Skip to main content

Intellectual Corruption in Public Schools Exposed by COVID-19


Oklahoma is opening up in stages at last, thank goodness. While we have thought, from the beginning, that shutdowns have been a bad idea, what’s done is done. Now is the time to start recovering, and the faster we get fully re-opened (with prudent precautions for the vulnerable, of course), the better off we will be. Luckily, we are in the United States; the economic damage done here by shutdowns will be far less deadly than in poorer nations as global poverty is expected to increase for the first time since 1998 due to imprudent shutdown orders.

And speaking of imprudent shutdown orders, none have been more imprudent than closing Oklahoma’s schools for the last 9 weeks (practically a full quarter) of the year. Action on the part of state leaders was so precipitous that, while we could be talking about re-opening schools to salvage at least part of the lost educational time, it is not now possible. And of course, we now know children were at low risk from the virus and that pulling them out of school didn’t affect that risk one iota. We also now know the adults in the system had practically nothing to fear from the children.

Not enough questions are being asked of Oklahoma’s education leaders. For example, how will the State Department of Education issue legally mandated A-to-F school report cards next year? More importantly, how will parents be able to assess the quality of instruction in Oklahoma schools? State testing, normally done in April and May, has been cancelled this year. Although there are legitimate arguments about how well these tests objectively measure school quality, there is no legitimate argument that they tell us nothing. 

For that matter, why does the education department elevate social services as a priority over the education of students? As 1889 Institute has pointed out, meal delivery has continued apace, but instruction has effectively been cancelled, except to give grades away like candy.

This is to say nothing of the impact school cancellation has had on the pandemic itself. Again, as noted by 1889 Institute, some experts believe this decision will result in more deaths from the virus than if the schools had stayed in session because we will be slower to achieve herd immunity. 

These questions ought to come from a legislative committee conducting oversight, but at this point it would be nice to see even a little journalistic curiosity, apparently in short supply in this state. For example, the Claremore Public Schools distance learning plan reportedly emotes “We will lead with love — not lessons, patience before programs, relationships before rigor, and grace before grades,” It continues, “this is not a free pass; we want to challenge our students but not their parents.” Is no one curious what this sort of philosophy has wrought and where it comes from?

The previous sentences from Claremore’s school district are now typical of the philosophy in “education” in Oklahoma, a direct result of an emphasis on trying to heal children’s emotional wounds instead of focusing on academics and rigor. Nobody is excusing cruelty or uncaring attitudes, but let’s face it, the current emphasis in public schools is just an excuse to forget standards and eschew responsibility for teaching and learning. 

And this throwing off of responsibility went into overdrive with the school closures. The online education that the public schools have put together is mostly subterfuge. Most districts, Oklahoma City being a prime example, literally ordered teachers to give away grades, and the introduction of new material was prohibited outright. Tulsa Public Schools has apparently made social promotion its official policy. The emphasis on “equity” in education is now to the point that they LITERALLY mean equity in ignorance, as online educational programs were initially prohibited from introducing new material or grading, despite the fact that physical shutdowns and social distancing were not an issue. In reality, of course, lack of real education means MORE inequality, not less.

So let’s summarize. Oklahoma’s education leadership panicked, precipitously closing schools, not temporarily, but for the rest of the year. As a result of their emphasis on turning schools into psychological hospitals, they abandoned all rigor, ordering the gifting of grades, not just to the detriment of students now, but likely for the future due to the precedent they’ve set. AND, their philosophy has literally taken them to the point that they would rather see everyone ignorant than have any one or group of students move ahead.

Well, if COVID-19 has been destructive, at least it’s laid bare the intellectual corruption rampant in our educational establishment.

Co-authored
Byron Schlomach is 1889 Institute Director and can be reached at bschlomach@1889institute.org.
 
Benjamin Lepak is Legal Fellow at the 1889 Institute. He can be reached at blepak@1889institute.org.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of 1889 Institute.

Popular posts from this blog

Dear GT Bynum, Let the Children Play

I live close to a large City of Tulsa park that has a golf course, walking trail, green spaces, and a couple of playgrounds. My (almost) three-year old son loves the playgrounds, and often begs us during walks in our neighborhood to detour to “for-chun” (LaFortune Park). This seemingly innocent request can become a hassle when we don’t really have time, but we indulge him as much as possible. It’s good for kids to play outside, especially with other kids they might not otherwise come into contact with. But sometimes we have to contend with an upset toddler who doesn’t understand why we can’t go to the playground right this minute. I’m not complaining, every parent of young kids deals with similar stuff. But during the COVID lockdown, we’ve had to contend with an altogether different LaFortune Park situation with our son. As part of the mayor’s shelter-in-place overkill, all city-owned playgrounds were closed “ indefinitely .” This wasn’t a guideline or suggestion, the city meant busine

When It Comes to the Cox Center, “What if I Get to Meet a Movie Star?” Isn’t Good Enough

In a recent   post , 1889 Institute expounded on the fiduciary duty of elected officials “to act in the best interest of the people of the state as a whole,” a “high duty, executed as a public trust … wherein one puts the people’s interest above one’s own.” This fiduciary duty must not stop with elected officials. Once an elected body or an elected official – the legislature, a city council, the governor, or a mayor – has taken final action, the faithful implementation of each enacted law, policy, or program falls to an army of bureaucrats. Thus, a fiduciary duty to execute laws and policies with diligence and integrity, tantamount to that of elected officials, must extend to government employees. Recently, I had a few moments to sit down and watch a show with my children. Unsurprisingly, my son picked a series entitled “The Stinky and Dirty Show.” I was naturally skeptical that the show would yield any real value. However, as I watched, I found myself pleasantly surprised. Each episod

COVID Inspires Tyranny for the "Good" of Its Victims

The Christian philosopher, C.S. Lewis, once said, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies." The moral busybodies C.S Lewis warns of reminds me of those who would have Americans give up their liberty to combat COVID-19.   A recent Oklahoman op-ed compared COVID-19 to World War II, stating that the number of deaths from COVID-19 is approaching the number that died fighting for this country and the freedoms it protects. This comparison is, of course, nonsense. This suggests that a virus with a high survivability rate is an equivalent threat to the Nazi and Japanese regimes that brutally murdered millions. The piece uses wartime rationing of meat and cheese, a sacrifice necessary to ensure men on the front lines had adequate nutrition, to justify Americans accepting counterproductive lockdowns in exchange for additional stimulus c

The High Duty of Elected Officials and Ways They Fall Short

With an election just completed (the alleged voting, anyway), a legislative session coming up, constant talk of spending to offset the impacts of COVID-19, and elected officials trying to mandate our way out of a disease, the duty of elected officials in their official positions is worth considering. The 1889 Institute recently published a booklet for state lawmakers that discusses various issues and possible solutions. Included in that booklet is a short discussion of the central duty of elected officials, which is expanded here. What is the central, over-arching duty of an individual after having been elected to public office? Public oaths of office give a strong hint, and the Oklahoma Constitution is a good place to start. Article XV includes the oath of office, which states that an Oklahoma public official swears to “support, obey, and defend” the constitutions of the nation and the state, that the official will not take bribes, and that the official will discharge duties as best