Government school system is broken

(John Andrews in the Denver Post, Mar. 19) It was March 10, the day Jay Bennish was cleared to take his left-liberal agenda back to class at Overland High. Alan Colmes, the left-liberal counterpart to conservative Sean Hannity on Fox News, was declaiming upon Bennish’s rights as a teacher in a “government school.” Right then I knew that this hot controversy, despite its tepid ending, had accomplished something. They are in fact government schools, these institutions we euphemistically call “public education.” When even liberals admit it, clarity is a step closer. The bad news is that Cherry Creek authorities wimped out, providing citizens no guarantee that Bennish will stop peddling Harry Belafonte propaganda disguised as geography. The good news is that some long-ignored questions are now before us.

Why are we taxed billions by local, state, and federal government to pay for schools? Why use the police power for compulsory attendance? Why is schooling entangled with laws, lawsuits, legislators, judges, and lawyers like David Lane? Why are classrooms unionized like factories, by a teacher union that leans left and plays political hardball?

Is this the way a free people should be instructing our children? How did we get from the Founders’ vision of individual liberty and limited government to this collectivist outcome? What course corrections should we make in education policy in order to defend and extend our American heritage?

Granted, our heritage includes a public purpose for transmission of learning. Congress prescribed by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that in the formation of new states, “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

But it’s also an American principle that government’s coercive power shall not be used for thought control. “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in Virginia’s 1779 statute for freedom of conscience.

I happened to be doing my taxes, including a hefty bill to the Cherry Creek School District, just when Jay Bennish glibly told reporters, “I’m very excited to continue encouraging students to think critically, to encourage democratic values in our society, and to promote social justice, as I always attempted to do.”

Jefferson’s words came to mind, because I (presumably like most Coloradans) abhor the Bennish worldview, and I object to subsidizing his imposition of it upon ill-prepared teenage minds. No such use of classroom dollars was intended by the Northwest Ordinance or America’s Founders.

The wisecrack by Bennish that his Bush comparison should have been to Mussolini, Hitler’s junior partner, amounted to giving the finger to the superintendent who admonished him, the elected board members who employ him, and all the patriotic citizens who entrust their kids to him and pay his salary. What nerve; what a menace.

Factual subject matter, not mental conditioning, is the only safe and proper ground for instruction in the government schools. But Overland’s anti-American geographer not only believed otherwise at the time of his February 1 rant. By his own testimony on March 10, he still does.

“Critical thinking,” you need to know, is a code phrase for post-modern intellectual relativism, disallowing all truths including the self-evident ones of our Founding. And “social justice,” according to Wikipedia, is “a loaded term [describing] the policies of the political Left, presented in a positive light in comparison to the political Right.” So much for the “new” Jay Bennish. Little does he care for the religion and morality of 1787.

These last three weeks, when Mussolini High popped up in Aurora and the nation gasped and Colorado did nothing, surely dramatize the need for parental choice in our government education monopoly. Charter schools, home schooling, vouchers, and tuition tax credits, as well as new-tech options like Hope Online Academy, all deserve more support.

Hey, with the Bennish worldview now validated on the public dime and untouchable by taxpayers, even the Separation of School and State movement,, which I’ve been criticized for endorsing, may gain greater appeal. Politicians shouldn’t make schoolkids jam both feet into one left shoe.