Response to Education and the “State”: An Alternative Viewing, Jeffery Martin Silberman

I would note that I discern no problem, at least, from my vantage, I perceive no inherent conflict between the two parties of this discussion. I would argue that the state and education are committed to the same goals and as such have a confluence of ideals and purposes. Thus, what is good for one is also good for the other. Hence, at least in theory, no debate exists in so far as the state and education seek common ends. This is not to diminish the very real concerns which Prof. Greene pointed out if her remarks, for example, about the National Commission on Excellence. We see in this instance a distortion of public trust and a partisan political statement.  I do not perceive this as typical nor as a case of moral surrender by the state.

It would be in my understanding of the state that I differ somewhat from Professor Greene. There can be little question that distinctions need to be made between federal and individual state governments, as well as between the influence of school boards over against city government regarding education.  Politics, economics, and bureaucracy do all contribute to the end product – that is, the form and content of the educational system. Yet I am unwilling to place the blame for all of the problems of education at the door of anyone of these. For, despite the politicians, fiscal priorities, and entrenched civil servants, each citizen shares the responsibility for both the successes and failures of an educational process. Ultimately, I would suggest that parents mediate the nature of their children’s educational future by participating or not in the democratic process.

Both the state and educational systems are human institutions. They are established by people to serve the needs of people. The state is a structure  formed to keep order and to ensure the principles designated by the participants of that community. Our democratic system includes the opportunity for universal suffrage and thus universal participation. When that process yields decisions that are counter to our own, we may work from within to change them. If the principles of that system diverge from our philosophy, we may offer alternatives for public consideration. I do not perceive an opposing view to my own as necessarily either morally indifferent or morally corrupt. I do not presume that bureaucrats and technicists function without their own principles, even if those principles differ or even disregard mine.  By virtue of my commitment to a liberal Humanist philosophy, I feel obligated to speak out against such attitudes and to work for their revision. But that is as far as I can go.