I begin with my conclusion: The “public” school system is the most immoral and corrupt institution in the United States of America today, and it should be abolished. It should be abolished for the same reason that chattel slavery was ended in the 19th century: Although different in purpose and in magnitude of harm to its victims, public education, like slavery, is a form of involuntary servitude. The primary difference is that public schools force children to serve the interests of the state rather than those of an individual master.
These are—to be sure—radical claims, but they are true, and the abolition of public schools is an idea whose time has come. It is time for Americans to reexamine—radically and comprehensively—the nature and purpose of their disastrously failing public school system, and to launch a new abolitionist movement, a movement to liberate tens of millions of children and their parents from this form of bondage.1
Twenty-first century Abolitionists are confronted, however, by a paradoxical fact: Most Americans recognize that something is deeply wrong with the country’s elementary and secondary schools, yet they support them like no other institution. Mention the possibility of abolishing the public schools, and most people look at you as though you are crazy. And, of course, no politician would ever dare cut spending to our schools and to the “kids.”
For those who take seriously the idea that our public schools are broken and need to be fixed, the most common solutions include spending more money, raising standards, reducing class size, issuing vouchers, and establishing charter schools. And yet, despite decades of such reforms, our schools only get worse.
The solution is not further reforms. The solution is abolition.
Just as antebellum Americans in the North had to be roused, educated, and radicalized on the evils of government-sanctioned involuntary servitude and on the need to abolish slavery, so too 21st-century Americans need to be shown the horrors of government-run, involuntary schools and persuaded to abolish them. Americans must come to see not only that the public school system is failing, but also that it cannot be reformed—because, like slavery, it is fundamentally immoral. Abolition will not be achieved anytime soon, but we must work tirelessly, step by step, to achieve that goal.
The purpose of this essay is to inspire a revolution in the minds of the American people—to shake them of their sentimental attachment to the public school system—and to convince them to unify into an unstoppable movement toward the eventual abolition of public schools. To that end, we will examine what the “public” schools are, why they are immoral, why they are impractical, and why the only rational, moral course of action is to eliminate them.2 . . .
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1 On the nineteenth-century antislavery abolitionists, see C. Bradley Thompson, ed., Antislavery Political Writings, 1833-1860: A Reader (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 2003).
2 This essay does not cover the crucial issue of how a free market will provide a far superior education to all those who want one. For an indication of how private educators are already revolutionizing the field of education, please see the interviews elsewhere in this issue. The broader topic of free-market education is one to which I plan to return in a future essay.
3 Washington’s compulsory attendance laws, the single exception, set a mandatory starting age of eight. See “Compulsory Attendance Laws Listed by State,” National Center for School Engagement, 2003, http://www.schoolengagement.org/TruancypreventionRegistry/Admin/Resources/Resources/15.pdf.
4 “Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address,” January 24, 2012, http://www
.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/24/remarks-president-state-union-address. See also Barack Obama, “An America Built to Last,” January 24, 2012, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/blueprint_for_an_america_built_to_last.pdf.
5 See Lee Ann Bisulca, “Arrested for Homeschooling,” Home School Legal Defense Association, March–April 2011, http://www.hslda.org/courtreport/V27N2/V27N201.asp.
6 “Texas Judge Jails Honor Student for Missing Schools,” Russia Today, May 30, 2012, http://rt.com/usa/news/texas-judge-jail-tran-532.
7 Kristin Kloberdanz, “Criminalizing Home Schoolers,” Time, March 7, 2008, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1720697,00.html.
8 Kristin Kloberdanz, “A Homeschooling Win in California,” Time, August 13, 2008, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1832485,00.html.
9 “Achieves Return of Homeschooling Child to Family,” Home School Legal Defense Association, January 17, 2012, http://www.hslda.org/hs/state/ny/201201170.asp.
10 Charlie Francis-Pape and Allan Hall, “Home-School Germans Flee to UK,” Observer, February 23, 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/feb/24/schools.uk.
