Monday, May 23, 2011

Just What Is Education, Anyway?

Albert J. Nock (1870-1945) is a household name among libertarians. He was an educational theorist and social critic. First he was a minor league baseball player, then an Episcopal priest, and then a journalist. He denounced all forms of totalitarianism. His most famous work was Our Enemy, the State. He also wrote his autobiography, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man.

In The Theory of Education in the United States (1), he starts by asking the question, what is education? I have my own idea of what education does. It teaches the individual how to think for himself or herself, question just about everything, and go about finding out things independently connecting the dots.

That is what it does. But, what is it? I would say that education is that which teaches an individual how to think, and that would vary from one person to another.

Nock does not answer the question right away. In fact, I am not sure he gives a direct answer at all precisely because of individual differences. Rather, he turns to the recent (recent, that is, when he wrote the book in 1932) history of education in the U.S. He claims that a major decline began around the turn of the century, when government started to try this or that to engineer schools. One thing that was done was to build great big schools (big by 1932 standards) where there would be an assembly-line approach in stark contrast to the one-room schools of the nineteenth century. Apparently some real education took place in those one-room micro-schools. 

Today we are taught about how strict they were and how teachers, or "masters," would flog students. Well, maybe there was some truth in that. I seriously doubt the abuse was anywhere near as bad as we are led to believe, just as I doubt today's schools are as lax as some would have us believe. In fact, schools today are apparently extremely strict. There are school police, real police with guns, and students have been expelled who even draw a picture of a gun or wear a small crucifix around their necks. There have even been a couple of cases where five- and six-year-olds have been taken from school in handcuffs by police. It has happened, but you probably don't know about it unless you read about it on libertarian Internet pages. There have also been censorship cases in which the valedictory speeches have been cut off because the speaker saw fit to share faith in Jesus Christ (2).

By the way, if you are speaking at your public school graduation, it might be good to leave the part about your faith until the very end. Then when they pull the plug on you, your speech will be over anyway.

Nock wrote a few pages about the decline of education after the turn of the century. I got out my copy of A People's History of the United States (3) by left-wing historian Howard Zinn.

I used Zinn in a history class back in the 1990s. The professor was really left-wing, but at least attempted to be fair. Whenever we had an assignment out of Zinn, we were to write a short piece on that subject from another point of view. I already had a pretty good Rothbard collection and turned to that as a contrast to Zinn. However, I was surprised at how many things on which Rothbard agreed with Zinn!

As far as education goes, and I believe Dr. Rothbard would agree, Howard Zinn realized that the big industrialists were already teaming up with the government almost from the start. John Taylor Gatto wrote extensively on this in Underground. Remember the essay I wrote about Abraham Lincoln, and Henry Clay's "American System," and how they wanted to return to the old mercantilist system that the Founders fought and died to defeat. Zinn and the leftists call that system "capitalism." Of course, as we have seen in my previous essays, ad nauseum in fact, that with the mercantilist system where big business and big government (and big unions too) team up to the detriment to the rest of us, the result is far from capitalism; it is more like fascism and that is different from socialism on paper only.

The big industrialists were anxious to get employees (and customers too) who were willing to obey and look up to "experts" for guidance. This meant that people needed to be trained for conformity and obedience from an early age. This spurred on mass schooling (4). The Zinn book is very good and really difficult to put down. However, it is essential to have a very good handle on libertarian theory in order to avoid the leftist booby traps. It is so easy to get sucked in!

So the decline of education Albert J. Nock is describing actually began long before 1900 but that is probably when the decline became really steep. Again, John Taylor Gatto wrote extensively in Underground

Nock says (5) the educational system has been treated as a machine. The main problem with that is, it is actually people, and people are not cogs in any machine, no matter how hard the establishment tries. Parents were to move forward in these attempts to improve schools because of the universal desire for one's children to have a better life. This was based on emotion rather than reason, of course. And Mr. Nock refers to Thomas Jefferson's ideas of education. A literate citizenry will assure honest government (6). I am not so sure that "honest government" isn't a contradiction in terms, but I do agree that people who can read are far more likely to be able to think. Of course the quality of the reading material does matter (7). The reading of Harlequin romances is not conducive to profound thought. In my opinion, the reading of Murray Rothbard is, but it does matter.

