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A Fiver for Civilization

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Last week, a sixth-grader clipped me for five bucks . . . to help the public schools.

The boy was going door to door, which I’ve had occasion to do. And he was certainly well mannered and well spoken. Glad to give.

Plus, it was only one Federal Reserve Note, the second-smallest denomination — that’s what I had in my pocket. It was like buying a Starbucks venti-something.

On the other hand, after he left, I was a little bit irritated by the encounter.

You see, we in Prince William County, Virginia, pay pretty hefty property taxes to support the schools. Frankly, the thought keeps occurring to me that perhaps if the school system truly is so strapped for funds, the board should fire about half their legions of administrative employees and put those resources toward whatever additional product my fiver is bankrolling. I’ll bet those freed-up dollars would add up to a whole lot more than my five-spot.

But then, who would fill out all the federal and state government forms?

My three kids didn’t go to the public school; they were homeschooled. So I’m forking over money for the schools other people use and then having to pay to educate my three on top of that.

Yet, that’s not really the problem, either.

What’s galling me?

The fact that the government school system sends kids around to pull on our heart-strings but when our homeschooled kids could benefit by taking part in sports or band or debate or other extra-curricular activities through the public schools, without enrolling as a full-time student, those in charge have no heart (just strings?) and our kids are told to “go play in traffic.”

Virginia law gives each county school system the choice of whether to allow homeschool students access to the public schools for academic classes and after-school clubs and such. After years of lobbying to get schools to stop saying “no” to homeschoolers, roughly half of the counties now say “yes.”

Except, not for extra-curricular activities, like sports and band, which matter to a lot of young people. The Commonwealth’s Legislature has attempted to right this wrong, passing what’s been dubbed the “Tebow Bill” in both of the last two legislative sessions. Tim Tebow is the Heisman trophy-winning University of Florida quarterback, turned NFL quarterback, now attempting a career in baseball, who as a homeschooled high school student was permitted to play sports at his local public school.

But legislative efforts were for naught, as Democratic Gov. Terry McAwful — er, McAuliffe — vetoed the legislation both times.

So, why did I give that screwed-up system anything that wasn’t taken at gunpoint?

For starters, a young person stood before me, not the governor. I certainly don’t want to approach his level of cold-heartedness. I’m a softy. My wife is the tough one, who can actually say, “No, thanks.”

She wasn’t there.

Still, on political matters, I’ve been known to say NO pretty emphatically.

This was about something else, something I really do want: Community. My desire, as a committed individualist, is to grow and strengthen and be part of the community of folks who live close to my family.

There’s no contradiction here.

I want civilization. And $5.00 is an awfully cheap price for a smidgen of it. I want that kid to receive a good education. I want our community to succeed, including him and all the other kids.

Why call yourself an individualist or libertarian or what-have-you and not work for voluntary community? Free individuals form better, more sustainable communities than those built on state power or authoritarianism.

Hey, maybe I should go door to door.

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