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Stewart: 'Opting out' of government school system could force real reform

What’s it going to take to finally and fundamentally reform America’s government schooling system?

“It's a very hard question to answer, because I think really the optimal thing that could happen is for people to start opting out, for those who can.”

“It's a very hard question to answer, because I think really the optimal thing that could happen is for people to start opting out, for those who can,” said Chris Stewart, an education activist, public school parent, writer, speaker, and essayist. “Because school systems and school districts, all of their power runs on per pupil income, and if they don't have pupils that actually makes all the difference in the world. As long as they have pupils, they're going to keep training people to have special affection for a public education who are going to turn out, they're going to grow up and they're going to vote for people who can just ring the public education bell, and it's just going to be a Pavlovian thing, and every couple of years they're going to put more money into it.”

Stewart joined Freedom Media Network founder Curt Mercadante for a discussion on education, race, and free thought. Stewart’s focus is on increasing educational freedom and achieving justice for marginalized students, families, and communities.

He is the CEO of Brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and a brighter future for every child. The network includes news sites, such as Education Post, Citizen Education, Project Forever Free, and more than 20 other local and regional sites that spotlight education issues nationally.

Stewart said that the “pavlovian” affection for the current public schooling system will continue to work like “clockwork.”

“Because you're allowing the state to develop the intellect of the country,” he explained. “And you don't think that the state is ever going to interrogate itself as it's teaching you, right? You don't think the state is going to tell you, ‘Hey, here's how to think, opposed to the state," ever, right? So it's going to turn out a steady crop of new voters, dumb and dumber and dumber and dumber, generation after generation.”

He added, “It sounds terrible to say, but what do you expect when you allow the system itself to have a monopoly on how you develop the intellect of the nation?”

Stewart wondered whether it’s even ethical for a government to have a “monopoly on developing citizens whom it’s going to have to govern by consent in the future.”

“That might not even be ethical, right? How do you develop your own people that are going to be your own bosses at some point? How are you in charge of raising your bosses and having that be ethical?” he asked. “The only place you can have that conversation is some college course somewhere. The public isn't even ready for the conversation that it actually might not even be ethical for the government to have a monopoly on developing the intellect.”

He said that COVID-19 is a “huge interruption” that could actually have the positive impact of forcing reforms of the school system.

“This pandemic right now, it's like the government has given you your kids back and said, ‘Hey, have at it, we got nothing for you right now. We got some crappy remote stuff we can give you, but everything else, man, you're on your own. Here's your kids,’” he said. “And for the first time parents are like,’"Damn, wait a second, wait. This means, like, we have kids? Like we're supposed to be... What do we do now? Oh my God.’”

Stewart added, “We have infantilized parents to the point where they actually think this is a weird situation now, like ‘I have to educate my kids at home? Oh my God, what am I going to do?’ And it's like, ‘well, maybe you're going to go back in time and figure out that that was always part of parenting in the first place.’"

Mercadante and Stewart discussed the fact that many parents are now waking up to the fact that much of the “school day” is actually wasted on “crowd management.”

“Absolutely,” said Stewart. “And your kid is basically a rat in a rat race that entire day: here's a bell, here's a whistle, here's the line you stand in, here's how you get from class to class.

“None of that has to do with the educative process for your child. All that has to do with, we have too many kids in this building, we have to have a way of moving them throughout the building and throughout the day, that's orderly. It doesn't have to do with your individual kid. When you get them at home and you strip away a lot of that, maybe some real education can happen.”

He noted that homeschooling isn’t an option for everyone.

“There's always going to be a population that is super dependent on government for everything, so I can see how if you were really trying to organize a way for people to get out of this, it would seem daunting,” he said. “But you have to do it. You just have to. Even though there's no immediate answer, any clear answer,, it's not right the way that we order schools and structure learning right now, period, on the national level.”

You can watch Mercadante’s full discussion with Stewart by clicking here.

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