Monday, July 05, 2010

Is support of public education a fundamental duty?

According to musicman over at Save the Hilliard Schools, it is.

His proposition is this: Voter support for publics education is a fundamental duty.

But what is a fundamental duty? And why is public education necessarily so?


Paul said...

I think questions of this ilk are going to continue to be a struggle for our country.

The notion of minimal government made a lot of sense when the Founders crafted our Constitution. But that was also a time when most families were, or could be, almost completely self-reliant. Certainly my ancestors who settled in the 1790s in what became Ohio had no expectation that they would find much in the way of government services. People like my ancestors, who fought alongside the Founders in the Revolutionary War, had little use for government, especially the kind the European aristocracies practiced in those days.

But our country has changed much in the past couple of centuries. Now very few of us are truly self-sufficient - I'm not sure even the so-called survivalists would last long without the safety net of our modern civilization.

And so as deeply interdependent people, we find reason for creating the rules and laws which make up the 'social contract' we live with today. Those laws are supposed to be about fairness and justice, but it seems that over time, they tend evolve to become the mechanism of oppression and injustice. They become the justification for confiscating resources - in some case for what appears to be the good (e.g. publicly funded schools for all), and in some cases clearly a way for the rich and powerful to get richer and more powerful.

Democracy is all about agreeing to let government be controlled by The People, and not a monarch or a dictator. The trouble is that after our half-century of unbeforeseen prosperity, The People have grown almost completely apathetic to how our nation is governed.

You and I may never get to 100% congruence on our political views, but we have both made the non-trivial effort to run for and serve in public office. But one doesn't have to run for office to participate in our government. You can attend regular meetings of governmental bodies, write letters to the editor, publish a blog and most of all - show up at the polls as an informed voter.

Jim Fedako said...


You haven't answered the questions posed. Please do.

Paul said...


This question needs to be answered two ways:

1. Is it the law of the land that we operate public schools, and therefore it must be obeyed, else risk suffering the consequences for disobeying the law? Yes. That's the way our system of government works. We are unquestionably free to vote against levies, but that only addresses how and how well the public schools are funded, not whether the law requires them to exist. Even if no school levy ever again passes, the requirement to run public schools remains, and the government would surely find another way to do the funding.

2. Is it a fundamental duty in some kind of universal philosophical sense? No. If that were true, then we wouldn't just worry about American kids - we'd devote resources to making sure every kid on the planet "got an education."

Through our democratic process, which is the way our country is governed, laws are made by representatives elected by the people, stupid as we often are in our choices. Sometimes those representatives make good law, and sometimes they make bad law, but in either case, it's the law.

One can choose to stay in America and obey the law, stay and disobey (and suffer the consequences), or leave the country.

And of course, one can work to change the law. Or overthrow the government.

The less the people participate in the former, the more likely it is that power will concentrate to an intolerable level, leading to the latter.

It's the option our revered Founders chose.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how anyone can argue that a public education is not a fundamental duty of our government. The Constitution, while not addressing education directly, does promise equality, and without public education, the children of less fortunate families will be left behind. We will be little better than a Third World country where only the elite attend school, at least anything further than a basic grade school education. How, and how much, we pay for it is an entirely separate matter although it has a major impact on the success of our schools.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why Paul calls this country a Democracy? I was taught it is a Republic. And I guess Paul has never read any of the true histories of how we ended up with the government school system that we have. Maybe he should read some books by Samuel Blumenfeld, Charlotte Iserbyt, John Taylor Gatto and Lynn Stuter. He thinks it's all so benign.

Anonymous said...

A fundamental duty is a duty that one is expected to perform in their role. So, a fundamental duty of a citizen is to participate in their society. Of course, each society has different roles for their citizens.

His statement presupposes that public education is a necessary element of the society. A view widely held in our society but not held by many participants here.

If one accepts that public education is a fundamental element then support of public education would be a fundamental duty.

Of course the fun is in the details such as what does "support" for public education mean.

Jim Fedako said...

