The Education Liberator, Vol. 3, No. 2, February/March 1997
No more "public school" reform ?
Americans need separation of school and state
Just as there was no way to reform state-established churches, state-backed slavery, and state-run farms, there is no way to "reform" state-run schooling. In the past 40 years, educators have tried dozens of reforms. All have failed.
Mainstream educators, notwithstanding their energy, caring, and intelligence, fail to recognize how the use of coercive government power for 150 years has corrupted their desire to serve.
We in the Separation Alliance need to remind ourselves, however, that today's educators are not our opponents. When good people are in a bad system, the system wins-usually in the short run, always in the long run. Our opponent is an idea, held in the minds of the great majority, that state force is a necessary part of good education.
Three Reasons for Optimism
Three factors will bring the school crisis to a head in the next few years. The first two factors motivate parents to flee the tax-run schools, and the third makes the cost of the move more affordable:
- Concern for Declining Values. Teenage aimlessness, violence, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies are alarming more and more parents to do something. Some religious leaders are encouraging their flocks to flee from government-run schools. Religious and home schooling will grow explosively.
- Rejection of Top-Down Curriculum. Parental attempts to take over school boards are useless with Goals 2000, National Standards, School-to-Work, and their successors. This ongoing centralization is motivating even more parents to remove their children from government-run schools.
- Advancing Technology. Computer and communication technologies are working against today's centralized schooling just as they helped break down the centralized states in Eastern Europe. Technology is lowering the cost of home and independent schooling, easing the transition to Separation. Teen self-education will become prevalent; technology makes it an option for more than just the super-bright and motivated, such as Thomas Edison.
Four False Assumptions
School reformers fail to question or even acknowledge their assumptions.
False assumption #1: Compulsory financing is required because parents are too poor or selfish to pay for schooling.
Fact: There is plenty of evidence that poor children were afforded an education in the non-slave states in the early 1800s in a society with one-tenth of today's wealth.
False assumption #2: Compulsory attendance is necessary because parents are too ignorant or uncaring to send kids to school.
Fact: Helping one's children prepare for life is a deep human need. Singapore averages 94 percent attendance without compulsion.
False assumption #3: Compulsory curriculum is necessary because parents and students are so stupid that they would pick schools that teach the wrong things at the wrong times.
Fact: Children who are homeschooled or use independent schooling are doing just fine. Thomas Edison is a sterling example of a home schooled person.
False assumption #4: Common schools are necessary for a constitutional republic.
Fact: People who voted for the founding fathers and birthed this Republic in the late 1700s never attended "free, universal, and compulsory public schools" (which were invented 50-60 years later).
Five Wrongheaded Reforms
School reformers want schools to improve, but because they base their ideas on false assumptions, they often make matters worse with wrongheaded reforms. For example, they further weaken already sickly American families by:
- Making it easier to outsource parenting even earlier (day care).
- Making it easier not to care for their children after school (longer school day).
- Making it easier to avoid their children in the summer (longer school year).
- Making it easier to avoid feeding their children (school breakfast and lunch).
- Making it easier to accept other welfare programs (school-based clinics and on-campus one-stop welfare services).
Milton Friedman says that if you subsidize rice, you get more rice; if you subsidize wheat, you get more wheat. The state subsidizes irresponsible parenting and now we are reaping the whirlwind of this irresponsibility and dependence.
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