Monday, February 18, 2008

American public schools: abducton, theft & indoctrination?

In my last post, "Benny the Troll" submitted this comment:

The answer to improving education in America, the ONLY right answer, is to subject it to free market forces instead of government control. You are beating your head against a wall, Dennis, trying to make any progress within the present system of mandatory attendance (abduction), mandatory curriculum (indoctrination), and financing by taxation (theft). And you wonder why so many parents don't seem to want to be involved in public education.

You would probably say that if we removed the government from the provision of education, some would go without. But do you honestly think that many don't go without now?

Before there were public schools in America, literacy rates were high and education was in demand. And that demand was being met by market forces. There was no reason whatsoever for the government to get involved in education, except to indoctrinate young minds into subservience to the state. In that respect, public education has worked remarkably well.

I really do appreciate every comment that is added to my posts. If anything makes any of my posts interesting it is those comments, and it is the ones who disagree with my point of view that make them most interesting of all. Nevertheless, I must say that Benny's comment reflects a mindset that drives me crazy. But, I owe Benny a debt of gratitude because there is nothing like reading something that drives me crazy that inspires me to write posts.

I want to respond to just about everything Benny said, but I don't like long posts, so I'm just going to hit a couple of his points in this one. Benny says, "Before there were public schools in America, literacy rates were high and education was in demand." I have heard that type of statement from public education bashers before, but I have to wonder what that statistic is based on. Who gathered that information and compiled those statistics? What is "high," and just who were the literacy rates "high" for? Did they include the four million slaves in the country? Did they include farming families out on the frontier? Did they include immigrants from Ireland coming over here as a result of the potato famine?

I have to admit that I have no idea what our national literacy rates were before public education became widespread in the country, but I do know some things. I do know that Southern states came up with literacy tests for voting, because they knew that most freed-blacks were illiterate due to not having any education. I do know that they found it necessary to provide a special provision to allow illiterate whites to vote despite the test. That would seem to suggest that the number of illiterate whites in the South was significant. Things like that make me question the statement that literacy rates were high before public education.

On the one hand, public education bashers blast us because we are so ineffective that we can't teach kids anything. In the next breath, however, they argue that we are so effective that we are able to "indoctrinate" the youth of America. Indoctrinate them to what? We have a Republican president right now. Are we indoctrinating our kids to be good little Republicans? Or are we indoctrinating them to be good little Democrats since that's the party that controls Congress? And if that's the case, what were we doing when the Republicans controlled Congress? Or what were we doing when Clinton was president? Or does it go state by state? Well, then what are we doing in Minnesota, because we have a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature? Man, I'm getting really confused here! Would someone please tell me what I am supposed to be indoctrinating my kids to, because I'm getting a headache trying to figure it out.

Although many might disagree with me on this next point, I have to admit that I have little sympathy for those who are constantly whining about taxes. The fact is that the United States has one of the lowest tax rates of all industrialized nations. Iceland and Ireland are below us, and that's about it. My generation has done a wonderful job of convincing our federal government that our taxes are too high, and we now have a nine trillion dollar debt to show for it. That's okay, though. We'll just let our kids worry about that. After all, they owe us something for all that indoctrination.


Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Here's what fascinates me: So many people like your commenter have been brainwashed to believe that their government is evil, and yet they're perfectly willing to have it conduct national defense. They believe that the media is dishonest, so there is no check on public figures.

Ironically, these paranoid beliefs HAVE made government less of a force for good, and more capable of acting in secrecy. This strategy has been carefully articulated by those who believe in an imperial presidency at the expense of government representatives who are directly elected by the people.

But government is created by us. We get the government we deserve through our action or inaction. Government is not the problem-- what we allow our government to do in our names IS.

2/18/2008 11:57 AM  
Anonymous benny the troll said...

Gee, "ms. cornelius", thanks for letting me know what I think about having the government conduct national defense.

But if you really would like to know what I think about having the government conduct national defense, go and peruse the website. It might be quite a bit different than you imagine. It might be quite an eye-opener for you.

2/18/2008 4:42 PM  
Anonymous benny the troll said...

For a much better perspective than I can give on indoctrination of children in the public schools, read "Legalized Child Abuse" by Butler Shaffer. You won't like what he has to say. You REALLY won't like what he has to say. But its all true.

For some good information on education before public schools became widespread in America, read "Before the Public Schools" by William F. Jasper, which is published in The New American (June 4, 2001). Go to The New American website and search under education articles. You won't like what this article has to say either. But its all true as well.

There you go, Dennis. Quit YOUR whining and get to reading.

2/18/2008 8:51 PM  
Blogger Cory, 2700 A.D. said...

Wow. An article, again, that doesn't take into account slavery, industrialization, mass urbanization, turn-of-the-century immigration, women's liberation and movement into the workforce, and the increasing (and admittedly unfortunate) role of technological entertainment into everyday life.

I can agree that there's a lot of wasted government intervention in education--especially at the federal level--but the suggestion that simply reverting to anachronistic methods is the solution leaves out a lot of important variables. Also that the most literate countries in the world are, in fact, highly taxed.

