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‘Education as a common good’

Jason Reese September 7th, 2011

The good news: I smile every time I drive past the charter school near my house on the way to drop off my eldest child at our parochial school. The bad news: Not everyone in our state, or even our city, has the ability to choose either of those options. That is why I want to insist that our state and local governments move further and faster in expanding school choice.

The danger in any kind of reform is that change is not an end in itself; it must actually lead somewhere. Therefore, before Oklahomans embark on serious reform of how we educate our children, we need to have an idea of what we want the end product to look like. In order to do that, we should remember the words of the great Benjamin Disraeli and enact reform that is “in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of (our) people.”

Change is not an end in itself; it must lead somewhere.

First, by and large, Oklahomans are a religious people. Unfortunately, our federal government (largely via the judiciary) has engaged in an aggressive secularization of our society with a special focus on the educational system. It is a simple matter of religious freedom that parents should not be forced to send their children to schools that have the purpose and effect of severing those children from their roots of faith.

To address this, two reforms make sense: One, allow parents to send their children (whether via vouchers, tax credits, etc.) to a religious school if they so choose; two, we must insist upon the re-localization of public education so that the aggressive secularism of Washington can be resisted here. If it takes fighting to the Supreme Court, well, then that is why we have we have a state attorney general.

Next, Oklahomans on the whole are a conservative people. Notice I said “conservative,” not “libertarian.” Therefore, we should not take seriously the siren song of extreme libertarianism that would demolish the public school system. Nor should we succumb to the soft libertarianism that would only provide tax breaks so that the rich and middle class can send their children to the schools of their choice. In fact, that is what we have now. Even staunch liberals have not tried in this state to take away the school choice that already exists for the relatively well-off. Rather, they just make those parents pay double.

We should see education as a common good, like infrastructure and ever seek to provide a quality education to all Oklahomans — rich, poor, black, white, everyone. We cannot guarantee that education, as parenting plays a vital role, but governance is not about perfection, it is about the possible.

These principles ought to guide us as we address our education system in this great state. I realize that they are not comprehensive; partially, that is the point. We can fight all day and night about phonics versus whole language and classical versus progressive educational approaches, but wouldn’t it be more practical, more Oklahoman, to encourage the growth of a variety of schools? This would keep them relatively smaller and inject more competition.

Why should we, even the childless, care? Because, to quote Disraeli again, “Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.”

Reese, a recent Republican candidate for labor commissioner, is an attorney in downtown Oklahoma City.

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09.11.2011 at 10:50 Reply

Public schools "sever children from their roots of Faith?"  Really?  If those seeds of Faith are nurtured by the church and family, and the roots of faith grow deep, no school in the world will sever them!  My children, all six of them traveled the public school world with Faith intact.  Let me ask another question:  Why should we support, with our tax dollars, schools which have as their purpose and effect the separation of children by race and social class?


09.12.2011 at 07:38 Reply

It's really scary when people who have enough education to be an attorney don't have the common sense to identify something that violates the separation of church and state.

If you want your kids to be taught what you believe, either home-school them, or if you're too lazy to do that, pay to send them to a school of your choice.  Do not expect the tax payers to cover that expense just because you believe "Oklahomans are a Religious people."

I love how you say that Liberals cause the well-off to pay double for sending their kid to a private school.  Dumbest statement ever!  I'm a liberal who doesn't have any children, and yet I pay taxes that operate public schools.  I'm not writing into the Gazette about how I shouldn't be taxed for this.  Unlike you I believe in the common good.  But for some reason you think that because you can afford to send your kid to some swanky school that you should be exempt from participating in the common good.  That's very Christian of you.  This is how I imagine your inner monologue.  "I'm rich, so my kid deserves the best, and by no means should I do anything that might contribute to the education of the poor, even though there are poor people with no children who have no problem paying taxes supporting public schools.  They’re poor and stupid and I’m rich and right."

I love how you try deride your elitism by saying that all Oklahomans "rich, poor, black, white, everyone" deserve a "quality education."  Are you not aware that Oklahoma has some of the lowest teacher salaries in the country?  Ever stop to think that maybe if the schools weren't so under funded that perhaps the quality of that education might rise?  Nope, you're no different than the well off elected officials who rally against government spending, but willingly solicit government money for their own selfish causes (http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-12462-do-as-i-say.html).  And I'm not sure you picked up on your Freudian sequencing...  The rich came first, and then came poor, which you immediately followed up with "black".  So the rich should come first, and when you think of poor, you think of blacks.  You're a real piece of work Mr. Reese!

I would also like to point out that Benjamin Disraeli was an imperialist who supported the expansion of the British Empire.  So one can easily gather that you favor an Imperialist view where one body should override another.  After all, since Oklahomans are "Religious and Conservative" their values are the only ones that need be addressed.  Again, such a view held by an Attorney (someone who should have a strong comprehension of the constitution) is really scary to me.