Sex in Sierra County

We’ve recently had a lot of public talk about “values” in the election for the Board of Education of the Truth or Consequences Municipal Schools. That talk has been in the form of personal attacks, anger, and misrepresentation. One wonders if those are values that are being espoused as proper to be taught in schools. The problem with this talk is that it is opinion set against opinion, mine against yours, my group against yours. That simply goes nowhere. Let’s look a bit more analytically at education, why we have public education, and what that has to do with values.

There seems to me a fundamental misunderstanding in saying that certain values (family values, Sierra County values, or any other self-identified and distinctive values) should be taught as morally preferable to other values in a public school. Fundamentally, education isn’t about values but about people. And fundamentally, public education is about people growing into a public.

The word education (and its idea) means to “draw out”: a person is drawn out of a small, narrow place into a larger world. It’s about learning the realities of that larger world, learning to understand that world, learning how to deal with it and to function in it. The word is Roman. The idea is much older.

But public education is something more recent. Largely, in the United States, it comes of age with creation of the republic. We pay for public education because a democracy needs a citizenry trained in the foundational value of the republic, that is, essentially with the value of equality. It’s as simple as that: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….” Otherwise, we’d be a monarchy. And, let us remember that that equality generates everyone’s equally inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is simply how we started and where we want to go.

Public education proposes to draw people out of their own individual or familial or group values into the larger value of democratic equality. We teach reading and writing and arithmetic because we want an equality of knowledge and capacities, to equalize the elitism that those abilities used to create. We teach how to think objectively because objectivity is about the world and thus is shareable, which is also an aspect of equality. We teach history not as the deeds of kings, heroes, and men of power to emulate but as the realities of the past impinging on the world of the present. We teach science because that, too, teaches a method of objective and factual thinking and because understanding the physical world informs civic decisions the citizenry must make. We teach, basically, everyone’s responsibility to the larger whole because responsibility is the measure of equality.

We have not yet created a society of equality, but public education is our primary tool for its achievement. When it veers from that purpose, it should be criticized and corrected, but to try to turn public education into an indoctrination of some group values attacks the fundamental notion of equality.

So, when you go to the polls to vote on the school board, you might want to think of choosing those who understand that public education is not the same as private education (which does teach sectarian values), not the same as bringing up children in the family, and certainly not indoctrination. There is a reason why candidates for the school board are not identified by party affiliation. Public education is not about partisanship.


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Max Yeh
Max Yeh

Sierra County Public-Interest Journalism Project’s board president Max Yeh is a novelist and writes widely on language, interpretation, history, and culture. He has lived in Hillsboro, New Mexico, for more than 30 years after retiring from an academic career in literature, art history and critical theory.

Posts: 27


  1. Wow, that was concise and brilliant, Max!! We sometimes forget that we are not merely the members of a family, a tribe, a political party, a nation. WE ARE EARTHERS!! EARTHLINGS, if you will. Yes, we owe some allegiance to all the smaller segments to which we belong. But, in the end, we are earthlings, along with the bears and horses and mosquitoes, ants and owls. We also share our self proclaimed elitist human position with Jews and Christians and Humanists, Muslims and Atheists, and even Republicans! We survive together or we die together. We need to acknowledge which of the smaller groups we belong to and ask the questions of why we do or don’t but, in no way, are we allowed to question any of those smaller group’s right to share the planet. We have no right to blast ANY of them totally off the planet – whether they be Blacks, Whites, Mosquitoes, lobsters or homosexuals! There is a place and a role each of us and each small segment we belong to. We either finally (and soon) reach this place in our hearts or we will all die together. Period.

  2. Well stated Max, and I thank you for writing and presenting this article at this time. I hope it will help people think clearly as they go to the polls.

  3. What is happening in Sierra County is occurring across the nation…”Mothers of Liberty” in the name of honoring parent voices have advocated for banning of books, curriculum, and education that welcomes all families and honors diversity. They have organized attacks against teachers and school Boards that are rooted in decrying education that challenges, embraces critical thinking, and prepares students for a global conversation. Our community has become divided over false issues…there is no elementary teacher who would impose their views on LGBTQ or go against parental wishes. We need to provide a safe and welcoming place for all students, respect and trust teachers as professionals, and allow Sierra County values to mirror the values of a democratic society. Public education has never been more important to counter act racism, the complexities of immigration, and all aspects of hatred. I ask for your support and to support Jeanne Feazell for School Board.

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