Republic, Missouri Has Come Unstuck in Time
When I was a freshman in high school, I read Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse Five. I didn’t fully understand the book at the time, but it introduced me to non-linear narrative and opened me up creatively to more innovative fiction. Pretty soon, I was devouring Catch-22, On the Road, and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (among others), and it was Vonnegut who first set me on the path to my favorite writers, without whom I doubt I would be where I am today.
So I was distressed to hear that the school board of Republic R-III in Republic, Missouri voted unanimously to remove Slaughterhouse Five from its curriculum. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the decision was “based on the complaints of Republic resident Wesley Scroggins, a professor of management at Missouri State University, and the father of several home-schooled children,” who “complained that the books advocate principles contrary to the Bible.”
This is paradoxical. Scroggins home-schools his children, presumably because his values conflict with those he believes the public school instills. He is exercising his right to choose how his children are educated. I’m sure he would object if the state board of education told him what books were suitable for his children to read. How then can he justify restricting what other students can study in school?
The real solution to this problem is more choice, not less. If we had a real market in education, parents who disapprove of Vonnegut and other authors like him could send their children to schools that don’t teach their works, while other schools could offer a more contemporary curriculum.
The district model for schooling is outdated. If it was ever a sensible model for educating students (I have my doubts), it was when the country was primarily rural and the technology to deliver the world’s information to every household did not exist. We have long since progressed past the need for these archaic bureaucracies that limit parental, student, and teacher choice. One district removing a single book from its curriculum may seem insignificant, but it illustrates how the current educational system limits rather than facilitates access to knowledge.
For any Republic High School students who want to understand the headline — or just spite their board of education — click here.