Alliance for the Separation of School & State
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The Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 2, March 1996

Proclaimer Profile

Each month, we will profile individuals who have signed the Proclamation for the Separation of School & State.

Education of the young is out of character for a coercive state

Dr. Kevin Ryan has been a university teacher for 33 years and been teaching moral and character education for the last 24 years. Increasingly over this period, Dr. Ryan has become suspicious of the role of the state in education and particularly in matters as fundamental to the health of the individual...and eventually of the moral and character education.

Founder and director of the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University, where he has taught since 1982, Dr. Ryan has written or edited 16 books on teacher education and character education. He has previously taught at Stanford, Harvard and the University of Chicago.

Dr. Ryan believes an education responsive to parents and local communities provides the best hope for producing a citizenry capable of surviving and thriving as a free and independent people. He finds "chilling" President Clinton's recent call for more character education in public schools, because for Dr. Ryan it's all too obvious where statists like Mr. Clinton would like to take character education: The state will define what is appropriate "character" education, then it will undoubtedly be subsumed into "good citizenship" education. Good citizenship, of course, is whatever the state wants it to be, Dr. Ryan says, whether it be "fighting in blue berets for a new world order" or "whatever the state deems is a worthy way to spend your life." Dr. Ryan's concerns call to mind Thomas Hodgskin's prescient quote: "Men had better be without education than be educated by their rulers."

Increasingly convinced that "we've let the beast of government take over an extraordinary area of our lives," Dr. Ryan now sees separation as the best solution. Compulsory government schooling has become, he says, "a self-serving, cancerous growth on the society and the culture."

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