December 2003, Ver. 1.0
by Marshall Fritz
Separation of School & State
as the Gateway to Honest Education?
Well, that's not true, but maybe it gave you a surprise and a chuckle.
The truth is that good people sometimes get hold of bad ideas.
My father didn't condemn me as a bad person when I hurt my ankle by jumping off our garage roof with a beach towel around my neck, hollering SUPERMAN at the top of my lungs.
Rather, he told me a bit about fantasy literature and gravity. He also informed me that if I tried again with a better imitation cape, I would enjoy the same miserable results, even worse if he decided that a paddling was an appropriate reminder about obedience.
And once more he asked, "If Johnny and Billy jumped off a roof, would you?" Maybe he wasn't just adding insult to injury. Maybe he thought the first 100 times didn't stick, but with enough repetition, it would. He was right. I eventually got it, and maybe that's why what is fashionable doesn't impress me much.
Public schooling is fashionable now. It certainly wasn't at the time of the American Revolution and for a lifetime after. But today, many people are appalled, even horrified, when they first hear the idea of ending government involvement in K-12 education.
Four national polls show that about 75 percent of the U.S. population does not yet support ending compulsory attendance and tax-financing of schools. (Mr. Optimist says, "Hey! That means 50 million people are already with us, even before we drive the idea into the papers and the 6 o'clock news!)
People who oppose us are "good people." There may be a few exceptions, but in hundreds and hundreds of encounters with our adversaries, I have yet to meet someone who wasn't what we call a "basically good person."
So why don't these good people immediately grasp our wonderful ideas that will help children, parents, and teachers better perform their respective duties?
Here are several quick answers. More detailed answers can be read in the links provided below.
- Habits are hard to break. We have, in the main, become habituated to sending our children to government schools over the last five generations.
- Addictions are hard to break. Most of our society has become addicted to expecting OPM (Other People's Money) to meeting their wants and needs.
- Truth hurts. Very rare the person who can be told a truth about a moral failing (in himself) without being hurt, resenting the hurt, and resenting the messenger. People especially don't want to hear that they have put their children at risk by putting them in government schools. They can be just as adamant that their parents couldn't have put them at risk.
- "Sin" is not a popular concept. We even change the names of many sins so they don't sound so bad. Pridefulness has been replaced with "high ego needs" and "strong personality type." Covetousness (Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's donkey or other property) has so fallen out of fashion that if you mention iteven in religious circlesyou're considered eccentric.
- We've become acclimated to thinking of ourselves as "entitled" to other people's belongings. We want our agents (read "tax collector") to take a third or so our neighbors' earned income so our agents (read "politicians") can buy stuff for us (e.g., schooling, medicine, retirement pay, etc).
We are so addicted to such covetousness that meddling with our "entitlement" to 15 percent of our children's income when we retire is called the "third rail of politics." (The third rail carries the electricity in a subway train; touching it can electrocute you.)
Humans naturally reject out of hand any threat posed to their income stream, whether earned of mulcted for them by their agents.
- Slothfulness, the inclination to do the easy thing rather than the right thing, also is pretty much ignored today. With schooling, it is much easier for those with some money to move to "one of the best school districts in the state" (according to their real estate agent), and let "the professionals" make all the decisions about what their children should be taught and what methods used.
Enough already. You can see that we have a bit of a challenge ahead in getting parents to accept their responsibility to make the difficult decisions about schooling methods (phonics? whole language? new math? new-new math?) and the sacrifices necessary to pay their children's tuition.
When school-by-government is extinct, the top (financial) third of the population will be able to easily afford private schooling. The middle third, given the elimination of $400 billion or more of taxes, will be able to afford private schooling, albeit with some sacrifices in the pleasantries of life. For the poor, most single moms, and even the lower middle class with several children, it will also mean accepting tuition charity to supplement the $5-25 per week that they can afford for tuition.
This will be a challenge, as most of us would rather exercise our alleged "right" to other people's money (i.e., "welfare rights") rather than accept charity.
Yes, deep down, the call for Honest Education is difficult because it is the call for parents care so much about their children's formation that they can forego some of their comfort, material consumption, and pridefulness.
By the way, if you think I was joking about "new new math" as a government school pedagogy, try a Google search. I got 1,970 hits, including this one (third from the top!) by Michigan school teacher and Signatory to the Proclamation, Linda Schrock Taylor. Click here to see her expose.
For more depth on these issues, you might want to read Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong by William Kirk Kilpatrick, and Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis.
In this book, Lewis may be a little more difficult to read than some of his other works. At least I didn't understand much the first time I read it in 1983. Ten years later it made a lot of sense. I should read it again soon.
Below is a little excerpt for your delight. Recently, I checked the dictionary for "artifact," a word I've used for many years. This time I grasped more soundly its meaning and it helped me with this passage. (Artifact: An object produced or shaped by human craft; American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man. The battle will then be won. . But who, precisely, will have won it?
For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please. . Hitherto the plans of educationalists have achieved very little of what they attempted and indeed, when we read them - how Plato would have every infant "a bastard nursed in a bureau," and Elyot would have the boy see no men before the age of seven and, after that, no women, and how Locke wants children to have leaky shoes and no turn for poetry - we may well thank the beneficent obstinacy of real mothers, real nurses, and (above all) real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses. But the man-moulders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please. . .
The Conditioners, then, are to choose what kind of artificial Tao they will, for their own good reasons, produce in the Human race. .
It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artefacts. Man's final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.
When all that says "it is good" has been debunked, what says "I want" remains. . The Conditioners, therefore, must come to be motivated simply by their own please. . My point is that those who stand outside all judgements of value cannot have any ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse.
At the moment, then, of Man's victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely "natural" - to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammelled by virtues, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man.
-- C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, chap. 3, para. 5-10, pp. 72-80, as quoted in The Quotable Lewis, Wayne Martindale & Jerry Root, editors