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Public School Monopoly

This is a page from the original version of Pagan Vigil. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at

Complaints show that public schools are insulated from the forces that would force improvement

Do it for the children.

It's one of the oldest and most effective justifications that progressives have for public education. "Don't question, just spend more money. Don't ask to see results, just give us more taxes."

Yet public schools in America are barely a century old. During that time, the average literacy rate has plummeted in direct correlation to Federal spending and Federal involvement in schools. Standardized college admission tests have been "dumbed down." By design, parents and community are kept at arms length from the classroom. Fewer and fewer students know their own history, science, or math.

By any measure, public schools are a failure. Spending per student goes up. Few people (and especially few decision makers) are held accountable for their failure.

And still the arguments continue. Should the students be taught evolution? Do the Ten Commandments have a place in the classroom? Should the accomplishments of "dead white males" be played down in favor of the (sometimes fictional) accomplishments of members of minorities? Should children be taught to ask questions and challenge assumptions? Should kids be taught about exercise and healthy body image? Should sex education be taught in the public schools?

Should religion be taught in public schools? Which sect? Should children be required to adopt the approved religion over the belief system they have been raised with?

Still more questions. Should people be taxed to support schools if they do not have any children? Should families with more children pay more in taxes? Should families that have less income pay less in taxes?

What happens if a parent objects to something that their child is taught? What happens if the school decides to medicate the child without the parent's permission? How does a parent challenge the decision and what are their chances of getting the decision changed? What if the school reports the parents to Child Services for being bad parents?

If the parent finds an alternative to public school, do they still have to pay taxes to support the public school system?

Every one of these questions hinge on two points. First is the assumption that schools are best if funded and managed by government, with all the coercive and legal power that entails. This effectively removes parental choice from consideration. Second is the assumption that if values and lessons are going to be forced, then someone gets to decide which values and lessons.

Which leads to one conclusion. Simply by being public schools, the system invokes all these problems.

That is not to say that private schools or even home schooling won't create their own problems. They will. But with people locked into the public school system, their choices have been reduced by government fiat. They have to go to extraordinary lengths to find alternatives to the public "solution."

If you buy juice that is rancid, you'll probably not buy that brand again and you might think twice about even going to that store again. You weren't happy with what you got, so you'll go to the competition next time.

"Ah," you say. "But what about the main reason for having public schools? What about schools for the poor and disadvantaged?"

The schools we have now aren't doing a very good job for the poor and the disadvantaged. Sometimes thanks to circumstances and gifted teachers, kids can do well for a while. But that is almost always an exception.

I also think that if schools weren't guaranteed property taxes, poorer families would have more to spend on educating their kids. Even if they don't pay property taxes directly, almost everything bought in a school district carries that property tax, passed on in higher prices by the property owners.

Back before the public school system, it wasn't unusual for underprivileged kids to be given scholarships to private schools. It would probably happen again.

"But that would mean that some kids would be deprived of their right to an education," you say.

Are we protecting that "right" now by throwing kids in with other kids who don't want to be there? Are kids getting an education when teachers can't toss out troublemakers from their classroom? When schools have to admit drug dealers and criminals just because they are of the right age? Is it an accident that our schools resemble our prisons more and more?

That is the biggest advantage of private schools. No one is there unless they want to be there and they continually prove it.

By trying to make the public schools social centers and discouraging private alternatives, we've set public education and the kids up for a very big fall.

Posted: Tue - May 31, 2005 at 05:29 AM

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