Today the New York Times had an article by Julie Bosman about an attempt in Kansas to relabel what most people call public schools as “government” schools.  So, having poisoned the word “government”, making it synonymous with authoritarian oppression, the far right now wants us to see our own schools, locally operated and governed by our neighbors, as factories of indoctrination.

Here is the article:

Public schools? To Kansas conservatives, they’re “government schools”

I wrote a response and, as usual, come up frustrated because there isn’t a forum for people who care abut education to hear from teachers.  Where do we post this stuff?  Where someone might see it, I mean?  I emailed it to the reporter and I hope she responds.

But this is the problem with blogging about education.  I’m telling myself all the things I know I think: kind of frustrating.  It’s like a message in a bottle.  I suppose, though, that it’s better than not even hoping that anybody will ever care.

So here is what I wrote in response:


A rose by any other name.

So you want to start calling the school I work in a “government school,” and at the same time express miffed surprise that I would mind that. After you’ve gone and said that “government” is a vile cancer on our freedom and you want to sell off federal lands to the highest bidder, amass great arsenals in your family rooms in case the “government” invades your town, and send your own kids to an unregulated charter school that may or may not teach science and is happy to suck public funds while seeing no need to account for any of its spending.


I prefer the term “community school.” Public schools in this country are run by local, elected citizens and foster the children of those who live in the community. They are “government” schools only to the degree that legislators who know nothing about education hand down ill-conceived notions. Yes, they are funded by taxes, like “government” police forces, or “government” fire departments, or the “government” post office. Why aren’t you out there having a fuss about “government” roads?

Public schools are, in fact, cornerstones of democracy, in conception, in execution, and in result. Our community schools are the chief means by which we ensure that all our children are prepared for the serious work of adulthood: making a living, raising a family, and participating in civic life.

And you see this as a threat to freedom?

I think we’ve got some issues with words. You say you can’t understand why, if we liberals like government so much, we would mind your designating our life’s work by a word you clearly detest. That’s like saying that if gay people are truly okay with their orientation, why would they mind if you call them any of the many, many hateful things you’ve called them? It’s not the word so much as the hatred.

So you go on and claim words to yourself, and invest them with a lot of emotion, and then claim the high ground when you offend.

I’m going to take “freedom” back from you. You use it as an excuse for selfishness. When you say freedom, what you mean is the right to have it all your way, to refuse to pay for the common good, to look after anyone’s children but your own. Your freedom is mean and spiteful, childishly selfish.

Our freedom is generous and open. It invites all to the table: all the kids, from the most challenged to the most brilliant, of any color of skin, from any family, of any belief, and we try to lead each one of those kids to curiosity and inquiry and the fulfillment of their highest potential. Community schools offer freedom from isolation, freedom from want, freedom from ignorance and blighted opportunity.

Community schools: owner-operated engines of freedom since 1821.