Mr. Nock mentions, in passing, Thomas Jefferson's opinions on education. Jefferson made an error, I think, in advocating government-run education, but his error was not as grave as I previously thought. What Jefferson wanted was an equal chance for everyone to become educated (8). Nock does not say whether this was to apply to girls as well as to boys. Every child in the state was to be taught the three R's, after which the best and brightest would go on with their education from there. In other words, every child would have a chance, but it was acknowledged that by no means were all people educable. That should surprise no one. But all could try. So many, possibly the vast majority of people have a strong propensity to make it easy on themselves rather than get off their behinds and actively change their situation. Nock apparently believed that too (9).

I am still waiting for Nock's definition of education, but he does differentiate education from training (10). Thirty-odd years before the book was written, i.e. around 1900, training and education began to be thought of as the same thing, and that is when the trouble started in earnest. Higher math, logic, the arts, Latin and Greek literature, and other former staples of education went to the back burner. These studies were staple, I think, because they gave students the raw materials to come up with their own ideas. But, how-to training (as important as this might be) does not do that.

They were finding that most people were not up to these classical studies, so with universal schooling becoming a sacred cow, they had to be back-burnered in favor of training (11).

Right around that time there were some extremely important scientific advancements. The internal combustion engine, electricity, indoor plumbing and telephones were but a few and these made life a lot easier and more prosperous for the vast majority. There is no rational way to condemn this sort of thing. It spurred on universal interest in science. Elementary science is something most people can grasp, so watered-down science began to be taught in the schools. What took over schooling was actually vocational training.

Of course the number of students in the universities rose as the curriculum became vocational. Everything was big. Big was good. Herbert Hoover, in one of his campaign speeches, bragged that the United States had ten times the number of students as any other country (12). Dr. Murray Rothbard describes Hoover's sorry legacy in America's Great Depression, which I reviewed here a couple of winters ago. The American people were easily sucked into Hoover's and Roosevelt's regimes just as they are now being sucked into the Bush/Obama regime.

Not only were more people going to the university, but the university was different. In the old-style, traditional university, students had to be self-starters, learning independently. The faculty would help them, but not lead them by the nose as is done today (13). Today, the professors are training students rather than helping students educate themselves. Nock lists some of the courses that would lead to a degree at Columbia at the time he wrote (you are not going to believe this): Book Reviewing, Gymnastics, Newspaper Writing and Layout, and Home Laundering (14).

Home Laundering? (I could teach that!) Do these teach people to think critically?

In fact, Mr. Nock visited a college class taught by a friend called "English Composition" and opined that the work being done in that class was really around eighth-grade level (15).

Nock wrote his book in 1932! No wonder the "greatest generation" had no idea how to think! What is it like today? Today's generation is really no better. There was a ray of hope during the Vietnam era when thinking people took to the streets in protest and the Libertarian Party was born in response to freedom-enemy President Nixon's alarming policies. But, alas, that generation too failed, possibly due in some cases to drug-caused brain damage or in other cases to simple burnout.

The watering down of education is, I believe, a primary cause of failure to question, and government control of education is the primary cause of the watering down.

When Mr. Nock asked a college president why they had to keep students whose education was still at the grade-school level, the president told him that if they did not, there would be nobody left and the institution would have to close (16). Would that be so bad? Dr. Rothbard would say no. The resources could be put to better use by consumers elsewhere.

You can't turn bad theory into good practice, says Nock, especially when it applies to a growing bureaucratic machine where unique individuals tend to fall through the cracks (17).

Actually, Nock says, the university system as it is (meaning was, but I think still is), is doing a fine job at what it does. That job is to train students. They come out fine bricklayers and chefs (18). Most people are not educable – let's face it – but they can be trained. So, maybe the schools should be for that purpose.

