Neither is the business of government
by Marshall Fritz
Some people think that the American "public school system" is broken so they try to fix it. The truth is that public schooling is not broken. Rather, it is succeeding in its main objective strengthen government by undermining parents.
State free and compulsory schooling is based on four false premises: Compartmentalism, Paternalism, Welfarism, and Socialism.
In the 1840s, Horace Mann led the charge to replace the church and home schools which had served millions of Americans for two centuries with "common schools" run by a state, county, district, or city. This new form of schooling spread the notion that life can be lived in compartments, some of which deal with man's ultimate purpose (home, church, temple, and philosophy club), and some of which do not (school, work, and politics).
In our pluralistic society, common schooling gradually came to mean that school teachers were prohibited from discussing the most serious questions faced by our species: Why am I here? Does life have any purpose other than my happiness for seven or eight decades? Indeed, what is happiness?
By precluding teachers and children from probing together into the deep questions of life, the American system destroys education for all children. First, it trivializes school into the accumulation of specified data to be recalled for tests, making would-be-learners into test-taking robots. Second, it sets "feelings" as the primary decision criterion. Listen to your friends say, "How do you feel about that?" rather than "What do you think about that?"
Schools now tell children, "Look inside to know what is right and wrong, find your own truth, and be true to your feelings." The New Jersey prom-girl who dropped her baby into a dumpster, Timothy McVeigh, and the Columbine killers all get A++ on the "T.Y.F.T." (True to Your Feelings Test).
Americans have gradually accepted the idea that parents are not qualified to be in charge of their children's education. We have shifted authentic duties of parents from our house to the state house.
State involvement in truancy is an example. Massachusetts politicians innovated this usurpation of parental authority in 1852. Today, a father may not send his school-resistant son into an apprenticeship program in lieu of school.
Unexercised muscles leave athletes physically weak. Unexercised responsibilities leave parents morally weak.
But if we separate school and state, will not children of irresponsible parents suffer? Utopia is not one of our options, but improvement is. Continuing down our path of paternalism will further weaken parents. Returning to parental responsibility will begin the restoration of healthy parenting.
In the 1840s, the Common School Movement sold the notion that every child has a right to an education at a neighbor's expense.
This notion inserted an entitlement mentality into the American soul. Perfumed words of "caring" and "rights" disguise the welfare aspect of taking the neighbor's money to pay for "free" schooling. If public housing is welfare, public schooling is welfare. If a free lunch at noon is welfare, a free math lesson at 10:00 a.m. is welfare.
After 150 years, this entitlement notion has festered into moral gangrene with millions of Americans believing "the world owes me a living, and a pretty good one, too."
Public schools fit the textbook definition of socialism, "government ownership and administration of the means of production."
Socialism fails because it is morally wrong; it has no respect for individual human beings. Socialist structures ignore feedback from customers and arrange perverse incentives for employees. Replacing school board members doesn't correct the ills of schooling any more than changing managers of Soviet collective farms resulted in more wheat.
Those trying to reform public schools are just plucky Perestroikans trying to fix socialism. We need to restore the quintessential American idea that freedom works better than socialism.
In summary, the way out of the school mess is for Americans to do with schools what we did with churches. We must not let government pay for it, command attendance, or mandate the content. In other words, we must prohibit government involvement in Monday school just as we have in Sunday school.
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