The desire to be in charge is as human as pride. It’s easy to see it in others. We scoff at arrogant, controlling dictators. We criticize parents who use guilt to influence their grown-up children. We commiserate about friends who manipulate others to get what they want.

Yet, when it comes to politics, we tend to think our leaders must have some unusually evil intention when they pass laws that conflict with our values. But politicians are just people. The consequences of their human defects, because of their position and power, just reach farther.

People often try to control others because they think they know what’s best. Their intentions feel like love, though they may really be driven by fear or distrust. Similarly, most individuals in power whom I’ve gotten to know genuinely feel that by controlling others they are helping people and making the world better. It’s a proud presumption, as familiar as that feeling of superiority we all experience when passing judgment on others for their choices.

The presumption says: “I can make better choices for you than you can make for yourself.” Whether or not that is true, only the government―not overbearing relatives or unpleasant friends―truly has the power to enforce its choices. And nowhere are issues of government control more contentious―and the consequences far-reaching―than in children’s education.

Education policy affects every child, and all sides of the debate trumpet kids’ interests as the heart behind their cause. And most sides believe it. With parents, the argument tends to orbit around values, that is, whose values should be taught in public schools. This struggle to decide whose values should be taught can be seen in states as different as Texas and California.

Rather than controlling how others’ children should be taught, those decisions should be removed from the political realm and returned where they belong―with the family. Each parent should be able to choose a school that offers the kind of education they want for their kids. That is the beauty of “school choice.”

Arguments for school choice usually focus on how empowering parents through education scholarships or vouchers, tax credits, and digital learning programs create scientifically proven gains in math, science, and reading. But its most virtuous effect is on human dignity.

School choice is the only means by which society can respect parents’ rights to raise their children. Parents have a natural right to raise their kids according to their values and to shelter them from an overwhelming barrage of bureaucratic mandates and politically sanctioned value systems. Likewise, school choice is the only means of reform which gives harbor to teachers and school administrators from that same hurricane of red tape that keeps so many of them from fully channeling their talents and passions to prepare kids for life.

The argument I most consistently hear from opponents of school choice is that many parents are unable to make good decisions for their kids. Thus, the most vulnerable children will suffer. However, this argument has been proven wrong in empirical studies that show regular public schools improve with vouchers that allow kids to attend private schools. Yet, that is not why we should support school choice. We should support school choice because we respect freedom itself. We should support school choice because we respect the rights of parents to do their best for their kids.

Those who fear that school choice will leave vulnerable children more vulnerable shouldn’t in the name of love or compassion empower the state to curtail parents’ ability to choose. Rather than cater to our natural arrogance and wrongly call it “loving our neighbors,” why not instead practice real love? Real love demands freedom to choose to love and to sacrifice. If you see something wrong, go out and change it through human relationships―by loving your neighbors, not by stealing their liberties. Talk to your neighbor’s kids. Volunteer to tutor a friend of your family. Support parents who are struggling. Change the hearts and minds of those close to you with the sweat of your brow, not with the cold impersonal hand of government regulations.

9 thoughts on “Control Cometh Before the Fall of Education

  1. Great article. The moral superiority of freedom should always be stressed alongside the utilitarian arguments of better outcomes and efficacy.

  2. Kitzhaber is a walking example of the modern day faulty proverb, “if the government plan isn’t working, the government plan isn’t big enough and needs to be enlarged.” In Kitzhaber’s case, Kitzhaber I (’94-’02) devised the CanSim testing program to steer public education. After CanSim went down in flames earlier in the 00s after investing millions of state taxpayer dollars in it, Kitzhaber II (2011 – ) comes back and now thinks his centralized CanSim attempt just wasn’t all inclusive enough. Nope he proposes to extend state control over public education all the way into the woman’s womb, from the fetus and on through all the way to 22 to 24 years old.

    Most people saw this same old Kitzhaber governance coming when voting between him and his opponent Chris Dudley; If Dudley would have had some demonstrated government office experience, he would’ve probably won over Governor “mulligan.” Oregon’s government central planning induced economic coma instead continues.

  3. It isn’t that parents don’t make the best decisions they can for their children. But, we must be concerned with the choices they have to choose from. Agenda 21 has targeted Oregon Charter Schools to further their indoctrination. How many parents know about Agenda 21? Do you think a parent would recognize indoctrination of Agenda 21 issues? I have read a lot about Agenda 21 and it is hard to recognize where taking care of our earth crosses over into indoctrination against a free society and even against their own parents. And, I agree with Bob. With our governor, no child is safe, even home school materials are being infiltrated. Maybe we should concentrate more on educating school boards and administrators so parents have better choices, rather than more choices.

  4. If control is not implemented at an early age, it becomes increasingly difficult to implement. Thus: all day kindergarten. “Free” breakfast, “free lunch” – even when school’s not in session. The new “Muppet” , the “food insecure” Lily, that the show hopes will help personify the voice of the the 17 million Americans who often times cannot afford to eat. “You see, well, it‘s just that sometimes we can’t always afford to buy all the food that we need,” Lily said. “I mean, but we’ve been finding lots of ways that we can get help…Yeah, for example, at school, at school I get a free breakfast and a lunch…part of the meal plan.”

    Indoctrinate them early, and they’re yours for life.

  5. Well stated arguments Mrs. Martin, I appreciate the work you do.

    As to Mr. Clark’s assertion regarding nominee Dudley…Kitzhaber didn’t win that contest because Chris Dudley lacked experience working in government, the OrGOP lost the contest when their members nominated a candidate who was willing to violate any standard or principle in order to please whatever group he happened to be speaking to at any given time.

    Republican primary voters wrongly assumed that celebrity would spell victory in 2010….which was different from previous contest where they wrongly assumed that moderation would spell victory.

  6. The statement about government fascists: “Their intentions feel like love, though they may really be driven by fear or distrust. Similarly, most individuals in power whom I’ve gotten to know genuinely feel that by controlling others they are helping people and making the world better” gives me pause on behalf of the over 100 million murder victims of worldwide Communism.

  7. I think you’re on to something with your comments about motivation. I remember the first time I read The Communist Manifesto. What struck me was how *religious* it was. It sounded in so many places so much like the Christian vision of heaven, only without God.

    Similarly, I think the nanny state mentality often comes from a very deep religious desire (albeit often without any god attached) to care for the poor–whether they’re economically poor or just too intellectually and spiritually impoverished to catch the progressive vision and know what’s best for them. In any event, they (we!) are disadvantaged and need to be cared for. Or so, I suspect, the subconscious line of thought goes.

    1. Christina,

      Great job on this article. As a parent, I feel held hostage by the public school system. Would LOVE a voucher or tax credit!

      How many public school employees are really just afraid of the competition? Their union keeps them safe from too much scrutiny. Teachers should be rewarded for the quality of their teaching, not seniority.

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