But then colleges and universities would have to be called something else (19). "College" and "university" imply education, not training. Such institutions could be called "institutions" with honor. And "liberal arts" (bachelor's) degrees should not be given out for a major in wrestling (20).

So, the vast number of ineducable people do the heavy lifting of the world. What would we do without them? What if nobody were willing to clean the office buildings and empty the Dumpsters? What if there were nobody to do the assembly-line and secretarial work? This is why God made so many of them; there is always a lot of work to do that requires no independent thought, but rather requires the following of cook-book directions.

But what of the many millions who are educable? Mr. Nock points out that, the way the system is, they go to waste (21). Well, not all of them. Look at Mr. Nock's own work, not to mention Murray Rothbard's. But for the most part, people who think for themselves do not endear themselves to the system. That is an understatement. In the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Red China, and certainly other places, thinking people have been rounded up and placed in camps.

There are those who believe the U.S. government has the same in store for the independent thinkers here. I personally do not claim to know, but I do believe that if these thinkers are as sharp as we believe they are, they all have a plan in place to put into effect at the first sign of such a move on the part of any government.

But, do the educable have any function at all given the current system?

Nock seems to think so, but then he puts his finger close to the real issue of what education is. He puts his finger on what an educable person is: One who is capable of right, mature, and clear thought (22). Of course this means independent thought. I have a hunch we are closing in on what Nock believed education is

The results of wrong thinking incur a "fine" from nature, and sometimes it takes a while for that to happen, so cause and effect are likely to be missed by all who are not educated. Look at how the terrible fiscal and monetary policies, not to mention the paternalistic nanny-state, have destroyed our country. The income tax and the Federal Reserve came into being nearly a century ago, the outlawing of marijuana came in the 1930s, and gun control started to really proliferate with "Saturday Night Specials" around 1968. Now, in 2011, we are seeing catastrophic results. A few people are actually dying and a majority are suffering economically. Only the most astute and independent thinkers would have seen this coming so many decades ago. But, hindsight being 20-20, we now see that it was inevitable.

Our problems today are the "fine" nature has imposed on our wrong thinking a century ago, in fact one could say all the way back to Henry Clay.

The Bible says the sins of the fathers will be visited on the sons. This is what is being referred to, I believe.

If a society does not make a place for the educable, those who can think, then this is bound to happen. Right thinking is essential for individuals to flourish, and individuals must flourish if society is to flourish. After all, society does not really even exist but for the individuals in it.

Nock winds up by saying that the truth will prevail in the long run. It has to. Falsehoods bring great nations to their knees, as we are finding out.

It was pointed out in the West book that the reason there is no improvement in education (training) is that people will not think outside the box. It has always been this way and change is just too difficult. Questioning the status quo is frowned upon, maybe from sheer laziness or maybe because most people (the ineducable) are obsessed with being "safe."

So how did the public schools get started? In England, according to West (23), it was believed in the nineteenth century that education would reduce crime. However, counterintuitively, this does not seem to be the case (24). It seems to me that to teach someone how to think independently would raise the person's propensity to work, and lower it to steal.

Of course, what passes for "education" at the hands of government is not that at all, as I have pointed out many times, so maybe this is why the correlation between "education" and law-abidingness may not exist. Not only that, the proliferation of laws and regulations, especially those affecting young adults under 18, make it even more difficult to avoid running afoul of the law.

One more interesting note: In the 1940s and 1950s, crime statistics among young men showed that when men aged out of compulsory "education" and went to work, their crime rate dropped. This implies the opposite of what most people believe: Maybe forcing young people to stay in school increases their propensity to commit crime! (25). I always thought voluntary work (paid or volunteer) was the best way for one to straighten oneself out.

But, the thing is, since when did government want people to think? It never has. Actually, the British government was overtly worried in 1803 about people being literate enough to correspond or to understand Thomas Paine (26). In fact, taxes on paper and other obstacles were placed, but most people learned to read on their own anyway! Literacy is in the people's rational self-interest, so we do not need government to pretend that government programs are necessary for literacy. People read despite government, and are therefore better able to think and question authority.

