I don’t understand the vocal minority’s long-term goal or intent

“We have critics whose stated goal is to do away with our constitutionally stated mission of providing a uniform and thorough public education system. I don’t understand the vocal minority’s long-term goal or intent. But when they continuously promote the narrative that our education system is broken, and we need to defund it, they’re striking at the very foundation of the great economy that we have built here in Idaho.”

That recent quote from the State Board of Education President Kurt Liebich at the Statehouse indicates frustration and confusion.  I want to make sense of this, too.

Why do critics want to do away with our constitutionally stated mission of providing a uniform and thorough public education system? And, what is the long-term goal or intent of this vocal minority? 

Mr. Liebich is a businessman…he has a perspective that naturally links education with the economy.  He knows how to communicate with legislators and appeal to them in ways that are beyond me.  

I’m an educator…my take is broader.  Education MAKES the person, and the person MAKES the family, and the family MAKES the community, and the community MAKES the state, and the state MAKES the nation, and the nation MAKES the world.  There is no law without education; no justice without education; no freedom without education; no medicine no agriculture no engineering no banking no science no business no journalism no history no military no democracy no art no way for society to survive and thrive without education. The undermining of strong, uniform public education is deadlier than just shooting ourselves in the economic foot. 

I was born in Boise, and educated in what were then Meridian schools.  I had some great  teachers whose memories fill me with gratitude still for how they treated me and what I learned from them.  They helped to prime me for the future.  It was then my privilege to go to college in another world. There I began to gain insights into the vastness of humanity.  

The audience I wish I could reach is now cringing… even that phrase, the vastness of humanity, will be pegged as “woke” bs.  But don’t, please, just dismiss this. 

When I left Idaho for university I could not imagine what was out there that was even learnable. Among many other things, I learned that rigorous academics are to minds and hearts what vigorous exercise is to muscles and bones. And that some people think, believe and behave in ways that are perfectly natural and authentic to them, but totally different from the way I think, believe and behave….and it has nothing to do with me.  And some people are comfortable in their own skins and unapologetic for who and how they are, but others are ashamed, muted, fearful, and twisted by social forces into being inauthentic, even with themselves. I learned that there are people who are self-serving, manipulative, deceitful, and dangerous. I learned to appreciate how in the US all people are individuals and also members of these overlapping collectives that shape who they are in the eyes of others and how they view themselves.  American democracy and education give us this liberty.

None of what I learned turned me against who and what I love in Idaho.

My education helps me understand the why of “critics whose stated goal is to do away with our constitutionally stated mission of providing a uniform and thorough public education system.” It’s because they’re afraid of losing their children.  They’re afraid of becoming irrelevant in today’s world and the world of the future.  Blame, anger, self-righteousness and us vs. them division gives a false sense of purpose, security and strength.   

You, Idaho Freedom Foundation, and you “vocal minority”, and you advocating the stranglehold on education called “Parent Choice”….do you all think you’re the only ones who are afraid for their children in this world and in the future?  

You seem to think you are.  You feed your fear and anger and allow it to burn away all reason and any feeling except anger.  You’re building our house on top of an active volcano…and it has no future.  In places around the world where ultra-conservative tradition and paranoia smother progressive thinking and education, life is grim.  The Taliban in Afghanistan are afraid of education and the doors it opens.  On the other hand, in places where tradition finds a balance within a pluralistic society and public education flourishes, hope and freedom live.

The art and science solutions we need for our future will grow out of the strong base of education we maintain.

From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain:

What is the long-term goal or intent of this vocal minority?  Whatever it is…you can’t get there from here.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

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About Hester Comstock

Hester Comstock is a teacher in the Boise School District.

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