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Public Schooling and Killers


When a child reaches 6 years of age, the state seizes him, forcibly removes him from his family, and places him in a government institution where, for the next 12 years, he is converted into a “good citizen,” one who defers to authority and expresses gratitude that he is living in a free society.

Of course, most people don’t think about public schooling in that way. That’s because the mindset that the state inculcates in them during those 12 years causes them to believe that public schooling is part and parcel of a free society. When one confronts them with the fact that public schooling is a core feature of totalitarian systems in countries like China, North Korea, and Cuba, they simply reconcile the comparison by convincing themselves that public schooling in America is all about education while public schooling in those countries is all about indoctrination.

The mindset that public schooling is all about education prevents most people from recognizing the coercion that is at the heart of the state’s schooling system. But coercion it is. It comes in the form of what are called compulsory-attendance laws. The law forces parents to deliver their children into the clutches of the state on their sixth birthday. If the parents refuse, they go to jail. That’s coercion. That’s force. (While states permit state-approved homeschooling and private schooling as acceptable alternatives to public schooling, most parents default to the state’s schooling system. Moreover, private schools are oftentimes similar to public schools, especially given the fact that the state licenses them.)

Education is a natural process, a seeking process. Every kid loves to learn. He seeks out and absorbs knowledge and information like a sponge. Education is an entirely peaceful activity. Coercion destroys that natural process. Coercion, which involves the initiation of force against children, and education, which involves a natural seeking process, are opposites.

The state’s compulsory school-attendance laws and the military draft are similar. In both instances, the government requires people to report to a government institution for schooling and training. The regimentation and conformity are similar in both systems. So is the mindset of obedience and deference to authority that is inculcated in people in both systems. The state-schooling system might well be called army-lite.

Most children adapt to the coercion, just as most military draftees adapt to the military structure. The problem, however, is that some children don’t conform. Without knowing why, they resist this unnatural, forcible disruption and interference with their lives. They don’t like obediently sitting in a state institution listening to some state employee drone on about a subject that the child is totally uninterested in. They rebel against the one-hour segment that is allotted for learning a particular subject. They would rather seek knowledge and information in a more natural way.

What happens then? Teachers and school administrators decide that something is wrong with the child. In their minds, the child’s boredom, uninterest, and rebelliousness demonstrate that the child suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder.

Needless to say, the last thing the schoolteacher or school administrators are going to conclude is that the child is fine and that his reaction against the state’s unnatural, coercion-based system is perfectly healthy and normal. That’s because public schoolteachers and administrators are themselves victims of the system. Their mindsets are that public schooling is a perfectly normal and functional part of a free society. For them, something has to be wrong with the child, not with the system that he is rebelling against.

They decide that the child’s mental disorder needs to be treated. That’s where drugs come into play. Ritalin, Adderall, or Dexedrine. The idea is that once the child is medicated over a period of time, he will get his mind straight and become like everyone else — a good, little, obedient, regimented, conformist student who is willing to sit in a chair for a one-hour segment listening to a state employee and then, after hearing the bell ring, proceeds obediently to the next classroom to repeat the process. Seven hours a day. Five days a week. Four weeks a month. Nine months a year. Twelve long years.

Unfortunately, many parents put their trust in the state rather than in their children. That’s because they themselves are victims of the system. Like the schoolteachers and administrators, they are convinced that the state’s schooling system is part and parcel of living in a free society. They see their child rebelling against this coercive apparatus (which they don’t recognize as coercive) and agree that something must be dreadfully wrong with their rebellious, bored, uninterested, independent-minded child. They approve the drugging. They authorize the state to fix their child.

Thus, there are various factors at work against such children: The coercion, regimentation, conformity, boredom,  and indoctrination, and, of course, the drugging. The notion is that none of this will have an adverse effect on such children.

Since most people have been inculcated with the notion that public schooling is part and parcel of a free society, it never occurs to them that one of the factors that cause killers to go on their killings sprees might well be what this dysfunctional system has done to them.

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.