Ever since President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, America has seen protests, riots, cancelled college classes, and teachers wailing and gnashing their teeth over the prospects of how Trump will affect education. This reaction not only shows a fundamental misunderstanding of government’s role in our lives, it also provides an important real-life civics lesson that many educators ignore: People do not have confidence in a powerful big government led by someone they do not trust.
The reason people distrust big government, whether they acknowledge it openly or not, is that deep in their hearts, they know a powerful government will inevitably limit individual freedom, a reality the American Founding Fathers knew from personal experience. Government has an insatiable appetite and will never stop grabbing power whenever it is given the opportunity. Smaller, local government bodies, which the people can more easily control and influence, are better governments that more accurately reflect the will of the people they represent. This is the real lesson of the 2016 election.
Unfortunately, the U.S. education system is not teaching the past failures of powerful governments, failures that occur regardless of whether the government is controlled by those we agree with or by those we do not.
The teachable moment here is the simple recognition Trump is only the symbol of big government. The real culprit driving the fear of millions of concerned citizens is the power of the presidency, which has been expanded by President Barack Obama and by many presidents before him. It seems with every new president, the executive branch snatches increasingly more authority, often relying on executive orders and using enforcement and regulatory agencies under their control as weapons to silence political opposition.
U.S. higher education and the nation’s K–12 education system have ignored the history of our country’s founding; the reasons behind why there is in the federal government a separation of powers, broken into three branches; and they have especially ignored the fact that states are guaranteed much authority and autonomy by the Constitution. Instead, bureaucrats have filled classrooms with their leftist political agendas and propaganda, which aim to tear down and discredit the Founders, the family structure, and capitalism. Rather than promoting self-reliance, many teachers now praise reliance on government and vilify individual freedom.
It is easy to make fun of the college students and professors who clamor for “safe spaces,” free-speech zones, or adult coloring books, but it is exceptionally difficult to have a meaningful conversation with these same students and professors about the problems created by big government. This conversation must be had not only with students, professors, and K–12 teachers, but also with school boards, state boards of education, and state legislators.
This teaching moment can and should be used to reinvigorate the nation’s previous commitment to limited government and as a tool to instruct others on why our country was founded. To do this, parents must take back their authority and fully direct the education of their children, rather than allow a disinterested government bureaucrat who cares more about his or her own power than the education of children to take control.
By returning to founding principles, we will help to ensure Americans don’t lose the freedoms they have come to enjoy for centuries, but this return will only come when parents demand they have the ability to fully choose how children are educated. The window of opportunity for this sea of change is upon us; never before have so many pro-education-choice elected officials held office at one time and in so many parts of the country. We must not waste this historic opportunity. Use the teaching moment of the 2016 election with those who will listen to help them understand the unadulterated power of big government and to educate them on the benefits of limited local government.
To quote Thomas Jefferson, “The government which governs least, governs best.”
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