Sunday, January 25, 2009

School Boards and Objectivist Activism

By Joseph Kellard

Over at the Harry Binswanger List, a subscriber from South Carolina recently raised the issue of Objectivists possibly getting involved in intellectual activism by joining local school boards. I don't think this is a good way for Objectivists to fundamentally fight the good fight.

For years now I’ve covered school boards for the newspaper company I work for here on Long Island. The great majority of items in school budgets are mandated by the state, from high school courses and tests to handicapped-accessible construction such as ramps and bathrooms. I believe that, on average, state mandates comprise as much as 90 percent of school budgets. At least that’s the case in some of the towns I’ve covered.

The school district administrators and board trustees spend their time trying to find ways to reduced school taxes, which here on Long Island are heavily tied to property taxes, by keeping the status quo in terms of course offerings, or cutting services and teacher aides, or by purchasing materials, from toilet paper to bricks for construction of schools, from the lowest bidders. You get what you pay for, right?

If Objectivists want to get involved in activism in public education, I think they would be better off trying to influence the powers at the state level, where they devise and hand down their mandates, rather than run for seats on school boards, where ideological influence is minimal and concrete issues rule the day.


Burgess Laughlin said...

Joseph, thank you for this post. You have contributed insights based on personal knowledge and, further, knowledge gained in the course of pursuing your own central purpose in life.

Your post confirms what I have seen elsewhere many times: often in activism the greatest value arises from what I would call "in-line activism". In this case, your knowledge of the actual situation "on the ground" can aid other activists in choosing the most productive path.

Joseph Kellard said...


Thank you for your reply to my post.

Joseph Kellard