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Can Conservatives Show That "We Care?"

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Not With My Kid You Don't

by Christopher Chantrill
October 17, 2007 at 3:30 am


EVERYONE is properly shocked and outraged at the latest school shooting rampage. They are rounding up the usual suspects and demanding that something should be done. But why be surprised?

When we hesitate to exclude “special” students from the mainstream of schools, we should expect problems. Special students, who may be anything from the developmentally challenged to the emotionally challenged, are routinely slipped into normal classes.

The Cleveland shooter, Asa Coon, appears to have been a troubled youth with a long history of problems, according to CNN. Things got so bad with Coon that they had to send him to a special school.

The records of “special” students, according to my correspondent, are normally kept secret. The parents of the other children in school are not allowed to know of the potential danger their children face from a disturbed youngster, although it seems that people would hardly be ignorant of the history of a youth as disturbed as Asa Coon.

But why should a government university like Virginia Tech or a school district like Cleveland take the trouble to deal with disturbed youngsters? They are hardly at risk in the aftermath of a rampage shooting.

Whereas a parochial school or tony private school might be at risk of closing if it demonstrated the incompetence and inattention that a shooting rampage implies the survival of the Cleveland schools will not be at risk. In fact, they might even get additional funding to implement additional programs to cope with their “at risk” students.

We really must confront the inconvenient truth that is the “root cause” of so much failure in the public sector.

Government reinforces failure. It really doesn’t matter if schools graduate illiterate students and “at risk” students don’t get helped. What matters is that schools have programs that target below-grade readers and that they have programs to address the problems of “at risk” youth.

Government reinforces failure because government doesn’t serve individual voters and government workers don’t suffer consequences when government fails.

The excellent Minette Marrin, in discussing the failure of the British National Health Service to maintain its hospitals at elementary levels of hygiene, suggests that the answer to failing public services like health care and education might be—fear.

It can’t be that hygiene is rocket science. Florence Nightingale laid out the principles of hospital hygiene 150 years ago in Notes on Nursing.

In hospitals where patients are allowed to lie in their own excrement, she gently suggests:

What’s needed is more fear, except among the patients, of course; it’s among them only that fear now prevails.

The spur that makes people do their job well is the fear that there will be consequences if they don’t.

The progressive movement that has dominated our politics and culture for the last century is devoted to the notion of “freedom from fear,” and theirs is a noble sentiment. People should be free from fear of the company goons, police brutality, and the fear of destitution.

But you can take things too far.

Except in the commercial sector, criticizing people’s efforts is frowned on and it’s extremely difficult to dismiss them; the fear of being sacked for incompetence is a thing of the long-distant past in the state sector.

Public sector workers do not fear for their jobs. And they do not fear negative outcomes. They do not worry if children cannot read or if children are violent to their peers. If children cannot read then they call for additional reading programs. If children are violent then they call for special funding for “at risk” kids.

Already the Cleveland are school district is responding to the need for additional security. Says CNN:

City spokeswoman Maureen Harper said Cleveland Metro Schools CEO Eugene Sanders would present Mayor Frank Jackson with a new plan Friday for security in the schools.

That’s nice. But it is hardly going to deliver to Cleveland parents and children a safe and effective school system.

We really shouldn’t be surprised that school systems don’t educate children. We shouldn’t be surprised that welfare systems don’t promote social welfare.

Government reinforces failure and public sector workers don’t fear the consequence of failure.

Try to tell a school official: “Not with my child you don’t.” She will respond: “Says who?”

Because the truth is that in the land of the free children don’t belong to their parents. They belong to the state.

What is to be done?

Let us start with the idea that parents ought to be allowed to send their children to the school of their choice, and that this right is a more fundamental right than the right of disturbed children to stay in school.

Let us promote the notion that if a parent doesn’t like the school her child is going to then she can remove her child and send her to another school.

It’s a pretty simple notion: “Not with my kid you don’t.”

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Civil Society

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Francis Fukuyama, Trust

Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


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E. G. West, Education and the State

Faith & Purpose

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Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


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James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy

Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006

China and Christianity

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Religion, Property, and Family

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US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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