School Mergers At It Again
No one has an easy road but force as a mechanism to make your road easier is not a good or useful choice. It’s not good because at the root force requires violence to be true and most people don’t want violence. It’s not useful because using it won’t achieve the actual goal even if, in the short term, it appears to.
School mergers in Vermont are a good example of this.
Mergers might be the right choice for some school districts.
Mergers might be the wrong choice for some school districts.
Force is not the good or useful answer in either of these cases. The basic argument for this is about as foundational as it can be seen as a bottom up, logical chain of assumptions. Parents, as a rule, are the best and proper authority for their kids, this is where it all starts. If you don’t agree with this assumption (as a general rule, some parents are unfit to be an authority but not most) then, logically, you must think there’s another person or entity (The State?) that is the proper and good authority for children that is not their parents.
I’m assuming that parents are the best and the proper authority for their children. Then going upwards from there, the next, larger group is the group of parents that are neighbors. This is next logical step up the chain of who is the best and proper authority for children, the community of neighbors. Then, next, would be a larger district of neighbors, then a State made up of Districts and then the Country made up of States. So the highest and best authority for kids starts at the bottom, closest to the children and to the community they live in and as the community gets larger and more widespread, the authority, properly lessens and becomes less appropriate.
This is not the case we’ve had in Vermont for quite some time and because we haven’t recognized the home, the family and the small community as the foundation for the store of proper authority for our children we’ve given up much of the decision making, funding mechanisms and, most damaging, the potential for community based solutions because we’ve abnegated the responsibility for educating our children to the State. This is the truth for most but not the point of what’s going on here. That is another discussion for another time. The discussion for now is what do we do now, as we see one of the last bastions of local control and authority being forced out of our hands. And when I say “our” I mean those who do not agree. I mean the 30, 40, 50, 60 percent or more of the people who actually don’t agree but simply didn’t see how to do it another way or who have been so properly distracted by trying to earn a living, raise a family and exist in a world that long ago said, “don’t worry about it, we will do it for you, we will take care of it, we know best, leave it to us”.
What do we give up?
What do we get?
Lower taxes in a world where there is no such thing. Ask yourself what “taxes” even means… Over the past two decades has more or less of your money gone to the State? Not just money either, but resources, like time. How much more of your time do you put in to following the rules and regulations of the State? And the main reason given by the State and the administrators to force mergers is to save money and save time. So we trade the potential goodness of community education for efficiency? Sounds consistent with the way we’ve all been doing it, but do we realize that’s what we’re doing.
The hard thing now is that it’s going to be hard. We’ve given up so much for so long, it’s going to be hard to do it another way. We’ve relied so much on The State to take care of it for us and we’ve continued to ask and demand more from “them” than from “us”. This creates an atmosphere where most people say, “what the hell am I supposed to do?”. I mean if the State is telling us we can’t pay for local education then it must be true. It is true actually, because it’s been decades of the State driving education (see the dairy farm example). It’s an old and tired argument, but no less true. If the State were a business they would be out of business long, long ago.
The reason funding examples are not apparent is because we’ve been force fed, albeit somewhat willingly, the narrative that we don’t know how to do local education or worse, we’re not capable. Both not true.
So it’s going to be hard. But what we’d save by reversing forced mergers, sanctioning the will of local people and censuring the State would be the opportunity in this 21st century of re-creating educational models, including our children, for a human centric, non-efficient, local scale. I can tell you that I don’t know how to do it, but I know it can be done. It can be done with hard work, fierce commitment to the principle of local authority and familial authority and a commitment to using technology to make our lives better rather than more efficient.
I’m a heartbroken optimist and I’m trying to heal my heart. My heart lives in the part of me that thinks children are more important than budgets and even though the situation is intimidating and even though the State and proponents of mergers are intimidating, I have no doubt that small groups of concerned and committed individuals could make the change and that the reward would break the cycle of efficiency that is costing us so much.