Like many aspects of our society, most people believe public schooling to be a sacred institution. It is blasphemous to dare consider alternatives, much less advocate completely doing away with public schooling. But, the truth is, there is nothing special about public schooling. It does not produce more intelligent, critical thinkers. It is not efficient. It is not moral. Like NASA, the Post Office, the Police Department, or any other government provided service, it being provided by the government doesn’t make it inherently good. In fact, I think it can clearly be shown, you usually get a deterioration from the potential quality of the service because it is government run.
And thats just the utilitarian argument against government services. Of course they do everything they do poorly, inefficiently, etc. But, more importantly, from a principled standpoint, it is immoral. Immoral, because any and everything a government does is only possible because of force, coercion, power, control, and theft. Governments do not operate to please people, to win new customers, or to gain voluntary repeat business.
The very definition of a government is an institution that has a coercive monopoly on the use of a force within a given geographic area. You will see this idea a lot on this site. With every topic it is important to first point out these very important points about modern governments – that they are and always have been self serving, self interested institutions, no different than the kings, emperors, and pharaohs of old. If a certain piece of paper, law, policy, service seems to help, provide, or protect the citizenry – it can also be noted that the very same pieces of paper, policies, laws, and services – always benefit someone in power as well – whether it be the king, aristocracy, congress, department budgets, government contractors, banks, or merely public perception of government. Since governments are the institutions of redistribution (of “rights” & property) – everything they do will have three effects – to immediately benefit the intended beneficiary, to hurt another group (sometimes also the intended beneficiary), and to benefit those in power, in ways not made readily obvious to the public.
Schooling of course fits the above description. For thousands of years learning meant many things – to learn skills, to learn the family business, to work at a local shop, to apprentice with someone, to be tutored, and to generally learn naturally through work, life, travel, family, fun, and hard times. But, now if you suggest these ideas you’ll receive immediate backlash from statists – that we want slavery, child labor, unsafe factories, field laborers, etc. Because to the indoctrinated statist, there can be only two options, either slavery or wonderful, “free”, public education. Though I think this idea, like many other topics is so complex, it is difficult to even get into. There are so many variables, so much gradual change over the years, and so many unintended, unseen factors to consider. It is the famous idea of the seen and the unseen. There are those who want us to only see and consider the dumbly obvious, the cartoonish version of current events, wars, and politics that we are presented on NBC, CNN, and FOX News – instead of thinking for ourselves, considering new ideas, doing our own research, questioning what we are told, and developing a philosophy to guide us independently to the truth.
The idea is that without the government forcing education on everyone, no one would want their children educated, and “we” would have a stupid population, and “we” would be unable to “compete” with the world. But this just isn’t true. It is a basic human instinct to want our offspring to be better off than we were. And the examples abound across the world. See the links at the end for examples. Parents will do what it takes to see their children successful. But more importantly consider this – one of the unintended consequences of forced education. In a world void of government schooling, children themselves would get back in touch with the human instinct to learn. For thousands of years, children have wanted to learn, wanted to see what mom and dad were up to, wanted to hang around the blacksmith, or the auto shop; wanted to hear old stories from grandpa; wanted to get their hands dirty; to figure things out; and to gain the knowledge and skills that would make them successful people and attractive husbands and wives. But, modern schooling has taken all that away. Now, children are told, explicitly, and implicitly, that there is no need for independent learning, no need for self knowledge, and that all you need to do is come to school, then go to more school, then more school, and then you go out and get a job. Ironically, by forcing “education” upon children, it has over time degraded their character, and stolen the natural inclination for learning and becoming successful. Children are now plucked up and set on this conveyor belt where they are told to just stay in line and everything will happen to you.
Sadly, as with other institutions, those involved in the public schooling system have a biased view on the subject. Usually teachers, their families, and unions see any criticism of forced, government education as a direct attack on themselves. If someone enjoys and values being an educator, and if they are in fact smart enough to be teaching children, then they should be able to see there is nothing inherently wonderful about the current system of state education. If they truly enjoy their profession, they shouldn’t mind the government getting completely out of the way, and allowing them to do what they love, practicing their skills as educators for those voluntarily wanting the service. There would be ample opportunities to teach and mentor young people. As always with free, thinking people, we would see a whole slew of educational platforms developing; something to suit every student at every ability and income level, and something to suit every enthusiastic teacher. I will say it again – there is nothing great and holy about our present day teachers insofar as they are government employees. Many people in the education industry are great people, and some are very bright and have a gift for passing on knowledge. But, being employed by an institution that locks kids in a room for 7 hours, trains them to fall in line and love the state, while stifling true creativity, does not make one a saint.
