Did you know why we have public schools?


I was reading James Ostrowski and he reminded me of some of the history of “public schooling” (government schools) that I thought I would share with readers here.

“Socialists, who were very active in the public school movement, began operating covertly in secret cells in America as early as 1829, before the word socialism was even invented.” ~ Samuel Blumenthal

James Ostrowski wrote an excellent book on government schools called “Government Schools Are Bad for Your Kids: What You Need to Know” which I highly recommend that you read. Another great read is Sam Blumenthal’s book “Is public education necessary?

I was taught that in the old days parents refused to educate their children and that the state had to step in with compulsory attendance laws and government schools. All of this was said to be for the benefit and well being of the child. Yet before “public” schools which are compulsory tax-supported government indoctrination camps the U.S. had existed for over two centuries and had achieved great success and material wealth. As late as 1900 the U.S. had at most 10 percent of its children enrolled in a government high school with only 6 percent graduating, and yet the U.S. in 1900 was a major power in the world. The evidence is that the state does not need to be involved in education in order for the people to properly educate their young.

“A broad range of evidence from Victorian England and Wales and nineteenth century America shows that near-universal schooling was achieved before the state intervened in education.  The evidence suggests that the impact was to curb what was already flourishing―so much so that the picture of education in this and previous centuries seems far bleaker than it would have been had the private alternative not been suppressed and supplanted.” — James Tooley, education researcher

In today’s America we find that way too much of the population is illiterate and that critical thinking skills are rare indeed even though compulsory free government schooling is near universal. Test scores have been dropping for generations and all research into the knowledge of the average 18 year old reveals that they are not well educated at all. It is important to remember that “schooling” is not the same as “education” or “learning”.

Government schooling came to us for political reasons and remains a political institution. Murray Rothbard explains:

The Reformers advocated compulsory education for all as a means of inculcating the entire population with their particular religious views, as an indispensable aid in effective ‘war with the devil’ and the devil’s agents. For Luther, these agents constituted a numerous legion: not only Jews, Catholics, and infidels, but also all other Protestant sects. Luther’s political ideal was an absolute State guided by Lutheran principles and ministers. The fundamental principle was that the Bible, as interpreted by Luther, was the sole guide in all things. He argued that the Mosaic code awarded to false prophets the death penalty, and that it is the duty of the State to carry out the will of God. The State’s duty is to force those whom the Lutheran Church excommunicates to be converted back into the fold. There is no salvation outside the Lutheran Church, and it is not only the duty of the State to compel all to be Lutherans, but its sole object. Such was the goal of the initial force behind the first compulsory school system in the Western world, and such was the spirit that was to animate the system.”

I was taught that the American model of government education was based on the German Prussian model. If that were not bad enough, we also see that compulsory government education in America came in through religious machinations.

The reformers launched a campaign known as the common school movement from about 1830—1860.  Its leaders were mainly aligned with the Whig Party and with organized Protestant religions.  Neither Catholics nor Jacksonian Democrats liked the centralization aspects of this movement. . . . The common school movement shared the rhetoric and fervor of evangelical Protestantism; many of its leaders were ordained Protestant ministers who saw themselves as men with a mission.” — Scholar Diane Ravitch

A large part of the compulsory public schools movement was anti Roman Catholic in nature. Many believed that the Roman Catholics were a threat to American liberty so the education reformers were eager to prevent Catholic schools so that the Catholic young could be indoctrinated by the Protestant controlled government schools. The reformers demanded that no public funds flow to the Catholics to fund their schools. The states began to subsidize Protestant schools with tax dollars while denying Catholic schools funding. But they still charged Catholic people taxes for some reason.

It was the desire of the Anglo-Saxon majority to tame, channel, and restructure the immigrants, and in particular to smash the parochial school system of the Catholics, that formed the major impetus for educational ‘reform.’ ~ Murray N. Rothbard

Government schools were not established out of any dire need or humanitarian impulse to help the children, but out of the idea that the state should be used to indoctrinate the young to the ideas that those in power wanted to impose by coercion upon them. There was a variety of crass religious, political and economic motives but these motives pale in comparison to the root motivation which is to impose, by force, the ruler’s will upon the citizens. Contrary to today’s popular myths, society was filling the need for education remarkably well before the state took control of the children’s education.

The thing to remember is that government schools operate on relations between people that are coercive and involuntary. The full force of the state and its coersive laws force those without power to obey its dictates. Both children and parents have little choice but to obey their masters. In contrast, the private schools operate on a voluntary, contractual basis between the school and the family. If the mother decides that the private school is doing something that she can not live with then she may take her children elsewhere. In other words, education can be shopped for just as all other goods and services if government coercion is eliminated.

The people of the U.S. will never be free again as long as the state owns their children. And that, my friends, is the nature of the state’s assertion of total control over the schooling of the young. We must fight government control of education on all fronts.

3 thoughts on “Did you know why we have public schools?

  1. What is difficult even for folks like me is how to get back to education without the state involved. We’ve never seen it.

  2. During the process of schooling a child’s life is thoroughly regimented by superiors, so when that child graduates school it is nearly impossible for them to imagine life without forced regimentation and without superiors. This is one of the main reasons it is so difficult to get through to people. Many people cannot imagine a life which they have never lived, a free life.

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