The influence of politics on education is fundamental. Politicians are the policymakers in any jurisdiction. For this reason, they are the driving force behind any reforms, including those that affect education. Consequently, it is critical that they have the public’s interests at heart whenever they are formulating such policies. This does not always happen. Knowing how sensitive education is to most citizens, most politicians capitulate on it as a campaign strategy.
They look at the existent controversies and capitulate on these to rally the support of voters during polls. However, this politicizing of education is harmful to education, as academic bodies bear the burden of changing curricula and course content according to the political climate. Moreover, this robs the education system of its integrity and continuity. Alternatively, the ideal situation would be one whereby education and politics never mix. However, this is an impractical expectation.
Politics is necessary for education to exist and progress. In a way, they are intermeshed. Public schools are a superb example of this conundrum because they receive their funding from state taxes. Therefore, it would be unwise to try to purge politics from the running of these schools (Sutter 5). The result is the impasse that the paper attempts to explore it in view of existing research in the area.
The paper incorporates several opinions from different stakeholders and attempts to reconcile these ideas to come up with a tenable solution for the entire quagmire. What sparks my interest in this topic is the fact that the crucial decisions that politicians sometimes take extraordinarily lightly have the capacity to mold the nation depending on how they affect the students, who are on the receiving end.
Since it is apparent that one cannot disjoint politics and education, this paper seeks a different solution. Their interaction is somehow healthy. If so, it is necessary to establish these parameters.
Local schools cannot afford to fund themselves, hence the need for state funding. The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution delegates to states the responsibility of providing for its constituents’ education (Allen 3). The state in turn delegates the responsibility to educate the children to local schools. It also allocates funding that it acquires in the form of tax for use by these schools. Consequently, there has to be a lot of interference by political leaders seeking to ensure proper use of these funds.
Simultaneously, educators and administrators are not too happy about this constant supervision, yet it is necessary. The biblical view posits that God is the creator of all that is in the earth and that the creations are a reflection of his persona. This deity is the Supreme Being and all of humanity and all that he created are subordinate to him.
Human beings need to be humble in subjugation to his power. This requires them to exist in a state of learning and training. This philosophy supports and explains the purpose of education (Borden 1). Those that ascribe to this school of thought believe that morality is absolute and its definition objective.
Humanism is radically different in its provisions. As is clear from its nomenclature, the human being is the highest and most superior life form. To be precise, it places humanity on the pinnacle of the evolution chain. This superiority also applies to intelligence. Therefore, man does not have to answer to anyone. This school of thought begets politics, as it is utilitarian in its basis. This means it depicts a society in which humanity exists in groups. The groups’ interests come before the interests of the individual.
In this case, it is prudent to set up a civil government to ensure that all members abide by the established rules or laws, thus, maintaining peace and order (Hechinger 7). This fundamentally differs from the biblical philosophy, which equips people with the agency and morals to self-govern. These philosophies make it clear why is difficult to conjoin education and politics. However, it is not impossible for them to interact.
A success story on such an interaction is that of John Swett, whose title of “Founder of public education in California” still holds (Sutter 4). This legendary educator recognized that local schools could not afford to fund themselves. They would have to lobby for support from the state. The state on the other hand did not just provide funding, it also provided for the content of the curriculum that teachers taught in school. With time, the same legislators also took up the responsibility of interviewing teachers.
This humiliated the educators who had to subject themselves to irrelevant questioning by people outside their profession. Swett proposed that teachers should be “responsible agents for all things having t do with education.” (Sutter 5) He rallied for professional working standards for teachers and free education for all students. He was an educator, but he used politics to push through reforms in the educational sector.
He did not immerse himself into full throttle politics; he just used the same tools politicians use to garner public support and make reforms happen. An instance of this is evident in a speech he once gave. He said, “Let me call your attention to one dominant fact, which this rebellion places in a most striking light before so that our public schools have been not only sources of intelligence and learning, but…great nurseries of patriotism and devotion to constitutional liberty” (Sutter 8).