2/18/2008 9:43 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Benny, thank you for the articles. I will check them out and get back to you, but it might not be until tomorrow.

I want you to know that although I disagree with you, I really do appreciate your comments. I hope you and I will have a lot of "back and forths" in the future. I learned early in my blogging career that it's a bad idea to be personally insulting, so I want to assure you that my remark about tax "whining" was a general comment, and it wasn't meant as a personal shot at you. Heaven knows you aren't the only one in America who complains about taxes.

2/19/2008 3:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, Benny, you Libertarian stalwart you - check out the level of 'literacy' achieved in your golden age before public education and when the vast majority of moms were home, partly to teach basic literacy = reading, writing one's name, doing very basic math. I'll give you credit for even reading such a 'liberal' blog as this but don't expect that you'll want to be confused with the facts as I understand them - to each his own, I guess!

2/19/2008 3:22 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Benny, I read the two articles, and I have to admit that BEFORE THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS had some facts that surprised me. Anonymous just stated my questions about it, but I just might do a post on that one later. If I do, I might not be as negative about it as you would probably expect.

I must say, however, that I thought LEGALIZED CHILD ABUSE was week. We certainly have our problems, but I don't know how anyone who has spent any amount of time in a public schools could come to the conclusion that the kids we have are too regimented. Mr. McNamar in his Daily Grind did a post on Shaffer's article, and his feelings about it are similar to mine. 

2/19/2008 3:40 PM  
Anonymous benny the troll said...

Anonymous, a real liberal would not allow themselves to be manipulated into thinking that anything as important as the education of children should be left in the hands of the state. They would recognize the danger in giving the state that kind of power and influence - which you and most other commentators on this site, unfortunately, do not.

Dennis, I don't think that we will be having any more exchanges. You and your colleagues here are too vested in the status quo to be interested in making the changes necessary to improve education in this country. How sad.

2/19/2008 7:23 PM  
Blogger TT said...

Come now, Benny, you are making assumptions about our vestment in the status quo. How could you possibly know what we are vested in based on the few comments you read here?

What is sad is that you no longer wish to participate in a dialogue here, which demonstrates how entrenched you are in your own position. Were you truly interested in discussion, you would stay and participate. Are you only interested in change that suits your preconceived notion of what is necessary?

We raise points of contention in research you presented (as any researcher is wont to do - and should)so you call us vested and withdraw? Why resort to an ad hominem fallacy if you aren't interested in the debate?

2/19/2008 10:56 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Vested in the status quo? Sorry, Benny, but you're barking up the wrong tree on that one. On December 14th I became eligible to retire with full benefits. I guess you could say that from that point on, I've been teaching because I want to.

Next year, I will start looking for a teaching job in some city closer to where one of our kids lives. I can easily envision myself closing out my career in a small Catholic school somewhere.

In any case, thanks for your contribution to this blog. It was fun while it lasted.

2/20/2008 4:21 AM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

I'll answer the big question of why government should run schools: because it's a public good to have an educated populace.

Education is not primarily a private right (although it has been made into one) - it is primarily for the good of the country to have a population that is educated to a standard that the majority find acceptable. In order to meet that standard, the government supplies curricula that are designed to meet the agreed-upon standard.

This is also the reason that education is paid through taxes, rather than user fees. Even though you may not have kids in the system, or even have no kids at all, it's in your best interests as a citizen to be surrounded by an educated citizenry.

The arguments for privatization, voucherization, etc all ignore this plain truth, which is why they will ultimately fail.

The fact is, no one has come up with a way that is better than the public school system to deliver content of a sufficient level to a hugely varied group of students. If they had, we'd be using it.

2/20/2008 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm on the fence about whether we should have public or private schools, so I can kind of see where Benny was coming from and why he didn't want to continue the exchanges. He doesn't have much in common with anyone else on this forum. I'm not saying that I agree with everything he says, just that I can understand why he might feel the way he does.

But, Ian H, some of the statements you make are pretty ridiculous. A public good is something that cannot or will not be provided by private enterprise, and education obviously does not fall under that category. I read the article that Benny suggested, about before there were public schools, and people were providing for their own education then. So to think that the government should provide education because if they don't there will be no education, is just not true.

You say, Ian, that "it's in your best interests as a citizen to be surrounded by an educated citizenry." That kind of an argument should fall by the wayside, because it's collective nonsense. Individuals, not the government or the majority, should decide what is in their best interests - and only for themselves (or their own children).

You say that if anyone had come up with a better system to deliver content of a sufficient level to a hugely varied group of students, we'd be using it. But of course, Ian. Anyone can see that the government always uses the best and most efficient method to deliver services to their citizens, regardless of political considerations. If you believe that, then I have a bridge that I'd like to sell you.


