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The Education Liberator, Vol. 3, No. 2, February/March 1997

Who's responsible for children's education, their parents or the state?

The Good, the Bad, and the...Huh?

Our job at the Separation Alliance is to get Americans to ponder the question, "Who's responsible for children's education, their parents or the state?"

Two centuries ago, Americans answered half that question: Parents are responsible for the spiritual education of their children. Now it's time to resolve the same question for moral and academic education. To help your evaluation, here are some people on both sides of the question, and some examples of what happens when the state wins control.

Some want parents in charge

Democratic National Platform 1892: We are opposed to state interference with parental rights and rights of conscience in the education of children.

Pius XI Pope, died 1939: Since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below in order to attain his sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not directed towards man's final end.

George Gilder American author, 1981: Nowhere is the continued vitality of families more dramatically expressed than by inspiring willingness of millions of American parents to scrimp and save to assure a safe and disciplined education for their children. Moreover, this willingness is the highest sign of social responsibility.

Some want the state in charge

Benjamin Rush Signer of the Declaration of Independence, died 1813: Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property.... He must be taught to amass wealth, but it must be only to increase his power of contributing to the wants and demands of the state.

Karl Marx German philosopher, died 1883: The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother's care, shall be in state institutions at state expense.

Lester Frank Ward Pioneer in American sociology, died 1913: The secret of the superiority of state over private education lies in the fact that in the former the teacher is responsible to society. The result desired by the state is a wholly different one from that desired by parents, guardians, and pupils.

Elwood Cubberley Education historian, died 1941: Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw products, children, are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilization

Edward Ross Sociologist, Chairman of the ACLU, died 1951: The role of the schoolmaster is to collect little plastic lumps of human dough from private households and shape them on the social kneading board according to the specifications laid down.

Some describe the results of the conflict

John Stuart Mill British economist and philosopher, died 1873: State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly alike one another.

R. L. Dabney Southern Presbyterian theologian, died 1898: The complete secularization [of government schools] is logically inevitable. Christians must prepare themselves for the following results: All prayers, catechisms, and Bibles will ultimately be driven out of the schools.

H. L. Mencken American journalist and author, died 1956: The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.

Michael Katz American educator, 1968: The result has been school systems that treat children as units to be processed into particular shapes and dropped into slots roughly congruent with the status of their parents.

Jonathan Kozol American educator, 1990: The first goal and primary function of the U.S. public school is not to educate good people, but good citizens. It is the function which we call in enemy nations "state indoctrination."

Robert Marzano 1993: I now see [the Christian fundamentalists] as fundamentally different from me in some of the basic assumptions that underlie their worldview. The assumptions on which their worldview is based are as unprovable as the assumptions on which my worldview (and that of most educators) is based.

Thomas Sowell American economist, 1993: A variety of programs used in classrooms across the country not only share the general goals of brainwashing-that is changing fundamental attitudes, values, and belief by psychological-conditioning methods-but also use classic brainwashing techniques developed in totalitarian countries. Those techniques include emotional stress, shock, or de-sensitization, to break down both intellectual and emotional resistance, and stripping the individual of normal defenses, such as reserve, dignity, a sense of privacy, or the ability to decline to participate. For example, in "death education" programs, students are required to think about how they will die, write their own epitaphs, and write a suicide note. First graders are required to make a model coffin for themselves.

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