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The Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 9, November 1996

How will we know we're winning?

Separation strategy, step by step

by Steve Smith

Note: This article is based on pages 9 & 10 of "No More Reform! A Practical Plan for the Separation of School and State," Version 8.2, written by Marshall Fritz and published June 27, 1996. To receive a copy of the 64-page bound report, send a contribution of any size and mention this article.

If the question were "How will we know we've won?" the answer would be blazingly clear. "The ultimate evidence of success will be the removal of all children from tax-funded schools and the refusal of families to accept government subsidies for their children's education." (From the Mission Statement of the Separation of School & State Alliance.)

The milestones that will show us we're on our way to winning, conveniently also mark out a strategy. Marshall Fritz' mutation of an insight by the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who said that truth passes through three stages, reads: "First, it is considered absurd and ignored or ridiculed. Next, it is considered dangerous to the status quo and viciously attacked. Lastly, it is considered wholesome, indeed, self-evident."

Most of us cringe at having our ideas laughed at. Nor is it much fun to have the full weight of some powerful authority come crashing down on us for expressing "dangerous" thoughts-such as that school and state should be separated. Keeping in mind Schopenhauer's stages can help us to withstand, even welcome, such experiences as we move toward our goal.

The shorthand way of describing the stages is:

Absurd Bold Self-Evident

"Absurd" targets

By most measures this is the stage we're in. That's why Fritz is careful to call Separation "an idea whose time is near" rather than "an idea whose time has come."

Targets in this stage include having 25,000 signatures on the Proclamation for the Separation of School and State, 200 local or interest-group chapters, 5,000 donors to the Alliance, and 100 mentions of the Separation idea appearing in print each month.

Others include finding 1,000 "School Sakharovs" to endorse Separation, and at least 200 "Concerned Clergy" who will urge their members to leave tax-funded schools. Another is to establish an alternative database "Dissenters E.R.I.C. (Education Research and Information Clearinghouse)" containing initially at least 2,000 articles supportive of Separation.

Progress is being made on all of these, but we still have work to do. For example, we currently have not 25,000 signatures, but fewer than 2,000 (be sure to check the listing in this issue to see if your name is among them). Much to our delight, the ranks of School Sakharovs continue to swell-but there are not yet a thousand. The Separation idea is already getting "good ink," with guest op-eds by pro-separationists appearing in newspapers here and there-but we're not yet seeing a hundred Separation mentions a month.

All this means is that we're still laying the groundwork. And that's fine. We'll need a strong foundation in place when the Stage 2 attacks begin.

"Bold" targets

Some Stage-2 style attacks on Separation have already appeared. Among these we might include the exhortations to us to "be quiet" by reformers such as tax-funded voucher advocates.

We'll be moving from Stage 2 to Stage 3 when we start closing in on a million signatures on the Proclamation, 2,000 Separation chapters, 100,000 Alliance donors, 10,000 School Sakharovs, and 2,000 clergy members on our side. We should also see the coming into being of at least 20 Separation organizations that are independent of the Alliance. Other targets/signs include:

  1. growth of privately financed scholarships toward the $1 billion level;
  2. polls showing support for Separation approaching 50 percent;
  3. teen self-education becoming a common phenonmenon;
  4. growth in the number of private credentialling and accreditation organizations (perhaps 20 or so); and
  5. a thousand print mentions of Separation a month.

Also in Stage 2, we could see an emotionally powerful, pro-Separation book or movie burst upon the scene with the impact of an Uncle Tom's Cabin.

"Self-evident" targets

At the completion of Stage 3, Separation will be a fact. Americans will wonder in amazement that they ever believed that the proper way to educate a child was through a system of wholesale coercion.

First, though, we'll have to settle for preliminary victories. These include obtaining 25 million Proclamation signatures and seeing Alliance chapters grow to 14,567 (one per school district-how's that for a specific target?). Sometime in Stage 3 we should have a million donors to the Alliance, 100,000 School Sakharovs, and 20,000 Concerned Clergy. There will be 200 independent Separation organizations, $20 billion in funding for privately financed scholarships, and 500 organizations providing private credentialling and accreditation.

Victory will be clinched when we hear major national religious figures urge ending tax funding of schools. Political candidates (around 2,500 is our target estimate) will win election on a Separation platform. There will be 400,000 new schools founded as 45 million children (that is, all of them) are removed from tax-funded schools.

Getting there from here

Putting numbers on targets gives us one way to find out where we are and how far we have to go. Another way is simply to keep putting out the Separation message, then gauging the general reaction-is it ridicule, anger, or acceptance (however tentative or grudging at first).

Strategies and their corresponding targets may change along the way. As the great free-market economist F.A. Hayek said, "When it's over I'll tell you which was the best strategy."

Meanwhile, there's plenty more groundwork to do.

This article is copyrighted by the Alliance for the Separation of School & State. Permission is granted to freely distribute this article as long as this copyright notice is included in its entirety.