Alliance for the Separation of School & State
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Honest Education

You may find this website a bit different than others that deal with how to improve education in the United States. You won�t read about U.S. test scores falling behind Japan or Jordan. Nor will you see complaints about the teachers unions. You won�t even see us moan about taxes . . . at least not much.

This website probes the American system of "public schooling"1a.k.a. "state schooling," "politician-controlled schooling," and "government schooling" to reveal its underlying structure and assumptions, especially those that lead to destructive school policies.

The damage done by these policies is harmful to students, their families, and the vast majority of teachers, especially those who deeply desire to be honest with children.

We explainperhaps, provethat these policies threaten the American democratic republican form of government, our national unity, our international security, and even the spiritual beliefs of families in our pluralistic society who hold competing religions and beliefs.

When one grasps the underlying structure of state schooling, it becomes quite easy to solve the riddle of why school reforms have consistently failed to please parents, teachers, and students. And make no mistake: School reforms have failed for the entire 160-year existence of school-by-government in America. And they will go on failing. Reform is not the answer.

When Russia was communist and all jobs were government jobs, there was a joke: "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work." Similarly, students in today's 92,000 state schoolsand, sadly, far too many of the 27,000 private schoolscan similarly joke, "They pretend to teach us and we pretend to learn." Simply put, government schooling has become "pretend education" all dressed up in a costume of real education. So, just what is the cause of the demise of education in government-run schools? Why do reforms fail? Why are our students deprived of a genuine education? You wouldn't try to sharpen a sword with wood or oatmeal because "iron sharpens iron." Yet our students, whose blossoming minds are in dire need of sharpening, are being given intellectual oatmeal.

The missing intellectual iron is for students, together with their teachers, to grapple with The Big Questions of Life. These questions have been asked by all thinking people, on all continents, for time immemorial. These questions are answered differently in different religions and belief systems, and that's the difficulty for which government schools found the wrong answer. Here a few examples of The Big Questions of Life:

  • Why is there so much suffering in the world? How should I handle suffering by others? How should I handle my own?
  • Why is there so much evil in the world? How can I decide what is good and what is evil?
  • What is truth? Are there any permanent truths? If there are, how can I find them?
  • Is there a God? Does he care about us?
  • Why am I here? Is there any purpose to my life? How do I find it and be sure of it?

We all see the problem. Children from different families are taught at home very different answers to these questions, depending on whether the parents are agnostic or "spiritual." If the latter, the answers still vary from Catholic to Protestant, from Mormon to Muslim, from Jew to Wiccan, and so on.

In the 1840s, in order to have government "common schools" where children of different beliefs would be educated together in common, the school-by-government folks tried to minimize conflict and lawsuits by eliminating, as much as possible, discussions of the Big Questions of Life in the school room.

Students, teachers, and parents were told that questions like these must be kept in cubicles called home and church. As the diversity of belief systems expanded over the last 160 years, more and more questions were quarantined into the cubicles. Today, most of America's three million "public school" teachers shy away from these questions, even when asked by students and quite germane to the lesson at hand, for fear of upsetting parents and administrators, indeed, even risking their livelihood if they persist.

Visitors from Other Lands

Please note that we are based in the United States and much of this website is aimed at the problems and history of schooling in "the States." However, my travels to over a dozen Latin American and European countries forces me to conclude that while the particulars are different in each country, most of the essential points made on this website pertain to all countries that have politically controlled schools.

Also note that you can see people in your country who have signed the Proclamation for the Separation of School and State by clicking here. And, we have some pages translated into Spanish.

One article of particular interest to citizens of other countries is how the United States system of politician-controlled schooling has gradually made Americans more belligerent with other countries, even to the point of creating an "Empire" attitude in many Americans. Please click on The rise of the American Empire by Cathy Cuthbert.

Students are still encouraged in "public schools" to use their reasoning powers in math and science, but they are stopped cold when it comes to the deeper questions. Their growing abilities to reason are stifled by a constant diet of moral and spiritual oatmeal.

Even worse, students are often told to answer these questions using their feelings rather than their intellects. In fact, sometimes they are led to believe that there are no permanent truths and that each person must decide what is true for him or herself.

Moral traditions, the wisdom of the ages, and "revelations from God" in the various scriptures are often summarily dismissed as merely "the feelings of people long dead." A current fad in school-by-government in the U.S. is to teach students to believe that truth is all about feelings. Personal, private, ever-changing feelings.

Adults know that one of the most desperate desires of teens is to feel accepted by their peers. Most remember their own teen years when they longed to be independent and different but were easily caught up in a herd mentality. Too many students behave like anchovies and always stay a part of the group. Our government schools intensify this problem, and it's been getting worse for the five generations we've had school-by-government. (America had non-government-schooling for the prior seven generations.)