There is no reason to think anything has changed since 1803 as far as authoritarians' desire to rule is concerned. Nobody can tell me that whistleblower Julian Assange, the hero who exposed a great deal of government corruption and hanky-panky, is being persecuted for any other reason than because he is upsetting the authoritarian applecart. You'll notice that thinking people, not just libertarians, but leftists and even some neo-conservatives, are rallying behind the hero, while the establishment is livid enough to be calling for an end to him and Bradley Manning, who is accused of helping him, (27) by any means, even the death penalty! We need to rally behind both of these hero journalists.

Thinking people and the government are natural enemies. So, why would government ever educate? The best you can say for government schools is that they train people to do the heavy work of the economy.

But government schools also claim to give everyone equality of opportunity. One does not pay tuition, at least not directly, in grade and high schools, so theoretically all have a chance. But, we all know that public schools around town, around the country, and around the world offer different qualities of training. Realistically, there is no equality of opportunity. A baby born in Ethiopia will not have the same opportunity as a baby born in Beverly Hills. It does not need to be due to any prejudice, such as race or gender prejudice. It might not even be the economic system or the per capita income. It is simply that they were born in places where the opportunities are different possibly because of different climates. It is nobody's fault. It just is.

Then, of course, people use their opportunities differently. Some will be more productive because they want to make more and others value leisure enough to cut back on work and accept lower pay. Is it fair that they have different purchasing powers? Of course it is! (28). The one has more purchasing power while the other has more leisure.

But what the "equality of opportunity" crowd is really after is equality of outcome. We all wind up with the same wealth. This is not only crazy but impossible, unenforceable, and even the far left has abandoned these notions, as evidenced by the Soviet "Glasnost," as impossible. I am inclined to think that envy is at the root of the quest for such "equality." Many people do not like to see anyone better off than they are. Rather than praise someone for their ability to honestly acquire money, people want to take "surplus" money and goods away. Michael Moore made a world-class donkey out of himself in Wisconsin around March 8, 2011, when he said governments are "not broke," because the rich are hoarding money. Presumably government should just take it, as he seems to think it "really belongs" to the government.

In any case, how are we ever to achieve equality of opportunity or outcome when people are unique and ever-changing?

As far as the schools go, West points out (29) that if higher-income parents are not allowed to spend extra money on a better education, then they would be inclined to outdo competing parents by pleasing school authorities. There is nothing equal about opportunity if the authority is your competitor's crony. Equality of opportunity is really better served by a free, competitive market (30).

West's chapter on equality of educational opportunity ends by pointing out that it was well known that "the number of poor men that rose to distinction" was greater in an era that government involvement in education was small to non-existent (31).

The reason education was so successful under these circumstances was certainly the wide variety offered by the marketplace. There is not just one kind of child. If schools are all pretty much alike as government schools are, then many children are going to have a problem because the school and methods of teaching are contrary to how God hard-wired each child. In a competitive free market, schools will vary. Also home-schooling is permitted. This way, parents have more to choose from.

Similarly, as West points out (32), there is a problem in government schools as to what, if any, values are to be taught. His example is the question of religious values. Should the Bible be read? What religion should be taught, if any? We have had the same problems in our public schools. Should we allow prayer? Christmas carols and nativity scenes? Sex education? Military recruiters on high school campuses?

I have my own opinions about such issues, but ultimately, in order to solve these problems, we need to get government out of education. Some private schools might have sex education, allow recruiters, or teach from the Bible, and others might not. Parents would make the choices. These issues would become moot if people could choose. Tax money now spent on public schools could stay in parents' pockets.

