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Real Education Means Separation of School and State

Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career with a passion for all things libertarian to become the Libertarian Opinionizer.


Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer

The true purpose of “public education” is to impose collectivist indoctrination designed to turn individual young people into social conformists, to redistribute people’s incomes into the pockets of educrats (government education bureaucrats), the schooling factories and the education industry and to transfer political power into the hands of teachers' unions bosses and, ultimately, into the hands of the national ruling class.

The true purpose of education should simply be learning. Schools must be divorced from government for the same reason as the separation of church and state: Individual freedom.

All libertarians and other freedom-loving people intending to have, raise and educate children should educate themselves to the realities of education in America and the rest of the world before their progeny are even conceived.

Book Break: Your Libertarian Opinionizer’s Pick

Forming Conforming Norms

Future parents should begin by reading John Taylor Gatto, a New York state Teacher of the Year and three-time New York City Teacher of the Year. After 30 years in the classroom Gatto retired and authored books deeply critical of the ideology, history, and consequences of modern public education with titles like Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling; The Underground History of American Education; and Weapons of Mass Instruction.

Known for his strong libertarian views Gatto was active in the Libertarian Party in the early 1990s and received the Alexis de Tocqueville Award “for his contributions to the cause of liberty” in 1997. He is a member of the non-profit Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) Advisory Board.

Each chapter of Gatto’s book Dumbing Us Down works as an individual essay. In Chapter 1, for example, “The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher,” he explains how today’s public schools teach the fundamentals of confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependency, intellectual dependency, provisional self-esteem, and constant surveillance.


Public schools, in short, aren’t meant to teach necessary skills or provide systematic knowledge, but only to create what Gatto calls a “sociable” person mass produced to follow rules and orders.

In Chapter 2, “The Psychopathic School” he explains how public schools act as a way to disassociate classes of people from one another, isolating children from their parents, grandparents, neighborhoods, community and society in general so children can be taught not how to think but simply how to obey orders.

“Without children and old people mixing in daily life,” Gatto contends, “a community has no future and no past, only a continuous present.” Having lost its conscience public schooling has become a psychopathic institution.

One question begging to be answered is “How did all of this come about?”


How Schooling Replaced Education

It would take a whole book to lay out how education in America was hijacked and transformed into government indoctrination and Gatto has addressed that elsewhere as well.

Government, by definition, doesn't "educate." Government is force. Government consciously and purposefully "indoctrinates." To understand this, a person might start with the Mackinac Center's "School Choice in Michigan: A Primer for Freedom in Education" by Matthew J. Brouillette, specifically the chapter entitled "The 1830s and 40s: Horace Mann, the End of Free-Market Education, and the Rise of Government Schools.”

For brevity here’s the Reader’s Digest / Classics Illustrated / Cliffs Notes / Government Schools For Dummies version of that particular history:

Horace Mann (the "father of American public school education") brought the Prussian system of state-controlled (and mind-controlling) education to America.

To quote Gatto yet again, the traditional American school purpose—"piety, good manners, basic intellectual tools, self-reliance, etc."—gave way to Prussian state socialism and its centralized schooling system designed to deliver obedient soldiers to the military, obedient workers to mines, factories, and farms, compliant civil servants to the government, subservient clerks to industry, and submissive citizens to the nation-state.

The results are all around us today.

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Contrast this with another early educational theorist, Maria Montessori. The Montessori Method is based on the idea that children learn best when the environment supports their natural desire to acquire skills and knowledge.

Her most insightful quote for libertarians might be this one:

“It is surprising to notice that even from the earliest age, man finds the greatest satisfaction in feeling independent. The exalting feeling of being sufficient to oneself comes as a revelation.”

So now if the problem and the history have been identified what’s the solution?

Freedom of Education

Ron Paul, a modern “minarchist” libertarian, advocated abolishing the federal Department of Education and turning public schooling over to the states—thereby creating 50 little authoritarian indoctrination monsters instead of one big one—while voluntaryist libertarians believe in a laissez-faire free market in education, period.

“Indoctrination” of course is just a slightly warmer, fuzzier, intellectually-palatable euphemism for “brainwashing:”

brain·wash·ing (From Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

1 : a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas

2 : persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship

For children, education must and should always be an issue between their parents and the instructors their parents choose for them. For adults, education is a matter between student and teacher.


