One of the real downsides of living under a socialist system for a long period of time is that people lose their faith in freedom and free markets. One of the best examples of this phenomenon involves public schooling, the governmental program to which American children are required to submit when they reach six years of age.
The common notion is that without mandatory, state-approved education, the vast majority of children would never get educated. We would end up with a nation of mostly uneducated people.
Yet, from birth to six, American children learn how to speak English, one of the world’s most difficult languages to learn. In fact, many children learn two languages in the first six years of their lives.
Many children also learn to read before they get to school. In fact, I’ve heard of instances where children who have a passion for reading soon lose that passion because they’re so bored in public school.
Defenders of public schooling say that at least it provides children with the basics of an education. But does it? Is cramming a bunch of information into a child, which is what a public-school education is all about, a genuine education?
I don’t think so, especially given the damage that a system of conformity, regimentation, and deference to authority does to a child, oftentimes for the rest of his life. Someone once said that it would be better to go uneducated than to be educated by the state. I firmly believe that that’s true, given what a state system of education — a system of army-lite — does to a person’s natural love of learning, independent thinking, and a high-spirited life.
Another issue arises: What is an educated person?
I recently watched a fascinating documentary entitled Maidentrip about a Dutch teenage girl named Laura Dekker who is the youngest person to ever circumnavigate the world in a sailboat alone. She completed the journey at 16 years of age.
She would have done it sooner but for the Dutch authorities. They filed a custody suit, seeking to prevent the teenager from embarking on the voyage. They felt that the state, not the parents, should have ultimate control over such decisions.
The Dutch courts finally ruled in favor of Laura but only on the condition that she continue her state-approved education while conducting her voyage. I assume that meant learning such things as social studies, Dutch history, chemistry, and trigonometry.
That condition really struck me as I was watching the documentary. Here was a teenage girl who obviously knew everything there is about sailing. She had practically grown up in a sailboat, thanks to her father, who also loved sailing.
In fact, there is rather humorous story about Laura and her father. One day, her father received a telephone call from English authorities telling him that his 14-year-old daughter had arrived in England on her sailboat alone. The authorities told Mr. Dekker that he needed to come and get his daughter. He responded that he didn’t know she was gone and that if she could make it to England alone, she could make it back alone.
As I was watching the documentary, I looked up her biography and learned that this teenage girl could speak three languages — Dutch, German, and English. She was also able to read complicated sea charts. She could handle radio communications. She could maneuver a 27-foot sailboat in some of the scariest storms one could ever imagine.
What was also fascinating was to watch her spirited sense of individualism, optimism, and confidence — all the traits that the state smashes out of children with its system of public schooling.
To satisfy the condition that the Dutch court imposed on her, Dekker signed up for some sort of worldwide self-education course. Along the voyage, however, she mentioned publicly that she wasn’t keeping up with the coursework given the time she had to devote to managing a one-person sailboat on the high seas.
Well, as you can imagine, the Dutch public-school authorities and the Dutch mainstream press went ballistic, even suggesting that the girl had thrown her textbooks overboard and thus was no longer getting educated. That sure seems dumb to me, especially coming from people who presume themselves to be educated because they went through the state’s education system.
In any event, public-school officials in Holland were not amused that Laura Dekker wasn’t getting educated while circumnavigating the world on her own. Here is how the website sail-world.com explained the situation:
Her lawyer Peter De Lange told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant that truancy officers issued her father a summons to appear late last year after a newspaper quoted her as saying in her blog she had not been giving her studies full attention.
Mr De Lange said the report was a misunderstanding, based on her saying she needed to concentrate on sailing while weather in the Atlantic was poor.
When her father refused to turn up, the truancy agency notified child protective services, infuriating the family.
“Who knows, maybe they’ll be waiting for her with handcuffs at the finish line,” Mr De Lange said.
Well, they didn’t have the chance to put those handcuffs on Laura Dekker because rather than return to Holland, she simply crossed the Atlantic again and headed to New Zealand, where she had dual citizenship.
The public-schooling system would obviously consider Laura Dekker to be an educational failure. I say she exemplifies the deep passion for learning and the thirst for independence and a high-spirited and confident life that characterize all children from birth to six, traits that the state schooling system has smashed out of children by the time they graduate high school.
Good for Laura Dekker! In my books, she’s a free-market education success story!