also evidence that public schools, far from promoting religion and morality, actively undermine it. American kids’ civic illiteracy pales in comparison to their religious illiteracy. A major reason American kids, including self-described Christians, don’t believe basic theological truths is because these are completely sidelined in their educations. As researcher Lyman Stone writes, “the currently best-supported argument for why religion has declined around the world” is government-run education.
“There is ample research supporting the idea that the specific curriculum and values in a school influence religiosity, ” he writes in an overview of such research. “…[E]ven as public schools are becoming more rigidly secular, they are claiming a growing share of children’s lives. It should be no surprise, then, if each successive generation of children becomes more secular.”
Why is religion important to America’s way of life? Because, as the Northwest Ordinance says, religion and morality are essential bulwarks against an outsized state. Many state constitutions’ provisions for education mimic the Ordinance’s language, because the American founders knew people cannot remain free and anti-religious. In fact, historically speaking, that has never happened. All the atheist states have been horrific totalitarian dystopias.
When people have a real religion, they don’t look to government to be their God. When they don’t have a real religion, they demand government expand to fill its place.
What is the point of paying taxes for public “education” that undermines the government and society that pays for it? Daycare, apparently. While that may be important to some people, the American founders didn’t give their lives, liberties, and mutual honor to secure transfer payments. They gave it to ensure the blessings of liberty to me, you, and our children.
This is why, even though it’s an irrational public health policy, it’s better for most American kids — those who attend schools that do not, like my kids’ does, require them to memorize the preamble to the Declaration of Independence in first grade, and the Bill of Rights in elementary school; and daily attend religious services and memorize Bible passages — to not be subject to anti-American, anti-religious schools for at least two months. Playing outside and reading whatever’s on the shelf is more healthy, safe, and productive.
As American children were sent home, parents filled the internet complaining about their online assignments as unproductive make-work and sometimes propaganda. The question for these parents, and for the taxpayers sponsoring this sad excuse for an education, is: What makes you think things are any better during the rest of the school year you don’t see? The next question is: What are you going to do about it?