Government should neither own, nor operate, nor centrally control schools. The central control becomes a tempting target for social engineers of all shapes and sizes. Government monopolization of education is the most abominable of propaganda channels because it is aimed at citizens who are not yet equipped to withstand it. The only way to defuse the problem is to diffuse the system.
Governments use public schools to inculcate loyalty to government
I wish my fellow citizens were better educated about the above, but alas, the government controls over 90% of education, and tends not to reveal its own faults. In fact, public schools don't even distinguish between the concepts of "nation" and "national government", so most Americans don't even know that they are distinct. We're taught to think of the federal government as "the nation". Only philosophers know that the nation is all of its citizens, not just a ruling hierarchy (if you know the difference, then you are a philosopher).
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of public education is that it conditions future generations to support central control, thereby perpetuating authoritarianism. Merely by immersing children in a government environment from an early age, especially one that dominates their parents even when parents are idols to their kids, we impress young minds with an unhealthy, unconscious sense of government eminence that can last well into adulthood. Therefore, government run schools are inherently antithetical to liberty. I dare say that if there had been examples of public schools back when the founders wrote the bill of rights, we would have a separation of school and state as surely as we have a separation of church and state.
The powers that be do not want to raise critical thinkers; they want to groom complacent, loyal subjects who will fit like cogs in an industrial machine, or march off to war when summoned (while politicians' own children are groomed for leadership in private schools). Every government school system in the world has encouraged unthinking loyalty to that government. The totalitarian Nazis and Soviets are only the unvarnished right and left extremes.
Other Common Propaganda Messages
In case it wasn't clear above, government teaches that government is the solution to any problem - as if it weren't the cause of most of the problems it aims to solve.
Capitalism is evil - as if businessmen spent most of their time and energy dreaming up ways to harm employees and customers for kicks.
Profit is unholy - as if we shouldn't reward people who risk large sums of money to test and prove new, better ways to deliver goods and services.
Every unfortunate life circumstance is somebody else's fault - as if there were no personal responsibility. In some cases it's true, but often it is not. This is the flip side of "Profit is unholy"; both fallacies aim to nullify the consequences of individual choices.
Every student is wonderful - as if patronizing students can build their self esteem; as if self esteem were more important than knowing truth; as if delusions weren't a symptom of insanity. Yes, self esteem is valuable, but so is the experience of overcoming adversity.
Wilderness is holy - as if that belief weren't just one more religion like the one every public school mocks.
Guns are evil - as if inanimate objects could be willful and malicious. This extends to inculcating a phobia regarding guns. Who will become our policemen (and women) if public schools succeed in raising a generation of gun phobics? Answer: The home schooled gun nuts. Just think of it: The only people allowed to keep and bear arms tomorrow will be the people you fear most today. Some schools ask students to report parental ownership of guns. I wonder who's keeping those databases.
Policemen (and women) are noble - as if they were somehow different from us commoners. This is an exception to "Guns are Evil". Apparently, some magic contained in blue threads or tin badges overpowers the malice contained in a gun.
Every thought or idea is equally true and valuable - sorry, but some ideas are just plain Wrong and/or harmful, including that one. Try this instead: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it (Voltaire paraphrased). The right to think it and say it doesn't make it so unless you are God almighty, in which case you're not allowed in school anyway.
Drugs are evil - as if any dose was a toxic or lethal dose. I think that one of the reasons that so many kids get into drugs is because anti-drug demagoguery sets off their BS detectors, causing them to throw out the valid warnings along with the hype. We would do them and ourselves a favor if we gave them real pharmacological data. Of course, to do that, we would need to have some. After demonizing "drugs", some teachers ask students to rat out their parents - even though they may have been safely and sanely enjoying small doses of pot since the '60s.
Where government doesn't, others will
To the degree that American schools are not overtly propagandized by the central government, other ambitious ideologues seek to exploit the captive audience offered by monopolized public education. Hence, there is a steady drumbeat of pro-union, pro-socialist propaganda that the power moguls atop the teachers' unions distribute through their more compliant members.
Next time there's a teachers' strike somewhere, be on the lookout for students roped into labor gangs forced to paint picket signs during class time. Any time there's a hot political debate in our country, watch for students pressed into writing letters amplifying the teachers' union's political dogma. See Thomas Sowell's Artificial Stupidity.
Fragment Ideological Presentation
Rather than fighting a never ending battle to tame an ever growing monstrous monopoly, we should fragment the system so that no one movement or mindset can even hope control it all. A variety of school types would foster a variety of ideologies and varying degrees of critical thinking. Even variety among ideologies is preferable to today's monotonous socialist drumbeat, and critical thinking can only go up from its current level of suppression.
In a free market, parents should be able to find a mindset that they like, but that doesn't mean that they'll be tailoring a brainwashing program. They'll at least need to compromise enough to find something favored by enough other families to support a profitable supplier. Most will compromise further as they weigh other characteristics. Such compromises will temper extremism.
Charge: "The aim of creationism is to slip religious dogma past the US constitution and into the classrooms as science."
Well, there's an obvious solution to that and all other special interest movements seeking to seize control of public education at various levels to inculcate their neighbor's kids: Separate education and state like we separate religion and state. The concepts are parallel.
Primarily, both religion and education shape the way people think, therefore government shouldn't own or operate either churches or schools. Because schools may benefit society as a whole, someone can probably still justify public scholarships (aka vouchers), but there's no justification whatsoever for government to run the whole show.
Total government control is too extreme. A system where government pays while free enterprise owns and operates it, is a much more balanced and moderate compromise between the society's collective interests, and citizen's individual liberties.
"You can't pick up a newspaper without reading about another legislative proposal to force-feed religion to public schoolchildren." If you have a diploma from a public school you might, but that would be because you couldn't read (Sorry, couldn't resist). As I listed above, force feeding proposals cut many ways. Some have nothing to do with religion, and some disguise religion as something else. Some religious propaganda pertains to formal church heirarchies, but other stuff is as informal as taking environmentalism to the level of animist worship.
While many people are trying to inject religion of one stripe or another, quite a few others work to suppress or mock some or all religions and notions of God. These multilateral assaults will continue as long as government has a virtual monopoly on ownership and operation of K-12 schools. The captive audience is an irresistible lure to dogmatic ideologues of all types - religious, anti-religious, and political.
Therefore, the government's hold on the shaping of young minds is antithetical to liberty. We need to convince all sides that, under the current system, they will take turns being oppressed at various times and places. Only by agreeing to shatter the monolith can we reliably protect our freedom.
"Citizens rule in a democracy, so how could a government-run school system condition children to be any different than the current rulers, the adult citizens?" Sigh... Democracy only tells us what the majority wants. It then forces everyone to accept that majority opinion. Do you always agree with majority opinion? Do you want your kids to be fed majority opinions?
A long, hard fought political battle can sometimes win a concession, but democratic government doesn't spontaneously spawn a full range of diverse products and services when and where they are wanted. And how about minority opinions that sneak in under the radar? Do you enjoy the year or so you must fight to dig them out? Wouldn't it be easier if you could express your dissatisfaction by simply enrolling elsewhere without a fight?
Why Education reform is #1
Because it is both an economic and a civil liberty issue, school privatization is the number one critical issue that all concerned citizens should push with all energy. It just gets more and more difficult with each generation of numbskulls that the current system churns out to protect itself from enlightenment.
Copyright 2003 by Jeff Fisher