10:55 --


There is no promise of equality in the US Constitution. The Constitution makes no promises whatsoever. And equality is not even mentioned.

You would do better by reading more and writing less. Your writing simply reveals your ignorance.

I bet you graduated from public schools and actually believe that you learned something.


Jim Fedako said...

3:04 --

Interestingly, India has enumerated fundamental duties in its constitution.

According to Wikipedia:

The Fundamental Duties of citizens were added to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, upon the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee that was constituted by the government earlier that year. Originally ten in number, the Fundamental Duties were increased to eleven by the 86th Amendment in 2002, which added a duty on every parent or guardian to ensure that their child or ward was provided opportunities for education between the ages of six and fourteen years. The other Fundamental Duties obligate all citizens to respect the national symbols of India, including the Constitution, to cherish its heritage, preserve its composite culture and assist in its defence. They also obligate all Indians to promote the spirit of common brotherhood, protect the environment and public property, develop scientific temper, abjure violence, and strive towards excellence in all spheres of life. Citizens are morally obligated by the Constitution to perform these duties. However, like the Directive Principles, these are non-justiciable, without any legal sanction in case of their violation or non-compliance. There is reference to such duties in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 51A brings the Indian Constitution into conformity with these treaties.

But a constitution cannot create a fundamental duty. A constitution can list fundamental duties, but that does not make them fundamental duties.

Jim Fedako said...


You claim that following a law is a duty -- a moral duty, I suppose. And you appear to claim that democracy creates and justifies moral duties. Really?

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

According to Jefferson, it is our duty to "throw off" governments that usurp their authorities -- a treasonous act, indeed. Where is that in your response?

You may not realize this, but England was a constitutional monarchy, democratically elected. And it was less of a tyranny than our current democratically elected government.

Democracy is not the end. It is a means to change power without bloodshed. The end sought by the liberals (classical liberals, that is) was a form of federal government that was constrained by a constitution. The Founders knew quite well that previous democracies ended in tyrannies of the political majority.

By the way, the Founders were not all in agreement. And the Constitution was not inspired by God. It was a political compromise that was subverted almost as soon as the ink dried.

By the way, the Constitution was born in deceit, and, for many of the signers, it was simply a means guarantee their war bonds. But I digress.

There is no fundamental duty to fund education. There are duties (fundamental) that are the flip side of negative rights (of course, public education is a positive right that held no position in our Constitution).

You slip into German Historicism when you appear to claim that negative rights and moral duties are the product of their time.

Morals and rights never change -- and they were written done for the eternity in our Bible.

Paul said...


My point is whether or not we believe it is legal, ethical or moral, the government exists, and it makes laws that we can choose either to obey or suffer the consequences.

I choose to have hope that there is a chance we can turn this thing around and restore liberty and justice for all, without the chaos of violent revolution. That may be as naive as thinking there can be a war without what some call 'collateral damage.' There clearly will have to be sacrifice at some level. Some of us will have to suffer the consequences.

I'm happy to use the term 'representative democracy' or ‘republic’ if your readers prefer. With few exceptions, our governments from the national to the local level are structured so that legislation is generated by elected representatives. But note that the Ohio constitution - the body of law that creates our state's public school system - does allow the citizens to create laws directly. That's why we have a casino being built on W Broad St.

While the British government at the time of George III may have been called a constitutional monarchy, it was by no means a government of the common man. The House of Lords retained substantial powers until fairly recent times, although rarely exercised in the modern era. Today, in both Britain and the US, the government is run by a nearly permanent ruling class. Elected yes, but elected over and over.

That is because the real political power lies with those who can accumulate enough money to mount the necessary election campaigns – a $billion in the last Presidential campaign. Incumbents are returned to their seats when they prove they can deliver to their sponsors, because those sponsors will give them enough money to win over the naive public.

And so we have a public school system that is designed by our lawmakers to benefit employees and vendors first, and kids and our country second. Enough good is delivered to keep the competition at bay. This mode will continue until the public ceases being ignorant and apathetic, and instead decides to become informed and involved.

