Losing Supreme Control

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Last
week, the Judicial Oracles spoke and education was the theme. Headlines
shouted the news that vouchers are constitutional and that saying
the word "God" in public school is not, while the intelligentsia,
not to be outdone, fell all over themselves in the editorial pages
telling us how our lives will change.

Strangely,
the messages from both left and right are mixed. Conservatives would
have us believe that vouchers will solve the public education dilemma
through market competition, while banishing God from the classroom
is an attack on freedom of conscience that will harm our children.
Liberals contend that vouchers will destroy the public schools by
starving them for money, while protecting children from government
establishment of religion will support family autonomy.

Is
either scenario credible? Are the Judicial Oracles so lacking in
insight that they reach out one hand to help just as they slap us
down with the other?

The
answer to this paradox may be in the third decision handed down
last week. Mentioned only in passing in the national press was Board
of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie
County v. Earls which said that the widening, indiscriminate drug
testing of schoolchildren is also constitutional, the Fourth Amendment
notwithstanding. In Earls, the Supremes have put us on notice that
this is not the end, soon all public school children will be peeing
into cups for the privilege of attending government run indoctrination
camps 180 days per year. Their reasoning is familiar, especially
of late: safety trumps liberty every time.

Despite
the "protect-the-children" sentiment, it is not safety
that the Supremes are really after, for note this sentence: "Preventing
drug use of schoolchildren is an important government concern."
The unconstitutionality, the hubris, the shear gall of that sentence
is as overwhelming as it is revealing. To the contrary, preventing
drug use is an important parental concern, yet at some point in
our nation's history our government became daddy to all our children.

Put
all three decisions together, look at the big picture that has emerged
over the past 150 or so years, and the real government agenda is
laid bare – control.

At
first, control was exercised subtly by supplying a good which all
parents need while maintaining the nexus at the local level. Yet
since the turn of the twentieth century with the development of
certain ineluctable trendsu2014the widespread adoption of textbooks,
the consolidation of school districts, the state and federal distribution
of education dollars, zero tolerance and truancy policies, and more
recently the push for national standards and testing – government
control of schooling, which means government control of children,
has become increasingly brazen.

Last
week's decisions are all of a piece. Vouchers have nothing to do
with improving public schools and everything to do with controlling
and thereby destroying private education. Even a proponent of vouchers
admits the danger.

Writes
Reason Foundation's Lisa Snell:

"I can't
help but think of Marshall Fritz today, and all the others, who
fear that this is not a victory for parents and children over
government schools, but a victory for the government over private
schools…

"We
know from efforts to regulate charter schools, compulsory education
laws, efforts to regulate homeschoolers, and education management
companies that sacrifice their business models for government
contracts, that regardless of the circumstances, the government
will never stop pushing to gain more control over private decisions
about education."

The
banishment of God from the classroom, begun in the earliest stages
of government schooling in the 1840s and all but completed with
Supreme Court opinions in the early 1960s, is not as some believe
an attack on Christianity, for religion here is merely collateral
damage. The Ninth Circuit's ban of the "Pledge of Allegiance"
has nothing to do with the First Amendment and everything to do
with controlling children's minds.

And
Earls serves not to protect schoolchildren from the big, bad drug
monster, but to habituate the nation's citizenry to the kind of
self-administered humiliation required for total control. If you
are not sure about this, reread 1984.

Rather
than waste time analyzing tortured judicial logic, it is more instructive
to ask the question, "Why now?" In this Age of Public
Relations, for the government boldly to show its agenda of control
– to take the mask away – is either a monumental blunder
or an act of abject desperation. In considering answers, bear in
mind that in national politics, monumental blunders rarely happen.

As
every mother of a toddler knows, total control of other human beings
is an impossibility. 1984 is a novel, after all. In real life, control
begets further control, a vicious circle that culminates in blowback.
It just might be that the Education Establishment understands the
severity of the situation in which they find themselves – that
the critical system of political control over which they preside
is reaching a crisis as never before seen – and has acted accordingly.

Every
freedom lover should rejoice at the opinions last week. With each
new turn of the screw, more and more people are facing the fact
that government is no parent. Even the allure of free day care cannot
forever prevent mothers from rescuing their precious children. Our
Berlin Wall is teetering. Exercise genuine school choice, take your
children out of government school and, from a safe distance, watch
it fall.

July
6, 2002

Cathy
Cuthbert [send her mail]

is the editor of "The School Liberator," a weekly email
publication of the Alliance for
the Separation of School and State
. She is a wife, mother and
homeschool advocate, who receives no government subsidy of any kind,
living on California's central coast.

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