Slippery slope of government schools as family substitute



At a recent Kenai School Board meeting, and as reported in Must Read Alaska,  an impassioned argument was made to get young students back into the classroom.  

By all accounts, the individual making the argument holds solid conservative credentials, but part of his statement belies a belief that government can best provide love and care to children.  

To be fair, the argument was not made that this was true of all teachers or all children, but it in his righteous zeal, the speaker allowed that the government – in this case, public school teachers – provides the most positive thing some kids get in their daily lives.  

This is not just a slippery slope towards big government, it is a tumble down the slope that is sure to be greeted by the wide and welcoming arms of the nanny state.  

Collective theory wants us to believe it is government, not family, that is best suited to make our lives better, more complete.  It is, in fact, the type of thinking upon which collective theory depends.    

It brings to mind a scene in The Killing Fields, a 1984 movie that revealed the atrocities committed in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, in which a group of children are being indoctrinated in the ways of the party.  A young student is called to the blackboard to demonstrate what actions were needed to make the party and the state the ultimate providers to the children.  

On the blackboard was a stick figure drawing of a family; a father and mother and their three children, all lined up with outstretched hands joining them. The student placed a large X through the parental figures, then physically erased the spot in which the mother’s hand grasped the eldest child’s hand.  

The goal was clear: the collective would nurture the children and attend to their needs. Parents were not needed in the Khmer Rouge family.  

Government entities should never be seen as the best providers of love and care for anyone. That is the responsibility of individuals and families.  While it may, in fact and with great misfortune, be true that some kids get better treatment in school than they do at home, it should not be seen as an argument for getting the whole lot of them back into brick and mortar buildings.

Schools exist to educate, and that is what the focus should be:  quality education, not surrogate parenting.  According to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, Alaska’s fourth graders are dead last in the country in reading ability.  With results like that, the focus has to be on learning, not simply getting kids back into their government-supplied seats. 

Admittedly, schools provide positive benefits such as socialization, athletics, structure, and mentorship, but those are by-products.  The main product should always be quality education. 

Tim Barto is the father of five Alaska-born and homeschooled children.


  1. In the bush, some kids get the only food for the day from school. Also the only love and caring from teachers. The school was a safe harbor, they didn’t or couldn’t go home at night. Slept under buildings. Had frostbite down to the bone. Raped if they went home or worse. It was more than I could take sometimes. You people that say kids don’t matter to teachers can shove it. They are our kids too.

    • “…quality education, not surrogate parenting.”
      I remember when I was small and cute, teachers, counselors and other adults were all about giving me lots of TLC. When I grew out of cute, my parents, my uncles, aunts, and cousins, flaws and all, were still there for me. The teachers, counselors, and all the others were nowhere to be seen. They had kicked me to the curb and moved on to other cute little kids.
      My parents divorced when I was about 4 and a half. I got bounced between them, usually to the one who could best support me at any particular time. Bonding was weak. I grew up, went into the Army, got out, went to work, started a family.
      I never wrote, never called, but whenever any cousins came to Alaska for work, my parents would ask them to look for me so they would know that I was ok.
      Nobody else who had been in my young life ever did that. My parents loved me. My teachers and all of the others used me, under the pretense that they cared about me. No, they loved us cute little kids, like they loved their cute little cats.
      We were something for them to extend their self-love, something to stroke their own emotions with, nothing more.
      We’re not your kids. We’ve never been your kids. We will never be your kids. When we grow out of cute, you always move on.

    • Greg F, It would seem that there are many, many social ills in Bush AK. What is the cause of those ills? Let’s identify the root cause and work on fixing that. Maybe the Bush culture is very problematic. What you describe should be the work of the social worker industry, not education. If you taught in the Bush, did you report any of the rapes, abuses, beatings, incest? The State Of Alaska needs to face the facts–Bush AK is broken when it comes to domestic violence, sexual abuse, and most of all, child abuse. We need to fix it and fix it fast. No more slogans. No more excuses. Alaska owns it.

      • Of course we did. Helped put some behind bars. Trust built between a teacher and students is important. Teachers are in a better situation being local. You can’t make a teacher stop caring.

        • If they were Native, simply to be accused is often considered “proof of guilt” by all-white juries.
          You can’t make some white teachers stop racial profiling.

