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News Link • Education: Government Schools

Public Schools or Government Schools?


A woman named Katherine Stewart is outraged that some people refer to public schools as government schools. In an op-ed in today's New York Times, she says that the term "government schools" is meant to "conjure the specter of pathologically inefficient, power-mad bureaucrats."

Even worse, she suggests that historically anti-government schooling sentiment has been held by racial bigots and evangelical right-wing Christians. I suppose that the idea is that if you're against government schooling, you're probably a racist or a radical member of the Christian Right.

It's a shame that Stewart spends more time developing spurious logic than on critically examining the principles of public schooling itself.

Although the term "public schooling" has long been used by most people, the fact is that this is a government program. What's wrong with pointing that out by using the much more accurate term "government schooling"?

Sure, it's true that the term has negative connotations but there is a justification for that. Government programs, if not "pathologically inefficient," are notoriously inefficient. Everyone knows that. And everyone also knows that while not everyone in the government is a power-mad bureaucrat (or politician), there are people in government who love power.

I would assume that by now everyone, including Stewart, would acknowledge that government schooling is inefficient. It certainly spends a lot more money per student than private schools do and with results that are comparatively dismal. In fact, most everyone acknowledges that there has been an ongoing crisis in government schooling for decades, one that has increasingly dumbed down students. Why, even former President Obama refused to send his children into the government schooling system.

For some reason, Stewart failed to use the term that describes public schooling even better than the term "government schooling." That term is "socialism," which conjures up inefficiency, crisis, and chaos.

It would be difficult to find a better example of a socialist program than government schooling. There is a central board, at a national, state, or local level, planning, in a top-down, command-and-control manner, the educational decisions of hundreds, thousands, or millions of students. Government curricula and textbooks are used. Teachers and administrators are government employees. That's a classic socialist model.

It's worse than that. Like with all socialist programs, coercion and compulsion are core elements of the program. Parents are required by law to have their children submit to state-approved schooling. Although homeschooling and private schooling are now permitted, most parents default toward sending their children into the state's educational system. Moreover, many private schools end up being much like government schools especially since the state controls the renewal of their license to operate. In many states, homeschooling programs must meet with the approval of the state and, therefore, can end up resembling the state's schooling program.

Funding for government schooling? Again, it's with coercion. The state taxes everyone, even people without children, to fund the program. We all know what happens if someone refuses to pay his taxes.

Why would anyone believe that a system based on socialist central planning and coercion would bring about positive results when it comes to education? Genuine education involves a seeking process, which is contrary to force. Coercion and education are like oil and water.

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