Some pro-government people would allow local school boards to determine what is taught according to "community standards." If I were a parent, that would never wash, as I think most "communities" cherish low, communitarian standards, such as strict subservience on the part of individuals to local ordinances no matter how stupid they are. Examples of rules imposed by some cities and communities would be anti-property zoning laws including lawn decoration laws, house color laws, wall and fence height laws, also mandatory business licensure, blue laws, curfews, zero-tolerance school rules, clothing codes, leash laws, and other such tripe which goes on and on. Also, the "religious right" has elected school board members who are interested in teaching Creationism as fact (which I believe is as much hypothesis as the Darwin "theory"). They may also want to liberalize rules that censor prayer and Christian speech, but, I wonder, how well would they defend Muslim speech? Even rule on the local level is still rule, and schooling is one-size-fits-all.

So, why wouldn't the brightest students just quit? If school is such a waste of time, why not go to work instead?

Of course, "child" labor laws stifle any real ambition in youth and they foster dependence. Such laws might go a long way toward preventing parents from enslaving their offspring, but when they affect young adults up to age 18 they are ridiculous.  So, if one cannot work at all or if one's parents can steal one's wages, one is behooved to continue in school.

Also, high school graduates can command better salaries than non-graduates, and college graduates can command still more. Do these degrees mean a person will be a better worker? Maybe, as anyone who is stick-to-it-ive enough to earn a college diploma is also disciplined enough to hold a job. In fact, my first job seemed to be a vacation compared to both high school and college. At least I did not have to do homework from suppertime until bedtime nightly.

But, did the courses in my major prepare me for the job? Only one of them really did. The rest was on-the-job training, and every new employee was a college graduate with that major and needed the same on-the-job training.

Nobody who had not earned a college degree was even considered. Why? I really don't know. Licensure laws and union rules go a long way towards raising the bar to keep people out of a profession, thus raising salaries for those already there (33), but there is still something "mystical" about a college degree. It matters not whether one can think outside the box or not.

I went to a good private liberal arts college where students were encouraged (nay! required!)  to think for themselves. The first thing I had to do upon setting foot on campus was to write a short subjective essay. The last thing I had to do before receiving my degree was to write a "philosophy of life" thesis. (When I pull these out I see the work of a budding libertarian! I didn't even know the word "libertarian" yet!) In between, I had to take courses out of every department, with class participation, and complete a major.

But, how many colleges and universities give you credits for what the establishment would call "mouthing off?" Not many. Home laundering and wrestling, perhaps. But my state university graduate co-workers, once on-the-job trained, could do everything I could do, except "mouthing off," which was my own private domain. I worked in a hospital laboratory. My boss, who was very tolerant as long as the work was done very well and on time, said, "This is the only lab with a philosophy department." I cannot really consider non-thinkers as "educated" no matter how many degrees they have. But they had training, as per Albert J. Nock, and the almighty diploma.

So, for whatever reason, a college degree pays for itself. But, how do we know that is the best investment? Investment in stocks or gold might or might not pay more (34).

Nowadays, one must also consider that many students graduate with thousands of dollars of debt, and jobs are hard to come by at this time in early 2011. Many graduates owe thousands and are unable to find any work at all. But, the statistics out now, January 7, 2011, that I saw on CNN, show the unemployment rate for college graduates is only about 5 percent while for high school graduates it is about 10 percent.

Another factor at work is the instability of the dollar (35). We learned from Dr. Rothbard that we cannot count on a stable dollar. People do count on it, but that is hopelessly naive. It is the best and brightest that realize that this can have an adverse effect on the desirability of a degree.

The West book is a bit tough on a certain dyslexic with a very short attention span, so I will set that aside at least for now and turn to John Taylor Gatto, who probably knows more about what is wrong with schooling than anyone else. In the prologue to Weapons of Mass Instruction (36), it becomes apparent that Mr. Gatto is on the same page with Albert J. Nock. Mr. Gatto was awakened to the establishment's purposes for mandatory schooling when he read a book by long-time Harvard President James Bryant Conant called The Child, the Parent and the State in which he mentioned the "revolution" in education in the early twentieth century that Albert J. Nock mentioned. This was, of course, the Neanderthal "progressive" era. Conant refers to a 1918 book by Alexander Inglis called Principles of Secondary Education where the real purposes of compulsory schooling (preferably in huge public schools) are spelled out (37).

