I found Zach Yost’s comments on public education to be thoughtless, unhelpful and typical of the cruel mindset that afflicts some in today’s society.
It is unfortunate that the goal of helping students discover the world around them, how they fit in that world, and their responsibilities to that world has become such a target for attack by various elements of the public, the media, and the political class.
It is important to point out that I do believe that Melissa Harris-Perry, one of the targets of Mr. Yost’s writing, could have worded her comments more carefully. Yes, children do indeed belong to their families (and to themselves). However, children do also play vital roles in the community and the world writ large.
That being the case, I believe that we have a responsibility to help these children grow into kind, ethical, curious, hard-working adults. This should be the ‘mission statement’ of public schools, and it is one of the many functions that they play.
Public school is where students go to learn things they may not ever talk about in home.
Public school is where students discover new aspects of culture. Public school is where children learn exciting ways of expressing themselves, like music, visual arts, and theatre. And yes, public school, to quote Mr. Yost, is where students learn to “be a good citizen and uphold one’s civic duty.”
In short, public school gives every student a chance to learn and to become more human.
Mr. Yost says, “I [am] being forced to pay for something I don’t believe in.”
What, I wonder, would he say to the pacifist who doesn’t believe in the military?
As a society, we have goals that not all of us may hold equal. But many are worthy goals. Public education is one.