Education & Democracy

“Education is vital to our democracy.” This statement has become so cliche that no politician could deny it. Maybe this fact has become too cliche, because we are either not taking it seriously or we don’t think about how much it really means.  

The sad reality is that half of our children attend schools which are underfunded, understaffed, and overcrowded.  

Every time politicians make cuts to public education, it shows that they value something else more than they value education. Why would politicians ever cut funding to public education?  

Do they have a hidden agenda?

We would never hear a politician say that “tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are more important to our democracy than public education for our children” but we often see this reflected in their policies.

John Dewey warned, in 1916, that the greatest threat to our democracy is having a two-tier education system: one for the rich and one for the poor. Currently, we have an institutionalized inequality in our education system– and as long as this trend continues, one segment of our population will always be able to take intellectual advantage of another segment. Inequality of education leads to inequality of wealth, which leads to plutocracy.  

There is no doubt that our public education system is badly in need of repair, but cutting funding is not going to solve the problem.  

We are not even thinking about the ‘cost’ of education correctly. We should be talking about it as though it is an investment, because it is. There is an implied contract between generations. Those of us who are in the workforce had much of our education paid for by the generation who came before us. And now we are cutting funds for the next generation? This is an act of inter-generational betrayal.  

It is almost impossible to have exact ‘equality of opportunity’. We can however have a more equitable distribution of resources in our public education system. America’s most precious resource is its intellectual capital which is embodied in our children. It is clear to anyone genuinely concerned about education in America that we are wasting half of our precious resources. This is a moral failure on the part of our democracy.  

Slashing funding for public education is thus one of the greatest threats to democracy in America.