          • Racist, you should stop your hate. A girl had an uncle visit her after hours in her bed. Drunk people doing and orgies abused kids and they would camp on the entryway of the school in 3 foot snow drift because it was better than. going home. These things did happen because I saw them happen. The people were guilty even though they were natives. Believe it or not, natives do bad things to native kids.

          • Now see here you go again. Not knowing what you’re talking about but still you got your big old foot in your mouth. The jury was made up of whites and natives. As it turns out natives don’t like their kids being abused either.

    • Don’t know where you got that info Greg, but it sounds like prevarication. NONE of the villages I’m familiar with have those problems, and the ones that I’ve heard of having those problems were even exceptional there. I’ve lived in the bush 34 years – and can tell you there is no higher percentage of social problems in the bush than there is in cities, likely less as bush culture teaches respect

    • Uh, no, they are not your kids too. If there are home issues, there are means to deal with that. School is not it. The school’s job is to “educate” children so they understand the benefit and privilege of being a citizen of the USA, (you know, liberty and ‘equal’ justice and such), how to read, write, add and subtract. They are NOT little lab specimens to be socially engineered into whatever nonsense you think is cool.

      Our education system is precisely why our nation is in chaos. If the children was the important consideration, school choice with state vouchers would have been implemented long ago. It is the teachers union and the spineless politicians who cater to this union that stand in the way.

      • You obviously have never lived in the bush. In the Alaskan Bush, teachers are encouraged to do more than just what they’re paid to do. Get out amongst the village people, interact learn the culture and their native ways. It’s not just a job. If you had taught in the bush you would know that you can be a more effective teacher by showing a little bit of caring and compassion for the kids people show The village that you’re truly there to make a difference not just draw a paycheck. That’s the difference between you and me

        • Your authoritarian “tell” is showing again.You consider yourself as the superior knowledge final authority. You even claim our kids as your own to control … not only to control them but to control their families through them. It’s called meddling. You were encouraged to meddle in families lives?
          In the late 40’s … 47% of all American Native children were in white foster homes or were adopted by white families. They took our children, under the pretense of protecting them, to break our cultures, and to assimilate us. Priests and teachers were a great part of that.
          You’re Native? Can’t tell by listening to you. My adoptive father was white and my adoptive mother was Indian. Sometimes I sound white, and other times I sound Native. You have only a white voice.

  2. This strikes me as a severely dark take on the role of government. The role of government is to offer the best the whole of the people have to offer to those who need it most. It would seem obvious that the role of the family would be to offer the best to those who are members, current and future. In practice, this does not work out. Families are messy. There is conflict. There is divorce. There is physical and sexual violence. If you are looking for perfection, families do not always offer it. Nor does religion.
    I would never argue that governments should be the best providers of love and care for anyone, but in the absence of those in families that cannot, or do not, provide it, we need someone or something to intervene. If not we or our collective need, as expressed in our governmental doctrines and philosophy to support the most disadvantaged among us, then who? Ultimately, we the people decide what will happen to our society and children, for better or for worse. When things go wrong, perhaps we should look at where we are going as a nation. We are all in this together, whether we like it or not.

  3. Bingo! Tim you got it!
    Best written piece writing about the topic ‘opening the schools’ without neglecting the most important detail beside just opening the public schools. He has homeschooled, so he knows why parents take their children out of public schools.

  4. The less self control someone has, the more they need to compensate by controlling others. Of course they have to rationalize that they’re much better equipped to control others than others are to control themselves. The Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” skit comes to mind. If they can’t control you, then it’s “No soup for you!”

  5. Tim,

    Great article, so many who call themselves conservative can’t even spell the word let alone describe what it means to be one. So many who call themselves conservative simply hide their ignorance behind the word conservative. Just saying the words Liberty, Freedom, and America does not make you a conservative.
    Some who call themselves conservative want us to send our children back to the government supplied indoctrination centers for no other reason than they cannot handle their children and they want a government supplied babysitter.

  6. It is time to face the fact that the American public school system of today has largely become a jobs program for under achieving adults. Just look at the results.

  7. Greg, sorry but Fishing for Food is correct. Facts are stubborn things, and public education is broken. The facts Greg, not opinion.

