Education, the Great EqualizerCommentary by Allen B. West
March 16, 2016
This past weekend I had an incredible experience. I walked upon the hallowed grounds of Hillsdale College in Michigan. Here I was, a fifty-five year old black conservative from the inner city of Atlanta, Georgia, delivering an address at the “Citadel of Conservatism.” The theme I was given to address was “God and Country.” I used that topic to delineate between the divine rights theory and natural law. I discussed how John Locke, the classical liberal political theorist, developed the individual rights of life, liberty, and property – and how today in America the ideals of natural law, and our Judeo-Christian faith heritage are threatened by progressive socialism.
This incredible journey upon which I traveled has enabled me to go and speak at places unimaginable – yet attainable. And why are these things attainable? Because a good quality education is the great equalizer.
I have spoken at Cornell, Marquette, Northwestern, Liberty, Tennessee, and several other universities. But what one notices about being on the campus of Hillsdale College is the impeccable level of knowledge of our Constitution, and the ability of the students to reason with precise logic and debate with utter confidence. The other thing you have to love about Hillsdale is that it is one of the premier Liberal Arts colleges in the country, and it does not take federal dollars.
Now that is a novel idea!
Somehow we have developed this belief in America that it requires more federal dollars in order to create educational success. We have embraced a sentiment that only with top-down, federally mandated education standards can our students be successful – even though the opposite has proven true. Since the Jimmy Carter administration when the government department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) was split out into three different agencies, one being the Department of Education – consider what has happened to the quality of education in America. With a little research, you can see the ever-increasing budget of the DoEduc, coupled with the ever-decreasing rankings of our students’ academic performance.
After speaking at Hillsdale, I returned back to Birmingham, Michigan, to speak at another event. In the car with me were two Hillsdale students, and we began a discussion on Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution; namely the suspension of the writ of habeus corpus. Our conversation centered around President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of said writ during the Civil War and the relevance to the recent violent political protests being conducted by progressive socialists. This is the level of discourse that we should be having on our campuses – not the inane cries for “safe spaces.”
Saturday evening I had the distinct pleasure and honor to speak at the Spring Speakers series for Bloomfield Christian School. This is a K-12 Classical Christian school and they focus on scholarship, discipleship, and citizenship. Bloomfield Christian employs the “Trivium,” a time-tested and “classical” approach to education which focuses on three stages of a child’s learning: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. That evening I saw students from several grade levels of the school perform magnificently and pondered why. Why is this not the standard, the model for education in America? Why is it that we have so much reticence and push back towards educational competition with charter schools, school choice, and something we are researching at the National Center for Policy Analysis, education savings accounts?
Why are we focused on the notion of making public college education free and relieving college student loan debt? We should be strengthening the 529 College Financing plans, a tax-free for middle-income level families to save and ensure the promise of a good quality education for their children.
Here is what is at stake with education in America: shall we develop the next generation of scholars, productive critical thinkers, and citizens? Or will we find ourselves creating a new generation of test takers, mindless coddled lemmings, and subjects?
Let me draw your attention to a video that evidences the latter. It’s a 9:30 interview on Fox Business News between host Neil Cavuto and Keely Mullen, the representative of the “Million Student March.” As you listen to this interview you will see what happens when this nation does not value quality education, but rather embraces a sense of indoctrination. As I watch this video, I am not upset with Keely. I am upset with a failed education system that is producing students like Keely all over the country. I am upset with an education system more concerned with the whims of the teachers unions than the future of our young men and women.
I am upset with individuals who call themselves teachers and professors who are nothing more than ministers of progressive socialist ideology. When I watched Keely, I wished that she had been taught at Bloomfield Christian in a classical education centered on the “Trivium.” I wish Keely could have attended Hillsdale College in order to better learn the fundamental principles of our Republic and also those of free market economics – not be a talking point receptacle of Marxist principles.
That evening at the Defender Dinner for Bloomfield Christian School, I was touched by a little black child named Evan. Evan was a first grader and came from a single parent household, but I watched him step up to the microphone and brilliantly recite a lengthy bit of Biblical scripture. He stood before the gathering of some 350 adults with confidence and a disciplined demeanor.
Evan will graduate from Bloomfield. Evan will go onto Hillsdale. And because of his classical Christian and constitutional liberal education, Evan will enjoy the blessings of life, liberty, and pursue his happiness in the greatest Nation this world has ever known – all because quality education is the great equalizer.