Re: the right to purse excellence

Kyle Griffin (
Wed, 30 Apr 1997 18:59:23 EDT

In responding to Deborah Bartle's question about removing the top 15% of
students from the public classrooms, Scott David Gray wrote:

>Well... I'd say the following:
> 1: A person can't serve very well as a role model when s/he is stuck
>behind a desk and forbidden to communicate with other kids, or to
>engage in those individual activities which would interest other kids.
> 2: You may have causality reversed. It may not be that the 'cream
>of the crop' students are choosing to leave, but that those who leave
>develop real independant interests and thereby _become_ the
>'cream of the crop' students.
> 3: If you think your kid would be better off in the same school as
>my kid, please consider allowing your child to enroll in our school!

These are all interesting or useful answers, but they don't seem to
the real meat of Mrs. Bartle's question. The question is how to respond
a moral question, and Mr. Grays responsess are all answers about the
aspect of what is happening. While these are, I repeat, useful answers,
dodge the center of the question. Let me try to respond in a more direct
to the center of the moral question.

The question that is asked is:

To what extent do I have a duty to promote public education...

And the unstated part of the question is:

at the cost of my own children's education?

The answer to this question depends on several factors, among which are:
to whom you are talking, your ideas on duty in general, how nice you want
to be, and your vision of what the public schools actually do and are

John Taylor Gatto, and a whole tradition of educators, will argue that
the public schools are not only dangerous/damaging to children, but also
constructed not to educate, but to engineer obedient citizens. However,
this extreme viewpoint is not very likely to be accepted by anyone not
already familiar with anti-schooling literature.

Ayn Rand would argue that you have no duty to public education, even
without taking into account that any duty you assume is actually damaging
your kids. However, her moral theory is not liked by very many people,
and is contrary the moral position of most of the people in this country.

A friend of mine argues that schools are prisons, except that in prisons
they don't make you read books written by the wardens. Again, if the
person to whom you are talking doesn't already share this viewpoint, then
this can be offensive.

So, let me try to present a calm, quiet answer that isn't likely to
offend anyone:

To whatever extent we have a duty to promote the education of the public,
this is only a part of a more general duty to make the world a better
place to live in. It is my contention that if we wish to make the world
a better place to live in, we need adults who have learned to think for
themselves, who have learned to decide for themselves what is important
in life, and who disagree with the notion that authority is necessarily
right, or to be obeyed. The public schools, as they exist now, do
violence to each of these attitudes in each of their students. As such,
it is a greater duty to society to take children out of the schools, and
permit them to learn these important ideas, than to leave them in the
schools, and have them lose these values along with all the other
students. it's short on the not offending anyone end...but that's the
strongest direction of argument I have against the schools.