My brother tipped me off to this outstanding piece at The Imaginative Conservative by Anthony Esolen. That the Common Core contains ideologically-driven material is beside the point. That it has serious flaws in the pedagogy involved is beside the point.
The point? We are not free human beings; we do not have authority over the education of our children.
We are owned by the state.
Full article here, excerpts below:
A young man and woman arrive at the office of the town clerk to procure a marriage license. They’re all smiles, until the secretary hands them a document to sign, wherein they read this remarkable sentence: “The State, conceding to the parents the making of their children’s bodies, asserts its primacy in the making of their minds.”
So bald a proclamation of totalitarian power might cost the party that made it a percentage point or two at the polls. Thus, it will never actually grace a marriage license. Yet there is no need to make that proclamation when the arrogation of that power is an accomplished fact. An underling who does not realize his subservient position is more tractable than one who does.
I’ve lately been involved in the fight against the latest move to nationalize public education, this one called the Common Core. It is a bag of rotten old ideas doused with disinfectant; its assumptions are hostile to classical and Christian approaches to education; it is starkly utilitarian; its self-promotion is sludged up with edu-lingo, thick with verbiage and thin in thought; its drafters have forgotten, if they ever knew, what it is to be a child.
But my point here is not that the Common Core is dreadful. It is this: that there should even be a Common Core proves how far we have fallen into peonage to the State.
I have said many hard things about the poor preparation of many of our public school teachers, about English teachers who do not know grammar and who cannot write; about history teachers who settle down into current events, requiring no broad reading or knowledge; about math teachers who have no facility with numbers; and about foreign language teachers who hold their students in bonds for four years and yet do not manage to teach them how to read a newspaper, much less Don Quixote or Les Miserables.
Yet long before the advent of departments of education, the Christian progressive William Chauncy Langdon, defending the family against the encroachment of the state, wrote in The Century (November 1889) that education “is not, certainly in its earlier stages, any part of the immediate responsibility of the political community,” for the totalitarian “Sparta presents to us no illustration of an educational philosophy for a Christian people.” That is because “real education is the development of distinct personalities,” and therefore cannot “be effected by contract or in the aggregate.”
Whoever actually imparts the education, said Langdon, even if it is, partially, the State, “can be regarded only as the representative deputy or the substitute for the family.” The family delegates some of its educational task to the schoolteacher, who is, as it were, a general governess or tutor hired by the parents through the intermediary of the town or county. The school is a deputy of the family, or, in the case of the death or debility of the parents, a substitute. It has no authority of its own apart from what the employers—the parents—delegate to it.
Let’s pause to think about that. A rich man hires a tutor to instruct his son in arts and letters. The father has the classics in mind; he wants his son to read Virgil, to converse with Matthew Arnold, and to sit at the feet of Pascal and Kierkegaard. But the tutor has other things in mind. He has the boy read Toni Morrison, “graphic novels,” and op-ed pieces from contemporary newspapers. That shine you see on the seat of the tutor’s trousers has been imparted, successively, by the father’s boot and the three concrete stairs down which the worthy teacher bounced on his way out of the manor.
Now why should parents who are not so wealthy not exercise, in common, the same authority? Especially now, when the teachers are, as a group, no great beacons of either intellectual or moral virtue?
Yet the promoters of the Common Core do not consider that the parents are their employers. The parents have had and are to have nothing to say about it. They are “good” if they submit, and “problematic” if they don’t. No one has asked them their opinions about a decent education. No one ever does. Imagine if the leaders of our public schools were to say, “We will no longer be instructing your children in sex.” A few parents would complain, mainly on account of other and (supposedly) irresponsible people, but in the main we would hear great sighs of relief. ...
It would be unfair, though, to suppose that all teachers welcome the Common Core. There are brush fires kindling all over the country in opposition to the edicts from above....
These teachers too have been bypassed. ... Welcome to the land of the peons, O teachers. Know that your erstwhile employers, the parents, were here before you.
I can sum it up this way. Any land in which parents, singly or in groups, do not have first and last authority over what and how their children learn is not free. The fact that we might countenance national authority over the mind of a child shows our abjection. It is as if we were to accept educational instructions from managers in Brussels, or from a federation of experts hailing from Alpha Centauri, and then were to comfort ourselves with the assurance that we were still free, because we could exercise one vote in a hundred million, or three billion, or seventeen trillion, or whatever number you like that reduces our actual influence to that of a speck of dust on an anvil, a proton against a planet, or one parent’s cry against the massive deafness of money, power, and arrogance.