Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One Bad Apple

State Senator Osmond of the famous family
And I thought State Senator Aaron Osmond was going to be a breath of fresh air in the Utah Republican Party, at least as opposed to the anti-federal, states-righter Ken Ivory. Today, a friend's blog linked me to one of those news items that left me speechless - dumbfounded - but at least I had the "founded" part to go on.

The good Senator from South Jordan is proposing that Utah do away with compulsory public education as parents are the ones who should know best but have abdicated their parental educational duties to the "state." Oh my heck! I mean, how do you possibly respond to that? I have no problem with parents in the primary role for the education of their children. Go ahead. Send your kids to private school! Home school! It's all legal now, but please do not do away with public schools as the foundation of an educated electorate of a free and civil society!

I am the product of public schools with the exception of my undergraduate degree at BYU. Law School was the University of Maryland. Yet I have been to hearings in the New Mexico State Capitol in support of friends who home-schooled their children. I even made a presentation at a home school conference on Founding Mothers, emphasizing the role of Abigail Adams as I weaved in my Constitutional heresies about "We the People" and the Fourteenth Amendment and all.

My six children are all the product of public school with most of them going to BYU as well. One opted for the State schooling of the University of Utah and we love him just the same along with his wonderful U-of-U wife. Personally, I wouldn't want my kids home-schooled. I think social integration into the larger society is important. So far none have turned out as criminals or even left the LDS Faith having been married in LDS Temples, serving missions, etc. (even if they are mostly Democrats!) Sometime I'll have to blog about my older kids being part of the minority in public school as some of the few non-Hispanics. And that's more than just the Mormon minority thing that I experienced.

Does it have to be explained that with free public education, compulsory as it may be, we all reap the benefits of a society that enables individuals to function in the political process of Constitutional self-government and with the ability to hold a basic job? Do we want an illiterate underclass of those without parents of intelligence or financial resources to be left to their own devices sinking into crime or serfdom?

While a supporter of parents' right to choose what form of education they want for their children, I do not support vouchers as I believe they are a detriment (even a subterfuge) to the system of funding free public education. I also support reasonable state regulation to ensure that private and home schools meet basic educational expectations of our civil society.

And it gets worse. The good Senator from the singing family recognizes that there's a little problem in the Utah State Constitution requiring a free public education. I don't suppose he will want to hear that it was a condition of Statehood imposed by Congress under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution:
"That provision shall be made for the establishment and maintenance of a system of public schools, which shall be open to all the children of said State and free from sectarian control."
Utah Enabling Act, Section 3.4
I suppose you could parse those words away as Ken Ivory and others have done with regard to the public lands that belong to all the citizens of the United States. And maybe the Senator with the big, white-toothed smile has no problem with yet another "message bill" to test the limits of federal law. (Just a hint: try reading Art. VI of the U.S. Constitution before you do any more of those.)

Let's go back to Utah Statehood. It took a long time for some fairly obvious reasons. Brigham Young never got his "State of Deseret" as a part of the United States subject to a modified theocracy. That might have sorta worked before the Civil War when looser interpretations of the Union allowed for states of the slavocracy. But after the Civil War and the Fourteenth Amendment it just wasn't going to happen. And getting to the inevitable slippery slope, if Ivory & Osmond want to reinterpret public lands and free, public education, why not plural marriage? (Do some reading on Utah Statehood, please!) Part of Congress's intent in authorizing the formation of the State of Utah was to establish common or public schools for all. During the territorial period they had been Mormon schools funded by taxes. Yeah, that gets a little sticky as not all the citizenry, i.e., the "public" or "we the people" in Utah belonged to the same religious persuasion. (Try reading the First Amendment, too.)

I don't know how the Republican Party of Utah keeps coming up with this zaniness out of left field. Oops. I mean right field.


  1. Great response to the post by Senator Osmond.

    If I may, let me point out a couple of additional items about where his argument comes from.

    I was also dumbfounded at the call for the end to compulsory education. To me, it seemed a short-sighted solution with long-term, negative ramifications. I went back to the blog post several times yesterday, reading and rereading, looking at comments, and wondering what was going on inside the Senator's head. Then, I noticed a link, right under the article that was titled- "Further Reading: Ending Compulsory Education - A Freedom-based Argument, by Oak Norton."

    This is where I got really concerned.