11 “Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany,” Deutscher Bundestag, October 2010, https://www.btg-bestellservice.de/pdf/80201000.pdf, p. 17.
12 Francis-Pape and Hall, “Home-School Germans Flee to UK.”
13 Tristana Moore, “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Homeschoolers,” Time, March 8, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1968099,00.html.
14 Paul Belien, “2007 German Horror Tale,” Washington Times, February 27, 2007, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2007/feb/27/20070227-084730-5162r.
15 Michal Elseth, “Home-School Ban in Sweden Forces Families to Mull Leaving,” Washington Times, July 18, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jul/18/home-school-ban-in-sweden-forces-families-to-mull-/?page=all.
16 “Swedish Pol to Social Services Minister: Take Homeschooled Kids!,” Home School Legal Defense Association, January 17, 2012, http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/Sweden/201201130.asp. At least a Swedish court declined to terminate parental rights in this case; see “Parents of Boy Seized by State Hopeful after Favorable Court Ruling,” Home School Legal Defense Association, June 14, 2012, http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/Sweden/201206140.asp.
17 Dale Hurd, “Swedish Home-School Family ‘Broken to Pieces,’” CBN.com, March 21, 2012, http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2012/March/Swedish-Homeschool-Family-Broken-to-Pieces.
18 Murray N. Rothbard, Education: Free & Compulsory (Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999), pp. 40–41.
19 Cynthia A. Cave, “Compulsory School Attendance,” Encyclopedia.com, 2002, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Compulsory_School_Attendance.aspx.
20 Andrew J. Coulson, Market Education: The Unknown History (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1999), p. 84.
21 Cave, “Compulsory School Attendance.”
22 Robin L. West, “The Harms of Homeschooling,” Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly, vol. 29, nos. 3–4, Summer–Fall 2009, http://ippp.gmu.edu/QQ/Vol29_3-4.pdf, p. 11.
23 Kristin Rawls, “Home-Schooled and Illiterate,” Salon, March 15, 2012, http://www.salon.com/2012/03/15/homeschooled_and_illiterate.
24 Catherine J. Ross, “Fundamentalist Challenges to Core Democratic Values: Exit and Homeschooling,” William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, vol. 18, no. 4, 2010, http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/wmborj/vol18/iss4/8.
25 Kimberly A. Yuracko, “Education off the Grid: Constitutional Constraints on Homeschooling,” California Law Review, forthcoming, Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 07-11, October 26, 2007, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=980100, p. 70.
26 Martha Albertson Fineman, “Taking Children’s Interests Seriously,” in What Is Right for Children? The Competing Paradigms of Religion and Human Rights, ed. Martha Albertson Fineman and Karen Worthington (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2009), p. 237 (emphasis in original).
27 Calvin E. Stowe, The Prussian System of Public Instruction and Its Applicability to the United States (Cincinnati: Truman and Smith, 1836).
28 Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation, trans. R. F. Jones and G. H. Turnbull (Chicago: Open Court, 1922), available at http://www.archive.org/stream/addressestothege00fichuoft/addressestothege00fichuoft_djvu.txt.
29 Quoted in Joel Spring, The American School, 1642–1885 (New York: Longman, 1986), p. 155.
30 Quoted in Spring, The American School, 1642–1885, p. 155.
31 Quoted in Sheldon Richman, Separating School & State (Fairfax, VA: Future of Freedom Foundation, 1994), p. 51 (emphasis added).
32 “School Agrees to Next Pledge of Allegiance to Teachers, Recast it as Song to School,” FoxNews.com, June 20, 2012, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/06/20/officials-cave-after-parent-complaints-school-pledge-recast-as-song/?test=latestnews.
33 See Leslea Newman, Heather Has Two Mommies (New York: Alyson Books, 1994).
34 Quoted in Elmer John Thiessen, In Defense of Religious Schools and Colleges (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001), p. 73.
