It’s been said that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Some have attributed this quote to Winston Churchill, while others suspect it originated much earlier in a slightly different format. Regardless of who said it and when it was first said, the idea seems to fit accurately regarding narratives concerning education. The excitement surrounding “innovative” or “progressive” ideas can travel through the professional development channels faster than the evidence proving them ineffective or harmful. When children and their education are at stake, we must examine all evidence and defeat lies with the truth. Here are a few examples:

Lie: The purpose of education is to train skilled workers. 

Truth: The purpose of education is to form the hearts, minds, and souls of children so they grow to become knowledgeable, virtuous citizens who thrive and flourish as adults. Flourishing individuals create flourishing societies. Churchill knew the importance of having skilled workers. Still, he also warned of making that the primary focus of education when he stated: 

“This is an age of machinery and specialization, but I hope… that the purely vocational aspect of (education) will not be allowed to dominate… Engines were made for men, not men for engines. Expert knowledge, however indispensable, is no substitute for a generous and comprehending outlook upon the human story with all its sadness and with all its unquenchable hope.”

Lie: Students need “culturally relevant” books and curricula they can “see themselves in”, or they won’t learn.

Truth: Students “see themselves” and their culture in social media constantly. All children need to read about different cultures, people, and far-off places to grow in their knowledge of the world, past and present. They must be exposed to and read stories of real and fictional heroes who set out on journeys as ordinary people, faced and conquered challenges, and returned home extraordinary to inspire them along their journey. Students need to know this is possible.

Lie: Public education is underfunded.

Truth: The government spends over $800 billion annually on K-12 public education. That averages to about $17,000 per pupil. Meanwhile, private schools operate on much smaller budgets with more positive outcomes. Administrative bloat, expensive consultants, and education fads siphon funds from classroom teachers and students. Regarding public education, the problem isn’t lack of funding. It isn’t about allotment; it’s about allocation.

Lie: The government knows what is best regarding a child’s education. 

Truth: Parents/families are their children’s primary custodians and authority. They know best what type of learning environment and education is needed for them to thrive. If they want the advice of government employees, they will ask. Otherwise, every family should be free to direct their child’s education as they deem appropriate. A well-educated populace is good and necessary for a flourishing society, but there are various ways to accomplish that. The government should facilitate, not dictate, where it occurs. 

Lie: Educational freedom or school choice will destroy public schools.

Truth: Public schools have improved in states with robust school choice programs. When schools compete for “customers,” they work hard to ensure they are listening to the needs of those customers and meeting them as best as they can. These schools also compete for teachers, giving them a real voice regarding policies and concerns. Competition breeds excellence. 

Lie: School choice supporters are anti-public school.

Truth: School choice advocates believe all families should have access to the best educational opportunities in their community for their children. They are not anti-public schools but pro-education, family, and child. 

Seasoned teachers and experienced parents could compile a book of all the various deceptions and fabrications regarding education over the past several decades. Educational fads from learning styles to balanced literacy to restorative justice have wreaked havoc on a generation of students and continue to leave destruction in their wake. Calling every failed idea or false educational narrative a lie may be a stretch. It’s probably more accurate to say they were well-intentioned ideas that lacked evidence of their effectiveness yet continued because the “experts” accepted them. We must stop using children as test subjects in education experiments and start asking more questions about what, how, and why our children are taught. And we must demolish lies with the truth at every opportunity.