Very briefly, they are habitual obedience, role orientation (as opposed to goal orientation), favoritism (Goody Two-shoes types get preferential treatment while nerds like me get crumbs. I remember!). So much for teaching students to think!  The idea then, as now, was to make cheerfully obedient citizens who would ante up any taxes demanded and would parrot blathering nonsense such as "It's for our safety," or the war is being fought "to keep us free."

As time went on, the corporate establishment, as exemplified by Carnegie and Rockefeller (and I believe the name John Dewey will come up), along with government ,got more involved with education. Also, such "science" as behaviorism and Darwinism became involved, to study how individuals think and behave, not as a way to help individuals learn critical thinking, but as a way to control their thoughts (38). There were many publications in the mid-twentieth century pushing these ideas, and the results were the likes of "school to work," "outcome-based education," and other high-sounding ideas that were a disaster to true education.

One U.S. Office of Education publication (where in the Constitution is this Office authorized?) "redefined 'education' after the Prussian fashion as 'a means to achieve important economic and social goals of a national character.' " That says it all. This has nothing at all to do with true education. It has everything to do with social engineering.

And it's working, much to the detriment of our once-free country.A docile populace is lapping up government propaganda, including the idea that whistle-blower hero Julian Assange should be hanged, while actually people should be seriously questioning how government is getting away with doing such harm to us all.

Even more scary, all of this hearkened forward to the use of such drugs as Ritalin on millions of youths, and the drumming out of non-establishment political candidates (40).

This is all quite deliberate. In 1885, the Senate Committee on Education issued a statement that education was causing discontent, and the ability to think on the part of workers was interfering with plans to manage (41).

And the ability to think in the general population is obviously a threat to the entrenched establishment. As long as officials are chosen in general elections, and bureaucrats are appointed by these officials, the common people have the last word. Therefore it is essential to make sure voters choose the "right" officials. Voters must be made to see only the two establishment political parties as viable options, and must be made to ignore not just the many other parties, such as the Libertarian and Constitution Parties, but also certain non-establishment candidates within the establishment parties, the most important being the exceedingly popular Republican Ron Paul, whom I vigorously support. I am a charter and lifetime member of the Libertarian Party, but I will do whatever is necessary to support him, up to and including to re-register Republican temporarily and then fumigate before returning Libertarian.

John Taylor Gatto spells out exactly how it happened that the electorate is so naive. And, in his second chapter, he gives numerous examples of "unschooled" people who have made their mark. Examples ranged from Thomas Edison to Warren Buffet to Mark Twain (whose work the establishment is trying to change to make "politically correct"). Other examples are poor students or non-students who have misused their ability to think to destroy our country. They include George W. Bush and Franklin D. Roosevelt. On the good side, Gatto points out St. Paul, whose letters to early congregations underscore individualism, decentralization, and the use of the mind. With early Christians, the main thing was a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and not rules, rituals, and hierarchy (42).

The schools ought to take a page out of St. Paul's book, meaning the inspired Bible, inspired by God who designed and created human beings and therefore knows how human beings work. But government schools behave more like government bureaucracies, which they are, and this is why they don't educate.

Schooling by government at the local level is bad enough even with parental input. But, when George H.W. Bush was elected President in 1988, his campaign promise was to be "the education President." He also promised to reduce federal government spending, regulation, and taxes. While he certainly failed to deliver on these latter promises, he did keep the former one with a vengeance (43). I remember hearing that the Soviet premier had said that every child in a given grade in the USSR would be on the same textbook page on the same day. How crazy, I thought, when you have a huge country with many languages and cultures. It is getting that way here now, with national standards, while even the best teachers are being forced to teach for national testing.

John Taylor Gatto could not stand it. He devised a way to challenge students to get out into the real world and discover ... and think! He sent them off, preferably alone which fostered self-reliance, to all kinds of places to accept challenges head-on. This is what is normally done by graduate students! The hardest part was grappling with bureaucrats. Not only did it work, but it worked fabulously. He and the students earned all sorts of awards. The establishment had no clue how! It was because the jackboot of the system was off students' necks, and students were learning to be participants rather than spectators, and seekers of their own goals (44).

