Oregon’s Century-Old Lesson in Public Education

By Eric Fruits, Ph.D.

Earlier this week, the Michigan Democratic Party’s Facebook account landed in some hot water. A post published to the page mocked parents who say they should have a voice in what public schools teach.

The post went on to say that public schools teach kids what society “needs them to know.” This was the same argument made 100 years ago when Oregon voters banned all private schools in the state.

The measure, sponsored by the Masonic Grand Lodge of Oregon and the state chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, required all school-age children to attend Oregon public school, and only public school. They argued that an influx of Catholic immigrants had beliefs that were incompatible with American values. They argued that only a public school could teach these kids what society needed them to know.

While the measure was passed by voters, it went down in flames before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1925, the Court unanimously struck down the measure, legalized private schools throughout the country, and famously declared, “the child is not the mere creature of the state.”

Perhaps this should be the first lesson they teach in public schools: The government serves us, not the other way around.

Eric Fruits, Ph.D. is Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Comments 4

  1. Avatar for Donna Bleiler

    Donna Bleiler

    3:34 pm - January 19, 2022

    Excellent info.

  2. Avatar for wes Butler

    wes Butler

    6:49 pm - January 19, 2022

    Please be reminded that Education, public, has been largely controlled for 100 plus years of progressives, socialists, and communists. Government funded education is a terrible idea. Check the history.

  3. Avatar for Glenn Gailis

    Glenn Gailis

    9:29 pm - January 19, 2022

    Yes Eric, I totally agree with you. At least that is the way it is supposed to be. Not so much anymore. Some people have lost sight of the right thing to do. Government for the people, by the people.

  4. Avatar for Don Crawford

    Don Crawford

    8:29 am - February 19, 2022

    Let’s see. How well does the existing system of public schools serve us? Currently public schools are not successful in teaching all children how to read, because their progressive dogma is anti-phonics. They aren’t teaching children how to spell because it isn’t tested on their tests. Not teaching basic math facts and computation because they think they know better. They are not teaching about the good done by America and free-market capitalism around the world. They are teaching children that they should choose their gender and ignore their biology. They are teaching that “climate change” is going to destroy the world unless we stop driving cars and using oil and gas. They are teaching that all whites are priviledged and all people of color are oppressed by them and racism is just as bad now as it was 100 years ago. They are teaching socialist, anti-capitalistic, anti-business ideas even though the capitalistic, free-marked system has freed more people from poverty in the last 30 years than ever in history. But the teacher’s union lobby fiercely opposes allowing the money taxpayers are spending to educate our children to go to any schools other than those they run so poorly. Free the money and free the parents. If their schools are so good, they should be willing to compete with alternatives.

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