This is a story about straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel. The topic is education.
An article from Slate.com relates a story of parents who decided to have their two teenage children opt out of standardized testing in Boulder, Colorado public schools. Despite the well-known legal option for them to opt out, they were shocked to be met with a barrage of annoying and suspicious tactics, beginning with the principal himself, to cajole them into changing their minds. In the end, there is a strange mixture of decrying coercion and relying on it at the same time involved here.
This is a huge part of what’s wrong in education: the whole system is based on coercion. Parents, especially Christians, who benefit from the system, remain either oblivious to, or in denial of, this fact. But it is inescapable: they rely on government-backed coercion. But the moment some little annoyance in the system causes them to make an extra trip to and fro, or grates against their idea of convenience or common sense, they decry the “force” in the system.
This is exactly what comes through, to me, in this story. I suggest you read it with that read it with this self-contradiction in mind.
After informing the school of their decision, the parents were immediately contacted, within 15 minutes, by the younger daughter’s school principal. This is unprecedented. The principal employed several weak arguments which the parent rebutted easily. The principal persisted on the phone, wasting the parent’s time, but failed to persuade.
Then, shortly after that conversation, the older daughter’s high school sent out a suspiciously-timed email urging full participation of all students (hint, hint). This email included veiled threats: students not participating may lose favors, may be marked absent, may not get to participate in sports that day, etc. And worse: non-participating students may damage the school’s ratings! (Hint, hint, parents: lower ratings may be your fault.)
A day later, another tactic: schools informed the parents that non-participating children could not be on school grounds during testing. This annoyed the parents: it was not necessary, and now they would have to make an extra trip to and from school.
It was not over. During this extra pick-up trip, the assistant principal came running out to accost the parent with further persuasive efforts. Boy what a guilt-trip he had prepared! “We support your daughter. Why don’t you support our school?”
If the mother had been quick, she would have reminded that tax-parasite that she pays thousands in property taxes each year in order to “support our school.”
But she did not. She was polite, bore it, and left.
But she was now curious. She started some research into why this was such a touchy topic for school officials. In short, she learned that, among other things, high participation (95%) is required or else school’s funding can be affected. (She also learned that opting-out has been phased out and participation is actually required now. She got vervous.)
A school administrator told the mother that she wished more people would flex their freedom and opt-out, but it would take “thousands” of parents to do so before it could have true impact.
The mother felt stuck in a plight: her little measure of freedom would be squashed without thousands more joining her, but if by chance they did join her, “I might cause teachers to be downgraded and schools to lose funding.”
The mother reeled: “How does any parent weigh those very real consequences against her commitment to doing what’s best for her kids?”
She got feedback from friends: “There is enormous pressure on the school. The school is not choosing to inflict these tests—it is forced to.”
Awww, poor school: “It’s forced to.” Now let’s just think about the broader implications of that concept for a moment. Think about the bigger picture. These parents are so upset because the state “forces” certain standards on the school that pressure administrators and annoy parents. They do not mention one bit that force is at the root, heart, and surface of the system.
The whole socialistic system is based on government coercion: mandatory attendance, mandatory property tax funding, mandatory standards—bend and submit. Free people have no alternative in this system. Even if they homeschool or private school, they still have to “support” public schools through their taxes and submission to other laws.
In short, what we get out of leftist rags like Slate, its leftist authors, and millions of people who are trapped mentally and physically in a leftist system of education, is total reliance on state coercion for education, but complaining here and there when the system prompts a wrinkled eyebrow.
There’s a phrase for this: it is called straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel.
For my part, if opting out of standardized tests is all it takes for schools to lose funding, I would start an all-out campaign for 100% opt-outs tomorrow. I wish all public schools were totally privatized, all were privately funded, and all Christians homeschooled and Christian schooled their children.
Now, Slate is a leftist rag. I we cannot expect leftists to believe, propose, or legislate like free Christians who don’t believe in stealing or coercing others for their own benefit, or even the benefits of “society.” We expect them to act like the leftists they are.
But the millions of allegedly free Christians who are accurately represented by this story have no excuse. They ought to know better. They ought to act better. Instead, we find them doing virtually the same thing: complaining every time a Common Core or other leftist annoyance comes along—instead of realizing the sin inherent in the system, and leaving it altogether.
It’s time to remove the planks from the eyes. It’s time to stop straining at gnats and swallowing camels.