Jim Fedako said...


You are almost there ...

"This mode will continue until the public ceases being ignorant and apathetic, and instead decides to become informed and involved."

should read:

"This mode will continue until the public ceases being ignorant and apathetic, and instead decides that the right of property belongs to the individual. And the public decides that it will no longer allow the state to play factions off of each other for the benefit of the ruling elite."

Paul said...


I don't know that my view of property rights are nearly so absolute as yours, because I still have this concept that our nation is, or should be, more like an association of willing participants in a organization governed by a contract agreed to by us all. Kind of a condo association writ large.

Still, condo associations can be pretty oppressive. Assessments for maintenance can often come at inopportune times. But one signs the agreement giving the association the right to levy assessments, and one owner's inconvenience isn't necessarily a consideration when assessment votes pass.

I guess that's why I have a good chunk of land in the country. Even so, I still voluntarily signed a convenant restricting some of my activities (e.g. I agreed not to keep more than two horses, nor any other kinds of livestock). This contract isn't law, and I can't call on the police to enforce it. But I can seek judgement against a neighbor who willfully violates a contract he/she voluntarily signed. After all, if that neighbor didn't like the rules, they should have bought another piece of property.

By the way, it was the seller who made the rules up in the first place - because he felt it would make the land more valuable if buyers knew other buyers would be restricted in their activities.

I think that's liberty. The rules get worked out in a commercial transaction in which the elements of a valid contract are present.

I wish our country could be as simple as that. A collection of civic corporations in which one can choose to buy in, understanding that one is simultaneously agreeing to the 'operating agreement' of the corporation.

But it's not - that one got away from us a long time ago. There are who knows how many laws on the books, and they make new ones all time. I have no clue how to plan for the future, because I have no clue what the rules will be when I get there.

Things have gotta change. I'm giving a shot to seeing if we can facilitate some of that change from within, knowing it means occasionally making a choice between two bad options.

Anonymous said...

Medical care was a (true) single-payer affair (patient-to-doctor payment) until labor unions and the federal government collaborated to change it. The result was third party administration and the creation of the insurance industry (...and the waste, fraud and litigious predation that followed). Now it's a mess.

Education was a "single-payer" affair (parent-to-educator/school payment) until labor unions and government collaborated to make it a universal right, requiring a "fundamental duty" that all support it financially. The result of this is an American student that is roundly trumped by those in Latvia and Kazakhstan.

Jim Fedako said...


Some 150 years ago, Lysander Spooner debunked the contract theory of government. That theory is an old wash rag, a means for the majority to justify their actions (and you bought it).

Your so-called contract of government is an agreement of the majority only.

In Olentangy, the "contract" some 20 years ago was low property taxes. And it was low taxes that spurred growth here.

Folks moved here because the taxes were low -- one of the lowest (in absolute millage) in central Ohio.

The contract has changed over time by those who sought advantages over their neighbors. Of course, that is true only if you believe a contract existed at all -- I do not.

The next time you sign a contract, don't complain when the folks on the other side of the table (the majority of contract signees) call you to let you know that they voted to change the terms of the contract.

Just repeat that democracy, in all forms, justifies any action.

Jim Fedako said...


Also, you argue that when voters are more informed and more involved, some unspecified improvements will occur.

But that ignores that fact that voters are informed. Sure, they may not understand the intricacies of state school funding, but they do understand that voting "yes" for an issue provides a benefit over the "no" voters.

Notice the growing number of lobbiest who represent people.

“Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury, and bankrupt the nation.” Karl Marx, 1848 author of “The Communist Manifesto”

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of
government. It can only exist until the voters discover
that they can vote themselves largess from the public
treasury. From that time on the majority always votes
for the candidates promising the most benefits from the
public treasury, with the results that a democracy
always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed
by a dictatorship."
- Alexander Fraser Tytler, (1742-1813).

... et al ...

Paul said...


