The mission of public education is to give every child a chance to become everything God intends for them to be.
It is as daunting, noble and glorious a mission as any taken on by our nation. Given the importance of this mission, I am amazed at the eagerness some have to abandon public education when we all should be rallying behind it.
Public school teachers face extraordinary challenges every day. Certainly, some children come from traditional two-parent families. They get nutritious breakfasts before leaving for school and complete their homework in stable environments with nurturing parents who have time to help.
Public schools, however, also must educate children who are not so fortunate, those facing challenges many of us can scarcely imagine. Compared to educating every child from every circumstance, a flight to the moon – the 40th anniversary of which we celebrate this week – is a walk in the park.
Like that historic effort, our nation’s history is replete with successes of those who overcame seemingly impossible odds with the foundation earned in public schools. America’s position as the world’s sole remaining superpower is rooted in the fact that every child has a chance to get a public education. It is the foundation on which the strength of our nation is built.
Rather than participate in a rational discussion about how to strengthen public education, some simply suggest we abandon public schools. The most common form of abandonment is schemes by which taxpayer dollars are stripped from public education and transferred to private schools.
The myth of these voucher schemes is that somehow private schools would accept the mission of public schools: to educate every child. The truth is that even under “universal” voucher schemes, private schools have neither the capacity nor desire to educate every child.
Proponents of vouchers repeat their myth with unabated fervor. The only legitimate goal of that tactic is to weaken people’s confidence in public schools. Brandon Dutcher’s recent column in The Oklahoman is a perfect example of that.
He cites opinion polls suggesting Oklahomans are losing confidence in public schools. No wonder, given the relentless attacks on public schools repeatedly launched by him and others who share his view.
I am reminded of the words of President Harry Truman, “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one.” It takes “carpenters” – including parents, teachers and community leaders – to build public schools and truly improve educational opportunity for all, which should be our focus.
Certainly, private schools have a role in our nation’s educational efforts. Private schools, however, will never accept every child.
That mission must remain with public schools. Anything less would lead to the creation of an academic elite based on the wealth of parents rather than the talent of children. Such an elitist system, at odds with our national value of “all are created equal,” is the dark side of their myth whose shadows would creep into every segment of society.