November 2, 2021

Bruce Lesley: Why Public Schools? They Are Fundamental to Democracy

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Bruce Lesley makes an impassioned argument for the support of public education.

Our democracy needs, or actually demands, informed citizens. Consequently, our nation’s founders strongly supported the creation of public schools. Thomas Jefferson said:

Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.

It is critically important for children themselves but also our country. Education enables its citizens to develop their full potential, which enables our democracy to flourish. It is about both helping individuals learn and grow and creating a successful and prosperous society.

Again, as Jefferson explains:

The object is to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country, for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind, which, in proportion to our population, shall be double or treble of what it is in most countries.

Our nation has become a leading voice for democracy in the world and one of the world’s wealthiest nations in large part to public education. The vast majority of people in the United States, including doctors, scientists, business leaders, and religious leaders, owe their teachers and public schools a great deal of gratitude for all that they have become.

And yet, from time to time, we must relitigate the very existence of public education. Just this week, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for the 2022 Ohio soon-to-be open Senate seat, Josh Mandel, called for the abolition of public schools.

Mandel is proposing something more akin to a theocracy than a democracy, and he is effectively rejecting much of our nation’s history and state constitutions that have established a right to public schools, including the Ohio Constitution as modified in 1851.

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