Maybe I'm just a bad writer, but not sure why you poked me in the eye


While looking for the exact wording of Winston Churchill's famous quote

regarding democracy, I came across this article on It seems to capture much of what I sense your political

philosophy to be, and frankly I agree with a good deal of it.

In this article, Chu seems to reinforce that the governmental

architecture specified in the US Constitution - a republic - is the best

form of government tried so far. I agree, and I think you do as well.

I can see the point of view that our government has become a grotesque

of what the Founders envisioned. They specified that the actual

governing would be carried out by men the public had elected, but I

suspect they also believed that the men who would run for office would

always be smart, educated, wise, and altruistic.

So is the problem that we've let bozos take over the White House and the

Capitol? Could be. But that's who we elected to be our representatives,

just as the Founders designed the system. Not one of them took their

seat by force.

It seems to me that we have two problems.

First is the concentration of power enabled by the enormous amount of

money it takes to run for national office. The only way for a candidate

to amass that much money is to get into bed with the devil - those who

seek to use the government to transfer wealth. This has set up a

powerful feedback loop: Entities (not just corporations) invest large

sums of money supporting candidates who will in turn point the firehose

of Federal money their way. One of the more recent examples is the bill

that will feed another $20B or so into the public schools with the goal

of keeping public school teachers employed at their current rates of pay

and benefits. No surprise given that the NEA/AFT are among the top ten

political contributors in the nation.

Second is that we have a populace which is largely ignorant and

apathetic about how government works in this country. I couldn't agree

more that our public school system generally fails to address this.

That's a tragedy, but is it not also the responsibility of parents to

teach their kids this information?

If the structure of our government is correct, and the problem is the

people who are elected to fill those seats, what is the fix? How do we

get more of the little 'r' republicans elected? Why don't all who

believe this run for office themselves, or get wholeheartedly behind the

campaign of others who do?

Because it's hard work and it's expensive. Three kinds of people in this


1. Those who make things happen.
2. Those who watch things happen.
3. Those who bitch about what happens.

#3 just might be the definition of contemporary America.

I try to be a #1, even if it means getting poked in the eye on occasion.

Jim Fedako said...


From what I gather, your "make things happen" is simply work to see that folks are informed and involved. But how does that help anything?

The key is for folks to move away from the concept of envy (the premise behind most school levies) and embrace property. But public schools will never teach that concept -- it is a concept opposite of its ends.

Keep in mind that the first thing a school funding lobbyist learns is how the system works.

Plus, you are involved in the system that is producing a society of envy -- just read student responses to levy failures. Is that really the solution -- having groups of citizens realize that the school levy costs them less than the actual cost to fund the programs themselves? Your goal is to strengthen this system. And you expect a different result from a strengthened system.

This is one point where we diverge.

Anonymous said...

Jim - Yes, the lower tax base fueled the area growth. But the people who moved in want the same level of education (and parks, roads, pools, etc.) that Dublin and Westerville have without accepting (and I chose that word carefully) the fact that those "perks" have to be paid by someone.

To make matters worse, this area has been anti-business growth with the local population fighting most commercial or industrial development and, after they have moved into their new house, even residential growth. So the people demand more government perks and fight the growth of the tax base and then they complain when their taxes go up or government does not keep up with developing the perks they see in other communities.

Our participation here is more like a month-by-month lease than a long term contract.

Anonymous said...

Re: getting involved. In a previous time of our lives, in another community, both my spouse and I ran for school board (different years). When my spouse ran, he ran (sort of) with two other people, one who had been on the board before and had also been on the county board, so he was well known to the voters. The admin. and the teachers knew they were in for it if these three got elected so they really got busy with the dirty tricks. Things were always corrupt and dirty in that system but this time it was more extreme. As we drove around putting up campaign signs, others drove along behind us tearing them down. One board member's daughter (he ran a local nursery business) went out with her friends and tore our signs down in our own yard. We put a sign up across the street from the school superintendent and drove down the street a short distance, stopped and watched him come out and tear our sign down. That supt. also took down signs that were near the school but not on school property, claiming it was against the law to have them there. We had painted and put up a large sign on private property and a local moron drove his pickup right over it and smashed it. My spouse ran for board because of the corrupt actions of the board. The end result was...we lost. And the corruption continued. The people wanted corruption. After the election, and our loss, our 5-year-old daughter was harassed by her bus driver, aided and abetted by the supt. School employees held a party at the school after the election, spent tax money on it, to celebrate our loss. I could write a book. It was a real education living in that district. Olentangy sounds similar. Just a more educated bunch of crooks.

