Renowned philosopher Donald Kagan said, “There is no hope for anything if you don’t have a population that buys into its own traditions.” He stressed, “That can only be taught.”
Unfortunately, contemporary issues have diverted attention from American traditions, especially in education. According to the media, education is now all about safety, teacher unions, diversity, bullying, free lunches and nutrition, sex, mandated testing, charter schools, vouchers and buildings.
Why, then, is it a mystery that America spends billions of tax dollars on public schools with disappointing outcomes? If public schools are so great and “free to customers,” why would anyone want to drop out?
Could there be more to education than “public education?” I thought about that when the most successful person in my high school class dropped out and went on to start the Sonic drive-in restaurants.
I reflected on my educational experiences and realized that public schooling was fun but not very challenging. My respect for education came from other sources.
During my preschool years, I watched my father study the Bible and loved to have him read Aesop’s Fables. My first Sunday school teacher expanded my mind with fantastic stories of God-fearing heroes in Scripture. Memorizing prayers of comfort and being taught that I was a “child of God” pointed me in a direction that valued learning — to make the most with what God has blessed me. Later, when required to memorize Bible passages in religion classes, I concluded that brainpower has no limits. It just has to be plugged in.
While my grade school teachers were nice but mediocre, recess was a valuable training ground. The rough and tumble play and competition taught social interaction. I learned to judge a person as an individual, not as a member of some “group." Frankie Ramirez didn’t need “affirmative action” when I chose him for my softball team.
No high school teacher was a standout, but the concept of “practice makes perfect” came from my private piano and organ teachers. And I thank the local Rotary Club for inviting me to accompany their singing at weekly meetings. Being around successful community leaders and their guest speakers opened my eyes to the world of business and travel.
I commend the employers who gave me summer work experience, jobs that paid little but taught me more than any single classroom course.
Fortunately, my 7th grade public school math and history teachers were exceptional, encouraging me toward a career in education. They were fine role models who motivated me to learn every day.
Our nation was founded by people who studied the history and governments of many civilizations. They wrote a Constitution limiting the powers of our national government. And for 100 years, parents and local communities successfully educated their children.
But “big education” became the politically correct rage, bringing with it big government and powerful unions that diminished the power and influence of the people.
Fortunately, Americans familiar with our nation’s history and traditions understand that freedom and morality are fundamental American virtues. Armed with those principles they are beginning to reassert their authority to determine how their children will be educated.