Education is a critical part of Phyllis Schlafly’s legacy. Between stopping the Equal Rights Amendment, fighting for America First foreign policy, and securing military superiority, Phyllis always brought the dialogue back home to the most basic issues families face every day. She valued education policy because she knew the pro-family movement means nothing if young minds are indoctrinated to turn away from traditional American values and reject the principles a family is supposed to instill. From this closely held passion, Phyllis Schlafly pioneered a number of education-related endeavors, such as founding the monthly Education Reporter in 1986, writing her First Reader and Turbo Reader books, and leading the fight against Common Core. In May 1974, Phyllis was just beginning her fight for education.
The failure of our public school system is not something that started recently. The May 1974 Phyllis Schlafly Report proves that public schools have been failing our students for decades. From 1974 to today, we can see a continuing trail of slowly declining aptitude and slowly lowering standards within our public schools. Having established that the problem is statistically undeniable, we must determine what the root of the education problem is. Phyllis Schlafly had the benefit of drawing from her incredible life experiences of seeing firsthand the implementation of disastrous policies like the federal takeover ofeducation in 1965 and the forced removal of prayer from schools in 1962. We have the benefit of reading her firsthand writings so that we can affect lasting change for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
First, we must dispel the myth that more money equates to better education. Phyllis said, “One of the evidences that our society has become more materialistic than idealistic is the general presumption that all problems can be solved by spending more money. Nowhere is this delusion so rampant as in the field of education.” As school districts become increasingly dependent on increasing federal tax dollars, the quality of the education being provided has substantially diminished. However, any legislator knows how unpopular it is to point out this fact. No politician wants to be the one to suggest that more money should not be poured into a failing education system. Phyllis Schlafly was not so beholden to public opinion. She was unafraid to say that while our schools should be funded, we should not be fooled into thinking that throwing money at a bad system will inherently make it a good system.
Second, we must dispel the myth that new methods of teaching are always better than old ones. From the very beginning of her involvement in education policy, Phyllis stood behind traditional teaching methods like phonics as the best way for children to learn. Our constantly changing society of technological gadgets has conditioned us to embrace each new trend as better than its predecessor. Nonetheless, the old way really is the best way in most cases where education is concerned. It would not be wise to stray from time-tested methods of teaching in favor of some new idea a federal Education Department employee cooks up in some remote office. We must rule out “outdated methods” as the cause of our schools’ declining effectiveness.
Ultimately, the root of the problem is control. In 1974, Phyllis was able to see the failure of federal involvement in education after only a decade of its implementation. We can see with the passage of forty-two more years that Phyllis’s assessment was correct. No one has more motivation to see a child succeed than that child’s parent. Therefore, educational choices should ultimately belong to parents. Phyllis said, “Federal funding must inevitably result in more Federal control. We can't have it both ways, and the American people are kidding themselves when they think they can get huge checks from Washington without controls.” Her clear and direct language still rings true today.
There is no free lunch with federal funds. While there are many good teachers with a passion for educating young people, the hunger for the almighty federal dollar reigns supreme in our schools. Students’ education has taken a back seat to fulfilling federal requirements and passing standardized tests to squeeze just a few more dollars. Parents are the ones with an eye on the real prize. They have a vested interest in their child’s education. As Phyllis said in 1974, it is time to take education out of the “hands of the professionals” and put it back in the hands of states, communities, and parents where it belongs.