Do school days matter anymore?

Roger Koopman — Guest Columnist
Friday, September 27, 2019

Imagine this. Student to teacher: “I need the day off to go protest global warming. My parents might not approve, but it’s something I simply must do. Any problem with that?” Teacher to student: “Of course not, Johnny. You have every right to join the protest and express your personal political beliefs. Fixing the world’s injustices is part of your schooling.”

When I was a school kid, if I tried to pull off something like that — to protest the Vietnam War or whatever — I would be told that I had a great sense of humor, and then instructed to get back to my seat and get to work.

Montana taxpayers are paying approximately $11,000 per student annually, to attend public school. Some districts are significantly higher. State funding requires attendance, consistent with the state’s mandatory attendance law. Local property taxpayers likewise assume that the thousands of dollars they send to their county’s public schools each year will go toward educating all enrolled students — not just those who decide to show up.

That assumption is being proven wrong in at least two Montana communities, where Missoula and Bozeman school officials are allowing their high school students to have a day off to participate in a political rally promoting left-wing politics and left-wing solutions to the so-called “climate crisis.”  Reading, writing and arithmetic take a back seat to climate politics, with students skipping class to scream, chant, wail and otherwise join their young and naïve’ voices to an organized movement deriding their parents for inaction, and demanding that “something be done” before the world melts away before our very eyes.

Frankly, this is world-class hogwash, and the best of America’s scientists have been honest and courageous enough to say just that. The fact that so many students are drawn to this calamitous — and ridiculous — appeal is an indictment of the biased curriculum that exists in our local schools. From what I can tell, only one side of the man-made climate change debate is ever presented for students to consider. It is a classic example of indoctrination replacing education, and young people being told that there is only one way to think. But there is an even more fundamental question that reaches beyond the concerns of political bias masquerading as education. What in the world are public school administrators doing, to excuse students from a day of class work to attend a political rally organized by out-of-town leftist activists?  Is this what we believe our tax dollars should pay for — a day off, to agitate for left-wing social and political change?

This begs the question, what would students be told if they wished to attend a pro-life rally, or a demonstration promoting conservative or Christian values, or demanding a return to the principles of the Constitution? Do you think there is any chance they would be let out of class for events like that?  Unfortunately, our public school systems are largely captured by the intolerant politics of the left. In most Montana schools, allowing a day off to support a conservative or pro-life cause would be summarily rejected.

I for one have grown very tired of this. If our local high schools are willing to allow left-wing pressure groups to pick up their students at the front door, and deliver them into the hands of left-wing organizers and protesters, then they need to understand that they have just relinquished the tax support for one day of schooling. If they are going to take the importance of the school day so lightly, then they need to give taxpayers back the money for those left-wing politics days, and quit pretending that those were legitimate school days. Education is not protesting politically correct causes at the time when students are supposed to be in class — learning to think for themselves, not follow the crowd.

If your school district, by their inaction, has given tacit approval to this sham, I suggest you write them and demand that your taxes for that day be returned to you.  Maybe that will cause them to think twice next time, before they allow their students — with no disciplinary action — to spend their school day with radical activists who are using them as political pawns.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Roger Koopman is a former legislator, the current Public Service Commissioner representing Park County, and the president of Montana Conservative Alliance.