Sunday, April 6, 2008

Is Your Child State Property?

Yes, said Los Angeles County Justice H. Walter Croskey's in his now infamous Feb. 28, 2008 ruling against California’s homeschooling parents. NO, said millions of Americans across the country. Apparently, the court heard them.

In an uncompromising defense of parents’ individual rights, Thomas A. Bowden reports in a March 31, 2008 op-ed, Your Child is Not State Property :

“Rocked by a nationwide storm of criticism, the Los Angeles County court that declared homeschooling illegal in California has agreed to rehear the case in June.” (emphasis added)

The backlash against that dangerous ruling is a hopeful sign. And it is badly needed. Mr. Bowden goes on:

“California legislators were entitled to enact this blanket prohibition, according to the judge, because they feared the supposed social disorder that would result from ‘allowing every person to make his own standards on matters of conduct in which society as a whole has important interests'". (emphasis added)

Just as “the will of God” has historically been the rationale for theocratic tyranny and religious persecution, so the “will of Society” has seeped into the American consciousness as a justification for the growth of government control and power. From healthcare, to eminent domain, to “anti-poverty” programs, to environmentalism, to education… the “interests” of “society” is routinely given as the alter upon which individual rights are to be sacrificed. “Society” is the god of modern secular statism.

Mr. Bowden:

“ ‘Allowing’? By what right does government presume to ‘allow’ (or, in this case, forbid) you to make your own standards concerning your child's education?

“Government has no such right. Neither the state nor ‘society as a whole’ has any interests of its own in your child's education. A society is only a group of individuals, and the government's only legitimate function is to protect the individual rights of its citizens, including yours and your children's, against physical force and fraud…

“…Other citizens, however numerous or politically powerful, have no moral right to substitute their views on child-raising for those of the father and mother who created that child.”
(emphasis added)

But it is exactly “to substitute their views on child-raising for those of the father and mother” that the state’s educational establishment seeks to maintain and expand it’s grip on all levels of education in this country. (By establishment, I am referring here to the elites in the various state and federal education departments, the National Education Association, the Progressive Education theorists, etc…and not necessarily to all teachers.) When Judge Croskey states his fear of “allowing every person to make his own standards on matters of conduct”, he is not referring to some kind of criminal anarchy. It is the “anarchy” of independent thinking that he has in mind.

The dominant philosophy governing modern American schooling is progressive education. John Dewey, the father of progressive education, “is famous for his advocacy of contemporary liberalism, if not socialism”, says Henry T. Edmondson in his book John Dewey & the Decline of American Education. “For instance, he argued for greater government involvement in society at large because our enjoyment of equality depends upon such intervention.” To facilitate this “greater government involvement”, Dewey sought “the use of schools to solve social and political problems [while advocating] the depreciation of academics in favor of assorted ‘activities’ ” which he says “now cripple American education”. “ Dewey argues that education…should promote the practical over the abstract”. “Dewey’s thought”, continues Mr. Edmondson, “is characterized by hostility…to all abstract or metaphysical ideas…[including] belief in objective truth and authoritative notions of good and evil…” Mr. Edmondson believes that “Dewey’s real opposition…may arise from his concern that a belief in objective truth is an impediment to the promulgation of his own philosophical ideas.” (emphasis added)

Ayn Rand, in her devastating critique of modern American education, said the Progressive’s “view of a child’s needs is militantly anti-cognitive and anti-conceptual.” (from The Comprachicos, in her book Return of the Primitive, page 49. The “comprachicos” refers to a hideous primitive practice, described by Victor Hugo, whereby small children were put into grotesquely shaped vases and left to grow in them. When, at a later age, the vase is broken, the child emerges in the shape of the vase.)

“[M]ost of today’s educators”, says Ms. Rand, “do not place a child into a vase to adjust his body to its contours. They place him into a…progressive…school to adjust him to society…They are the comprachicos of the mind.”

“John Dewey,” continues Ms. Rand in The Comprachicos, “opposed the teaching of theoretical (i.e., conceptual) knowledge…” Why? Because “ ‘The mere absorbing of facts and truths,’ [Dewey] wrote, ‘ is so exclusively an individual affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive…or social gain… for the acquirement of mere learning.’

“This much is true:” writes Ms. Rand, “the perception of reality, the learning of facts, the ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, are exclusively individual capacities; the mind is an exclusively individual ‘affair’; there is no collective brain. And intellectual integrity- the refusal to sacrifice one’s mind and knowledge of the truth to any social pressure- is a profoundly and properly selfish attitude.

The goal of modern education is to stunt, stifle and destroy the students’ capacity to develop such an attitude…” (emphasis added)

For decades, increasingly vast sums of money have been poured into the public school system, with the alleged goal of improving the quality of American education. Yet by all accounts, that quality remains mediocre at best, and disastrous in most urban districts. You would think that by now modern educators would be questioning this futile process, not to mention their own ideas. Instead, they seek to stifle any alternative to their government-run education monopoly. From school choice through vouchers or tax credits to homeschooling and even to charter schools run within the public school system, the monopoly establishment can be seen standing in the school door, blocking any even modest attempts at meaningful reforms. Indeed, they seek to expand their reach into the preschools (See my post of 07/29/07). This is because education… in the human, abstract sense of understanding and independent thought… is not their goal. The creation of a compliant, conformist, obedient, “socially adjusted” populace is… to smooth the path to a socialist America by preventing people from making “his own standards on matters of conduct in which society as a whole has important interests."

