The Public Schools
Challenge: Which institution would I de-fund 100%?I would eliminate all funding for education, including all of the military academies.
Most people would probably choose a federal program to eliminate. I wouldn't. I think all government begins with self-government, and then extends to three institutions: family, church, and state.
My slogan is "Politics fourth."
Judicial sovereignty lies with the individual. Why? Because the individual is responsible for his own actions. If individuals do not govern themselves, there is not sufficient power anywhere else in society to force all men to do the right thing, or the predictable thing, or the sensible thing. The only reason why any institutional government works is because the vast majority of people under some governmental administration govern themselves on the basis of agreed-upon ethical and practical principles. In other words, if self-government breaks down, we are faced with either tyranny or chaos. Because people will not live in chaos, they will choose to submit to tyranny.
Second, I am a traditional conservative. I am therefore a disciple of Edmund Burke. I think most government in life is not political. I think most government has to do with voluntary associations, personal commitments on a face-to-face basis, and local organizations that deal with local problems.
Third, if I wanted to call myself a liberal, I would call myself a disciple of Alexis de Tocqueville, who took pretty much the same approach that Edmund Burke did when Tocqueville analyzed and described the American commonwealth of 1830.
A SUBSTITUTE CHURCH
I am convinced that the American public school system is a humanistic attempt to substitute the state for the church. This has certainly been the case in American history. Massachusetts was the last state to get rid of tax funded churches, which it did in 1833. Four years later, it created the state Board of Education, and began pursuing the tax funding of primary education.
The main goal of the Yankees in 1837 was essentially the goal of the Puritans in 1642, namely, to create the city on a hill that would serve as an operational model for the rest of the world. The Yankees were driven by the lust for money, social position, and political power, whereas the Puritans were driven by the fear of God and the conviction that men, if left to their own devices, would run to sin and destruction with all deliberate speed. The Puritans wanted to achieve a decent society by means of controlling the impulses of sinful men. The Yankees wanted to achieve a decent society by not only controlling the impulses of sin, but also by promoting righteous causes by means of state funding. The public school system was the first great Yankee experiment in this regard.
There were always opponents of the Yankees, but, region by region, state by state, county by county, municipality by municipality, they all adopted the Yankees' central institution, the public school system. By hook or by crook -- and in the case of the Civil War, by means of military conquest -- the Yankees exported the public school system, and then, in alliance with New York City publishers, took over the production of textbooks that would be used to reshape the rest of the country along Yankee lines. New York publishers were in it for the money. The Yankees were in it for the reform possibilities. Of course, Yankee authors were always happy to get book royalties for their textbooks. They were content to let the New York publishers keep 90% of the revenues.
If you look at the history of textbook production, begin with the place of publication. You probably won't know the names of the publishing houses, beginning in the 19th century, but you will recognize the cities. The cities are these: New York and Boston. This was not random. Also, it has not changed much over the years. You don't see major textbook publishing houses located in Dallas, Seattle, Atlanta, St. Louis, or Denver. Maybe an occasional Los Angeles or Chicago firm sneaks in.
The public school system from day one has been run by Boston and New York. Educators earn their Ph.D. degrees from Harvard or Columbia. Columbia has the most influential of all the graduate programs in education. This has been true for over a century. Columbia Teachers College has been by far the most important training institution for public school teachers from the end of the 19th century until today. Its USP (unique selling proposition) is straightforward:
Teachers College, Columbia University is the first and largest graduate school of education in the United States and is also perennially ranked among the nation's best. Its name notwithstanding, the College is committed to a vision of education writ large, encompassing our four core areas of expertise: health, education, leadership, and psychology.The key figure was John Dewey. He taught at Columbia University. He set the pattern for Columbia Teachers College. Wikipedia correctly describes his position:
Known for his advocacy of democracy, Dewey considered two fundamental elements--schools and civil society--to be major topics needing attention and reconstruction to encourage experimental intelligence and plurality. Dewey asserted that complete democracy was to be obtained not just by extending voting rights but also by ensuring that there exists a fully formed public opinion, accomplished by communication among citizens, experts, and politicians, with the latter being accountable for the policies they adopt.We are also informed of the following: "From 1904 until his retirement in 1930 he was professor of philosophy at both Columbia University and Columbia University's Teachers College. In 1905 he became president of the American Philosophical Association. He was a longtime member of the American Federation of Teachers."
