After reading a recent opinion piece by a ‘conservative’, Oklahoma law professor (Right Thinking: Grumpy suburbanites and the populist conservative base, by Andrew Spiropoulos) I had to laugh. While I agreed with 9/10ths of his very excellent treatise on populism vs conservatism, I had to part company altogether when this man began discussing education – particularly relating to Superintendent Barresi’s election loss and Governor Fallin’s recent drop in the polls.
To him, Barresi lost and Fallin has dropped in the polls – not because their education reform initiatives were too heavy handed, but because they were not heavy handed enough.
This makes me laugh because elitists tend to recognize elitism in everyone but themselves. Hilariously, this law professor outs himself as elitist by saying, "… our (Oklahoma) business elite does not have a strong intellectual grasp of the tenets or policy successes of conservatism", after which he calls dissenters of big government education reform, such as I, 'grumpy suburbanites' (wasn’t it Arne Duncan (a Democrat) who blamed the failure of education ‘reform’ on “white suburban moms”?).
This professor appears to understand conservatism in every area but public education. To him, conservatism in this venue should be state-control under the virtuous flag of 'accountability for taxpayer funds'.
Conservatism is a political philosophy most in line with the majority of American Founders. To them, conservatism, “conserves” power to the individual OVER the state – in point of fact, conservatism imbues the notion of individual rights. Conservatism doesn’t parse itself across each segment of our lives. It doesn’t break down into fiscal ‘conservatism’ versus individual rights, or political ‘conservatism’ versus individual rights. To the elitist, however, "fiscal conservatism" relates to ‘conserving’ assets, therefore if local school boards overspend, the state must force ‘conservatism’ by subjecting individuals on school boards all across the state to laws addressing overspending in public education. This notion is fallacious as it necessarily embargoes individual rights. It also usurps the ability of individuals to learn by removing negative consequences – but that’s another topic for another day.
Either individuals or government have the power - it can't be both. In some circumstances, the people delegate their power to government (ie; traffic laws), but government cannot usurp the right of individuals because it doesn't like the way the right is utilized. Certainly, government cannot usurp a parent’s right to direct the education of their own children (child endangerment issues notwithstanding), yet that is exactly what happened with Oklahoma’s 3rd grade reading retention law, (as one of many examples - Common Core being another).
It is a parent's duty to hold their children accountable for whether or not they are reading by the end of third grade. When Governor Fallin vetoed the MINOR change to the third grade reading retention law (simply adding a PARENT to the group of school personnel deciding whether their child should graduate), parents felt cut out of the process of educating their children. Since parents maintain the right and responsibility to care for their children as they see fit, parents recognized this as a usurpation of their individual rights. I believe one of the reasons for the downturn in our Governor's poll numbers resulted from a parental awakening to this kind of elitism rampant in our currently Republican-controlled government.
The elitist thought process eschews personal responsibility and individual rights when they are exercised in a way seen as inappropriate by the elitist – particularly in education. “Many parents are _______ (‘poor’, ‘ill-educated’, ‘drug addicts’, ‘grumpy suburbanites’) and cannot be trusted to educate their children appropriately.” This leads elitists to gravitate toward state controlled education – not education of the public provided by churches and communities with local/parent control as the Founders advocated.
I personally believe a majority of today’s parents remiss in their duties regarding their children’s education. Far too many times as a teacher I sent items home in backpacks that were never opened, or I sat in a quiet classroom of an evening because parents couldn’t be bothered to attend parent/teacher meetings. I am, however, a staunch believer in individual rights – even if it means the right to have a child living in your basement until age 30 because you couldn’t be bothered to assume the responsibility necessary to appropriately direct their education, or I as a taxpayer have to cough up money to the criminal justice system to ‘rehabilitate’ the child you refused to rear or educate when you were tasked with that responsibility.
For hundreds of years, the state was an actor prevented from even reading for the part of parent. Actually, it wasn't until the early 1960’s, when tax exemptions provided the excuse for many to abandon their missions, churches stopped assuming the role of responsible party for the uneducated/undereducated, teaching them their rights and responsibilities and setting them on the path to fruitful citizenship.
Though to invoke the words of American Founders today seems to be to invite derision in many circles, John Adams well illustrated the current breakdown in understanding between elitists and conservatives, parents and parental responsibility,
“…we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
I believe In today’s vernacular we would say; “Know your rights and responsibilities – govern yourself – or men will do it for you in your name.” Look around. Isn't that just what we're seeing today?