Searching for something else entirely, I came across a notable speech by former D.C. Circut Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown. You may best remember Judge Brown from the early 2000s for the long but ultimately failed attempt by the left to keep her off the U.S. Court of Appeals. At any rate, her 2010 speech to The Philadelphia Society is not primarily about education but more about the rising controversy surrounding American exceptionalism. I think it’s safe to say the controversies surrounding this topic are even more heated today than 10 years ago. Brown does touch on the failures of the academy, the collapse of civics, and the purposeful turn against teaching American truths and values in the culture. It’s worth a read if, for nothing else, I think it largely pinpoints what is wrong with so much of our societal angst and unrest today.
When the nation’s history is poorly taught in schools, ignored by the young, and proudly rejected by qualified elders, awareness of tradition consists only in wanting to destroy it.
I think it’s important to take a step back from all the partisan bickering about opening schools and once again think deeply about the purpose of education. “What is the Purpose of Education?” is the very first piece I published at the Civitas Institute. I say this because while I agree that opening the public schools for in-person learning is the best decision to be made, some of the arguments put forth for that reason aren’t always the best. We often hear that we can’t inconvenience working parents and what about the situation of single parents? I’m sure others have pointed this out but it makes public education seem like state-sanctioned childcare or babysitting. And I sympathize with the convenience part 100 percent because my wife and I are working full time with two young boys. It’s a struggle every day and I’m in no position to judge anybody’s family situation, nor do I have any desire to do that.
I’m tired of talking about the coronavirus and it feels like Groundhog’s Day to me. Yet, I hope flowing out of all the challenges going on right now is an ability to collectively look at reform and implement pro-active policy changes in education. It really is a wonderful opportunity for positive creative destruction in the education market. While I know many of the cultural problems we face today can’t be blamed solely on the status-quo education system, it has played a monumental role. As Brown reminds us in her speech, are we truly teaching and upholding the ideas that made this a great nation? She says all of this as an African American woman who once lived under segregation and other obstacles in rural Alabama. Brown’s father was a sharecropper.
Additionally, are we educating students in a way where they are equipped to sustain our Republic and move us forward to a better place than where we are now in terms of freedom?
We must grapple with those fundamental issues today and education is the best place to start.