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The Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 5, June 1996

From the Editor

Mom, apple pie, & "good schools"

We had a primary election here in North Carolina and "Good Schools" won in a landslide.

"Good Schools," the phrase, appeared in virtually every political ad and brochure. It didn't matter what office was at stake. If dogcatcher had been an elective post, then dogcatcher candidates would have made sure we knew that they, too, favored "Good Schools" ? lest we wondered. ("I heard that Joe Fleascratch wants to turn our classrooms into dog kennels." "I suspected as much. He didn't put 'Good Schools' in his brochure.")

What I can't figure is why this is still an issue, since even the incumbents boldly declared their support for "Good Schools." Assuming they were just as much for "Good Schools" when first elected, what have they been doing?

It's possible that some of these politicians were trying to say, "We have good schools, and I will keep them that way." But the implication generally was that the schools were not so good.

Political candidates have been vowing their love for "Good Schools" for as long as I can remember. Have they all been liars? Or, maybe we're supposed to believe that the new guys on the scene have some special trick to really, really fix the schools. They just need to get elected before they can pull it out of their sleeves. (Can you say, "Secret plan for ending the Vietnam War"?)

If you're a political candidate, invoking "Good Schools" is just a campaign ritual. Unless you're running for school board, and maybe not even then, you'll probably never be called on to explain how you're going to give people "Good Schools."

Which is odd. Everybody wants good schools, and everybody complains about the schools we have. You'd think that candidates promising "Good Schools" would be mobbed by people eager to hear and debate the competing plans (I'm pretending that there are plans). That rarely happens.

Our recent election here set a record for voter disinterest. Perhaps folks are giving up on politics as a way to get good things, including good schools.

Next election, it would be fun to confront the candidates thusly: "You say you're for 'Good Schools.' Why didn't you say anything about 'Good Restaurants,' or 'Good Department Stores,' or 'Good Churches?' Aren't you in favor of those, too?" When they get past their initial puzzlement, maybe one of them will answer: "We have good restaurants and stores already, and wonderful churches for people of all faiths. Besides, those aren't the government's responsibility."

My point exactly.

Steve Smith

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