“Intelligence, says Dewey, is not ‘an individual possession,’ but ‘a social asset.’… [T]he function of the school is not to develop a reality-spirit or an intellectual spirit, but a ‘social spirit.’… Since ‘mind cannot be regarded as an individual, monopolistic possession,’ the function of the school is…to recondition any aspiring ‘monopolist’ of this kind (any intellectually independent student), by training him, in Dewey’s words, ‘to share in the social consciousness,’ i.e., to submit his mind to the demands of the group.’ What America needs now, Dewey concludes, is ‘organized action in behalf of the social interest,’ ‘organized planning’ of the economy- in short, ‘some kind of socialism.’ ” (The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff, pages 129-131)

This is the philosophy that dominates American education today. This is why this ruling, as Judge Croskey’s reference to the “interests” of “society as a whole” make plain, is much broader than the issue of homeschooling. And it is about more than financial concerns, grades, or “accountability”. As Mr. Bowden sees it;

“The shockwaves from Justice Croskey's decision will likely impact not just homeschoolers but also the apologists for government education--teachers' unions, educational bureaucrats, and politicians. Their political and financial survival depends on a policy that treats children as, in effect, state property--but only rarely is the undiluted collectivism of that policy trumpeted so publicly.” (emphasis added, remember Hillary’s village)

When people talk about public schools, pro or con, the subject usually focuses on the absurdly bloated cost, or a specific curriculum, or an objectionable film being introduced to the students, or the drop-out rate, or test scores, etc. Fair enough. The most important issue, though, is also the hardest to detect…the governing educational philosophy. This philosophy is designed to “teach” children to “think” only in concrete-bound, immediate, range-of-the-moment terms without reference to the abstract principles vital to the ability to see long-term consequences, to connect and integrate seemingly unrelated issues, to understand the essence of various issues, and to be able to take a broad view…to see the “forest” as well as the trees. The progressives’ purpose is to blind the people to the direction they wish to take the country, by in effect shrinking their field of intellectual vision down to the size of a keyhole. The damage done may be masked by good grades achieved by memorization (as opposed to understanding) or by some non-objective practice such as “grading on a curve”. The progressive educators’ success, of course, varies, with some people “surviving” the schools with their conceptual faculty fully or partially intact. Others regain some ability to think independently after leaving school, while others lose forever any means of getting through life other than through the guidance of their own emotions and the thinking of other people. The extent to which the progressive doctrines penetrates undoubtedly varies from public school district to district. Many if not most people, I believe, are forever intellectually handicapped by the progressives’ methods.

The progressive establishment has preached its doctrines and motives for decades, yet most parents and perhaps teachers remain ignorant of them. Hearing phrases like “social adjustment”, people take it to mean getting along with others, rather than its true “comprachico” meaning of crippling the minds of the young.

Even with the best of intentions, government-run public education must lead to mediocrity. As with any coercive monopoly, entrepreneurial innovators are stifled, particular agendas become entrenched to the exclusion of new ideas, competition is weak or non-existent. But with the public school system dominated by the progressives, who control teacher training and certification, text book content, curriculum, etc., it becomes imperative to fight for an end to the government’s monopoly on education. “From Plato to the present,” writes Leonard Peikoff, “it has been the dream of social planners…to inject a controversial ideology directly into the plastic, unformed minds of children- by means of seizing a country’s educational system and turning it into a vehicle for indoctrination.” (page 130, emphasis added) Judge Croskey's ruling is an indication of the extent to which the “social planners’ ” agenda has become entrenched.

Working within the system to change educational philosophy is certainly possible. But this involves convincing others (i.e., getting permission) to adopt ideas that you believe are right for your children, a violation of the rights of parents and teachers. This process is time consuming and cumbersome, and with the freedom of local school districts steadily eroding under the onslaught of growing state and federal (i.e., comprachico) control over education, it is becoming virtually impossible. Charter schools, government-run but which operate outside of the entrenched bureaucracy and to which concerned parents flock to, offer a certain degree of freedom for teachers and administrators to experiment with new ideas. Various government-funded voucher plans also give parents some limited choice. But only an educational free market can open the door wide to competing theorists and break the hammerlock of the establishment “comprachicos”. And this means phasing out and abolishing the public school system!

As Mr. Bowden asserts, the education issue is one of individual rights…the parents’ individual rights. And it is only on the moral grounds of individual rights that this battle can be fought. Calling for school choice or tax credits while apologetically defending the public school monopoly by, for example, declaring that the funding will not come “out of” the public schools or that your real intention is to “save” them through competition is the wrong approach and is self-defeating. That is because you are accepting the premise that running the schools is a legitimate function of government. It is not. The only way to fight not only the California attack on homeschoolers but compulsory public education in general is to consistently, proudly, and selfishly fight for individual rights.

The battle lines,” as Mr. Bowden concludes, “are clearly drawn.”

“Are parents mere drudges whose social duty is to feed and house their spawn between mandatory indoctrination sessions at government-approved schools? Or are they sovereign individuals whose right to guide their children's development the state may not infringe?

"The answer could determine not only the future of homeschooling but the future of education in America.”


aubrey said...

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Christine said...

Great post, Dad!

Henry Cate said...

"Even with the best of intentions, government-run public education must lead to mediocrity."

There would be a huge improvement if we ever had real vouchers. Unfortunately every time someone starts to set up vouchers, public school defenders start adding rules, lower the dollar amount and add lots of regulations.