Utah state Senator Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, recently made headlines throughout the state and all the media by stating that compulsory education should not be required in our public schools. He had previously said that education was his highest priority. He now says that education should be voluntary on the part of those students who really want to learn.
To anyone with a sense of reality, this idea would be nothing more than complete nonsense. No one should be misled by the intent of Osmond's actual agenda. It's a cynical and deep dislike for public education and an acceptance that ignorance is okay. More importantly, it's a distain for knowledge that does not coincide with the ideological beliefs of his fellow Republicans.
What is dangerous is that Osmond is not alone in this thinking. The people who control and dictate the agenda of the Republican majority in the state legislature are continuously at war with efforts to improve education. They include Gayle Ruzicka of the Eagle Forum, Paul Mero of the Sutherland Institute, Senator Margaret Dayton, and various Republicans in the state legislature, who continue to subvert efforts to improve funding for education. They see any attempt to make public education more meaningful and productive as a conspiracy by the Federal government, the United Nations, and liberal educators to take local control of their children's education, and brainwash them with progressive ideas that repudiates their ideological and religious beliefs
Boyd K. Packer, considered by many as the next in line for the LDS Church presidency, criticized the public education system for creating atheist children and equated atheists and humanists to people without morals. He decried the danger of "so-called" scholars or intellectuals to society. He is in good company. The first thing every repressive regime did in the past, whether religious or totalitarian, was to vilify intellectuals and scholars as deviants to the good of the people. These were the people who because of education, were among the first to and challenge the hypocrisy of the regime.
A high school International Baccalaureate Program that will expand students' knowledge and understanding of the world around them was attacked as a United Nations conspiracy to corrupt students with ideas that are unacceptable to Utah standards. This comes from Sen. Margaret Dayton and Cherilyn Eagar, a tea party favorite, who believes that the program will lead to a "one world government and disarmament," and that it is no more than a United Nations conspiracy. Dayton is on record as stating, "I don't want to create 'world citizens' nearly as much as I want to help cultivate American citizens." The attempt to eliminate the degree recently failed, but no one should be fooled. These attempts will continue.
The next in line of attack is the Common Core State Standards initiative. To many in the Republican-controlled state legislature, the Common Core Standards are a huge federal government takeover of our children's education. They are convinced that it removes state and parental rights, and gives those rights to the federal government. Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum believes that because Utah said it would use the Common Core standards to obtain a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, the state will eventually be mandated to accept the Common Core standards in order to get federal money. It's total nonsense, of course, but these people are relentless in their efforts to impose this extremist ideology on everyone.
Then there is the Sutherland Institute and Paul Mero. This organization is constantly circulating its extremism throughout the media and more importantly, the state Legislature. His position is that "In a free society where parents have the right to raise their children essentially as they see fit, it is unwarranted to force all parents to send their children, or answer, to government schools." It's not clear whether he meant state or federal government, but it had to certainly include the federal government. In the first place, no one forces parents to send their children to public schools. All one has to do is look at the current drop out rate in Utah, and the conviction rate of parents who allowed it to happen.
Then, of course, there is home teaching. Every parent has a right to home teach their children. The one requirement that they must meet is basic core requirements applicable to public schools. They are requirements for which no monitoring or accountability is done, but leaves the parents free to marginalize or distort important science, math, and civic subjects that conflict with their own religious beliefs -- beliefs that these subjects are in direct conflict with the Bible.
They call it education that reflects Utah's cultural values, but it is considered by many as ideological and religious brainwashing that leaves no opportunity for social relationships or real knowledge about the world around them. To many of these people, the real world around them is corrupt and evil, and their children must be shielded from it at all costs.
The distrust of public education permeates throughout the Republican-controlled Legislature. It's a distrust that not only provides the basis for the lowest funding the nation. But it's a distrust that has led to a level of micromanagement that dictates what teachers can or cannot say to their students when it comes to science, biology, and ideology. No one should be fooled.
The real intent is to eliminate public education as we know it, and to replace it with a private school voucher system where children can at last be indoctrinated with religious and ideological doctrine that reflects their parent's beliefs -- all at taxpayer expense. It will never happen, of course, but as long as Republicans pursue this delusion, public education will suffer.
Jack Allen lives in Roy and is a member of the Weber County Coffee Party.