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Public education has a problem, and it’s not COVID-19

Public education, preschool through secondary, is one of the greatest resources we have as a nation, as a human race. That’s a position that you’d think everyone would agree on. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. Public education is under attack and we have to fight tooth and nail to save it. 

Publicly-funded education as an institution is not actually such an old and historic institution as people living in today’s modern world might believe. Public education as we know it has only developed in the last 100 years or so and it has developed fast. From the one-room schoolhouse to schools with the population of small towns, we have already come a long way. There are people who think we either haven’t come far enough in that time or they think that we can go no further than we already have. 

The main proponents of this movement to axe our public education system are people who identify with the Libertarian political party. There are varying degrees in their beliefs as with all political ideologies but the primary reason for wanting to “defund public education” comes from the criticisms the system faces and the alleged idea that if you privatize education than bad schools will just simply not exist because people won’t pay for them. Like many movements to privatize other industries, the flaws in this are quite obvious. This philosophy presumes that everyone just has money to spend on education. They do not. 

The primary counterpoint to the argument that not everyone just has cash to drop on education is the supposed introduction of a new system by which tax money is allocated to the student rather than the school. There is some merit to this idea but however, the system still falls apart. We live in a capitalist society. There isn’t arguing that. I’m not going to go back and forth about the economic philosophy our country should be using. In a capitalist society, especially a neoliberalist one like ours, the working class is stripped clean of any extra money they have. Everything is a commodity, even things we need to live. Food, water, shelter, etc. With capitalist pressures and a completely privatized education system, we will return to a society where families will make the choice of food over education. Before the advent of our current system, it was not required for children to go to school or get any schooling at all. Many people never learned how to read (it should be noted that there are many who still don’t know how). We will suffer completely as a society if education is continually devalued the way it has in recent years. 

The leadership of our country has pushed and pushed for the privatization of education, causing some very bizarre movements. Homeschooling was already an option but in recent years, some more affluent homeschoolers are instead hiring teachers privately to teach in so-called “education pods.” These amount to nothing more than privatized schooling under a different guise. These homeschooling pods have little to no standards on what they teach and are done quite willy-nilly. On top of this, these homeschoolers often intersect with the anti-vaxx movement, Creationism movement, or the anti-sex education movement. 

Do not get me wrong: there are plenty of problems with the way the public education system is run but there are so many more benefits than there are detriments. Public education creates a more widespread educated civilian population and shrinks socioeconomic gaps. Public education’s concept of “standards” creates better educated people by removing the mask of lenses and teaching them about the real world, not the reality their parents want them to know. Yes, it is direly important that students move past sixth-grade biology and know that yes, there are more than two genders. Yes, gender and sex are not the same. Yes, gender and sexuality are completely separate, and yes, students need to know about healthy sexual activity. On top of these concepts, students need to be educated about evolution and natural selection. They need to be educated about the dangers of climate change, because that is something that could kill them in their lifetime. 

Public education has its issues but that doesn’t mean throw the whole thing out. That means make small adjustments here and there until we have the best system we can have. To give up on the public education system is to give up on equitable education and we cannot move to that place in our country. 

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