    Oak Norton falls into the right wing extreme camp. He is a reader of Cleon Skousen and a follower of Glenn Beck. He has opinions (and blogs) on a lot of subjects, ranging from education to politics to religion, and the man believes that his thoughts on all of these subjects are the correct ones and that the rest of us should be following him.

    Let me just point out a couple of his thoughts on education which make his ideas on compulsory education so laughable.

    Norton thinks (according to a YouTube Video) that compulsory education is "unconstitutional and immoral." His ideas of immoral make me chuckle, but it is his statement about being unconstitutional which kills his own argument. Norton has a lot of opinions on the 10th Amendment and feels that anything not explicitly stated in the Constitution should be left to the states. What makes the combination of both of these ideas so funny is that Norton does not seem to understand that compulsory education laws were state laws, starting with Massachusetts in 1852. If he argues that compulsory education is "unconstitutional," yet the Constitution mentions nothing about compulsory education, AND compulsory education laws were enacted by the states, it seems he doesn't even understand his own argument.

    Norton is also a huge proponent of Singapore Math. What it is, or how effective it is, is a discussion for another time. But, a link from his homepage to a math website (which it appears that he also runs) talks about Singapore Math. In it, there is an explanation that reads, "Singapore was a third world country with few natural resources and apparently little future. The leaders embraced the bold goal of become a leading nation in technology development. Achieving that goal would require developing the best mathematicians in the world so they set out to create the best K12 math program in the world. Singapore children now rank number one in mathematics in the industrialized world and have for the past 12 years."

    What Norton also fails to mention is that Singapore, in their push for an educational system that emphasized technology development and math, they enacted a compulsory education law. It seems a little strange that Singapore has jumped so far, so fast, unless you take into account the compulsory education law.

    Norton is a Gayle Ruzicka wannabe in the educational lobby. The fact that he's finally got a state senator lobbying for his ideas should scare us all.

  2. As an LDS Democrat in Utah, I can only extend my support to your children and my assurance to you that party affiliation does not mean a radical personality change. But then, you already know that.

    I'll admit, I'm not as well-versed on our statehood agreements, but I'm a believer in the here-and-now aspect of governance, and if there are elements of say, the Utah Enabling Act that don't serve us well today, I've no problem with revisiing the laws. We're bound by the rule of law, but in this country, we can change the laws to suit our needs; we are not bound by antiquated ideas of history.

    However, if you're going to propose upending the current system, you need to come prepared: facts, figures, case studies and not just wishful thinking.

  3. Thank you, Drew & Toby!

    I need to make a clarification on the Enabling Act. As a friend pointed out on Facebook, once statehood occurs, there really isn't any enforcement power in the Act. I agree with that interpretation. My point, which was a bit too subtle, is that Representative Ken Ivory and others argue that the Utah Enabling Act creates some kind of irrevocable "compact" between the federal government and the state with regard to federal public lands. It does not. I was trying to make the inverse argument on Congress's requirement to put free public education into the Utah Constitution. Bottom line, Utah can now amend it's Constitution however it wants. It would have no effect on federal law at all (because of the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution). So don't think the public lands will be sold off to highest bidder by the state of Utah any time soon.

    And, federal law has nothing to do with a state right to a free public education - except that because of the Fourteenth Amendment, whatever the state does, it has to do it without illegal discrimination.

    The irony is that the compulsory system of common or public schools was established by states for the good of society in having an educated electorate. The mythology of some kind of historical libertarian utopia is just that - a myth.

    Horace Mann, one of the pioneers of public education in the 1830s(!) said,

    "A republican form of government, without intelligence in the people, must be, on a vast scale, what a mad-house, without superintendent or keepers, would be on a small one."

    Of course that would explain the extremely republican Utah State legislature pretty well.

  4. And credit where credit is due - Senator Osmond is really a nice guy (or the consummate politician). He replied to an email of mine sharing the link to the blog piece above this way:

    Hi Grant,

    Humor accepted and even enjoyed. I put myself in this position.

    I respect your opinion greatly. That is why I came out with these ideas so early, so I could see public reaction, discuss the pros and cons and weight the consequences. I don’t wish to argue either, I wish to discuss and understand one another.

    I will seriously consider your views as I move forward.

    Thanks for caring and for sharing.


  5. My kid's 2nd grade class conducted a mock election and he was the only kid that voted for Barack Obama (who he legitimately likes, not just because of me). It's been hard to watch him get ostracized for that.


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