Field Trips in a Government Monopoly


As progressivism insinuates itself more and more deeply into our society, it at least provides the benefit of clarity.

When society puts government in charge of something — education, say — people look at it within the context of their times.  An attitude of “that will never happen” underlies the decision, because all eyes are on the problem to be solved or the goal to be accomplished rather than what the community is, in fact, doing in practical terms.

Put succinctly, what the community is doing is putting another social activity under the control of the political process.  Members know the community as it exists at the time, and they know it would never do anything ridiculous like — say — eliminate all student field trips because they require families to help cover the cost and some might theoretically not be able to do so.  In Cumberland:

School officials are at least temporarily “putting the complete kibosh” on field trips for all grades above the elementary level in 2019-2020, said School Committee member Mark Fiorillo on Monday, but are hopeful of finding some solution for bringing some back in the future. …

Karen Freedman said her opinion might be an unpopular one, but if the purpose of departed Commissioner Ken Wagner’s conclusion on field trips was for inclusion of all students, “I kind of don’t like the idea of trying to skirt around it.”

Two things can go wrong as we get used to government control:  The mood of the community (or at least of the voting majority) can change in favor of the ridiculous, and the people setting public policy can make decisions that are dumb, have unintended consequences, or both.

Thus, a social institution intended to provide more opportunity for all children to learn and have enriching experiences is subject to a subtle shift in the state’s ideology.   We no longer think in terms of opportunity, but of entitlement, such that government cannot participate in anything that everybody is not entitled to receive.  If not every family cannot afford a child’s week-long field trip to Washington, D.C., then the school department cannot facilitate the trip.

Ultimately, you get what they’ve got Cumberland, where the school department is explicitly whittling its activities down only to those for which the community is willing to pay the full cost.  Families with the means to do so will plan their own (isolated) trips to educational staples, but many students will never have the experiences.


Featured image: A group photo from a certain writer’s class trip to Washington, D.C., in the ’80s.

  • Joe Smith

    I think you should be cautious in extrapolating from one (or two) communities that seem to take what is *legally* just “guidance” and interpreted it as law.

    I don’t disagree on the potential – see Vermont as a whole in response to the Brigham court case 22 years ago and what has happened to that state. But Vermont has a “common benefits” clause in its constitution; RI has no such provision when it comes to education (at least according to the RI Supreme Court).

    But nothing prevents the General Assembly fixing what was intended to be more of preventative measure (shaking down parents for money / quid pro quos) and has been poorly interpreted by an outgoing Commissioner with a stick up his butt (maybe justifiably so) giving the state a middle finger as he went out the door. Hmm..maybe I’m agreeing with your point on people in positions of authority do make dumb decisions!

    “is subject to a subtle shift in the state’s ideology” – a more interesting application is the private (mostly Catholic) schools that sold a part of their “soul” to be more competitive athletically by playing in the public league (and thus subject to the “subtle shifts”) instead of playing (and being less competitive) in the private league(s).