Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy
Last week, New Hampshire House defeated, by a vote of 177 to 174, a bill to provide an extra daily meal for children from low-income families.
“While the majority recognizes the value and importance of student access to meals, the state should not engage in another costly and enforced requirement like this,” the East rep wrote. Kingston, Deborah Hobson (R), opposing the expansion of free meals for needy students. in New Hampshire public schools. “Providing breakfast and lunch for children remains a parental responsibility, as the decision whether or not to participate in this program rests with the local elected school board.”
Hobson and 176 colleagues, so unsympathetic and careless for the poor and vulnerable among us, may see hunger as a parental responsibility, but it’s the community that suffers if malnourished students can’t keep up. students who receive three squares plus snacks per day; the community that suffers when politicians believe New Hampshire cannot afford to pay around $650,000 a year to keep school children healthy and productive.
The New Hampshire bill estimated a cost of 40 cents per day per student in need to keep our children healthy and alert – an opportunity to spend 40 cents per day/student to model a healthy community of sharing, sustenance and success.
Following the American Revolution, leaders like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, recognizing that to survive as a democracy and prosper America needed a well-educated population, began to envision a national education system of state-funded schools, schools for which Horace Mann, who had grown up in poverty and trained at a local public library before graduating from Brown University, became the United States’ leading advocate. United.
Mann, now considered the American father of public education, believed, like many founding fathers, that education would benefit America by transforming children into literate, engaged, and productive citizens eager to participate in life. citizenship and recognized, as Mann wrote, that “public education is the cornerstone of our community and our democracy.
Education as a national, universal, and aspirational priority available to all Americans is a radical concept and must be protected.
Today, unfortunately, this radical belief that public education is such a cornerstone is not only unsupported by many Americans, but is directly attacked, both nationally and locally, by parochial interests. who attempt to undermine civic engagement and the inalienable rights of many citizens’ aspirations in order to maintain privilege and power.
Today, unfortunately, assaults on public education are being staged on many fronts in order to siphon off, I believe, significant numbers of students, resources, and parental support and divert them to serve the interests of others.
The result, as might be expected, is that attacks on public education by the wealthy and well-educated on the one hand and those who harbor grievances and resentments, often of a racist and exclusion, on the other hand, are promoted while public interests and education are diminished.
Today we are witnessing the frantic gasps of entrenched interests trying to maintain their power by trying to disenfranchise and marginalize the weak, the hungry, the huddled masses yearning to be free.
Today we see insurgencies, voter nullification attempts, book bans, loyalty oaths, lies about critical race theory, denials about the existence of systemic racism , attacks on school board members, attempts to humiliate LGBTQIA+ students; all diminishing the role of public schools, all serving to create space for anti-public and anti-democratic actions against vulnerable communities.
The vulnerable communities under attack today who, soon after America ceases to be a majority white nation in a few years, will embrace a more inclusive and pluralistic view of America.
“Martin Luther King Jr. called for us to be in love with each other, not colorblind with each other. To be in love is to care,” Michelle Alexander wrote in The new Jim Crow.
Those who deny food to the hungry and shelter abroad do not care.
Those who deny shelter and comfort are not in love with the American promise and must be resisted.
“Education is our only political security,” wrote Horace Mann. “Outside this ark all is deluge.”
(Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.)