For anybody who wants to understand the history of American education, there are three authors to consider. One, Lawrence Cremin, is almost universally regarded by the academic community as the official expert in the history of American education. His books will give you the names and places. Second, you would be wise to read R. J. Rushdoony's book, The Messianic Character American Education. It takes you through the writings of the two dozen founders of American progressive education. The title tells all: the public school system was the humanists' self-conscious replacement of the churches. The third, written by one of the great public school teachers in modern times, John Taylor Gatto, is titled The Underground History of American Education. Gatto quit teaching in the public schools of New York City after he had won teacher of the year three times. His book shows you why American manufacturers wanted to control the public schools.
Americans think it astounding that people in Massachusetts in 1832 and people in Connecticut in 1815 still believed that tax money should be used to subsidize local Congregational churches. Yet the vast majority of Americans do not blink an eye at the idea that tax money should be used to fund the institution that correctly has been identified as America's only established church. This is what Rushdoony called it in 1963, and this is what liberal historian Sidney Mead also called it in 1963 in his book, The Lively Experiment: The Shaping of Christianity in America. But the churches only really shaped the thinking of the public on Sundays, and only for a few hours. Attendance was not compulsory. The modern humanist state has established its church, and attendance is compulsory in most cases, five days a week, eight hours a day. They even send out yellow buses to bring the parishioners' children into the churches.
INDOCTRINATION FOR THE NATION
The reason why I think this would be the starting point of any serious shrinking of the federal Leviathan is this: the opinions of the next generation of voters are set in the public schools. To imagine the tax-funded schools will produce anything except taxpayers who are committed to the messianic power of the state would be naïve. The government gets what it pays for. Since the late 1830's, it has paid for docile citizens who are ready, willing, and able to provide the funding of the modern messianic state.
You can fight the IRS. You can fight some regulatory agency. You can fight any cabinet-level agency. You can fight them all, but if you let state-certified teachers educate the next generation, the state's agencies of control will sprout once again. Ideas have consequences, and the ideas taught in the public school system are the central ideas of the modern messianic state.
Around the world, the last institution that national governments are willing to surrender to the private sector is the public school system. In most countries, attendance at such government schools is compulsory. The United States is an exception, and about 15% of the population opts out of the public schools. Don't try this in Germany.
The great philosopher of the public schools in the United States was Lester Frank Ward. He was a self-taught polymath who is an expert in several fields. He was a senior government statistician, but he was the philosopher of government interventionism on a comprehensive scale. He was a Darwinist. He was a Left-wing social Darwinist. He was an educator. He recognized early that the key institution that social Darwinist performers had to gain control of is the public school system, precisely because it is here that students can be kept away from ideas that threaten central planners. He realized that it was not possible in the United States to control the population by burning books. So, he recommended an alternative program, namely, screening out rival ideas in the public schools, so as to immunize students in their formative years from rival opinions. He outlined all this in his two-volume work, published in 1883, Dynamic Sociology. In 1907, he was elected president of the American Sociological Association.
He hated two things in life: Christianity and free market social Darwinism. He was a defender of Left-wing social Darwinism, which was the Darwinism of state planning. More than any other intellectual in American history, he was the great defender of the concept of central planning.
I devoted a long section in Appendix A of my economic commentary on Genesis to Lester Frank Ward.
ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL
I agree with former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill: all politics is local.
Here, at the local level, Americans once had the power to abolish the single greatest institution against liberty. But state regulations have long since mandated compulsory attendance, and these regulations are enforced locally. The federal courts would not allow such legislation to pass today. But the schools of done their work. No political figure has launched a successful career based on this platform: the de-funding of all education.
By law, Christianity may not be taught in the public schools. But the religion of humanism is not only taught in the public schools, it is required. We get occasional stories about some witchcraft group or some Muslim group that gets the right to participate on campus, but no textbooks are written in terms of Wicca or Islam.
Students and parents do not perceive the nature of the religious catechisms that are imposed on all participants in the public school systems. The theology of the catechisms is so ingrained in the thinking of the vast majority of Americans that, by the age of 18, they no longer sense just how religious these confessional statements are. They do not begin with the doctrine that God is the creator. They begin with the doctrine that the universe was originally autonomous and without purpose. Then, lo and behold, life evolved out of out of non-life on earth, 3.6 billion years ago. Then mankind evolved out of life in general. And it is man, because of the power of his brain, who now exercises sovereignty in history. Man has become God, but it took 13.7 billion years, more or less. (Actually, it is never less, always more.)
So, my target for 100% de-funding is the public school system. Your target may be on some other institution. But I warn you: in all projects of wholesale reform, don't start at the top. Start at the bottom. Significant reform is always bottom-up. When it starts at the top, it too often winds up as a revolution. The revolution soon eats its children.
If you complain that your taxes are too high, but you turn over your children to the state to be educated, politicians will not take your tax protest seriously.
When the Tea Party movement adopts this slogan, it will be serious: "No more school taxes!"