The other aspect of public schooling that deserves attention is its origins and uses as a system run by the government. Again, whether you realize it now or not, governments are sort of creepy, self serving, manipulating institutions, that “protect and serve” you by controlling and robbing you. In the 1800s, modern governments centralized control over education specifically to create their own kind of order, to train good citizens, etc. In other words, the goal certainly wasn’t to deliver knowledge and teach critical thinking. And ever since, schools have been a place to to indoctrinate children into the religion of statism. They are taught line standing. They are taught to “pledge allegiance”. They are given the official stories on everything, all the state glorifying mythologies of the last 300 years. They are shown nothing that would bring into question the legitimacy, usefulness, or kindness of the state. They are taught government, or Keynesian economics – that only with government comes prosperity, and the “nation” can print, stimulate, tax, and spend its way out of any problem. Governments teaching politics, history, economics, “social studies”, etc. is like oil companies teaching us about environmental protection.
To briefly mention, they have also historically been wrong on health, leading people to the disaster of the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) through education, subsidies, and regulation. Governments are eternally distorting things and playing catch up; coming around to innovations in health 50 years late; protecting destructive forces like the drug and vaccine industries; creating pseudo-moral justifications for wars, after they’ve started the wars; helping unions claim victory for social change, after those changes were already taking place.
Learning should be as natural as breathing. And it should come from many sources – parents, friends, getting dirty, breaking things, building things, tutors, music, books, lectures, travel, apprenticeships, on the job training, grandparents, the neighborhood, or from wherever the child wants to find knowledge. Through natural learning children learn critical thinking, social skills, bonding with friends and family, and develop a genuine interest in knowledge. In structured, rigid schooling, especially the forced government variety, children learn conformity, compliance, memorization, the importance of following arbitrary rules, and to blindly respect those in positions of “authority”, whether they deserve it or not. Those are the things unique to structured schooling. All of the other things, the actual learning, social skills, etc. can be acquired elsewhere in better ways. And if children aren’t perfectly conforming to the rigid idea of what is “normal” behavior, if they express themselves, and stand out – then these children are slapped with various diagnoses, then drugged into compliance.
From my personal experience I can say I learned much more outside of the classroom, than within it. Centralized schools treat everyone as equals, though we are not equal. We all learn differently, to different degrees, and at different times. It wasn’t until all of my formal schooling was finished that I developed my own desire for self knowledge. In regards to my day job – I began my career technically because of one class. I was only considered for a job because I happened to have taken one particular class in college. 16 years of education, and what really mattered was that I had some basic knowledge from one class. But, a huge BUT, because of the warped idea of education in our society, if I did not have the college degree, but instead had acquired the same knowledge from that one class on my own time – I would not have been considered for the same jobs. And thats the crux of it – that society, the government, teachers, parents, and without choosing the thought for themselves, kids all obsess over the rituals, routines, pledges of allegiance, grades, tests, diplomas, and degrees – more than knowledge and skills. Simply put, the modern education system of the last 150 years doesn’t work. People make it okay in life after high school despite their public schooling, not because of it. It is through their family, community, hard work, self learning, work opportunities, etc. that individuals get what they need to thrive in this world.
Luckily, not everyone sees things this way. There is a strong and growing homeschooling and unschooling movement. Exciting new programs are popping up that integrate book learning with gaining practical skills. And of course we have the internet. Children and adults can learn anything online, and for very little money.
So before you let your biases and preconceived ideas pull you back into the statist paradigm, think about this. What if there are massive problems, not just with the current state of public schooling, but with the entire institution? What if we could save billions of dollars by eliminating tax funded centralized schooling? What if there were a multitude of ways to become knowledgeable, wise, to gain skills, to practice thinking skills, and be ready for a productive life – no matter who you are, where you come from, or how much money your family has? What if there were better ways to pass on knowledge to the next generation? Wouldn’t all that be worth a look?
Please dig into the links I will post below. My purpose in writing most of what I post is meant as a primer – an introduction to various topics to open your minds and spark your interest. But the real learning lies with you. For every topic that I write about, there are multitudes of people who study and write about them full time, making for a vast pool of knowledge to pull from. Don’t just accept or disregard what I say. If these ideas interest you, dig in and start learning. So please, visit the links below, and check out my older posts on this website to revisit some of the great information there as well. As always, please, like, share, comment, or ask a question – and feel free to subscribe on this page, or by liking the Facebook page, available at the top right of the page.
The best place to start – 12 short videos of John Taylor Gatto’s writing. watch the playlist all the way through before moving onto the other links. Its worth it.
- John Taylor Gatto
- Private Quality Education For the World’s Poorest People
- School is Dead: Welcome to the Future
- Discover Praxis
- Trivium Education
- The Beautiful Tree
- Dayna Martin: Radical Unschooling
- Free MIT Classes
- Khan Academy
- School Sucks Project
- You Don’t Really Need a College Degree
- Peter Schiff – Just Skip College
- Learning Through Apprenticeship
- Natural Learning
- Raising Free Men
- 10 Myths of Unschooling
- It’s Time to Unbundle College
- Informative Talk on the Common Core
- The Central Fallacy of Public Schooling
- Public School Indoctrination
- Thaddeus Russell on Teaching History
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