On March 28, I read that the Halifax County School Board has approved a 2 percent raise for almost all staff. Competitive compensation, according to Dr. Mark Lineburg, the school superintendent, is “really the key aspect of our budget this year.” 

“School board members expressed agreement at the need for increasing faculty’s salaries to be competitive...”

If our public schools in the county were superior or even just half-way decent, I would go along with teacher raises as a reward for a job well done and as an inducement to the teachers to keep up the good work. 

But what kind of performance are our schools really turning in?

According to one source, on the basis of test scores for the 2016-17 school year, Halifax County ranked 117 among Virginia’s 132 school districts, down from 112 in the previous year (https://www.schooldigger.com/go/VA/districtrank. aspx). 

This number, although not the last word on the subject, confirms what many of us have long recognized: our public schools here in the county are somewhere between mediocre and miserable. 

Pittsylvania County schools, interestingly, were ranked 22. 

Why should we reinforce failure by giving more money to those who have wasted what they already got?

Dr. Lineburg could try to persuade us that our teachers should get a raise to make up for not working in a new school building with ivory toilet seats and gold faucets in the faculty bathrooms. 

Or maybe he would care to argue that our existing teachers are lousy, that all of them should be fired, and that they should all be replaced by better qualified teachers who will require higher salaries (plus, of course, those ivory seats and gold faucets) to come to Halifax County. 

Or perhaps he would like to tell us that the existing cadre of teachers deserves to be rewarded for doing the best possible job in an area where parents really do not much care about what, if anything, their children learn at school. 

Then again, Dr. Lineburg could make the case that both of these last two positions contain a certain amount of truth, that some teachers are good, and others are not, that some parents do care, and others do not. 

If the doctor did that, we might have a discussion which would actually be interesting and perhaps even useful.

Back in the real world, however, we should recognize that this is not going to happen, because Dr. Lineburg is an agent of a teacher lobby that, by and large, cares more for its salaries and perks than for the education of its charges. 

Typically, this lobby’s shills will say anything, no matter how deceptive or simply nonsensical, that they think will get us to line teacher pockets with our tax dollars. I, for one, suggest that they be told to stick it in their ear. 

If anyone on the county’s public payroll deserves a raise, it is our sheriff’s deputies and our policemen, not our teachers.

Actually, I believe that we should go further and do some serious thinking about whether our public schools are worth supporting at all. 

The following has been said about Horace Mann, a leading educator of the first half of the 19th century: “No one did more than he to establish in the minds of the American people the conception that education should be universal, non-sectarian, free, and that its aims should be social efficiency, civic virtue and character, rather than mere learning or the advancement of education ends” (Cited in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horace_Mann). 

More bluntly, public schooling was designed from the start to produce docile workers and obedient subjects.

While the moral and intellectual standards proposed by our elite for their fellow citizens were still fairly high, the results of Mann’s model were tolerable. By the second half of the 20th century, however, such educational fads as the “look-say” method of reading and the “new math” started to churn out masses of students who were semi-literate, barely numerate, intellectually incurious and incapable of logical thought. 

Over time, “civic virtue” and “character” more and more openly came to mean the unquestioning acceptance of “progressive” indoctrination and “political correctness.”

After more than 50 years of this, it is hard not to suspect that the “edumacation” and the indoctrination that take place in the public schools must be the result of a deliberate policy by an educational pseudo-elite that is, unfortunately, too entrenched at all levels, from federal to county, to be changed any time soon.

In this situation, parents who care for the education of their children will do what they have to do in order either to send them to private schools or to home school them or at least to insure that they acquire something at home to supplement and counter-balance the “party line” that they get in the public schools. 

That may mean that these parents will have to turn off their televisions, crack some books for themselves and learn something, so they can pass it on to their offspring.  

Yes, that will take time, discipline and sacrifice. Tough, but not impossible for those who believe that their sons and daughters are worth the effort. 

After all, as we have been told before, a mind is a terrible thing to waste—and a soul even more so.

Waclaw K. Bakierowski is a resident of Halifax.