Serving Kenly, Selma, Smithfield, Princeton & Pine Level since 1973

Education the bedrock of our democracy

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Neil Postman said it best: “Americans are the most entertained and least informed people in the world. Most know little or nothing about what matters most.”

As I see it, education is the key, the solution to such ignorance.

Public, free education is fundamental not only to the future of our constitutional republic, but also the future of the economic growth and quality of life in Johnston County, North Carolina.

On Dec. 2, during the Johnston County Board of Commissioners’ morning session, Johnston County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Jim Causby will be seeking additional funding to undergird the increased cost of educating the children of Johnston County.

This columnist wishes to encourage all those who read this column to attend the commissioners’ meeting in support of the funding to meet the needs of educating our county’s children.

Horace Mann contended that public education was invented to prepare individuals for self-governance, and to work with others toward the improvement of their communities and for the betterment of society.

Benjamin Barber, an educator of note, wrote, “Public schools must be understood as public not simply because they serve the public, but because they establish us as a public.”

What more precious aspect of our society do we owe our best than our children and thus, to their education? What better means in a democratic society to do so than in a system of free public schools? Public education is what embeds and gives meaning to, “we the people.”

It is within our free public educational system that we seek to instill in our children that they become good, productive citizens and active members of the communities in which they live and work to form a “more perfect union.”

Mann, often referred to as the “father of American public education” believed that all children should be educated equally and responsibly and referred to “the common school” as the greatest discovery ever made by man.

Horace Mann’s six main public educational principles included:

1. Citizens can’t be ignorant and free.

2. Education should be publicly funded and controlled.

3. It should be provided equally for all children.

4. It must be nonsectarian.

5. It must emphasize the tenets of a free society.

6. It must be provided by well-educated, professional teachers.

The late John Dewey, an American educational reformer, philosopher and psychologist, was a strong advocate for progressive public education. He believed an educated public was fundamental to democracy. Dewey advocated for education to be freely available to everyone from kindergarten to college.

Jonathan Kozol, writer, educator and activist, states, “…privatized schools starve the public school system of the presence of well-educated, politically effective persons to fight for equity for all kids.”

“I am opposed to the use of public funds for private education,” he further stated. Kozol’s perspective is that privatized education creates separate and unequal. To him, it did not work 100 years ago and it does not work now.

Horace Mann believed, and rightly so, that knowledge is power — that an educated person is a slave no longer to the status quo.

All our children in the public educational system of Johnston County deserve our full support, as does the Johnston County Board of Education and the central offices of Johnston County Public Schools.

I will close this column with a quote from Tom Brokow, former ABC news anchor: “There is a place in America to take a stand, it is the underpinning of our culture and political system. It is the great common ground. Public education, after all, is the engine that moves society toward a common destiny. It is in public education that the American dream begins to take shape.”

Edward “Ned” Walsh of Princeton is a retired Baptist denominational worker who served as executive director of Johnston County Habitat for Humanity from 2004-08.