Kansas Board of Education election demonstrates one thing

A New York Times article said: “The races have been hard-fought.” Yes, they were.

Looking at some of the comments left on various discussion forums in the state of Kansas, the victors are joyously gleeful in their win and vindictive towards the defeated. I would hazard to guess that the victors were more interested in victory for its own sake, and more motivated by hatred for their rivals, than for the substance of what they were fighting for.

The two most-read (my guess; I could be wrong) blogs in Kansas exist, solely in one case and primarily in the other, to promote their authors’ personal agenda of whether to teach evolution in Kansas public schools.

The substance of this fight is over something relatively minor in the overall picture of a child’s education. Unless one majors in the biological sciences, evolution — no matter what side you take — is a chapter or two in a course that many students never take. Even for those working in the field of science it may not be that important. I spoke to a veterinarian friend of mine and asked what role the study of evolution played in her professional training. The answer: none. I imagine if I asked my physician I would get the same answer.

While this scuffle takes place American students continue to fall behind other nations in skills as basic as reading and mathematics. As reported in other articles published on this website, adult literacy, even for college graduates, is embarrassingly low.

From both left and right, political combatants fight to force others to bow to their view of what Kansas children should be taught. They have to fight. We have one system of government schools that everyone must use (or pay doubly to escape). The victors, then, have great power over the minds of children, and everyone must bow to their will.

This election vividly demonstrates that we are foolish to leave the responsibility for the education of children to politicians. Combining this election with the controversy over Kansas school finance provides ample evidence that politicians and education bureaucrats are more interested in their own power, their ability to force others to submit to their vision of the world, than they are about the meaningful education of children.

During the past few years there has been little discussion of what would really improve education in Kansas: simply give parents control over the education of their children. By implementing school choice through vouchers, let parents decide whether schools — public or private, secular or religious, large or small — are doing a good job for their children. By letting markets, rather than government, provide schooling, parents can choose what type of school they want for their children. They wouldn’t be subject to the whims of what elected politicians, education bureaucrats, and teachers union bosses believe is best for them.

Let the government of the State of Kansas relinquish its monopoly on the financing and production of schooling — the very type of monopoly power that, if wielded by private enterprise, would be condemned as unjust and immoral.

But the public education lobby in Kansas works very effectively to protect its monopoly. In the meantime, schoolchildren fall farther behind.


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