Friday, April 15, 2011

Another CMT contributor -- Subsidiarity and the Case of the Missing Lunch
By: Jana Bennett

Meanwhile, we non-politicians tend to see only the distinctions between federal and state levels, but much less so at local levels. But if we’re taking the principle of subsidiarity seriously, the feds and the state should be supporting local schools in all the ways it can, but stay out of decisions that schools themselves ought to be making – including whether it is appropriate to “teach to the test,” and how to measure their student populations’ successes. Someone teaching special education on a reservation, which has undoubtedly unique aspects compared to, say, the wealthy school district in my area that everyone wants part in. Or, the impoverished “Teach to the test”, even in statewide measures, make no sense, but because education is big bucks, the state and the feds are involved far more than I think is warranted. We ought to trust each other more – especially the people on the ground.

Just as we ought to trust a principal to know her school and make a determination about lunches. She’s not being unfair or unjust; she’s giving students with very particular needs an out, but she’s also making a fairly-considered decision for her school.

I won't address the question of American federal system and the locus of sovereignty. The problem is that not all authority is the same, just set in hierarchical order. The sphere of authority will differ in accordance with the nature of the good of the group. When it becomes possible that attendance at schools is 100% voluntary for all children then we can talk about what powers a principal may have under contract. Asserting that a principal has authority (even if conceded in law) does not mean that it is true -- tyrants claim the protection of the law.

One should be wary of limiting the authority of parents, even if it is under the guise of protecting children's health or promoting a good learning environment -- the school is not the state, and even the state should be restrained in what it can and cannot legislate for the sake of legitimate liberty.

Perhaps one should not expect much from a blog, including a careful analysis of all of the terms that are involved (though this would be necessary for rigorous argumentation), but professional academics should be careful of writing a blog, less their competence be judged by it.

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