While no fun to tell you, I believe that most readers of this book who attended government schools in America in the last two generations were prevented from developing their potential intellectual acuity.2

Those who went to school since the 1970s bore the full brunt of this change. I am ashamed of myself because while I was given the gift of a private education through the tenth grade3where teachers did engage us in the Big QuestionsI was so unaware of the importance of it all that I did not pass this gift along to my children.

It wasn't deliberate on my part to deprive my children of the brainpower they might have developed. I wasn't paying enough attention, and at the time knew virtually nothing of what I write in this book. I did the easy thing and went along with the crowd. I guess I was an anchovy. Mea culpa.

As the saying goes, "Ve get too soon old and too late schmart."4 But perhaps I am schmart enough now to help you and your children get schmart sooner than I did.

My goal is for each reader to have a series of "Ah-Ha!" experiences, the kind where you exclaim, "I always wondered how that happened!" In fact, as you ponder the insights in this book, you may even come to agree with me that our schools have actually achieved a sort of "anti-education."

In my 14 years "as an educator" (1990-2004) I have used my position as an outsider to get a different perspective on what is beneath the surface in our schools. With the help of many associates and mentors, I believe we have gotten into the underlying assumptions inherent in state schooling-assumptions that conventional education scholars do not talk or write about.

On one level, the analysis of schooling on this website is sad. So many children have been hurt far more deeply that most of us can imagine.

On the other hand, you'll find more hope in this website than in a thousand school reform websites combined. You see, by getting to the underlying mistake it makes it possible for us to find a real solution.

Hence this website is not about reforming government schooling. The problem is government involvement in the content, attendance, approval, and financing of schools.

One cannot reform clay to build a functioning airplane. To achieve flight, one needs to transform the selection of raw materials to aluminum, steel, plastics, orala the Wright Brothers, Lillianthal, and Bleriotwood and fabric.

Similarly, one cannot reform the clay of government involvement in schooling. Charter schools, tax-funded vouchers, education tax-credits, longer days and longer years, less recess and more homework, or more and more standards and testing will simply take the clay of government and reform it into new globs that will prevent the next wave of children from getting intellectually airborne.

My hope is that Americans can recycle our idea that we shouldn't have government churching by recognizing that we also shouldn't have government schooling. Indeed, I believe that ending political involvement in schooling is the gateway needed to transform our schools into real, "Honest Education."

I believe that we'll do it gradually, one family at a time. In fact, in the U.S., we still have sufficient freedom that your family can enjoy most of the benefits of Honest Education right now without waiting for 50 percent plus one to vote on it. This is not the case in some countries, except for the rich who can send their children abroad to boarding school.

As more families move their children into Honest Education, teachers in the non-government schools will again engage their students in the Big Questions of Life. Johnny and Jill will again learn to develop their latent powers of reasoning. Parents will be reinforced at school, not undermined, and families can be restored to wholesome places for parents and children.

With strong families, Americans can reverse the decline of our culture and save our country from some sort of collapse into tyranny in our children's or grandchildren's day.

One more item: In any book on education, you deserve right up front the author's plain-language definition of education. Here's mine:

Education is the formation of a child so that he knows from where he came; to prepare him for both his earthly and his eternal destiny; and to empower him to freely choose both.

1John Merrifield, a professor at University of Texas, Austin, writes candor quire rare in education scholar circles, "The terms public school and private school are also somewhat misleading. The former adequately conveys the public ownership of education facilities, but the exclusive attendance zones of most public schools make them among least public of government facilities. Private sounds very exclusive, but private schools do not have formal attendance zones. Many private schools have their own significant enrollment barriers, in particular high tuition for students who don't qualify for scholarships and entrance requirements, but many private schools are more widely accessible (more public) than public schools.

Since the public school system is a government agency - funded by taxpayers, staffed by government employees, and is accountable to politicians - "government school" is more accurate than "public" school. Indeed, "one of the truly remarkable features of the education literature is that the schools are rarely treated as the government agencies they are." Use of "government" school is growing. (Merrifield, 2001, 5-6).

2 John Taylor Gatto, 1991 New York State Teacher of the year, recently wrote, "I concluded that genius is as common as dirt. ______________." (Harpers, Sept., 2003, p 38)

3 My Dad was in oil exploration; we moved to Karachi, Pakistan just prior to my junior year. While my school in Karachi was private, as was the Swiss boarding school where I endured most of my senior year, both were public-school-look-alikes in the sense that teachers avoided the Big Questions. They were "common schools" and feared parent-school discord, not lawsuits.

4 The humor might not be apparent to readers who have not lived in the United States. The phrase "We get too soon old and too late smart" is commonly said with a German or Yiddish accent.

This challenge of how to maintain peace among people of conflicting religious beliefs only arises when tax-financing is involved. Many countries, from the Netherlands to Colombia, from some provinces in Canada to the Czech Republic, and recently some cities in the United States (i.e., Milwaukee and Cleveland), allow the government to finance religious schools. While at first glance this sounds practical, the actual results in countries with long experience is that religious conviction slowly ebbs out of tax-financed religious schools.