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

Three Reasons Why Reform Can't Work

University of Arizona professor Stanley Pogrow wrote that four decades of education reform have resulted in "a lot of bull but no beef" (Phi Delta Kappan, June 1996). Discussion with Dr. Pogrow convinces me that just like the reformers he criticizes, he fails to recognize the three fundamental flaws inherent in state schooling that doom all attempts to reform the system:

* "Public schools" undermine parental authority. Each attempt to impose a single set of values countermands some parents' authority and often ignites a "School war." Americans have a wide diversity of beliefs and values. American "public schools" have tried to address this diversity in two ways: (1) impose the views of the politically strongest group and (2) attempt value-free education. One hundred fifty years experience shows that both approaches have failed, even when schools were well funded and staffed with talented teachers. We cannot have a society that is both free and peaceful when legislators use schools to shape attitudes or control the content of students' minds. When families and school boards disagree over character values, communities divide into factions that fight for control of schools, destroying parent-teacher-student cooperation and infuriating the losing factions. Separation is the peaceful and necessary solution to these wars over whose values shall be taught.

* "Public schools" undermine parental responsibility. Starting in the 1830s, many Americans bought into the false notion that children have a right to education at their neighbors' expense through the force of taxation. Parents began abdicating their financial responsibilities. Over the next few decades, parents lost the authority to decide how many days per year their children attend school. Separation is the peaceful and necessary step to help families shoulder their obligation to provide their children with opportunities for education.

"It's time for the conservatives to rethink their position on `public schools.' It is increasingly apparent that the schools cannot be reformed. That's why I'm excited to support The Separation of School and State Alliance."
--Sam Blumenfeld
* "Public schools" embody socialism. Government schools cannot be reformed any better than the Soviet collective farms could be reformed. Political commentator Jarret Wollstein muses, "Communism is gone, but Big Brother is here." Socialism (government ownership and administration of the means of production of goods and services) is immune to consumer desires, so it produces low quality, sparse quantity, high costs, and often unwanted goods and services. Government schools are socialism. Socialism cannot be improved. It must be replaced. Separation is the peaceful and necessary solution to the ills of socialism in government schools.

Power Tends to Corrupt, Even Educators

If you're over 40, you've seen more than a dozen "education reforms." All have perpetuated the notion that the force of government is necessary to educate children.

There is a simple reason for this: For over a century, most educators have grown up in a system that compels pupils to attend and compels everybody to pay. Asking educators who are acclimated to the constant use of coercion how to best improve education is like asking jockeys how to improve the Pony Express. Riders would tell you that with twice the way stations to provide fresh horses, they "could ride like the wind." Teachers tell you to reduce class sizes. The jockey fails to see the limits of the horse. Educators fail to see the limits of coercion. Indeed, public school educators fail to see how the use of government power has corrupted their desire to serve parents, and changed it into a desire to undermine them with a therapeutic school. When Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt" he did not add, "except educators."

Just as Americans would reject any proposal that government force is necessary for churches to prosper, so we should reject the assumption that the force of government is necessary for schools to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic.


This article is copyrighted by The Education Liberator, the monthly publication of the Separation of School & State Alliance. Permission is granted to freely distribute this article as long as this copyright notice is included in its entirety. The Separation Alliance can be reached online via email (separate@sepschool.org), or WWW (), voice (559-499-1776), or conventional mail (1071 N. Fulton Ave., Fresno, CA 93728).
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Last modified: Thu April 17, 1997 by Separation of School & State Alliance Web Team