Daniel Simms

2/20/2008 7:04 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Hi Daniel,

Although I don't think anything Ian said was ridiculous, thank you for a thoughtful comment. Since this is the first time I've seen your name, I'm assuming you haven't been checking this blog out regularly in the past. There are two major changes that I think public education needs to make. First of all, I think teachers need to be given the authority to remove kids from their classes who continually demonstrate that they are unwilling to behave reasonably, and also kids who show they're unwilling to do the things necessary to pass (kids who refuse to try). The other change I think we need to make is to give principals the power to keep their best teachers and get rid of their worst ones regardless of seniority. I think if we would do those two things, there would be no reason for people like you to be on the fence.

2/21/2008 4:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dennis, maybe I did go a little hard on Ian (sorry, Ian). But, when I hear someone making the kind of statements he did, which imply that the government or the majority have the right to decide what is in the best interests of all individuals, it makes me raise my guard. To hear an educator say that makes me more inclined to land on the privatize education side of the fence.

And I don't believe that doing just the two things you mentioned above would get me off that fence. There is much more at stake than just how well the citizenry is educated in the public/private education debate. Individual freedom is at stake as well. The indoctrination angle does have some justification. That's not to say that you, the teachers and administrators, are deliberately indoctrinating children. But, I think, a case could be made that our education system, as a whole, is biased towards shifting our reliance away from individuals and toward the government (you could say the same thing about social security). And that's dangerous.

I'm not sure how I got to your site. You know how the internet is - one can travel around very quickly and lose track of where you are.

BTW, I've read quite a bit of Butler Shaffer's articles, and have been very impressed with him. I can understand why someone who teaches in the public schools would not be very happy with his "Legalized Child Abuse" article, but it would be a mistake to judge him just on that article. I highly recommend reading his articles that deal with other subject matters.


Daniel Simms

2/21/2008 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A public good is something that cannot or will not be provided by private enterprise

Actually, that's not what it means. A public good is a good that is non-rival and non-excludable. Public education meets that definition quite well. In addition, while private education works in some locations, it does not work in others. Education, in order to be available for everyone, must be a public good. That doesn't mean that private education shouldn't exist, but private education cannot be the only education available, presuming the goal of society is to provide education to everyone. Despite Benny's misreading of history (like most libertarians, he's an historical illiterate, basing his reading on his ideology, and understanding very little of what he reads), private education has never worked well on a widespread basis.


2/21/2008 9:15 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

"But, I think, a case could be made that our education system, as a whole, is biased towards shifting our reliance away from individuals and toward the government."

Daniel, if you are including college in this statement, you have a point, but if you're refering to K-12 education, I think you're wrong. Granted, there are some teachers who try to push their own political views as the only correct ones on their students. Whether they are liberal or conservative, I think that's unethical, and thankfully, they are in the minority. But studies consistently show that high school students are fairly conservative in their views. On the other hand, the more college someone has had, the more likely that they are liberal. And the most presigious colleges (private ones) are the ones who are the most likely of all to produce liberal graduates. If there is any indoctrinating being done to the point of view that you're concerned about, it's being done by colleges, and I'd be surprised if anyone would say that they are under the thumb of government.

2/22/2008 4:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to change the subject, but Benny did mention the website in his reply to ms. cornelius. That is a great site, which I highly recommend (many of the writers are libertarians, Michael). Anyone concerned about our government's continuing war crimes being committed against innocent citizens of foreign nations should look at this site. (Don't let Pat Buchanan's presence deter you)


Daniel Simms

2/22/2008 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

I don't mind the tone of your argument so much (I have debates on this subject often with a very conservative friend of mine). I do mind that your arguments don't hold up well...

Anonymous summed up well my feeling on public goods. Our justice system, for instance, is a public good - we don't farm trials out to corporations to try the accused according to their own particular way of running a courtroom, because that would be nonsense. The justice system demands equality for every accused, as the public education system does for every student.

As to the benefit of being surrounded by an educated citizenry, how would you like your city's firemen, or peace officers, or even store clerk to have no education? It's evident that it is in everyone's best interest to have those around them be educated to a degree that the majority of the population finds acceptable.

As to the best system of content delivery, it's easy to mock my statement that we're using the best there is, but you haven't pointed out a better alternative. Until you (or someone else) can prove it wrong, my statement stands.

2/22/2008 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ian, I think that the differences you and I have, and that could probably go for just about everyone else in this forum (with the probable exception of Benny), are fundamental philosophical differences in the proper relationship between individuals and society. Without trying to put words in anybody's mouth, but going strictly by what I have observed, I would say that most everybody else here would be of the opinion that individuals have a positive duty to contribute to the well-being of society. By positive, I mean that these contributions require the taking of certain actions, rather than refraining from taking certain actions such as committing force or fraud against another person, which I would consider to be a negative duty.

I totally reject this philosohphy. My philosophy, which might be called individualism or voluntarism or libertarianism or whatever you want to call it, is that the individual certainly may have an interest in making positive contributions to the well being of society, but no duty to do so. The only duty an individual has to society is to refrain from committing acts of force or fraud against other members of society. I believe that individuals have a right to live for their own self interests, and that they have a right not to be used for the interests of other members of society. This philosophy is based on the recognition of the value and dignity of each individual in our society.


Daniel Simms

2/24/2008 6:42 PM  

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