Today, education seems more valuable than it ever was. Higher education has become more of a right and a basic need that almost everybody should pursue to survive in society. Previously, it was an option left to the minority elite in society. Another reason is that education has a federal component. With the advent of technology, national security and global competition are the agenda of any government and the only way to stay abreast is to revolutionize education in these fields.
It is pertinent to note that, despite the fact that politicians are tremendously influential on education matters, the public and other significant interest groups can influence the form and content of what teachers teach in schools. A good illustration of this is the courses taught in religious / church schools as compared to board schools.
Even board schools do not escape from this because if some board members are politically biased, they are more likely to pass policies in line with their political disposition (Hechinger 4). In Afghanistan, religion has had a negative impact on the quality and level of education that women and other minority religious groups can access.
This topic is not controversial. Consequently, there lack heated debates on the issue and mostly it is only educators, politicians, administrators, parents, and some students who participate in debates. However, it is an intense and even emotional topic. Several teachers have been arraigned in court because of teaching a content that is politically incorrect such as evolution as the ultimate theory of origin and teaching religion in class when the constitution strictly forbids any state religion.
Consequently, all forms of new alternatives emerge, sometimes some that have no basis and that exist solely to oppose existing theories. A good example of such a situation is the emergence scientific creationism to oppose Darwin’s evolution theory. This jeopardizes the quality of education whereas the debate is entirely political and it has nothing to do with what is the most accurate account of the origin of the world and humanity. It is intriguing to note that this political influence on education is not a new phenomenon.
Several accounts of historical occurrences include 1798 when Harvard struck out a French course for language and literature from its curriculum because France was no longer England’s ally. This was in an attempt to assuage anti-French feelings and the course stayed out of the syllabus until 1806 only reinstated after students petitioned for it (Hechinger 2).
Education is fundamental for a government’s success in the global arena and so it is understandable that the government will interfere and attempt to exert its influence on the educational system. However, when this happens on a purely political basis, it is unlikely to bear the desired fruits of success and competitiveness.
It is necessary that the government and the educational sector work together, advise each other on the best way forward, and this will only be possible if educators are put in charge of making any critical decision that are likely to affect education. This is a straightforward principle that has worked for other sectors of the economy. Experts have tested it. Therefore, we are sure it can succeed in education.
Moreover, one cannot expect people who do not know the situation on the ground to pass sound judgment on how to handle such situations. It is more logical to employ experienced people to deal with such a matter. To do this, the people need to be more involved with education.
Parents need to participate in completing their children’s assignment, attending parent-teacher meetings, teaching them to live on a balanced diet both by example and by making them pack nutritious lunches (Borden 1). It is also necessary that parents analyze the policies in their children’s schools that they are not discriminatory. Finally, it is essential that people pay taxes as the revenue funds public schools.
The authors of the various articles that contributed towards the research for this paper rarely used rhetorical devices. The tone of their papers was often somber as if they were discussing something serious. There were also few on no blogs on the topic in general. Several bloggers wrote on the issue of teaching evolution versus scientific criticism. The comments on the blog were civil and unemotional, supported by facts and cases. It was exceedingly enlightening.
There are no opposing sides on the question of whether politicians should interfere in educational matters. There seems to be a consensus that ideally, they should not but such exclusion is impractical as they pass policies on funding. Education is an indispensable element in any government.
It is inevitable that such authorities will seek to influence what educators pass on to students in the classroom, either for purely selfish reasons or sometimes as a matter of public policy. However, regardless of the basis of the interference, the interests of the public should always take precedence and a crucial part of that the public is the student body. It is wise to let educators in on policies before executing them so that they can gauge their effect on the students.
Allen, Farmer. Politics and Local Education. Connexions Module, 2011. Web.
Borden, Bob. The Politics of Public Education. Trustee’s Notebook, 2011. Web.
Hechinger, Fred. About Education: Creationism, Politics, and Public Schools. New York Times 1981.
Sutter, Ruth. John Swett and the Politics of Public Education in Frontier California. Carlifornia Historian, 2011. Web.