Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Our Democracy’s Public Schools

Democracy Relies on Public Schools
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, August 29, 2023, p. A6

OK, I’ll just say it, “I don’t object to the existence of religious and other private schools. I just don’t want them funded with taxpayers’ dollars.”

As Ed Wasserman pointed out in a letter earlier this year, neither did Republicans – in 1876. Republicans who search for “original intent” ought to be required to chew on their party’s platform plank from that year:

“The public school system . . . is the bulwark of the American republic . . .. [W]e recommend an amendment to the constitution . . . forbidding the application of any public funds . . . for the benefit of any school . . . under sectarian control.”

We shouldn’t be surprised with this Republican sleight of hand. This is the same political party that demanded Trump-appointed U.S. attorney David Weiss investigate Hunter Biden. And then responded with outrage when Attorney General Merrick Garland made Weiss the special counsel to do so.

As former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld might have said, “You don’t govern with the opposing party you wish you had, you govern with the opposing party you’ve got.”

In that spirit, let’s imagine how Republicans might expand private funding for those rejecting public programs.

A family or business preferring private protection services could forgo access to the police in exchange for some money toward their security service.

A golfer might say, “I’ll agree to stay off the public golf courses in exchange for some taxpayer dollars to help with my country club dues.”

A citizen who has never entered the public library might prefer televised media and request a contribution toward a larger TV screen to watch Fox News.

The possibilities are as endless as they are a mind-numbing misunderstanding of democracies.

[Photo credit: Iowa Department of Education, https://educateiowa.gov/walk-through-iowa-s-one-room-schoolhouses (“Here is the original well of an 1800s school house located near Shellsburg in Benton County.”) And see, Tom Morain, “One-Room Schools,” Iowa Pathways, Iowa PBS, undated, https://www.iowapbs.org/iowapathways/mypath/one-room-schools (“The first schoolhouse in Iowa was built in 1830 in Lee County.”)
“Historically, Iowans’ enthusiasm and generosity for education has been overwhelming. . . In the 1800s they paid for 12,000 one-room schoolhouses for their kids. In the 1900s they were rightfully proud of funding a K-12 system ranked among the nation’s best. . . . The University of Iowa, 1847, and University of Northern Iowa, 1876, were primarily built with Iowans’ dollars . . .. “ “How to Save Higher Ed,” The Gazette, March 19, 2017; https://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2017/03/how-to-save-higher-ed.html]

One of the central benefits of democracies born of communities is their provision of the rules and tools for creating majority agreement on programs of such benefit to everyone they should be funded by everyone.

Those who came before us realized that for the vast landmass called the United States to become a “community” required many connecting networks. So they built them – a postal system, roads, railroads, telegraph, telephone, and ultimately international radio, television and Internet.

They also were sufficiently convinced of the public benefit from public libraries, parks, and wilderness reserves for everyone to pay for them, too.

Even if you drive the back country “blue highways” on vacation, you still benefit from what our 49,000-mile Interstate Highway System brings you. Few complained of its cost, let alone sought reimbursement because of how little they’d use it.

Boston’s first school was established April 23, 1635 – 141 years before there was a “United States.” How sad that of all the democratically created public programs today’s Republicans could dismantle, they picked the oldest: public education.

The 1876 Republicans knew public education’s standards were essential to have store clerks who know math, doctors who know medicine – and citizens who know civics. It’s no less true today.

Nicholas Johnson is a former Iowa City School Board member. Contact:mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

Ed Wasserman. Ed Wasserman, “GOP has strayed from its original position on public ed,” The Gazette, July 13, 2023, https://www.thegazette.com/letters-to-the-editor/gop-has-strayed-from-its-original-position-on-public-ed/ (“Iowans should be interested in the so-called conservative values of its Republican Party. Here is the text of one of its presidential platform planks from 1876: “The public school system of the several states is the bulwark of the American republic; and, with a view to its security and permanence, we recommend an amendment to the constitution of the United States, forbidding the application of any public funds or property for the benefit of any school or institution under sectarian control.”)

Republicans and David Weiss. Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman, “Republicans Wanted a Special Counsel Investigation of Hunter Biden. Now Many Oppose It; Although some G.O.P. lawmakers see the appointment of David C. Weiss as a vindication of their strategy, others criticize the now-scuttled plea deal he struck with Mr. Biden,” New York Times, Aug. 12, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/12/us/politics/republicans-hunter-biden-special-counsel.html (“Congressional Republicans have for months repeatedly written to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland demanding he appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, the president’s son, over his business dealings.

Some even demanded that a specific man be named to lead the inquiry: David C. Weiss, the Trump-appointed Delaware U.S. attorney who has long investigated the case.

But on Friday, after Mr. Garland elevated Mr. Weiss to special counsel status, Republicans in Congress reacted publicly not with triumph, but with outrage. “David Weiss can’t be trusted and this is just a new way to whitewash the Biden family’s corruption,” Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.”)

Secretary Rumsfeld. Thomas E. Ricks, “Rumsfeld Gets Earful From Troops,” Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2004, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2004/12/09/rumsfeld-gets-earful-from-troops/ec74b055-5090-496b-a66c-145d37a79473/ (“Rumsfeld replied: ‘As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.’")

“Blue highways.” “Blue Highways,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Highways (“In 1978, after separating from his wife and losing his job as a teacher, Heat-Moon, 38 at the time, took an extended road trip in a circular route around the United States, sticking to only the ‘Blue Highways.’ He had coined the term to refer to small, forgotten, out-of-the-way roads connecting rural America (which were drawn in blue on the old style Rand McNally road atlas).”)

Interstate highway system. “Interstate Highway System,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System (“Following the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, use of the railroad system for moving passengers and freight declined sharply, but the trucking industry expanded dramatically and the cost of shipping and travel fell sharply. . . . The Interstate Highway System was being constructed at the same time as the intermodal shipping container made its debut. These containers could be placed on trailers behind trucks and shipped across the country with ease. A new road network and shipping containers that could be easily moved from ship to train to truck, meant that overseas manufacturers and domestic startups could get their products to market quicker than ever, allowing for accelerated economic growth. . . . As of 2020, about one-quarter of all vehicle miles driven in the country used the Interstate Highway System,[3] which had a total length of 48,756 miles (78,465 km).”)

Earliest public school. “Apr 23, 1635 CE: First Public School in America; On April 23, 1635, the first public school in what would become the United States was established in Boston, Massachusetts,” Education, National Geographic, https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/first-public-school-america/ .

# # #

No comments: