Hints of Life Independent from Government

Kate Bramson’s article in yesterday’s Providence Journal would make for an interesting case study.  It seems — Doesn’t it? — that so much of news reporting is akin to a corporate newsletter for the government.  Three reasons for this come quickly to mind:

  1. Government confiscates a great deal of tax money in order to pay communications employees to promote its activities, and they make it very easy for journalists by staging events with notable people, finding the human interest characters to populate the stories, and providing all of the background information.
  2. Journalists tend to be liberal or progressive (whatever distinction one might see between the two), so they have an innate sympathy for what appear to be positive actions from government officials, particularly liberal or progressive government officials.
  3. We all have some stake and responsibility when it comes to government, so publications aimed at a general audience understandably treat it as an area of focus.

Unfortunately, though, this running narrative becomes self-reinforcing, as government becomes the central story of our lives.  Bramson’s article, for instance, is about the state government’s program giving taxpayer money to a private company, Electric Boat, to train new employees.  The human interest component is a young woman from Tiverton:

New England Institute of Technology welding instructor Matthew Topper is teaching the trade to Coventry teacher Jamie Cotnoir this summer and recently trained Hannah Cook-Dumas, a Tiverton High School graduate who now works for General Dynamics Electric Boat. …

Cook-Dumas, 19, said she was mostly home-schooled and her father was her first welding teacher. After she tried college and realized her initial career idea wasn’t right, Cook-Dumas got an internship with a welder who used to work for Electric Boat. He urged her to apply to the company.

Hannah was educated at home through tenth grade, and her younger siblings are mostly taught at home, with private high school filling in at the upper levels. (One might reasonably draw conclusions from that change in practice with the younger children.)  She was first in her class at New England Tech, as well as the youngest, indicating not only intelligence but drive.  Yet, the story is that Electric Boat needs $2 million in taxpayer money — with photo ops for two senators, a governor, and an education commissioner — in order to make the eminently wise decision of hiring her?  Come on.

We (ourselves and our media) need to start challenging these unspoken assumptions, because our approach to policy will broaden tremendously, with expanded opportunities and effectiveness.  Step back a moment from the well-constructed tale of the article and the picture takes on other shades.  Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo has, in the past, proposed eliminating funding that allows private-and home-schooled students to borrow textbooks and participate in public school busing services.  Her dual enrollment program, funding college courses for high school students, is explicitly only available to those in public schools.  The same is true of her free-SAT program.  The program in this article gives companies money to shape workers to their own needs as a competitive advantage to other companies, including small shops.

In the progressive Raimondo vision, our “education system” is just the series of public schools in which politicians and bureaucrats have control over the content, and it is mainly a means of promulgating progressive values, shaping the skills of Rhode Islanders to match the requests of high-profile private interests, and (naturally) funding the big-government machine (in the form of union activists).  In a contrary vision, families make decisions specific to their own children and their own situations, students strive to succeed and to find work that satisfies them as unique individuals, and businesses hire them because it makes economic sense to do so.

One of those visions fosters fully formed, independent, and self-valued individuals.  The other fosters dependency and diminishes individual achievement.

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