35 Quoted in Coulson, Market Education: The Unknown History, p. 82.
36 Quoted in Richman, Separating School & State, p. 48.
37 Quoted in Coulson, Market Education: The Unknown History, p. 83.
38 Fields v. Palmdale School District, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, November 2, 2005, http://openjurist.org/427/f3d/1197/fields-v-palmdale-school-district (first emphasis added).
39 “US Supreme Court Turns Down David Parker’s Appeal,” MassResistance, October 7, 2008, http://www.massresistance.org/docs/parker_lawsuit/sc_petition/rejected.html; “Parker v. Hurley,” Conservatopia, December 20, 2008, http://www.conservapedia.com/Parker_v._Hurley. The text of Parker’s federal civil rights lawsuit can be viewed at http://www.massresistance.org/docs/parker_lawsuit/filing_2006/complaint.html. See also document no. 07-1528 from the First Circuit Court of Appeals at http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov/pdf.opinions/07-1528-01A.pdf .
40 See Rita Kramer, Ed School Follies: The Miseducation of America’s Teachers (New York: Free Press, 1991).
41 Robert Tyler, “Just the Facts on SB 777,” North County Times, December 30, 2007, http://www
.html. See also the California Education Code, http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=00001-01000&file=210-214; “SB 777—An Analysis,” Private & Home Educators of California, February 4, 2008, http://www.pheofca.org/SB777080124.html.
42 Jill Tucker, “Oakland School’s Lessons in Gender Diversity,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 24, 2011, http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-school-s-lessons-in-gender-diversity-2370672.php.
43 John Tagliabue, “Swedish School’s Big Lesson Begins With Dropping Personal Pronouns,” New York Times, November 13, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/world/europe/swedish-school-de-emphasizes-gender-lines.html; Cordelia Hebblethwaite, “Sweden’s ‘Gender-Neutral’ Pre-School,” BBC News, July 7, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14038419.
44 Ari Armstrong, “‘Best Friends’ Ban in UK Schools Mirrors Ayn Rand’s Anthem,” TOS Blog, March 24, 2012, https://toc.custom4web.com/blog/index.php/2012/03/best-friends-ban-in-uk-schools-mirrors-ayn-rands-anthem.
45 Andrew J. Coulson, “Planning Ahead is Considered Racist?,” Seattle PI, May 31, 2006, http://www.seattlepi.com/local/opinion/article/Planning-ahead-is-considered-racist-1204942.php.
46 Jim Angle, “Maryland Adds Environmental Literacy High Schools,” FoxNews.com, June 27, 2011, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/06/27/maryland-adds-environmental-literacy
47 Sky Barsch, “Global Warming Discussions in Schools,” Burlington Free Press, March 18, 2007.
48 Stacey MacGlashan, “Teacher is Proud of New Activists,” Times-Picayune, August 1, 1998.
49 Deb Richmann, “Critics Say Pupils Urged to Become Eco-activists,” Ashland-Times Gazette, October 17, 1996.
50 Brian Sussman, “Green-Washing a Young Mind,” April 24, 2012, http://youtube
51 Michael Lafarra, “Soviet-Style Test Question Highlights Dangers of Government-Run Schools,” TOS Blog, May 26, 2012, https://toc.custom4web.com/blog/index
52 “Dad Goes to Jail for 4-Year-Old-Daughter’s Drawing,” RT, February 27, 2012, http://rt.com/usa/news/jail-sansone-gun-waterloo-333.
53 Todd Starnes, “School Surveys 7th-Graders on Oral Sex,” FoxNews.com, June 15, 2011, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/06/15/school-surveys-7th-graders-on-oral-sex.
54 Tom Kertscher, “The Survey Says What?” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 15, 2006.
55 Charlie Osborn, “Student Expelled for Refusing to Wear RFID Tracking Chip Badge,” ZDNet, November 21, 2012, http://www.zdnet.com/student-expelled-for-refusing-to-wear-rfid-tracking-chip-badge-7000007723.
56 “Ritalin & Cocaine: The Connection and the Controversy,” University of Utah, http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/issues/ritalin.html.
