Love never fails: Why we shouldn’t give up on public schools

My pastor husband and I often find ourselves counseling couples struggling to overcome problems in their relationships. We remind them that love is a decision, not an accident, that requires disciplined commitment, especially when things aren’t going smoothly. I apply that same thinking to America’s relationship with our public schools.

The debate over whether the education of children in America should be a public or private enterprise is as old as the nation itself. Some are calling for our society to divorce itself from our moral obligation to provide quality, public education to all our children. While I highly respect those parents who choose to educate their children at home or pay for private education, I believe public education is essential for our nation. I humbly add myself to the long list of Americans who share that view.

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves. — John Adams, U.S. President, 1785

It was in making education not only common to all, but in some sense compulsory on all, that the destiny of the free republic of America was practically settled. — James Russell Lowell, poet, editor, and diplomat, 1870

[T]he fact remains that the whole country is directly interested in the education of every child that lives within its borders. The ignorance of any part of the American people so deeply concerns all the rest that there can be no doubt of the right to pass laws compelling the attendance of every child at school… — Frederick Douglass, African American writer and abolitionist, 1883.

A republican government should be based on free and equal education among the people. — Susan B. Anthony, 1900.

Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to, convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty. — Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President, 1787.

Fewer pillories and whipping posts and smaller gaols [jails], with their usual expenses and taxes, will be necessary when our youth are properly educated, than at present. I believe it could be proved that the expenses of confining, trying, and executing criminals amount every year, in most of the counties, to more money than would be sufficient to maintain the schools. — Benjamin Rush, physician and statesman,1786

What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy. — John Dewey, 1907.

“[We must] make known our educational needs and rights, and contend for every educational privilege, vouchsafed to our children as the coming citizens of a free democracy.” — renowned African American educator, Mary McLeod Bethune, 1924.

Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army. — Edward Everett (1794-1865, American statesman and scholar.

I would argue further that the push for application of free market principles in the reform of schools is insidiously counterproductive and may actually threaten American democracy in profound ways. Developing a rating system for schools based on flawed, limited testing instruments, then publishing those ratings in a push to get parents to shop around for educational options sounds like democracy in action. In reality, it exacerbates existing inequalities in educational and social resources. The goal should not be to see how many schools we can close down or force out of business, but rather how many schools we as a nation can reclaim, restore, and reconnect to the communities from which they should organically grow — Renee Moore, Christian, teacher, parent, taxpayer, patriot.