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By Frederick Meekins
March 14, 2001

"If I were mayor, I would...." That is the question posed by an essay contest for Maryland fourth graders sponsored by the Maryland Municipal League, the Maryland State Department of Education, the Maryland Center for Education, and the Local Government Insurance Trust.

Winners of the contest will receive a plaque and a $250.00 savings bond to be presented at a Bowie Baysox baseball game in April. Each student participating in the essay contest will receive a ticket to attend the presentation and to enjoy the ensuing game.

Most would find this an innovative way to promote interest in civics and the use of communication skills by elementary students. The catch is, however, not all Maryland fourth graders are able to participate. You see, to be eligible one must be enrolled in a public school.

Such a stipulation could have been added for two possible reasons.

It is possible that private and homeschoolers were excluded from the contest on the grounds that standardized tests tend to prove that students matriculated in these forms of instruction are academically superior to pupils surrendered to the statist alternative. After all, it wouldn't be seemly having these bright young minds trounce their scholastic counterparts at a propaganda rally designed to lavish praise upon the public system.

While part of this exclusion of private and homeschool students stems from "honest" jealously of the stellar academic achievements of this brand of student, this academic discrimination also belies a disturbing ideological current festering in the hearts and minds of certain proponents of public education.

Realizing it is nearly impossible to beat private and homeschoolers on the field of pure academic quality alone, some formulating public policy now believe the best way to counter the competition is to surreptitiously undermine it by penalizing and disenfranchising families who fail to settle for the second-rate product. The rules of the "If I were mayor, I would..." contest are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Like most aspiring totalitarians throughout history, those in the educational system also use their own shortcomings as an excuse to foster their schemes upon those onto whom have been projected the deleterious characteristics.

To compensate for the declining reputation of America's system of public education and the decreasing value of a high school diploma, various states --- with the endorsement of business, industry, and higher academia --- have developed so-called "Certificates of Mastery".

The purpose of these certificates is to verify that students have actually acquired a predetermined body of knowledge and not just punched a scholastic time clock.

Such an assessment could prove useful in measuring achievement in subjects such as Math, English, and History. However, problems arise regarding the ancillary matters educrats think it is their prerogative to gauge and pry into.

In conjunction with so-called "School-To-Work Programs", these Certificates of Mastery will also measure the flexibility of how well students bend to the requirements and whims of government and industry.

These measurements will do so by assessing how well students work in groups and to what extent they "appreciate" diversity, which usually means touting the leftist line on matters of race, gender and sexual preference.

Parents who did not share in these perspectives with the prevailing humanistic culture as well as on other issues such as evolution, the efficacy of socialism, and the role of religion in modern life have traditionally had the option of meeting the academic needs of their offspring in a manner consistent with their values through means other than the government schools.

However, such an alternative may no longer be as viable since private schools that won't teach to the perspectives enshrined as dogma and holy writ by the curricula commissars in the various departments and boards of education will feel increasing pressure to cave in on matters regarding core belief.

Students with diplomas rather than certificates of mastery might not qualify for admission to many institutions of higher education or be hired for occupations requiring skills beyond a minimal level.

If something is not done, parents may end up having to decide between imbuing their children with a sense of Christian morality or the background necessary for career advancement. And while good parents must always make the character of their children the utmost priority, historically Americans have not normally been required to make such agonizing Faustian choices.

What has been forgotten in these educational debates is just who it is that ultimately provides for public education. It may come as a surprise, but it is not the government. The system is provided for by each and every taxpayer regardless of whether or not one has fed their offspring to the pedagogical leviathan.

As such, neither the state nor the private sector should play a role in constructing arbitrary barriers based largely on ideology designed to protect an inherently inferior product. It would not have been appropriate to construct a system hampering the proliferation of CD's in favor of Eight Tracks. The same should hold true for education.

Therefore, since the same amount of money flows into the tax system regardless of where a child is enrolled, the children of taxpayers enrolled elsewhere other than the public schools should be allowed to enjoy enrichment programs sponsored with public money but not conducted as an intrinsic component of a particular school's curriculum.

At MacDonald's, I can use the restroom regardless of whether or not I order a complete meal. Along the same lines, it would not hurt for Maryland fourth graders from private schools to participate in the "If I were mayor, I would...." essay contest. Their parents, after all, are footing the bill for the competition.

In their current state of moral and academic decay, I wouldn't send my dog to a public school. But being that the public schools would not exist without my tax dollars, any children I might one day have should not be made to feel less valued than the average dog by being told that their knowledge and achievements are illegitimate since these skills did not arise origin under Big Brother's diabolical auspices.

Copyright 2001 by Frederick B. Meekins

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