Compulsory state education insures an equal educational opportunity for everyone. It makes schooling affordable for each and every parent, and forces neglectful parents to take responsibility for their kids’ future. At least, that’s what the prevailing reasoning has been in America for a long time. The public school system in this country had to deteriorate to its present state of apathy before many people began to question this mentality.
Critics of the system maintain that public schools do educate kids – but only to the extent that they can become the useful servants of government and industry. Knowledge is indeed power; and the powers that be don’t want American children to grow too independent to be controlled. This philosophy is not new, but actually served as the impetus behind the push for state-controlled education in the beginning. The following quote is attributed to William T. Harris, the U.S. Commissioner of Education in the late 1800’s: “Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening. The average American should be content with their humble role in life.”
From its inception, then, the public school system was intended not as a vehicle for empowering young people but rather as a means of instilling social order. Schools would be free to teach whatever would benefit the welfare of the State. They would also have at their disposal other subtle means of controlling citizens. Children could be taught not to trust themselves – or their own parents, for that matter – but rather the teacher, who served as a mouthpiece for the government. Thus, the perfect tool for one group of people to force their ideology on others was born.
Some have argued that early America was the freest civil society that ever existed. It was founded on qualities of initiative, self-reliance, and enterprise. The pioneering spirit of the day extended even into the realm of education. Parents were responsible for the schooling of their children, and had complete control over it. There were no accrediting agencies, no regulatory boards, no teacher certification requirements. No one was forced to pay for an education that they didn’t approve of or had no use for.
And we didn’t suffer for this lack of compulsory schooling. The United States grew to international prominence and prestige. Literacy was high (91-97% in the North and 81% in the South). People learned the skills that would help them to thrive in life, not blend in with a homogenized culture that worshipped the lowest common denominator.
Disillusioned by the intellectual, spiritual and moral damage wrought by the public school system – and the realization that government is not going to fix the problem – more and more people have begun to seek alternatives with private schools or home schooling for their children. They are casting their private votes for the separation of School and State, and are in many ways emulating the pioneering spirit of America’s founding Fathers by taking personal responsibility for the growth and well-being of their children.