Monday, March 17, 2008

The Purpose of Public Schooling

“A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare.”

Justice H. Walter Croskey, in the opinion holding that California parents do not have the right to home school their children.

The term "fascist" has been overused, and in any case I know nothing about Croskey's views on economics. But I find it extraordinary that he would be willing to explicitly argue that public schools exist largely to indoctrinate children in views the government approves of, with or without the consent of their parents.

I came across the quote in a webbed essay on the decision. It reminded me of an old academic article by John Lott in which he conjectured that the reason schooling was so widely provided by governments was as a way of reducing the cost of controlling their populations, and offered some statistical evidence in support. One version of the paper is available online.

23 Comments:

At 10:32 AM, March 17, 2008, Blogger Joe Bingham said...

I hate to keep bringing up Steven Landsburg here, but he put it well in Fair Play. Iirc, something like "There is only one reason for the government to run the schools, and that is so it can control what is taught," in the context of explaining why the government wouldn't choose a voucher system by default.

 
At 10:53 AM, March 17, 2008, Blogger Joe Bingham said...

Conflict of interest watch? I was homeschooled.

 
At 11:06 AM, March 17, 2008, Blogger Les Cargill said...

What if he said "... train school children in the value of patriotism, loyalty.... "

I don't know too much, any more. Horace Mann/John Dewey et al. seem to be uncritically accepted as founders of the public school system's ...ideological underpinnings. What we get as a reaction to that is usually no more sensible. It all smacks of Taylorist (or worse) reductionist/Positivist 1890 vintage belief in the limitless power of Man, if we only got the math right.

But that sort of Prussian/Bismarckian ... malarkey underlies almost all Progressive impulse. It may be the mothers milk of good intention, but it curdles badly when exposed to the sun.

 
At 1:14 PM, March 17, 2008, Blogger Jared Saltz said...

Perhaps California is simply trying to combat a the fact that nearly 30% of their population speaks Spanish as a primary language, and a hefty percentage of that speaks Spanish as their only language... But it seems if that were the case then there would be other requirements than a teaching certification--whatever that means.

And since when have the stated ideals been the indoctrination of children? Certainly, it has been the agenda since France started teaching Civics as a religion during the Revolution, but still?

Whatever happened to the Jeffersonian ideology of education? That of a population educated in order to be knowledgeable -- and care enough about -- their nation that they would limit the size of that government?

 
At 9:42 AM, March 18, 2008, Blogger jimbino said...

Way back in the 60s Paul Goodman, in Growing Up Absurd, pointed out the conspiracy among state, church and parents to keep our kids dumb but well behaved that is our public school system.

I say, make all the damn kids attend public school and keep the schools abominable until the breeders stop taxing me for miseducation of their brood and cooperate with us childfree types in canceling the whole foul public education experiment!

 
At 11:20 AM, March 18, 2008, Blogger Mike Huben said...

That's right: libertarians should be opposed to ideas about the public welfare. Ideas like defending our territory from foreign nations (for which patriotism and loyalty are essential) and ideas like not stealing (which is a major part of good citizenship.)

Fortunately, you have twits like the folks at Pajamas Media to misrepresent commonsense for you.

And just who invented this cockamamie "right" to homeschool? It's amazing how people simply assert rights without any legal or historical basis. It defies common sense that parents should be able to restrict children's experience to the indoctrination by the parents. Parents should not be allowed to deform the social and intellectual development of their children any more than they are allowed to physically deform their children.

Why anyone would mention John Lott's research without wincing is a mystery to me. Talk about exercises in conflating corellation and cause.

 
At 12:15 PM, March 18, 2008, Blogger Jared Saltz said...

<<
And just who invented this cockamamie "right" to homeschool? It's amazing how people simply assert rights without any legal or historical basis. It defies common sense that parents should be able to restrict children's experience to the indoctrination by the parents. Parents should not be allowed to deform the social and intellectual development of their children any more than they are allowed to physically deform their children.
>>

Excuse me, Mr. Huben, I would state that there is quite a bit of historical evidence/basis, as well as legal basis for the principle of homeschooling. Most of our founders, as well most of the educated world prior to that, would be "home schooled" by today's standards. Surely closer to that then today's public school systems.

Higher education is, of course, something different (cf. The Academy and Grove of Ancient Greece) but most were either self-educated or taught at home by a tutor. Aside from that, what "right" is there for a public school system?

I would also strongly object to the terms of homeschooling as social and cultural "deformation." What evidence of that is there? I would note that far more homeschooled graduate succeed in college (percentage-wise) than the public schooled ones.

 
At 2:39 PM, March 18, 2008, Blogger Jonathan said...

Mike Huben: "Parents should not be allowed to deform the social and intellectual development of their children ... "—but the government should be allowed to do so?

I'd certainly regard instilling patriotism and loyalty (to the state, I suppose he means) into children as deforming their social and intellectual development. Fortunately, the schools I went to didn't attempt anything of the sort.

Nor did they have much to say about "ideas like not stealing". I think most people absorb ideas of basic morality from their families and from society at large, more than from the schools.

Loyalty strikes me as a overrated virtue. You should do things because you have good reason to do them. If reason and loyalty suggest the same action, you have no need to invoke loyalty. If they suggest different actions, loyalty would seem equivalent to foolishness.

