Opinion: Time’s up for public education

Employers’ struggles with a lack of workers and the quality of those hired stem from the actions of the State. To turn the tide, think of this: all private education.

  • By Matt Walsh
  • | 5:00 a.m. June 17, 2021
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 Every choice has consequences, and, boy, are we living today with the distressing consequences of some well-intended but monumentally bad cultural, social and public-policy choices.

Talk to any business owner or CEO, and he or she inevitably bemoans two nagging issues hampering his or her business’ ability to operate or move forward: the shortage of workers and the quality of them.

Those challenges stem from different choices, but they are linked largely to the role of the State — at the national and state levels. And the consequences of these choices are dragging down the entire nation and seriously wounding what America used to stand for — the land of freedom and opportunity.

Matt Walsh
Matt Walsh

The shortage of labor didn’t take long to manifest. Once the geniuses in Congress and the White House started handing out billions of newly printed dollars to Americans they locked out of work, it shouldn’t have taken much insight to predict what was to follow. 

People always respond to incentives. And when they realize they can make as much or more by not working as they were when working, duh, the consequences are obvious. They’ll take the free money and not work, or work less.

To compound the adverse consequences of this increase in the supply of money — known as inflation — we are experiencing shortages and rising prices. Whenever supplies of money increase and are spent faster than the supply of goods and services, the consequences are also obvious and predictable: rising prices.

Thank you, Congress, Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci.

They were Santa Clauses during the pandemic, but we’re just now seeing the start of the longer-lasting economic pain that is sure to come — especially as Washington continues to spend and print.

Baby Boomers to blame

The other consequence employers are confronting — the quality of the workforce — is a deep-rooted manifestation of what has occurred over decades in the education of the next generations.

All of you business owners and CEOs out there have had the following discussion multiple times with your peers the past few years: Frustrations with millennials and “zillennials” in the workplace.

We know, of course, it’s wrong to paint two generations with the same general criticisms. Every generation — including we baby boomers — has groups of As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs. 

But today, when groups of CEOs talk, inevitably they lapse into frustrations with the 20- and 30-something employees who are so fragile; lacking in drive; unable to take stress; in need of constant stroking; and yet expect to be at the top of the pay scale the day they start.  

Why is it this way? 

They are products of their education — at home and school. 

We’ve all read the stories how baby boomer parents have coddled their offspring. The common refrain is today’s millennial employees come from the “trophy-for-showing-up” generation.

But whose fault is that? Their parents — the enablers, the coddlers, the generation of parents who hire stand-ins to take college entrance exams to get their spoiled children into elite schools.

Add to the enablers, the parents who abdicate their role in their children’s education, letting their children essentially become wards of the State, oblivious to what is being drummed into their children’s brains.

At the same time, America’s schools over the past four decades have become increasingly politicized. In the preface to the late Murray Rothbard’s book, “Education: Free & Compulsory,” Kevin Ryan, an emeritus professor of education at Boston University, wrote in 1999: 

“Education continues to be one of the most politically charged issues in our national culture, and the conflicts over education in America are likely to grow more polarized so long as the political control grows ever tighter.”

How prescient and correct. The politicization and polarization are heightening, nearing a tipping point. 

In recent weeks, parents all over the country are blasting school boards and teachers’ unions. Likewise, and equally contentious, are the rising protests against Critical Race Theory. 

The proponents of Critical Race Theory hold that U.S. laws and institutions are inherently racist and explicitly function to create and maintain social, economic and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites.

We chronicled two weeks ago in our sister papers excerpts from the website, criticalrace.org, a project of the Rhode Island charitable nonprofit, Legal Insurrection Foundation. Criticalrace.org has documented how Critical Race Theory is being promulgated in more than 200 U.S. universities and colleges.

Florida’s state universities are in the vortex of the movement. To get a sampling, go to this link: bit.ly/3gyytmv to see how Florida university administrators have bought into the narrative. 

• At the University of South Florida, there’s the “Anti-Racism Office of the President.” 

• At the University of Central Florida, there’s the “chief equity, inclusion and diversity officer,” a member of the president’s cabinet, and a “president’s executive committee on equity, inclusion and diversity,” making “a requirement that all units and colleges demonstrate their own commitment to inclusive excellence …”

UCF also has an Office of Social Justice and Advocacy “to cover all areas of under-represented communities and exclusivity.”

