"Education," observed English philosopher Herbert Spencer, "has for its object the formation of character." And character, said Theodore Roosevelt, is "the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike."
What, then, will the effect be on young Americans and their nation when the adults charged with helping mold that character sow contempt for U.S. law?
Since President Donald Trump's election, the boards of Portland Public Schools and Portland Community College have declared their schools "sanctuary" institutions that will seek to protect illegal-immigrant students from federal authorities. In doing so, the schools flout 8 U.S. Code 1324, which criminalizes "any person who ... attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection" illegal immigrants. More, they set an example that could profoundly harm both the youths entrusted to them and the nation at large.
As per Spencer, a central obligation of schools is to imbue students with good character. Without such character, they cannot become responsible adults.
In the civic realm, adults demonstrate character and responsibility via respect for their nation's sovereignty, the sine qua non of which is control of its physical border; for the representative democracy through which Americans make laws, which includes those that regulate the influx of foreign nationals; and for the authorities they empower to compel observance of those laws.
But perhaps the most fundamental attribute of responsible civic adulthood is this: The understanding that a stable, orderly society is served not by championing the interests of lawbreakers and enabling disobedience of laws with which one disagrees, but by seeking to change those laws through our fair and deliberative representative system.
What, then, do school policymakers tell the youths in their charge when they flaunt immigration laws enacted by their fellow Americans? What do they tell those students about a sovereign people's right to self-determination, border control and public order?
By their "sanctuary" example, do schools help mold those youths into responsible adults who respect orderly representative decision-making? Or do they further the anything-goes, "no borders" mentality that has the potential to undo the nation those youths live in and someday will lead?
The answers are clear. Schools' "sanctuary" policies subvert, and indeed work to negate, the fundaments of our representative self-government — the most important of which is our sovereign right to determine who enters our nation, when, and in what numbers. In doing so, they set a destructive example for the youths in their charge.
In May, Portland-area residents will elect directors to the PPS and PCC boards. Before casting their ballots, they should determine the candidates' positions on their schools' "sanctuary" policies and support only those who favor their repeal. And they should insist, in the future, that those schools strive to inculcate in students the character that breeds respect for Americans' national sovereignty and popular self-rule.
Richard F. LaMountain of Cedar Mill is vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform (oregonir.org)