        • “Additionally, despite the claim that teachers were involved in the process of developing the CCSS, teachers felt overlooked. Jose Vilson, an eighth-grade math teacher in New York City, described his feelings this way:
          It (the CCSS development) was very top-down and ultimately that caused some of the resistance, even from people who would otherwise be allies to this work. Some of us have always wanted a national curriculum so wherever people went, especially as students, they would still be learning similar material to where they were before.
          But you need to have the teachers’ voice at the heart of this work, along with students and parents and community stakeholders. It can’t be driven by some aloof Ivory Tower so-and-sos, who come in and tell us what to do.”
          Top-down is good for business and military, as long as the reasonable exercise of initiative reaches the lowest ranks. Government operatives with a Marxist/socialist/commie agenda use top-down education to acclimate students to an eventual totalitarian government … and they resist opposition to their “higher authority”.
          The primary advocates of CCSS appear to have Marxist/Socialist/Communist agendas.

      • Facts like the NEA is just a cover for indoctrinating kids into socialism and later communism…? Ironic- we paid good money for you to “teach” here, yet Alaska falls in the 47th slot in education. Why is that? Did we not pay you enough money? The ROI on education is pretty dismal. Too bad you didn’t work harder for that check. On the flip side, shame on the public for not holding you and other teachers accountable.

        • You are welcome. It was my pleasure to leave my home and my family and spend years helping to educate the alaskan children. I taught shop, in addition to reading a tape measure aka fractions.

  8. So you think I’m lying? What would you call an uncle sleeping with his niece, or an elder who works at the school soliciting teenagers for sex? What would you call a son who gets drunk and hit his elderly father with a square point shovel like it was a baseball bat? What would you call kids who sleep underneath houses on stilts because no matter how cold it was or how hungry they were it was better and safer than going home? What would you call a parent who abused their son so much sexually that when he came to school he hit in a closet and wouldn’t come out? Or an uncle who went into his niece’s bedroom and felt her up at night? Or a brother who raped his own sister? Do you want me to go on because I can. you don’t have a clue about what goes on in the bush. Alcohol is one of the main reasons. Best culture teaches respect but respect of what? Every village I’ve ever lived in there was always two or three feuding families, I’m talking about blood feuds that happen generations ago and it still carried on. The old ways have died out. The kids don’t have any culture, very few have parents that give a damn. Genetics plays a certain amount of the role. Many villages only have one family and you probably have heard the old saying that the family tree is a wreath. You can’t blame teachers for these shortcomings that begins with the family caring enough to make sure they support the school and the teachers and see that their kids get a good night’s sleep and a good meal and get scolded if they don’t do their homework or if they talk back to a teacher disrupting class. None of this what I’ve been saying is a lie it’s something I’ve experienced in every village I’ve been to and many like to play ostrich and stick their head in the sand and say that it doesn’t happen or it doesn’t happen here but until they face the facts and the reality of it it’s never going to change.

      • Anybody who knows me know that I don’t lie and what I say is true to the best of my ability to tell the story. No I don’t Gamble. I’m sorry you had such a terrible Life as a child and then it has tainted your view. But don’t blame me for that mishap. I’m a native American just like you are and I am a conservative and I despise liberals but what I said are things that actually happened. I can’t say names or places because of some confidentiality involved.

        • Greg, unfortunately, you are ignoring a huge part of the story, in the category of facts. We have signs all over our community that say “support our teachers”. They should say, support our children. Numbers do not lie. I have been an Alaskan since 1950, educated in our public school system. Unfortunately put my children through the system. Should have homeschooled, with all the effort we had to go through to teach our kids what was not taught in the system, and to un-teach the nonsense taught them. The struggle was real, in particular countering the effort by the system to get the kids to think circularly.
          I am sure you will be glad to here my children all turned out independently thinking, law-abiding citizens who appreciate this nation.

        • As far as confidentiality … More likely than not, there are some out there who have read your descriptions of their lives and are depressed to be reminded so unnecessarily.
          More likely than not, everyone out there knows exactly whom you were talking about.
          LEO’s, Social Services, parents need to know. Others certainly don’t need, nor want to hear it.
          Many truths are best kept close within a “need to know” circle.

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