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April 21, 2011

Talkin' About an Education

Jake Silverstein:

The U.S. Constitution says nothing about public education, but all the state constitutions have clauses addressing it, and reading through them is a mildly inspiring way to spend half an hour. Arkansas: "Intelligence and virtue being the safeguards of liberty and the bulwark of a free and good government, the State shall ever maintain a general, suitable and efficient system of free public schools." Florida: "The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida." Idaho: "The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature . . ." Massachusetts: "It shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates, in all future periods of this Commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences." Michigan: "Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

The Texas state constitution hits a similar note in Article 7, which states: "A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools." Compared with the other states' fine print, this is pretty good. It isn't quite as ardent as Michigan's declaration, but it has considerably more enthusiasm than Wyoming's ("The right of the citizens to opportunities for education should have practical recognition"). And the idea it articulates, in one long legal sentence, is beautifully straightforward and persuasive: We need a well-educated populace in order to have a functional democracy, so the state should ensure that everyone gets an education. Simple.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at April 21, 2011 1:28 AM
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