Camel in the tent #2: “Public Schools”

By Nathan Barton

Author’s Note: This is the second in a series of commentaries on specific items which have contributed to the destruction of our liberties here in the Fifty States. There are many, which are often ignored as we deal with “big things” like the Income Tax, the Federal Reserve, and the various gun control laws.

As with Driver’s Licenses, so are “Public Schools” destructive of human liberty. And their history is a bad one.

Years ago, I followed Marshall Fritz‘s terminology calling the “Public Schools” what they really are: “government-run, tax-funded” (GRTF) schools, or going even more extremist and calling them government-ruined, theft-funded schools (still GRTF). Today, sadly, many “Private Schools” are also tax funded and so controlled by regulation that even though they are privately-owned and supposedly independent, in reality they are just as much GRTF. In part this is due to the mindset of their governing boards, their administrators, their faculty, and especially, the parents. Today, more than ever, public schools are run by governments, and NOT just local “school board” government, but state and especially FedGov. Congress dictates certain things, but more importantly, allows the US Department of Education virtually total autonomy in deciding what to force down the throats of states and local school districts.

This has not been an overnight development, but one which has steadily (even stealthily) taken place for more than 160 years. Indeed, it dates back that far and the roots and evolution can today be seen, even if not obvious when it happened. Just as progressive government has grown more powerful (regardless of which parties were in power), so the development of the modern public school, controlled by ever more powerful government, can be seen in a variety of ways.

Originally in North America, there were no “public schools” – rather, families and churches provided education for their children, often banding together to support teachers and provide a schoolhouse (if the home or church meetinghouse was not used). Unfortunately, as with many other elements of society, there were those who felt it essential that the costs of such be provided by the entire community and that everyone be made to pay “their fair share.” That is, by force, through taxes. At the same time, with immigration (especially from Ireland and parts of Europe with high Roman Catholic populations) increasing, and prejudice against immigrants high, there was a large effort to eliminate parochial schools as being sources of Anti-American teaching and training. Fortunately, there was a model education system to follow, which the Socialist refugees from the failed European revolutions of 1848 brought with them: the Prussian school system.

It would take a century for that “public school” model to be fully implemented, as state-controlled systems developed gradually, creating a bureaucracy and central administration with State and County Superintendents of Education exercising more and more power over community schools run by boards elected mostly by parents. By the 1960s, that process and the rise of powerful teacher’s unions set the stage for the federal takeover of the “public education” system nationwide, pushed by court decisions and the Great Society welfare state. More and more federal money together with the strings of federal control, paved the pathway.

And with each “improvement” of the system, the quality of the services provided declined. This became a “galloping trend” beginning especially in the late 1980s and has continued now for 30 years. The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) just recently published a chart which shows clearly just how rapidly things are deteriorating – and the complete failure of anyone in power to do anything to stop it. Assuming that they really want to stop it, as the continued and increasing failure of the public school system works to the advantage of government, allowing it more power to steal and spend more money, AND produce damaged people who are the justification for still more control and power, as well as growing the welfare state.

Overall, the development of “public education” here in the Fifty States for nearly two centuries has been a massively successful attack on liberty and society.

Fortunately, many people ARE working around it. Some more successfully and with more hope for the future than others. Homeschooling and that interesting variant “unschooling” are both examples of success and hope. Charter “alternative” schools just treat a few of the symptoms but fail to address the root cause, and therefore only mask the rot. And governmental fixes (like this one reported by CNS News discussing how traditional “assigned district” schools may be going away) are fixing nothing, but just doubling down on failure. The internet, even online charter and private schools, is (for now) part of the solution, but only if parents and students are dedicated enough to take advantage. Private schools, with or without the dangers of accepting government money for meal programs and the like, are marginally better (at worst) than GRTF schools, but still resemble the “public” system way too much.

It is critical that people recognize that parents and students – whether children or young or old adults – are and have to be personally responsible for their learning, as for every other aspect of life. Otherwise the “public schools” are just one more very big excuse for more government, as they have been for so very long.

Mama’s Note: In the early 1990s I was teaching nursing at a community college. To my horror, a great many of the students (usually mature adults) were no more prepared to do college level work than the youngest high school graduates. Almost none of them were readers, couldn’t spell or construct a complete sentence, had little or no idea how to research anything or organize what they collected from reluctant trips to the library or science laboratories. They had little experience, and less enthusiasm for any sort of critical, analytic thinking.  But when gently informed of this vast lack of skills, were both astonished and angry that they were not going to get a pass on it all, as well as a good grade on whatever they did.

Unfortunately, it was I who wound up being under the gun from the administrators, pressured to make things much easier for these people. So I left. But if you think about it, those poor students are now your nurses, nursing home and hospital administrators, etc. From having to deal with some of them over the intervening years, I’m sad to say I don’t think they ever learned much of what they really needed to know.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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