Education Minnesota’s headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. (Alpha News)

It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and my to-do list was long. But before hitting that to-do list, I shamelessly took a scroll through social media and came across a post telling me that Education Minnesota, the state’s preeminent teachers union, had updated their profile picture to the following image.

Oh yeah. It was June 1. Happy Pride Month from Education Minnesota.

A profile picture shouldn’t be a big deal, but in this case, Education Minnesota’s new image reveals much more about the state’s education system than we’d like to know.

For years, public schools carefully maintained an official image. They were “neutral” — spaces where just the facts were imparted to the nation’s children, free from religion, values, or any other ideology that could be termed indoctrination. Parents, wanting the best for their children, believed their local public schools wanted the same, and were therefore trustworthy to teach their children the 3Rs.

But public schools are filled with teachers, and those same teachers are represented, encouraged, and influenced by the union. And that union is now literally displaying its colors for all to see, showing that it is NOT neutral, like many assumed over the years, but does indeed have its own values.

Will those values trickle down to the young ones who sit in school desks across the country?

In reality, they already are.

Consider the following image from Eisenhower Elementary School in Hopkins, Minn., sent to me a few weeks ago by a concerned parent. When the parent asked about it, the school’s principal said that the bulletin board was designed by students as part of their diversity series.

That diversity was on display last year at the same school, demonstrated in the following picture, which was snapped by the same parent in the halls of Eisenhower Elementary. This type of content persists in the district’s middle schools as well, as I’ve written previously.

Are public schools “neutral”? Given these examples, that alleged selling point gets harder to swallow with each passing day.

The fact is, no form of education is going to be values neutral. Parents, as they teach their children, naturally pass along their values. Teachers in religious schools — whether private, micro, or otherwise — are also going to pass along their own values to the students in their classes. And public school teachers — even if they’re trying to be neutral — will do the same.

And that’s expected.

Where the trouble comes in, however, is that we, as taxpaying citizens of Minnesota, are also expected to use our tax dollars to send our children to schools that teach values we may not endorse or hold.

Once upon a time this wasn’t such a problem, for much of America held similar values and beliefs about God, family, and country. Thus, it was no big deal for an individual’s tax dollars to support a public school.

But that’s no longer the case. Americans have a diverse range of beliefs and values. For some parents, the values espoused by Education Minnesota and the teachers it represents are no problem. They’re happy to have their children learn from those individuals and institutions.

But for others, these values are in direct contradiction to their own, and leaving them with few other options is tyrannical at best, a fact recognized by Princeton professor J. Gresham Machen a century ago in his work, Christianity and Liberalism:

“A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.” [Emphasis added.]

So what’s the solution?

An obvious one is the concept of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), a new educational trend sweeping the country the last few years. Instead of taxpayer dollars going directly to the local public school, ESAs enable them to follow individual children to the school of their choice, whether public, private, charter, micro, or home. And when the education dollars follow the child, parents have the opportunity to pick out a school that teaches the type of values they want — whether those in line with the values advanced by Education Minnesota and their cohorts, or other, more traditional values.

Not only would such an arrangement make parents and students happy, it would also go far in stopping the constant bickering over whose values should prevail in society. And frankly, in this contentious culture, that’s something we’d all stand to benefit from.

Annie Holmquist is the editor of OAK. The former editor of the popular webzine Intellectual Takeout, she brings over two decades of work as an educator, researcher, and writer to her advocacy for school choice. She is also a regular contributor to The Epoch Times and American Essence Magazine.


Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is the editor of OAK. The former editor of the popular webzine Intellectual Takeout, she brings over two decades of work as an educator, researcher, and writer to her advocacy for school choice. She is also a regular contributor to The Epoch Times and American Essence Magazine.

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