Jim Fedako said...

2:59 --

I would have posted this earlier but I was camping.

Anonymous said...

Olentangy and all the others.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question for Paul, the guy from Hilliard. In today's Dispatch there is a story about the buying of school supplies by parents. A Principal from Grandview schools is quoted. He explains that business people are calling the shots about how children are to be trained in the government schools. He explains why children must all bring the identical boxes of crayons in to their classroom to be added to the communal tub of crayons. Since Paul is an insider I would like Paul to explain how business manages to dictate these things and where we can find out more about it.

Anonymous said...

I should have added that things seem to have changed since I was a school child. We each had our own box of crayons in those days. I kept my box of crayons and my other possessions in my desk. I was very particular about my crayons (and still am) and would have been unhappy using other children's broken up, messed up crayons. I did not even like the big fat crayons that were required to be used in the first grade. I used the thin crayons at home. (And I ended up with a four year scholarship to art school). I am so glad I was not forced into the Communal System when I was a school child.

Paul said...

I wouldn't characterize my role in the school system as that of an "insider." I'm a newly elected school board member who has, for a number of years, challenged many things about how our particular public school system is led at a strategic level (see my blog). However, the more I learned about the management of our school district, the more it became clear that the issues in Hilliard are shared all around the nation.

I think it would be a mistake to say that public schools are doing the bidding of the business sector - at least not in the way you mean. As a career executive in business, I don't see any reason that something like a communal crayon box contributes to making better employees. Without question, good collaboration skills are helpful, but it's not the end of the story.

I prefer the military model: effectively blending collaboration and fierce competition. Teaching both leadership and 'followship.' Knowing when you are a part of team working together for a common goal, and when you are facing a competitor who intends to kick your butt.

So is a communal crayon box a good thing? Maybe - if the goal of that particular practice is to teach collaboration. I can think of an analogous military training exercise: a team obstacle course competition where teams are timed on how long it takes for the LAST person person on the team to cross the finish line. Success is this instance is defined as team success, not individual success. If you've ever seen the movie "Officer and a Gentleman," this is what the Marine DI (Louis Gossett) was trying to teach the officer candidate (Richard Gere).

But there are other times when competing head-to-head for meaningful awards is appropirate. Again, the military uses this in their culture: those who perform best in both training and in their primary duties get the best assignments and the quickest promotions. They don't give trophies to everyone who competes in the Best Ranger competition - only the winning two-person team. Not everyone who would like to be a Navy SEAL or an Air Force fighter pilot gets their wish. Few try, and even fewer survive Marine boot camp. One competes for those opportunities and only the top finishers make it.

Who calls the shots in the public school system? I think this is one answer.

And here's
what my new favorite politician has to say about that.

Anonymous said...

Paul: I started over fifteen years ago reading the research of others who were exposing what had been, was and is, going on with the government school system. One of them, Charlotte Iserbyt, had been at the Dept. of Ed. in D.C. until she blew the whistle on The Plan and was fired. She went on to write two enormous books full of evidence of The Plan. I met her, became a friend, and showed her the materials used in my child's gifted class at an affluent school east of central Columbus. She confirmed that the materials used in that class were as bad as any she had seen. I read the books of Sam Blumenfeld, John Gatto, Lynn Stuter (all people who have exposed what govt. schools are really doing) and their information explained what I had experienced personally. Years ago I saw the evidence that people at the top in business, in government, at the United Nations even, were in charge of the curriculum and teaching materials being used on our children. You just don't get it.

Anonymous said...