I've lived in twelve different countries, and I suppose that any irrational sense of national loyalty that I may have had has been diluted. For the last eleven years I've been living in Spain, where my son goes to a private French school. If it teaches him loyalty to either France or Spain, I hope the lesson washes off him like water off a duck's back.

 
At 3:44 PM, March 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to believe attaching "fascist" to the public school system was just argument-less hyperbole, but now that we've had two of our three children suffer the inanities of the public schools, I'm not so sure it's an exaggeration.

The public schools are geared toward conformity, equality of outcome, and crushing the differences between children to a pathetically mediocre level.

Based on our experience, we are homeschooling. As for Mike Huben's "deforming" comment, he's got a vested interest in that he's a math/science teacher in the public schools - he should have disclosed that.

 
At 5:25 PM, March 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My reaction to the quote was that it was something a rabid *opponent* of public schooling would say.

Perhaps Justice Croskey is acting as a "double agent", putting forward a cynical and repulsive argument which is calculated to provoke opposition.

 
At 7:17 PM, March 18, 2008, Anonymous RKN said...

And just who invented this cockamamie "right" to homeschool? It's amazing how people simply assert rights without any legal or historical basis. It defies common sense that parents should be able to restrict children's experience to the indoctrination by the parents.

Not, evidently, the common sense of some on the supreme court.

http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000000/00000075.asp

 
At 8:15 PM, March 18, 2008, Blogger Russell said...

Huben, your argumentation is pathetic as usual. People are born with the right to not be kidnapped and held prisoner for six hours a day, nine months of the year, for 12 years of their life.

 
At 2:36 AM, March 19, 2008, Anonymous Simon Andersson said...

I think the Swedish example is instructive. Back when I was a kid, the stated purpose of the system was "social fostran", which roughly translates to "social education". The importance of academic knowledge was downplayed. This system was almost entirely government-run.

Today, academic knowledge is again considered important and the country has a system of school vouchers. A large and growing number of kids are going to private schools. The two developments are very much related: The new emphasis on knowledge rather than "social education" has been a motivating force behind school privatization.

 
At 5:44 AM, March 20, 2008, Blogger Jonathan said...

I think the traditional British view is that patriotism is a Good Thing, but that it's a personal and private emotion that should arise naturally of its own accord, and attempts to encourage it artificially are in bad taste.

See, for example, Kipling's story 'The flag of their country', published in 1899 as part of Stalky & Co.

 
At 2:06 PM, March 20, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And just who invented this cockamamie "right" to homeschool? It's amazing how people simply assert rights without any legal or historical basis."

You're so conditioned it's sick. If someone is a parent it is a NATURAL right to raise their child and educate them as they see fit. It is not the right of other individuals who ARE NOT the parents. What part of that don't you grasp?? When children are forced into government run schools they are behaviorally conditioned for up to 13 years about what the state thinks is good. The state is not going to teach children about its' dark side. Children will not be taught how to get out of mental slavery, debt, or that the state has actually planned psychological attacks to "herd the masses" in a particular direction (google operation Gladio and Northwoods). It's hard for me to be patient with you even though my own father has been a public teacher for 40 years as of next year and he too doesn't "get it".

 
At 4:19 AM, March 21, 2008, Anonymous Paul said...

Mike Huben is an infamous libertarian troll. The consistency and power of free market arguments unnerves him in a strangely neurotic way. You have been warned.

 
At 8:06 AM, March 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right about Huben. I was duking it out with him 14 and 15 years ago on USENET; I see time hasn't mellowed him or made his arguments any better.

 
At 10:22 PM, March 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

* Ideas like not stealing
It would be hypocritical for public schools to teach kids not to steal when the schools themselves are funded through stealing.

* Ideas like defending our territory from foreign nations (for which patriotism and loyalty are essential).
You can teach that our system is evil, but even so, if other countries take over, things will be even worse. Therefore, patriotism and loyalty are not essential. You just teach that defending our country is a lesser evil.

 
At 2:02 PM, March 24, 2008, Blogger Steve Buckstein said...

There's a good example of the "public school mentality" here in Oregon, the state that almost outlawed all private schools back in 1922.

A retired public school teacher recently blogged:

"To divert human capital --namely good students with strong parental support-- from public schools is to undermine the ability of those schools to succeed. I completely reject the notion that the first responsibility of nominally public school-supporting parents is to consider the welfare of their own children while ignoring the well-being of others. I cannot say, as others have, that their urge to seek out "better" options for their kids alone is either understandable or forgivable.

"To do so would be to acknowledge that the individual, or private, good trumps the common good. I don't believe it."

My response, and some interesting comments are at Children of the State?

 
At 7:19 PM, March 24, 2008, Blogger TGGP said...

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has discussed why totalitarian governments still have high literacy rates and free health care here.

 
At 3:35 PM, March 27, 2008, Blogger mark said...

"When children are forced into government run schools they are behaviorally conditioned for up to 13 years about what the state thinks is good."

If the public schools were that good at "conditioning", literacy rates would be far higher.

The only significant "conditioning" pressure the system can successfully exert is at on the margins. What is frightening is how little effect the education system has, on average, relative to the effort, expense and time invested.

 
At 8:48 AM, January 22, 2009, Blogger 海賊王 said...

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At 11:19 PM, March 16, 2009, Blogger moto said...

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