Mark Twain didn’t like school boards. He spoke often and disparagingly of them. At one point he wrote, “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

Why are school boards the pinnacle of idiotic behavior? The answer may not be what any of us want to hear.

Ours is a self-governing republic. We don’t elect masters, but servants. Our system only works when the citizenry holds elected officials and bureaucrats in careful check.

When an employer hires an employee who steals from the cash register and scares off the customers, the employer is at fault if he doesn’t fire that employee. The behavior an employer tolerates will be the standard for the rest of the employees to follow.

The same goes for elections.

So let’s think about that Mark Twain quote. One must ask: why are school boards filled with ‘idiots’?

The uncomfortable answer? Voters have allowed it. It is our fault.

Self-governance as a governing model begins by governing ourselves.

In Texas, more than 90 percent of voters don’t vote in school elections. Even fewer ask the necessary questions that would provide the kind of civic oversight required in our system of government. If we’re not doing our job as citizens, how can we expect the elected servants to do theirs?

Everyone complains about multi-gazillion-dollar high school football stadiums… but then don’t vote in the elections where those are being debated. Everyone complains about their high property taxes… but then don’t vote in the elections where 50+% of the property tax “bite” originates… The list goes on.

The answer to why school boards seem to engage so regularly in idiotic behavior… is found uncomfortably in the mirror.

So while school boards might be, as Twain argued, the pinnacle of idiotic behavior, the fault rests with citizens who allow it.

If we want to stop the idiots, we ourselves must first stop being the idiots. School boards, and therefore the schools, will improve when the citizens are more engaged.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."