I had the opportunity to watch a live stream of an event hosted by the Fordham Institute, Education 20/20. Jonah Goldberg was one of the two featured speakers. It was great, and I appreciated that Michael Petrelli, who was the moderator, highlighted that the best approach to addressing the issue was persuasion.
Mr. Goldberg mentioned that the private schools in his area (the DMV) are highly progressive in their approach, relying on the Howard Zinn narrative of American history. He noted that “school choice” may not solve the issue of kids not learning civics, tying this issue to the larger Schumpeterian phenomenon of the elites failing to pass along the values that made their position and wealth (capitalism itself) possible.
I wanted to bring up a couple of points that I think may be of interest in the context of what seems to be a contradiction. On the one hand, we want to expand the choices that families have in educating their students, and on the other hand, that we are concerned that too many kids are not learning civics.
First, here’s an excerpt from Corey DeAngelis’s recent work on the outcomes for students in private schools, specifically related to positive civics outcomes:
It’s time we set the record straight. The preponderance of the evidence suggests that private school choice improves test scores, high school graduation rates, tolerance, civic engagement, criminality, racial integration, and public school performance. And, of course, all of these benefits come at a lower cost to the taxpayer.
It supports Mr. Goldberg’s hunch that stronger local ties and local control would actually increase the sense of belonging and sense of gratitude, not to mention the “thickness” of social networks.
Second, I wanted to highlight the work of an organization that is doing exactly what Mr. Goldberg identified as a need in schools and doing it through voluntary, rather than compulsory, means – the Bill of Rights Institute, led by Dr. David Bobb. Their mission, “Educating Individuals about a Free Society,” is focused on supporting middle and high school students, largely in public schools, to read and interpret primary texts, understand both sides of the debate, and have civil and informed conversations. They also do amazing work to educate teachers in founding ideas and documents.
If you are inclined to support an organization that has been dedicated to the importance of civics before it was the latest “sexy” trend in education, you really couldn’t do better than BRI. Also, if you happen to live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and would like to see one of BRI’s events in action, Dr. Bobb will be speaking at the Bill of Rights Day at Founders Classical Academy in Lewisville, TX.