Skip to main content

Is Education No Longer the Primary Mission of Our Public Schools?

Did you know that the state of Oklahoma is currently experiencing not one, but two pandemics? Until yesterday, neither did I. According to the Oklahoma City School District, the state is currently experiencing the “dual pandemics of COVID-19 and Systemic Racism,” and has decided to spend valuable time and resources to ensure that their teachers learn how to “practice alternative ways of relating to…[their]students.” In the meantime, teachers are supposed to conduct their classes online   into November. Unfortunately, if the District doesn’t adequately prepare their teachers to use the available online learning platforms, it won’t matter how woke they are, they won’t be interacting with their students at all. 

At this point, we really have no idea what the school year will look like, and school districts have given little basis for optimism that students will actually learn anything. Oklahoma City public schools closed in March and “went online.” However, due to lack of sufficient technology, internet access, or proper training, the actual schooling that occurred was slim to none. Since that time, they have had the entire summer to gear up for the upcoming school year. What has the district done? Rather than come up with a strategy to reopen schools or preparing teachers for online school (developing platforms for online learning, ensuring a seamless transition, ensuring teachers can effectively use resources, etc.), the district has prioritized so-called professional development meetings that are more akin to Black Lives Matter (BLM) cultural indoctrination classes than something teachers can actually use to educate amidst the challenges of COVID-19 

This brings us to a serious question: is education even a primary goal of public schools anymore? The evidence presented by the Oklahoma City School District seems to point to the contrary, and this isn’t just a local phenomenon. A recent  feature article in the New York Times by Sarah Darville, the managing editor at Chalkbeat (a non-profit news outlet focused on education), discusses the extreme difficulty of reopening schools in the fall.  She spends the vast majority of the article discussing three things that make the decision to reopen difficult: child care, meal programs, and mental health counseling. Where is education?

Darville’s article is meant to show just how essential schools have become, but the author unknowingly highlights the issue with public “education” in the United States today: educating children is no longer (and hasn’t been for quite some time) a primary goal. In fact, it is a secondary goal at best. Other services such as child care, meals, and mental health counseling have taken its place. All of these services might need to be provided to some degree in some context. But it’s no surprise that with so many missions on their plate, the ostensible primary mission of schools has been crowded out and schools simply don’t do education very well. 

This quote from the article emphasizes the point: “If taking on the child care, food and the mental health challenges facing American children this fall were not enough, there is also, of course, the matter of making sure those children learn.” This comes three quarters of the way through an extensive article. The fact that the discussion about educating the children is tacked on to the back end of the article, almost as an afterthought, clearly indicates just what has been prioritized in public education, and it’s not education. Whether you think the first three programs are good, bad, or you are indifferent to them, the fact remains that they should not overshadow education as the primary goal of schools. 

Given the direction of the Oklahoma City School District, and the fact that it merely reflects what is happening in public education nationally, it is clear that schools no longer exist primarily to educate students. Unfortunately, there is not much parents can do about it. If they truly want their children to attend a school where education is the number one priority, they will have to consider an alternative to the public school system. 

Tyler Williamson is a Research Associate at the 1889 institute and can be reached at

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, 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