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Public Schooling: Education or Indoctrination?


In her critique of libertarian opposition to government (public) schooling, public-schoolteacher Angela Harding fails to answer some important questions. (“Libertarians Are Forever Exposing Their Radicalism,” June 16) If public schooling is the tremendous success she claims it is, and if the system enjoys such widespread support among the citizenry, why is it necessary to coerce people to attend it and to fund it?

Moreover, why have thousands of parents and schoolchildren voted with their feet by choosing homeschooling and private education? Why are thousands of inner-city children standing in line for private vouchers in an attempt to escape what are often nothing more than centers of violence and drugs? Indeed, if public schooling is such a success, why is practically everyone, including the presidential candidates, coming up with plans to fix it?

In fairness to Harding, however, public schooling has achieved success in one important area: the creation of a flock of good little citizens who believe that the paternalistic welfare state constitutes freedom and free enterprise. Indeed, herein lies the power of public schooling — the power of government employees to indoctrinate children, year after year, with their officially approved version of what it means to be free.

Harding takes libertarians to task for their “radicalism” in calling for the abolition of public schooling, government aid to the poor, income taxation, occupational licensure, Medicare, Medicaid, gun control, and the CIA. She might also have included Social Security and the governmental wars on drugs, poverty, wealth, and immigrants.

But isn’t “radical” a relative term?

Last year I visited Cuba to conduct an informal study of socialism. Guess what Fidel Castro’s two proudest accomplishments are. Public schooling and national health care! Cuba’s socialist system also has drug laws, old-age assistance, public housing, income taxation, travel restrictions, gun control, licensure, and a domestic secret police.

Is this radical? Not in Harding’s view.

Now compare the political philosophy of our American ancestors of 1890: no income tax, welfare, Social Security, public schooling, Medicare, Medicaid, gun control, immigration controls, drug war, central bank, licensure, or CIA. Were our ancestors radical? Perhaps, but they thought that the advocates of socialism were radical!

Today, every Cuban fully understands that his paternalistic welfare state, including public schooling, is socialism. Here in the United States, thanks to government schoolteachers like Harding, most Americans honestly believe that cradle-to-grave governmental security constitutes freedom and free enterprise.

As libertarian Sheldon Richman points out in his book Separating School and State: How to Liberate America’s Families, the tragic consequence of public schooling, then, is not so much that children are not being educated but that they are being taught to live “a life of the lie”-a life that believes such nonsense as “The Industrial Revolution hurt the poor,” “The New Deal saved free enterprise,” “Minimum-wage laws help the poor,” and ” Government control over peaceful activity is freedom.”

Goethe once said that none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. Unfortunately, through compulsory-attendance laws and government schooling, the enslavement is perpetuated.

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    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.