GUEST OPINION: Nation’s founders promoted public education

By LAURA HAMMACK, guest columnist

On June 9, Brown County Schools was proud to introduce the Class of 2017 as graduates of Brown County High School.

This is a group of extraordinary young people who promise to offer great benefit to our society.

As I looked out onto the sea of caps and gowns, I was reminded that the promise and delivery of a public education in America is one which we should appreciate and celebrate as the foundation for our democratic society.

Our nation will soon celebrate Independence Day. We come together as a nation and celebrate the founding of this incredible society in very “American” ways — fireworks, potato salad and apple pie.

I love this holiday for the earnest displays of patriotism and the intentional gathering of community. We live in the greatest nation in the world in great part to the commitment to democratic principles for which our founding fathers resolved to be our foundation. It is an honor to celebrate all of this on the Fourth of July.

I thought I would use the words from some of our nation’s leaders to celebrate the founding of our nation while connecting the importance that public education has on our ability to continue to celebrate our country’s birth.

Our 20th president, James Garfield, stated, “Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Across our nation, public schools educate all children with the intent to provide opportunity, no matter social class or other divide. Neither freedom nor justice can be realized without an opportunity for education to all.

America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, said: “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. … They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” President Jefferson realized that education for all means that we are investing in the future of our society. Without an educated populace, our nation could never have realized the great successes that it has and will continue to achieve.

Our nation’s fourth president, James Madison, offered, “What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of liberty and learning, each leaning on each other for their mutual and surest support?” President Madison recognized the fundamental connection between an educated citizenry and the state of being free within society.

Lastly, George Washington, our nation’s first president, said: “A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”

President Washington illuminates a condition for which we could improve. We need to find more opportunities for our young people to better understand our government and the principles of liberty.

Brown County Schools just witnessed the occasion where four of our students attended the National History Day competition in Washington, D.C. Having the opportunity to compete at this level supports the notion that our nation’s first president implored.

We commit, as a school district, to continuing to advance opportunities to educate our youth in the science of government.

I extend to all of our readers a very happy Independence Day. Thank you for your ongoing support of the youth of our community as we work together to deliver one of our nation’s founding principles: a public education that confers the benefit of our democracy to all.

Laura Hammack is superintendent of Brown County schools. She can be reached at 812-988-6601 or lhammack@browncountyschools.com.