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New FFF eBook: Separating School and State


A recent controversy broke out over a test administered in Texas public schools, one that has especially roiled conservative statists. The controversy revolved around a test question involving 9/11 that was based on a video shown to Texas public-school students. The test question asked why the United States might be a target for terrorism. The video suggested that the right answer was “Decisions we made in the United States have had negative effects on people elsewhere.”

Not surprisingly, that sent conservative statists into an uproar, as reflected by this video on Fox News. In the minds of conservative statists, there is nothing that the U.S. national security state could have done that could have conceivably incited people to do bad things to the United States.

Since I analyze this controversy in depth in my June Future of Freedom article (subscribe here), I won’t delve into it here, except in one respect—the public-schooling aspect of the controversy.

We recently converted FFF’s book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America’s Families by Sheldon Richman into eBook format. It is available for ordering here in Kindle, iTunes, and Nook. This is a great book! It is FFF’s all-time best-seller. I can’t recommend it too highly.

We have all been born and raised under a system of state-controlled education, and we have all been taught that such a system is part of our “free” society in America. Most children attend a public school, one in which the government has direct control over the education of the students. But even those who attend private schools fall under state control owing to the state license that such schools need for operating. Many children are now homeschooled but even there, the homeschooling curriculum oftentimes falls under state control.

The consequence of government control over education is a citizenry that is absolutely convinced that they live in a free society and that defers to the authority of the state in critical matters, such as those relating to foreign policy and “national security.” In fact, as Richman points out in Separating School & State, it’s the very goal of state control over education to produce the “good little citizen,” the one who doesn’t challenge or question the state at a fundamental level.

Of course, the United States isn’t the only country in which the state controls education and requires by law that parents submit their children for a state-approved “education.” Public schooling is also found in such countries as Cuba, North Korea, China, and Venezuela. One of the major differences, however, is that the citizens of those countries realize that public schooling is a socialistic program, while American citizens are convinced that it is the backbone of a “free enterprise” system.

In fact, it would be difficult to find a better example of a socialistic program than public schooling. The state gets its “customers” through mandate. If parents don’t subject their children to the system, the parents are fined or jailed. If they remain recalcitrant, the state takes away their children. The curriculum is set by the state. The schoolteachers are government employees. The system is funded by taxation.

The results, as most everyone realizes, are abysmal, at least from the standpoint of genuine learning. Even the president of the United States won’t subject his children to public schooling.By the time students graduate from high school, most of them hate learning and are just happy to be out of the system. Most of them have had the sense of awe and wonder that characterized them from birth to six years of age severely damaged by the 12 years of army-like regimentation and conformity.

At the same time, however, most of them have indeed become “good little citizens,” the types that are perfectly depicted by the three people in the Fox News video about the 9/11 controversy in that Texas public school—Megan Kelly, the Fox News host, Kara Sands, the parent who complained about the test, and Dan Patrick, the Texas GOP legislator who laments that online learning is impeding state control over education.

In a free-market educational system, these types of disputes would never arise to the level of political controversies because the state would have no role in education at all. All education would be private, just as religious activity is. Parents would decide the best educational vehicle for each of their children. It might be a private school, a workplace school (where employers hire teachers for their employee’s children), online learning, tutors, homeschooling, or, most likely, educational devices that none of us can even imagine but that would inevitably come into existence through the wonders of the free market.

If some school in a free-market educational system suggests that U.S. foreign policy is at the root of the anger and rage that motivates foreigners to engage in anti-American terrorism, and some parents get upset over that, they wouldn’t have to run to the school board and create a big brouhaha. All they would have to do is shift their child to another school, one that better reflects their values and beliefs.

The free market produces the best of everything. It would provide children with the best education imaginable. It’s a shame that parents continue to subject their children to a system that is designed to produce submissive and compliant citizens who blindly defer to the authority of the state and destroys a genuine love of learning in the process.

As Richman points out in his great book, the solution to America’s educational morass is to liberate America’s families by separating school and state. Buy the new eBook version of Separating School & State for yourself and your friends!

P.S. We received the following note from an FFF supporter that made our day: “I have subscribed to this publication for at least 25 years and I wouldn’t be without it. This is the greatest work for freedom and limited government on the planet. I read each pamphlet cover to cover every month and will do so until my dieing day.”

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.