• At the University of Florida, President Kent Fuchs announced a year ago that “UF will require training of all current and new students, faculty and staff on racism, inclusion and bias.”

Fuchs also said he was charging the university’s leadership “to intensify our efforts in recruiting, supporting and retaining our students, faculty and employees of color, particularly black students, faculty and staff.”

What’s the message here? Clearly, these university presidents believe their schools are “systemically racist” and that black students and staff members, especially, deserve to be treated differently (better?) than all the others. 

This race-based culture doesn’t stop with equity, inclusion and diversity officers. If you examine the course curricula at, say, UF and USF, you see the heavy influence of “we’re racist” and leftist agendas (see box). 

UF’s College of Arts & Sciences offers 35 courses on Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies. It offers 25 courses on African-American Studies. It offers eight courses on Latin American studies, three of them focused on “foreign language translation.” Hispanic students, meanwhile, comprise 19.5% of the UF undergraduate student body; blacks comprise 5.6% of the undergrad population.

USF’s College of Arts &  Sciences has a link to what it calls “a comprehensive list” of courses — 192 in all — on race and racism, social justice and social inequalities.

Even the USF College of Engineering has its own division of diversity and inclusion, including a program whose top objective is developing a model for the “advancement of minority women in STEM as faculty.” 

And, to be expected, in the USF Department of Economics, you’ll find these elective courses: Economics of Inequality and Economics of Women and Work. Good luck finding anything that addresses the virtues of capitalism.

No matter where you walk in a university setting, you cannot avoid how the professorial class has politicized college education.

Its defenders say this is freedom of expression, opening young people’s minds to new ideas. 

But to invite, say, Sean Hannity as a campus speaker would recoil into protests, rock throwing and window smashing. Free speech? No way, say today’s college students. Emblematic of what they’ve been taught, we often hear them say the First Amendment should be abolished.

All the while this entrenched bureaucracy is funded and subsidized with billions of dollars from taxpayers who have little or no say in how that money is deployed. The Progressive beat goes on, unscathed, unstoppable.

Rewriting civics

But let’s not just focus on the left.

Our Republican-dominated Legislature is using the power of the State to change what and how civics is taught in Florida’s public schools.

In 2019, the Legislature passed and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill requiring the Florida Department of Education to conduct a complete review of the statewide civics courses.

 The result is now in draft form — 21 pages of specific content students in kindergarten through eighth grade would be expected to master (see: bit.ly/3vsIl6G).

If only every Floridian actually mastered all that is being recommended for the state’s civics courses, it could help reverse the current cultural tides. It’s what every American should know.

But as it is with all the taxpayer-funded, State-sanctioned, progressive influences in the universities, this proposed Magna Carta of U.S. civics is no different. It is the State — and a committee appointed by politicians — about to mandate their version of what constitutes proper civics.

Just as conservatives decry the leftist influences in the universities, you would expect progressives to be equally resistant to the conservative influences in Florida’s proposed civics curriculum.

Taken together, both points of view expose the fatal conceit: The terrible flaws and failures of State-controlled, taxpayer-funded education, and how those flaws and failures have shaped a next-generation workforce, much of which rejects the Bill of Rights; believes capitalism is evil; embraces socialism; and is convinced the nation is systemically racist and doomed because of climate change.

It’s encouraging to see parents stand up to the woke school boards. But to bring an end to the pressure-group schooling, a way out is unthinkable blasphemy: Abolish taxpayer-funded, State-controlled schools. Go back to the way education began — private and philanthropic schooling.

If parents were truly free to choose, the marketplace would respond the way it always does. It would fill the wants and needs of parents and students the way automakers and fashion designers fill the wants and needs of the marketplace — at all levels and quality they can afford.

“Once men are free,” wrote Leonard Piekoff, the heir to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, in “Teaching Johnny to Think,” “the best among them in all fields will rise to the top, including in the field of education … The better the educators, the more their students will get the good jobs, achieve success, make money and live a happy life.”

To keep doing what we’re doing will give us more of what we’re getting.




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