I am a 2009 Perham High School graduate, and I am currently student at St. John's University. One of my greatest pleasures in coming home for holidays and other family occasions is that I get to read the EOT Focus and catch up on all the news and events that I have missed while I am away. I find some subtle humor in the police report about a man who was bitten by a stray cat, and some pride in my community when I read about the "Thank a Veteran" project that a local student had undertaken.
However there is one section I dread to look at. That section is the letter to the editor section, and more specifically, any letter published by Merle Hexum. This letter is not meant to be a personal attack, but a complete refutation of Merle's letter in the Nov. 18 issue. Merle's letter, while full of vigor and passion, is loaded with gross overstatements, selective history, and academic negligence to the highest degree.
Let me begin with Merle's largest point, that free public education is nowhere to be found in our federal constitution. It is true that the words "free public education" are not explicitly stated in the constitution, nonetheless, the powers for the federal government to provide for free public education are in the constitution, and have been furthered or clarified by supreme court cases. The power to provide for education is found in the Necessary and Proper Clause (Article 1 Sec. 8 Clause 18), and the power to tax for education is in the Taxing and Spending clause (Article 1 Sec. 8 Clause 1). Further in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) it was clarified that Congress has a set of implied powers to carry out the function of the national government. The Department of Education was created in 1867 under Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson. Therefore, under the previously mentioned clauses, the federal government does have a right to provide and administer free public education. This is further supported by other Supreme Court cases such as U.S. v. Butler and South Dakota v. Dole, which aren't about education but provide further relevant clarifications. And even if we were to agree that the federal government doesn't have this power, the 10th amendment allows the state, and by extension, the local government to provide free public education.
As to Merle's comment about the "Communist Manifesto," this is nothing more than a scare tactic to try to convince the ignorant that Merle is somehow right. I re-read Marx's work and sure enough there are direct statements and implications made about free public education. However, free public education has been a maxim of western thought going back to Plato's "Republic" written around 380 BCE. Merle posted a quote by Thomas Jefferson, justifying the stance against public education, so I will counter with a quote by Jefferson specifically on education:
"A bill for the more general diffusion of learning... proposed to divide every county into wards of five or six miles square;... to establish in each ward a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic; to provide for the annual selection of the best subjects from these schools, who might receive at the public expense a higher degree of education at a district school; and from these district schools to select a certain number of the most promising subjects, to be completed at an University where all the useful sciences should be taught. Worth and genius would thus have been sought out from every condition of life, and completely prepared by education for defeating the competition of wealth and birth for public trusts." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1813. ME 13:399.
By examining actual facts, we can see Merle's logical fallacies in clear light. I could go on, but this paper would need to give me a whole issue to explain how Merle is wrong. I implore the Focus to cease the publication of Merle's letters. Oh and Merle, you commented on the poor knowledge of high school graduates, but one thing I learned at Perham High School was to do my research before I write, and especially publish a public letter.