57 Kelly Hearn, “Some Parents Just Say ‘Whoa’ to School-Required Medications,” Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 2004, http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0614/p12s01-legn.html.
58 This was told to me personally by a physician in Ashland, Ohio.
59 Hearn, “Some Parents Just Say ‘Whoa’ to School-Required Medications.”
60 Karen Thomas, “Parents Pressured to Put Kids on Ritalin,” USA Today, August 8, 2000; Lawrence H. Diller, “Just Say Yes to Ritalin!,” Salon, September 25, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2000/09/25/medicate.
61 C. Bradley Thompson, “Symposium—Q: Is Phonics-Rich Instruction, as Pushed by the White House, Needed in U.S. Classrooms? Yes: The Fad of Whole-Language Teaching has Led to Widespread Illiteracy among U.S. Students,” Insight on the News, March 30–April 12, 2004, pp. 46–49.
62 “Medication—‘Prohibition on Mandatory Medication Amendment,’” Conduct Disorders, December 12, 2004, http://www.conductdisorders.com/forum/f16/medication-prohibition-mandatory-medication-amendment-472.
63 Stephanie Banchero, “Students Stumble Again on the Basics of History,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303714704576385370840592218.html.
64 “Do You Think Teens Know the Difference Between Madison and Marx?,” Bill of Rights Institute, December 15, 2012, http://billofrightsinstitute.org/blog/2010/12/15/do-you-think-teens-know-the-difference-between-madison-and-marx.
65 Bijal P. Trivedi, “Survey Reveals Geographic Illiteracy,” National Geographic News, November 20, 2002, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/11/1120_021120_GeoRoperSurvey.html.
66 Nick Anderson, “National Science Test Scores Disappoint,” Washington Post, January 25, 2011, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/25/AR2011012502534.html.
67 Dillon, “Sluggish Results Seen in Math Scores,” New York Times, October 14, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/15/education/15math.html.
68 John Hechinger, “U.S. Teens Lag as China Soars on International Test,” Bloomberg, December 7, 2010, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-07/teens-in-u-s-rank-25th-on-math-test-trail-in-science-reading.html.
69 “Sharpen Your Pencil, and Begin Now,” Wall Street Journal, June 9, 1992, p. A16.
70 “State Education Roundup,” Heartland Institute, September 1, 2001, http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2001/09/01/state-education-roundup.
71 Dan Lips, “A Nation Still at Risk: The Case for Federalism and School Choice,” Heritage Foundation, April 21, 2008, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/04/a-nation-still-at-risk-the-case-for-federalism-and-school-choice.
72 “12th Graders Still Have Low Reading Scores,” Associated Press, November 18, 2010, http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-7066981.html.
73 Terence P. Jeffrey, “Only 7% of Detroit Public-School 8th Graders Proficient in Reading,” CNSNews.com, December 11, 2012, http://cnsnews.com/news/article/only-7-detroit-public-school-8th-graders-proficient-reading; “District Profiles,” National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/districts/statecomparisontable.aspx?sbj=RED&gr=8&yr=2011&sample=R3&jur=XC&st=MN.
74 “National Assessment of Adult Literacy—Key Findings,” National Center for Education Statistics, 2003, http://nces.ed.gov/naal/kf_demographics.asp (emphasis removed).
75 Mark Morford, “American Kids, Dumber than Dirt,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 2007, http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/morford/article/American-kids-dumber-than-dirt-Warning-The-3237239.php.
76 “Fewer Teacher Candidates Pass Basic Skills Test,” Catalyst Chicago, December 4, 2010, http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2010/12/04/fewer-teacher-candidates-pass-basic-skills-test.
77 Richard Belcher, “Investigation Finds Hundreds of Georgia Teachers Failed Certification Test,” WSBTV.com, November 7, 2011, http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/investigation-finds-hundreds-georgia-teachers-fail/nFX2S.
78 Amanda Gardner, “Many Teens Drinking, Taking Drugs During School: Survey,” U.S. News & World Report, August 22, 2012, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/08/22/many-teens-drinking-taking-drugs-during-school-survey.
