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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Educational Whackiness


One of the issues that hasn’t surfaced in a big way in the presidential race is education, which is unfortunate given that it is such an important part of our lives. There are two primary sub-issues involved here: (1) whether to end all federal involvement in education, especially through the abolition of the Department of Education, and (2) whether to abolish public schooling at the state and local level.

I think that most everyone would agree that public schooling has been an abject failure, despite many, many decades of trying. Public schooling destroys the natural love of learning that every child has up to the time that he is six years of age. It is a system that is based on coercion at all levels, including coercion in attendance and coercion in funding. It is impossible to measure the psychological damage that such coercion has on children, but it has to be immense.

One perversity in all this is that those children who naturally resist this aberrant, coercive system are punished (or “treated”) with mind-altering drugs designed to mold their minds into one of conformity and obedience. Tragically, all too many parents, who themselves are products of public schooling, fail to recognize that the child who resists the system is behaving in a healthy, normal fashion. It is the people who are drugging him who are behaving in an abnormal, aberrant manner.

None of this failure and perversity is a surprise to libertarians. Unlike conservatives and liberals, libertarians understand that socialism is an inherently defective system. It would be difficult to find a better model of socialism than public schooling. It’s not a coincidence that public schooling is a central feature of life in Cuba, North Korea, and China.

To belabor the obvious, public schooling is a government program. It is run like the army — in a top-down, command-and-control manner. The people who run the system are government officials, either elected or appointed. The curriculum is set by government officials. Attendance is mandatory and enforced by harsh penalties involving jail and fines. Funding is through taxation, even for people who don’t have children. Every aspect of public schooling is politicized.

I challenge anyone: Show me a better model of socialism than public schooling and use any country you want, including China, North Korea, Cuba, and the former Soviet Union.

You’ll have a hard time meeting the challenge.

Now, ask yourself: Is it possible that socialism can be made to succeed? That’s obviously an important question because if you say, “Yes!” then you might be tempted to devote part of your life, your energy, your time, and your money to trying to improve public schooling. That’s in fact what has happened to both conservatives and liberals who are now working in the Department of Education or on state or local school boards. They have either convinced themselves that they can help make socialism work or, even worse, they have falsely convinced themselves that public schooling isn’t really socialism, at least not when it’s run by Americans.

The education issue is just one more example of how libertarians have a much better grasp on reality than conservatives and liberals.

First of all, we libertarians recognize that public schooling is a socialist program.

Second, we libertarians recognize that socialism is an inherently defective system. No matter what anyone does — no matter which reform is employed — no matter how much money is thrown at the system — public schooling will never work because it can never work. That’s what “inherently defective” means — that something cannot be made to work no matter what is done to it.

Third, we libertarians favor a free market in education, which would entail the end of all government involvement in education. Families would be free to employ any educational vehicle that they chose for the education of their children. Entrepreneurs would be free to provide any range of educational opportunities to families.

What could be more whacky than supporting a failed system — socialism — that has caused so much damage and that is inherently defective? What could be more rational than supporting a system — the free market — that has proven to be a resounding success in other parts of our lives?

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.