Education is never the business of government; brainwashing is the business of government. All tax-funded education falls under the definition of brainwashing because taxation is coercion.

Voluntary education is not brainwashing because, by definition, it doesn't involve coercion.

Contrary to the coercive public education monopoly (where are those "Trust Busters" when we need them?) banishing government from all classrooms would cause opportunities for education to explode.

For-profit schools, charity schools, religion-run schools, volunteer-run community-based schools, home-schooling, online education, distance learning, self-learning, unschooling, the Internet.

The free market possibilities are endless, providing something for every wallet from traditional classrooms to storefront schools to the super rich école to corporate sponsored training centers to online distance learning to smartphone-based app courses to competing McDonald's-style franchised schoolrooms from coast to coast.

And other ideas nobody has even thought of yet. No, a franchised McEducation might not be the best, but even it beats government brainwashing.

Want traditional readin' and writin' and 'rithmatic by rote? Want liberal arts? Want performing arts? Want open schools? Want (the favorite of many libertarians) Montessori schools?

Learn your way, not the educrat's way.


Concerned that some kids will fall through the cracks and grow up uneducated? In a free society no one will prevent you from helping them by volunteering your money, your time or your effort. In an age of near-instant communication possibilities you can easily find people and organizations anywhere in the world that feel as you do and then volunteer to work with them to educate those "at-risk" children you are so concerned about.

For decades, where there were no schools, no telephone lines, no cell towers, no Internet service, short wave radio delivered school lessons directly to the kitchen table for children living on “stations” (cattle and sheep ranches) scattered widely across Australia’s Outback.

Yes it was government ed but it still serves as a unique solution for a unique situation.

Another example is this: If desperately poor Third World parents can educate their children without government why can’t Americans?

In many places around the Third World private sector schools have stepped in to educate children where their governments for one reason or another have abandoned them.

In a 2015 article, “Learning Unleashed,” The Economist reported on how low-cost private sector schools in the Third World have taken on the challenge of providing the poorest of the poor with “a decent education,” in some cases not simply instead of their governments but in spite of them.

This excerpt from the article explains a lot:

“One reason for the developing world’s boom in private education is that aspirational parents are increasingly seeking alternatives to dismal state schools. In south and west Asian countries half of children who have finished four years of [public] school cannot read at the minimum expected standard.”

Of course if you just don’t believe in freedom of education because you’re a control-freak liberal you can bloviate about "for the children," demand tax money, then kick back in your La-Z-Boy and do nothing.


Mann and his followers got what they wanted: Herd animals in the form of Marxists, socialists, collectivists, unionists, progressives, lefties, liberals and all manner of other groupthinking Modern Ed graduates.

What they’re getting today is Social Justice Warriors and Free Stuff Millennials.

What they’re getting today is the artificial extension of childhood—grown children living in their parent’s basements and covered on their health insurance until they’re 26. And maybe even then refusing to leave.

It’s all a part of the continuing dumbing down of America.

A free society demands a free, market-based system of voluntary education uncorrupted by groupthink statist elitists. If the United States doesn’t rip off the shackles of GovEd soon the rest of the 21st century world will leave us in their dust.

Or we’ll all go down in the dust together.

John Taylor Gatto Bio After winning several Teacher of the year awards he retired after 30 years of teaching because, as he explained in a Wall Street Journal Op Ed, he was no longer willing to hurt children.

Horace Mann and Statist Education A brief overview that describes how Mann and his cohort conspired to kill free choice in education and replace it as a mandatory system for creating an obedient servant class for the benefit of the ruling elite.

Montessori School described as a “second home” classroom prepared, guided and supported by a teacher who encourages independence, freedom within limits and a sense of order in which each child makes individual choices in self-development.

Third World Education In places like Delhi, Islamabad, Lagos and Mexico City the poorest of the poor are voluntarily supporting classrooms for their children in corrugated tin shacks, abandoned warehouses or under a bridge.

Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) Options to one-size-fits-all mandatory schooling: “AERO's mission is to help create an education revolution to make learner-centered education available to everyone.”

Video Break: Your Libertarian Opinionizer’s Pick | John Taylor Gatto—The Purpose Of Schooling


Maria Folsom on September 09, 2018:

So right - Again!

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