For several years now, parents in Frederick County, Maryland, where I live, have been struggling to start a charter school that uses a classical curriculum—heavy on history, literature, languages (including Latin and Greek), and science, instead of the pablum that teachers are forced to use in ordinary Frederick public schools like the ones my children attended (I described just how bad that curriculum is in Real Education).
From the beginning, the administrators of the Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) were openly hostile to the idea of a classical curriculum and threw up one frivolous bureaucratic roadblock after another. Now, in the last months before the school is finally scheduled to open this fall, the FCPS has informed these parents that they can’t hire the nine teachers that they had selected after vetting 300 applications. Instead, under Maryland law, the school can be forced to accept teachers on the county’s “to be placed list”—in other words, teachers who the FCPS would otherwise let go. Furthermore, the parents running the school cannot even interview them—nor learn their names, nor have any other way to get an idea whether these teachers have any understanding of the classical curriculum or the ability or motivation to teach it. The FCPS can simply force placement of the teachers it can’t use in any of its other schools.
This is not an isolated case. The charter school movement can supply hundreds of them. It just happens to be one that has happened close to me. It is representative of the kind of naked display of power that increasingly happens throughout government—in the schools, the regulatory agencies, the tax authorities, at the county, state and federal levels alike. Americans who are acting in ways our civic culture has traditionally celebrated—harming no one, just trying make a living or build a business or, in this case, collaborate to educate their children—find themselves balked, forbidden, and in some cases prosecuted, by bureaucracies that increasingly exist to protect themselves and their own interests, and have gathered unto themselves the power to do so. This is not a partisan issue. It represents a betrayal of what America is supposed to be about.