79 Charol Shakeshaft, “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature,” U.S. Department of Education, 2004, http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs
/misconductreview/report.pdf. See also “Sexual Misconduct Plagues U.S. Schools,” Associated Press, October 20, 2007, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21392345/ns/us
80 Caroline Hendrie, “Sexual Abuse by Educators Is Scrutinized,” Education Week, March 10, 2004, http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2004/03/10/26abuse.h23.html.
81 Colleen Curry, “Teacher Charged with Taking Bondage Pics of Students,” ABC News, January 31, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/US/teacher-arrested-bondage-photos-students
/story?id=15480041#.ULRDMeOe-aY; Colleen Curry, “Los Angeles School Closed in Teacher Sex Abuse Scandal,” ABC News, February 6, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/US
/los-angeles-school-closed-teacher-abuse-scandal/story?id=15525125#.UMVc86XtxzU; Colleen Curry, “Los Angeles Teacher Had 200 More Student Bondage Photos: Cops,” ABC News, February 8, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/US/los-angeles-school-fourth-teacher-accused-misconduct/story?id=15540602#.ULREC-Oe-aY.
82 “Teacher Charged With Molesting Student Nearly 100 Times,” WFTV.com, April 25, 2005, http://www.wftv.com/news/news/teacher-charged-with-molesting-student-nearly-100-/nD92w; http://www.5dca.org/Opinions/Opin2007/121707/5D07-813.op.pdf.
83Anthony Castellano, “Teacher Accused of Having Group Sex with Students on Video,” ABCNews.com, August 16, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/08
84 Sandra Chapman, “School District: Sixth Graders Had Sex in Class,” WTHR.com, March 16, 2007, http://www.wthr.com/Global/story.asp?S=6180780.
85 “Witnesses: Disabled Girl Punched in Face, Forced to Perform Sex Acts,” Associated Press, April 12, 2005, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20050413060933/http://www.local6.com/news/4372049/detail.html.
86 Kay S. Hymowitz, “What’s Wrong With the Kids?,” City Journal, Winter 2000, http://www.city-journal.org/html/10_1_whats_wrong.html.
87 Janet Jacobs and Jonathan Osborne, “Fourth-Graders Reprimanded for Lewd Act In Classroom,” Austin American-Statesman, March 26, 2002.
88 “Georgia Middle School Staff in Trouble Over Inflatable Mattress Sex,” Associated Press, December 10, 2008, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,465064,00.html.
89 Brian Camenker and Scott Whiteman, “The Fistgate Report,” Massachusetts News, May 2000, http://www.massnews.com/past_issues/2000/Schools/fistrep.htm.
90 “Planned Parenthood Distributes Kits for Fisting,” Massachusetts News, March 26, 2001, http://www.massnews.com/past_issues/2000/4_April/apfist~1.htm#1; Matt Gertz, “Nothing Hoft Says About GLSEN Is Ever True,” Media Matters, May 14, 2010, http://mediamatters.org/blog/2010/05/14/nothing-hoft-says-about-glsen-is-ever-true/164765.
91 Richard Esposito, “U.S. School Shooting Death Toll: 323,” ABC News, September 19, 2007, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2007/09/us-school-shoot.
92 Peter Brimelow, The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions are Destroying American Education (New York: Harper.Collins, 2003), p. 28.
93 “U.S. Tops the World in School Spending But Not Test Scores,” Associated Press, September 16, 2003, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2003-09-16-education-comparison_x.htm.
94 “Fast Facts,” National Center for Education Statistics, 2012, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts
/display.asp?id=372; “D.C. Leads Nation as U.S. Per Pupil Tops $10,600, Census Bureau Reports,” U.S. Census Bureau, June 21, 2012, http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases
95 William G. Ouchi and Lydia G. Segal, Making Schools Work: A Revolutionary Plan to Get Your Children the Education They Need (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003), p. 10.