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The Value of Public Education

By Wendy Butzerin

“If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great Security.”

Samuel Adams, Letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779

 The Value of Public Education

Have we as a society forgotten that the purpose of public education is to teach students academic skills as well as the value of a good moral character? Even before the Constitution was established, America’s Founding Fathers recognized a close tie between a good education, teaching virtue, and maintaining our democracy.

Their influence can be found in our state law as well. Here in Washington, per RCW 28A. 405.030, teachers Must Teach Morality and Patriotism to their pupils:

“It shall be the duty of all teachers to endeavor to impress on the minds of their pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, temperance, humanity, and patriotism; to teach them to avoid idleness, profanity, and falsehood; to instruct them in the principles of free government, and to train them up to the true comprehension of the rights, duty, and dignity of American citizenship.”

America’s Founding Fathers knew that people would need to be equipped with knowledge, wisdom, and virtue in order to govern themselves. They foresaw that an ignorant populace would inevitably result in tyranny. As Benjamin Rush said, “Freedom can exist only in the society of knowledge. Without learning, men are incapable of knowing their rights.” –Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical

Thomas Jefferson stated specific subjects that he thought were critical for students in order for them to understand their rights and become active citizens. He believed students needed to be able to read, write and do arithmetic, as well as be taught geography and history. 

Are kids in our Highline District being prepared to become informed citizens and take on the responsibilities of self-government? It’s hard to say, but as of 2022, Highline School test scores land us in the lowest 20% of Washington districts, at number 195 out of 244 – SchoolDigger.com.

When further evaluating the quality of education at Highline, we can look at OSPI Highline Report Card. Unfortunately, it only includes Math, English, and Science. According to the men who signed our Declaration of Independence, knowledge of history and civics is critical to maintaining our liberty.

Highline has added extra programs such as Instruction on Race and Identity, Social Emotional Learning, Dual Language Learning, and Comprehensive Sex Ed. The value of this extra content can be debated, but it is vital to remember that new programs take away time and resources from rudimentary academics, which may be reviewed in RCW 28A.150.210 – Basic Education – Goals of School Districts.

Recalling the wisdom of America’s Founders, Highline needs to follow the law and return its focus to academics, simultaneously preparing its students to live as informed, moral citizens.

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  1. Outstanding article! A call to Highline educators to reclaim the real meaning of education for our young people! The Founders, our own Washington State codes are right there to lead our teachers to help develop young people into truly educated future leaders imbued with moral dignity.
    Let’s get back to the real basics !!

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