School walls once reverberated with the sound of well-educated teachers instructing their students in math, reading, and science. Now, schools are often a cacophony of well-trained activists indoctrinating their students with woke ideologies.

School libraries once held beautiful works of literature that inspired and challenged students to think about the world around and beyond them. Now, those libraries often stock poorly written graphic novels that encourage narcissism and sexual deviance in students.

Schools once cultivated a sense of pride and patriotism for America that motivated students to become engaged citizens. Now, schools create disdain and a lack of gratitude for their country, which leads students to become enraged protesters

We don’t have to romanticize the past, but we can admit that some things were better then. We’d do well to return to the fundamentals that strengthened students, schools, communities, and our country.

C.S. Lewis said it well in his book Mere Christianity when he wrote, “We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road…”

The fundamental problem is that the system with a monopoly on K-12 education has a different goal than the educational institutions of the past and many parents today. In recent years, there has been a heavy emphasis on teaching “21st-century skills.” Many educators who promote this act as if things like critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication are unique to our time. They fail to recognize that the individuals who brought us into the most technologically advanced and peaceful time in history were mostly taught “the old-fashioned way.” Parents who prefer that their children learn rich content, logical thinking and reasoning, and techniques to articulate their thoughts verbally or in writing are out of luck. 

Another problem is the influence of certain ideologies that have wormed their way into the classrooms. What began under the guise of “character education” to help shape good citizens has morphed into pseudo-psychology in the classroom that introduces captivated audiences of students to sexuality and gender theory. Many schools are weaving this throughout every part of the school day, and some are refusing to let parents opt out of lessons with which they disagree. Schools are stocking bookshelves and hanging symbols in hallways and classrooms that promote these ideologies. Parents who prefer that schools stick to academics—while leaving therapy to the mental health experts and conversations about sexuality to parents—are out of luck.

If so many parents want structured, content-rich, rigorous academic experiences for their children, why aren’t the institutions providing that? One would assume that schools want to make their “customer base” happy by offering what they want. But even if unhappy, most of their “customers” have no other options, and they have little power to change things. The power to impact what and how it is taught lies in the unions and special interest groups. Parents who want a say in how schools educate their children are largely dismissed and ignored as irrelevant, irritating, or inconsequential. 

But parents (and their children) don’t have to be stuck in poor education situations. Expanding education freedom gives parents a greater influence on what is and isn’t being taught, allows them to choose learning environments that align with their values, and amplifies their voices so they won’t be ignored or dismissed by school leaders. Teachers unions adamantly oppose school choice for those reasons and many more. For parents and quality educators, it’s about being able to provide the best education for children. For the unions, it’s about power and control. 

School choice can’t restore education to its former glory, but it is a crucial step in “walking back to the right road.” Every state should adopt robust school choice so parents, not the government, can choose the best learning environment for their children.