The notion that local governments should have almost total monopoly control over our children’s education is not only unjust and tyrannical, it is also absurd. Children need education, to be sure, but they also need food, clothing, and shelter. The same poor or irresponsible parents who public-school apologists claim will not educate their children without compulsion, might not feed, clothe, or shelter them either.
Yet, we do not see local governments owning and operating supermarkets, department stores, or apartment houses. Instead, government food stamp or rent subsidy programs give temporary financial help to those parents who are too poor to provide for their children.
When it comes to education, however, instead of giving vouchers or other temporary loans or subsidies to poor families so they can pay for their children’s education, we’ve created a government-owned-and-operated monstrosity called public schools. As we noted earlier, millions of parents now pay for private pre-schools, kindergartens, and colleges for their children in a vibrant, competitive, education free-market.
Most parents who can’t afford college tuition for their kids usually apply for student loans either from a bank or a government agency. Yet for 1st through 12th-grade education, suddenly government must step in, treat all parents like idiots or potential child abusers, and own and operate all the schools.
To more fully understand the absurdity of this system, imagine for a moment that well-intentioned government authorities want to make sure that every child has enough to eat, that no child gets “left behind” when it comes to food. To insure this goal, local governments across the country take control of all supermarkets and grocery stores in your town.
Under this new system, bureaucrats now own and operate all food stores, and store workers become tenured civil-service employees who can’t be fired. Your local government then passes a new “food tax” to pay for these stores and employees’ salaries. This tax is added to your current real-estate tax bill. If you don’t pay this new tax, local government officials can and will foreclose on your home.
Also under this system, suppose the local Food Board forces you and your family to buy from a particular store. The store clerks know you have to shop in their store, and that they can’t be fired. As a result, they soon become indifferent to their customer’s needs. The store managers can’t be fired, so they manage the stores badly. The stores can’t go out of business because they are supported by taxes, so they give you poor service and rotten food. If you want to change stores, you have to ask permission from your local Food Board bureaucrat, who will usually refuse your request. Also, changing food stores doesn’t accomplish much because they are all the same—all owned and operated by the same government food monopoly.
If this system sounds absurd to you, if you would scream bloody murder at having to put up with such a system simply to buy food, why do you put up with such a system when it comes to your children’s’ education?
Also, as we noted earlier, those we elect to office are our agents, not our masters. They derive their powers from our consent. They are supposed to represent our interests and follow our instructions. Politicians, bureaucrats, and school authorities therefore have as much right to dictate how we educate our children as a real estate agent has to dictate who we sell our house to and at what price.
The following passage from Isabel Paterson’s book, The God of the Machine, sums up the proper response to local governments and school authorities who think they have the right to dictate how you educate your child:
“The most vindictive resentment may be expected from the pedagogic profession for any suggestion that they should be dislodged from their dictatorial position; it will be expressed mainly in epithets, such as reactionary, at the mildest."
Nevertheless, the question to put to any teacher moved to such indignation, is: Do you think nobody would willingly entrust his children to you or pay you for teaching them? Why do you have to extort your fees and collect your pupils by compulsion?