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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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Public Schooling Is Like the Army


The Right is in an uproar over a video that has surfaced on YouTube showing schoolchildren at a public elementary school in New Jersey being trained to sing a paean to President Barack Obama. Conservatives say that the song is no different than what schoolchildren were trained to do in Nazi Germany and Maoist China and which is still being done in North Korea.

Here’s a link to the video:

Here’s a link to the lyrics the kids are singing: http://www.postchronicle.com/news/original/article_212258016.shtml

Meanwhile, the Left’s reaction is that this is all much ado about nothing: http://tinyurl.com/y8v7sps.

What the Left and the Right fail to recognize, however, is that the fundamental problem of public (i.e., government) schooling is not so much the indoctrination that inevitably takes place during the 12 years that children are attending.

Instead, the problem is the ultimate goal of government schooling — the molding of each child into a “good, little citizen,” one who will faithfully support the state and never challenge it in fundamental ways. That’s the state’s primary purpose of controlling the educational system in every country.

The best way to look at public schooling is to think about conscription and the military. The military drafts an 18-year-old. Instead of simply training him to shoot and fight, the military sends the draftee to boot camp, where he is required to submit to the most humiliating and meaningless tasks.

The primary purpose of boot camp is to eliminate any sense of personal independence and dignity from the draftee. The purpose of requiring him to perform meaningless tasks is to mold his mindset into one of conformity and obedience. He must be made to understand that he is no longer an individual selfishly seeking his own personal interests but rather a cog in a big machine that is charged with fulfilling an important collective mission.

In principle, that’s what government’s schooling systems are all about. Over a period of 18 years, the mission is to gradually mold each student to have a mindset of conformity and obedience. Any sense of individuality and independence must be grinded out of him. Like draftees in the military, the students must be made to feel like that they are simply cogs in a great big collective machine.

Most children simply submit, just as most draftees do. They think that it’s the right thing to do, especially given that their very own parents have sent them into the system and fully support it.

But a fascinating aspect to the process is that some kids instinctively realize that such a system is aberrational and dysfunctional. They resist the process. They become bored with their classes. They have little respect for the teachers and administrators. They skip school. They rebel.

Obviously, that doesn’t sit well with government-school officials, especially given that such independent-mindedness might begin influencing the other kids who are submitting and conforming. Something must be done. The notion is that something is obviously wrong with these rebellious kids. How else to explain their “irrational” and “unnatural” resistance to this wonderful, state-run system?

That’s where the drugs come in. For example, Ritalin. The children must be drugged in order to end their disinterest and boredom. The kids must be drugged and disciplined until they become one of “us” — the collective mass working together to achieve collective goals.

Unfortunately, all too many parents go along with the drugging of their recalcitrant children, especially given that they themselves were made into “good, little citizens” who now fully support the state’s mission of converting children into proper cogs in the machinery. The whole process is enough to remind one of that scary movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Fortunately, the process is not foolproof. Libertarians, who have broken free of the indoctrinating process, are proof positive. That’s why we know that the solution is not to prohibit state officials from requiring students to sing paeans to public officials. Instead, the solution is to separate school and state entirely and leave families free of this aberrant and dysfunctional state system of control.

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.