Did you expect something else?
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Beth Cody, Writers' Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen

I read Scott Rude's op-ed "Parents should have voice in textbook choices" (Aug. 16) with interest. He pointed out numerous examples of bias in the Iowa City School District's third grade social studies textbook: pro-government, pro-union, pro-socialized medicine and child care, positive references to communist governments; anti-free market, portraying all businesses as evil polluters that exploit workers, with no mention whatsoever of the positive role of markets.

My gentle question to Mr. Rude is: Are you actually surprised by this?

You're surprised that government schools run by government employees will teach children that what this country needs is.... wait for it ... more government and more government employees?

Of course textbooks are biased in favor of government. They aren't going to teach students that free markets (not government programs) have resulted in the incredible advances in life expectancy and standards of living of the past century.

Students won't learn that slavery was only a subsequent pretext for Lincoln’s destructive war, that monopolies only exist with government help, that the Federal Reserve and government policies caused the Great Depression, or that most improvements in safety, freedom and prosperity for the masses occurred before the government programs that supposedly engineered them.

Mr. Rude's suggestion to counter this bias is to urge parents to voice their opinions about textbooks and somehow make school boards listen to parents. But teachers and school boards don't listen to parents for a very good reason: They don't have to.

Parents do not have the ability to withhold their money from schools that displease them. We are forced to pay for schools no matter how mediocre or biased. So teachers and school boards are free to ignore parents (and the education of children too, for that matter).

If a store ignored the wishes of customers and didn't constantly innovate to provide better products and service at lower prices than its competitors, it would soon be driven out of business. But there are few market forces driving schools to teach more effectively for less money, or to teach what parents think is important.

Teachers claim that they want more "parental involvement," but what they really mean is that they want supportive parents briefly visiting the classroom to drop off donated supplies and to organize bake sales to buy things for the school (because the ever-rising taxes we pay go to administrative expenses and fancy building maintenance, not direct education costs). Teachers assuredly do not want parents telling them which textbooks to use.

Sadly, trying to influence the curriculum of government schools is doomed to fail.

The only way to have any control over what your children learn is to remove your children from government schools.

Because when you sit down to dinner with the devil, you have little right to complain about the menu (even though you pay for the meal).

Of course, this is difficult for parents. Private schools (somewhat more responsive to parents) are expensive. Homeschooling often requires sacrificing an income. It's tempting to use what we've already been forced to pay for, no matter how mediocre or biased.

But when we leave the education of our children to government, we get the kind of trained citizens government wants: citizens who believe the false narrative of beneficent government and exploitative markets; citizens who dutifully vote for their own enslavement to entitlement programs even as those programs prepare to implode.

I personally believe that homeschooling is the answer. I certainly have a voice in choosing the many books my children read – books that reflect what I believe is right and true.

Yes, it's more work and reduces my income. But is raising and educating children supposed to be easy or free?

Without a doubt, it is easier and more effective than trying in vain to influence government schools.