This year, as you consider new education laws, I ask you to consider the principle of Subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the idea that a central authority should only perform those tasks which cannot be performed at a more immediate or local level. In other words, higher or more remote levels of government, like the state, should render assistance to local school districts, but always respect their primary jurisdiction and the dignity and freedom of teachers and students.
Subsidiarity is offended when distant authorities prescribe in minute detail what is taught, how it is
taught and how it is to be measured. I would prefer to trust our teachers who are in the classroom each
day, doing the real work–lighting fires in young minds
This came from last year’s State of the State speech by Governor Jerry Brown, and while several pundits made note of his use of the word “subsidiarity”, I think that it is a principle that deserves consideration, especially in education.
First, I probably should disclose my general political philosophy. I am not inherently for or against “big government”, or for or against “big business”. I am for systems that are optimized to work well for the human race. This makes me an “independent”, who currently leans towards the Democratic party, as most current Republicans have seemed to have lost the ability to think systemically, contextually, and use evidence as their primary method of determining philosophy and policy. (This doesn’t mean that I don’t see problems with many Democrats also)
I think that the principle of subsidiarity, as defined by Jerry Brown, is generally good. And in fact, I think most “small government” libertarians, would agree with this principle as well. I diverge from many libertarians, and possibly Jerry Brown, in believing that where a function is performed should be determined by where it can be performed best for the most people. Thus, I tend to support nationalized medicine (if done right), as I think other countries have been able to show methods of nationalized medicine that generally provides better and cheaper medical care than we have in the U.S.
In education, while the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) has helped to restore more local control of spending of funds, parts of the Local Control Accountability and Planning (LCAP) which require adherence to educational content standards, will likely take away much of the principle of subsidiarity in our classrooms.
I plan to post more about how I think educational systems can be structured to increase success, and how we might be able to create educational content standards that are valuable and have the least number of unintended consequences.