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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Education, Once Upon A Time

... [T]he only dangerous change that the German reaction in this country has made, is the substitution of compulsory State education for the former American free education.

[In the early 1900s], American children went to school because they wanted to go, or because their parents sent them. Children knew the fact that schooling is a great opportunity which the Revolution had opened here to all American children alike. They made every effort to go to school; they walked miles through deep snow on winter mornings to reach school. They studied eagerly, to learn. They controlled their behavior in school, for improper behavior might be punished by their being sent home from school; deprived of half-a-day's schooling. The worst of all possible punishments was being expelled from school. That punishment, far worse than whipping, was held in reserve for rare instances of some pupil's utter lack of self-discipline.

The only schools supported by (compulsory) taxes were grammar schools. The belief was that a community should offer every young child an opportunity to learn. After grammar school age, a boy or girl was able to get his own education if he wanted one. Everyone did want one, who was capable of learning at all, for the years in grammar school only whetted an appetite for learning.

All over this country were Academies, private schools, privately owned and managed as the Saracens' schools were; they offered the equivalent (for those times) of the present High School curriculum; they offered it at various costs, suited to every circumstance. When Mark Twain was a boy in Missouri, graduating students of Missouri's Academies read their essays and delivered their orations in five languages (Latin, Greek, French, German, and English), to audiences that knew these languages well enough to appreciate fine points of style. There were bookshops where Kansas City is, before Kansas City was there; and by camp fires in ox-wagon stockades on the Santa Fe trail, the traders read Greek poets in Greek and European history in French. Any student could work his way through the Academies and the colleges. And many of America's most valuable citizens today, did it. (italics added)

This American method of education never fully developed; it was stopped about [1903], by the eager German-minded reformers, who believed that the State can spend an American's money for his, or his children's, education, much more wisely than he can. American schooling is now compulsory, enforced by the police and controlled by the State (that is, by the politicians in office) and paid for by compulsory taxes.

The inevitable result is to postpone a child's growing-up. He passes from the authority of his parents to the authority of the police. He has no control of his time and no responsibility for its use until he is sixteen years old. His actual situation does not require him to develop self-reliance, self-discipline and responsibility; that is, he has no actual experience of freedom in his youth.

This is ideal education for the German State, whose subjects are not expected ever to know freedom. The discipline in German schools is strict; it tends to train the young into the obedient submission that men in German Government demand from their subjects.

But it does not work that way in this country, because American educators naturally try to compensate for the counter-revolutionary compulsion in this school system. They do not subject American children to rigid German discipline. On the contrary, they try to make schools so enjoyable that the children will not realize that the police compel them to be there. (But the children know it.) The teachers try to make learning easy, a game. But real learning is not easy; it requires self-discipline and hard work. The attempt to make learning effortless actually keeps a child from discovering the pleasure of self-discipline and of the mental effort that overcomes difficulties and does a thoroughly good job.

This is cruel treatment of the new generations of Americans who must come out of this compulsory and yet too softly pampering schooling to face the realities of a world in which human beings are free and living is not easy. And it is not the best preparation for inheriting the leadership of the World Revolution for freedom.

The Revolution has been causing upheavals in almost every country on earth, [since the 1840s]. Now the counter-revolutionaries come out of Germany, determined to end it.

~~ Rose Wilder Lane, The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority (New York, 1943), pp. 258, 259, 260.


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