It's easy to get caught up in Rick Santorum's intolerant views toward birth control, abortion, and religious views different than his own and neglect to notice his other reactionary opinions. Richard A. Oppel of The New York Times reports Santorum in Columbus, Ohio
said the idea of schools run by the federal government or by state governments was “anachronistic.” Mr. Santorum did not say public schools were a bad idea, and he said that there was a role for government help in education.
But it was the latest in a series of comments by the former Pennsylvania senator — who is tied in polls in the critical Ohio and Michigan primary contests — suggesting that he takes a dim view of public schooling. He and his wife home-schooled their children.
For the first 150 years, most presidents home-schooled their children at the White House, he said. “Where did they come up that public education and bigger education bureaucracies was the rule in America? Parents educated their children, because it’s their responsibility to educate their children.”
“Yes the government can help,” Mr. Santorum added. “But the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools, is anachronistic. It goes back to the time of industrialization of America when people came off the farms where they did home-school or have the little neighborhood school, and into these big factories, so we built equal factories called public schools. And while those factories as we all know in Ohio and Pennsylvania have fundamentally changed, the factory school has not.”
Inconveniently, the idea of public schools goes back a little further than that (H/T to Blue Texan of Crooks and Liars) to the Founding Fathers, whom conservatives adore citing when convenient. It seems
For Thomas Jefferson, public education was the key to preserving republican government. To secure the broadest level of popular education Jefferson prepared his "Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge" as part of the revision of Virginia's laws. As chair of the committee, Jefferson proposed a three level system in 1779, (never adopted): three years of primary education for all girls and boys; advanced studies for a select number of boys; a state scholarship to the College of William and Mary for one boy from each district every two years.
Jefferson advocated public education not only because it lifted individuals out of ignorance, but also as an institution fundamental to America's republican system of government. He noted in his State of the Union address in 1806
Their patriotism would certainly prefer its continuance and application to the great purposes of the public education, roads, rivers, canals, and such other objects of public improvement as it may be thought proper to add to the constitutional enumeration of Federal powers.
It appears that Santorum would not end subsidies for public education but would eradicate the influence of taxpayers, as expressed through their elected representatives. The Times continues
While he said he did not oppose government financing of schools, Santorum said that "public education should be a dynamic process that's locally run."
"I think the parent should be in charge," he added, "working with the local school district to try to design an educational environment for each child that optimizes their potential."
From the party of small government, we have a proposal for a school system with, say, 10,000 students: 10,000-20,000 parents working with thousands of school employees to develop 10,000 curricula. At best, Santorum simply hasn't given any thought to this. More likely, it's a conservative's wet dream: taxpayers funding private schools with no standards and guidelines, chaos abounding.
And while he's at it, educational expert Rick Santorum, who urges "an educational environment for each child that optimizes their potential," might consider that each child instead should optimize his or her potential. Just saying.