The Education Of Children And The Doctrine Of Subsidiarity

March 7, 2023

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Americans survive large calamities – natural disasters and so called “Acts of God,” relatively easily -- but martial lines are drawn in the case of inconveniences. Parents at Boards of Education in many Connecticut communities appear to be irritated more than usual these days.

At the root of their discomfort lies a sundering violation of the doctrine of subsidiarity.

The doctrine holds that subsidiary political institutions should not be overruled by larger, less competent political organizations.

There are six political organizations that affect the education of children. Listing them from smaller and more competent to larger and less competent political organizations, they might be arrayed as follows: 1) the family, 2) the neighborhood, 3) the local school, 4) the municipality, 5) the state, and finally 6) the federal government.

It should be obvious by now to anyone but pedagogical “experts” that the frisson at Boards of Education meetings involves a quarrel over who shall rule, and the doctrine of subsidiarity tells us parents should be the final arbiters of their children’s education – and especially their moral development.

The reader, if he or she has survived postmodern woke education, may remember the conversation between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. Alice objects that Humpty Dumpty has been improperly using words to mean both A and not-A, which is a logical impossibility. Humpty Dumpty replies in a threatening tone that words mean “exactly what I choose them to mean, neither more nor less” and he cuts short Alice’s further objections when he says there is only one operative rule – Who rules?

That is the question at issue in virtually all of the sometimes intemperate public Boards of Education meetings in which members appear to have taken the part of Humpty Dumpty. In any contest between parents and Boards of Education, they appear to be saying, loudly and brashly – We rule!

Parents have the doctrine of subsidiarity on their side. But the doctrine does not have a law degree nor a journalist’s certificate. So parents are at somewhat of a disadvantage in the postmodern world of longwinded “experts,” shadowy pedagogical “scientists,” and half-awake journalists.

It cannot be as simple as that, some may think, to which the proper response is -- of course not. Political corruption and skullduggery lie in the dark intermeshes of complexity. If you want to avoid a simple solution to a problem, you make the problem unduly complex, and then you may remove the problem from an easy, commonsensical solution, and surrender it to pedagogical “experts,” who will decide the issue without reference to the doctrine of subsidiarity.

In a postmodern, autocratic world, there can be only one judger of facts, the postmodern progressive politician ensconced in Washington DC who is responsive not to parents but to a postmodern ideology far removed from the children directly affected by their remote and indifferent pedagogical interventions. Remote rule from above is a kingly enterprise that died, here in the United States, when the founders of the nation turned their faces against monarchical designs in favor of a bracing and liberating small “r” republican vision of self- governance.

The late pandemic, partly politically caused, forced parents to pay closer attention to their children’s schooling. In anarchic Connecticut cities, dispirited parents turned away from failing public schools towards charter schools and, where available, Catholic schools that had long served the poor, prisoners of the state’s welfare system. There is now serious talk about Milton Friedman’s novel idea that supportive tax money should “follow the child,” so that urban parents might reshape their children’s blighted futures. The Friedman system would introduce into a sclerotic public school system an element of awakening competition and pedagogical creativity.

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The occasional eruptions during public school board meetings across the state are a sign of health and vigor. The grass grows greenest when its roots are invigorated. Children grow straighter when their parents are standing at attention with unbending spines. Demanding parents make for compliant politicians who serve the community rather than themselves.

As the pandemic receded, the cracks and fissures in public education became more apparent. A mini-revolt that began with the unnecessary masking of young children has now broadened considerably. And parents are worried, as they should be, that public schools have become cultural reprograming centers pushed by revolutionary pedagogues who for years have shown parents that their educational methods are ineffectual.

How ineffectual are they?

“For the 2023 school year, Public School Review tells us, “there are 39 public schools serving 16,809 students in Hartford School District… Public Schools in Hartford School District have an average math proficiency score of 13% (versus the Connecticut public school average of 38%), and reading proficiency score of 21% (versus the 51% statewide average).

Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.


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