Political Philosophy in Public Education

I’ve recently added The Plank, one of The New Republic’s blogs, to one of my RSS feeds.  I’m glad I did, because it gave me the chance to read this great post:

It’s high time Americans start learning about the conservative movement. For whatever reason, we can identify feminists, Islamists, environmentalists, abolitionists–but very few of us know that conservatism, a coherent ideological movement, even exists.

I love the whole thing and completely agree, but I go farther.  I don’t think political philosophy is handled very well at all, of course this is coming from personal experience.  He says that, “it leads fair-minded people to assume conservatives are basically just people with bowties or people who like guns (or both).”  In short, the overview of current political philosophies is so pathetically brief that our education system, which I assume has the need to create an intelligent and assertive citizenry at the height of its priorities, fails to do just that.

From my experience, and the experience of every like aged person I’ve asked, our American History classes end somewhere around World War One or World War Two.  If we’re lucky we get to Vietnam, but that’s only if we skip a lot of other important things.  Rarely do we get to the Conservative “revolution” and rarely are the political philosophies of the day explained or analyzed.

This is not just a failure of the public schools, it’s a failure of many parochial schools.

I was talking with a friend who attempted to describe Conservatism and Liberalism in a clear and succinct way by saying that Conservatives want the government in society, but out of the economy, and Liberals want the opposite, while Libertarians want them out of neither.  This is such a simplistic way of viewing things that it fails to tell me anything about the ideologies, and in fact negates many important beliefs on both sides.

Conservatives pay lip service to the free market, and indeed many of them believe in it.  But this is not an essential conservative belief, and many conservatives support great regulation of the economy.  How about the Bear Sterns fiasco?  What about corporate welfare?  The conservatives stand by a tax system which benefits large corporations and makes it difficult for smaller ones.  These are all instances of government meddling, and are for the most part supported by our conservative party.

Liberals also enjoy stepping into social life.  Education is a key area.  How about sex ed?  The Democratic party supports a greater homogenization of the public school system in terms of curriculum.  There’s also social welfare to consider, which has many effects on one’s personal life.  

Conservatives and liberals are nearly equal in their governmental meddling, the difference is where.  And this truth seems to be lost on a lot of people.

If we are going to get in depth on the various political traditions in America, I think we should do so on both.  In fact, throw in the anarchists and the communists.  Let’s explain all of them from their basic assumptions up to how it’s reflected in their policy.  I think it is entirely necessary if our goal in public education is an educated public, that can vote with all of the necessary information at hand.

Russell Kirk was never mentioned in my high school.  William F. Buckley was a blurb on the side.  Keynes was given a paragraph that does his thought no justice.  Ayn Rand, forget her.  Marx was driven over so fast that I was only taught the Labor Theory of Value by a liberal history teacher who passed it off as fact.  Think Lysander Spooner stood a chance?  Or William James?

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One Response to Political Philosophy in Public Education

  1. edbooked says:

    For insight into the real world of public education read the novel, The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education, available via http://www.Xlibris.com, http://www.bn.com, http://www.borders.com, or http://www.amazon.com. This intriguing, socially relevant,and enlightening story possesses many of the elements commonly found in just about every school system throughout the United States. It discuses the potential, challenges, and obstacles that currently litter the public education landscape in America. Check it out for youself. See if you can identify with the characters and situations presented. Discuss it with your friends. Do you agree with the proposed solutions?

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