And some of these students, I am sure, became a pain in the neck for the establishment because they acquired the ability to see through establishment propaganda (45). I hope I measure up to this myself.

Truly educated people who think, and principled people who put principles first are monkey-wrenches in the system. In Communist Russia they were called "wreckers." Here, I hear the word "uncooperative" a lot. The System, based on "science" (yeah, right) cannot withstand such people, and the powerful want their almighty System to run like a well-oiled machine. This is what public schooling trains people for. If you zig when everybody else zags you are trouble (46).

Most people, after 12 or more years in mind-numbing school where conformity and obedience are by far the easiest way to survive, simply give up on fighting the System. No wonder there is so much addictive behavior (47).

Mr. Gatto continues on with a talk he gave in 1991 in testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Relations. They were speculating on how school would look in ten years. Senator Ted Kennedy was the chair. What Mr. Gatto said must have ruffled some establishment feathers. School had not changed for more than 100 years and probably would not in the next ten. The status quo is built into the system because, like all government entities, there is too much at stake for job-holders in schools, who are actually union bureaucrats, politicians, campaign donors, and others who benefit from the status quo.

As someone who has numerous issues with unions (closed shops, meaning required membership for those in certain lines of work for one thing, and the attendant exclusion of many from fields of their choice for another), my first thought is that teachers' unions are instrumental in resisting change in government schools. Steven Greenhut (48) acknowledges that public employee unions are getting the royal treatment. I agree; I have said any number of times that government people are treated as if they are better than the rest of us. They certainly are coddled (49). Not to mention they are a huge voting bloc, so public officials are inclined to pander to them.

While lucrative government salaries and benefits surpass private ones on similar jobs, government people can also get away with murder, sometimes literally, as they are often not prosecuted for lawbreaking. The propaganda would have you believe that some government employees, particularly police and firefighters (teachers too, perhaps) are "selflessly putting their lives on the line to protect and serve us all." Undoubtedly some are. However, this is always trotted out to justify the high salaries and benefits, and to justify elected officials' backing of these employees.

No wonder government employees are change-resistant. No wonder government is big and getting bigger.

In Greenhut's chapter, "The Education Racket," he says he lives in a terrific school district where there are many Asian immigrants. These ethnicities are very anxious for their children to get the very best education. Test scores are very high. Maybe this is why Asians seem to be smarter than other races, or maybe they really are smarter and therefore more interested in education.

But when Greenhut questions unionization or the public school monopoly, even these people think he is nuts (50). These ideas are out-of-the-box thinking and they are too politically incorrect to even consider. The parents and teachers had themselves been public school students and had lost their critical thinking abilities.

The thing is, people will not consider real change in public schooling for the same reason they will not consider real change in other areas of government. The decision-makers are in lucrative positions, thanks to union, tenure, salaries, benefits, and pensions. This does not even mention political action! We cannot expect any change. Mr. Gatto is right about that (51). And, these public "servants" have turned into masters. We all know that. I needn't  hash through that again. Just look at Wisconsin in March of 2011.

The fact that young lives, particularly in inner city schools, are ruined does not seem to matter (52). This is typical. Government does not care about individuals, particularly if these individuals have no money and have no vote. Public school students do not pay union dues either, so why should unions give them the time of day? (53). The important thing to the powers-that-be is to keep kids in their schools, not only to keep kids from learning how to think, but to keep the cash flow positive. Money flows into districts based on average daily attendance, ADA (54).

So, if anyone says that students count, what they are referring to is the head count. In my state right now (late January, 2011) a new Republican, fiscally sort-of conservative, governor has just been sworn in. One of the first things he is doing is to cut the budgets of state higher education. Students, faculty, and administrators are livid, of course. Heads will roll and employees will be thrown out of work. Students will have to drop out for lack of funds. But, at the same time they are talking about a new domed arena on the campus. Why? They already have a very nice arena over there. And in town we have a big football stadium and a very nice minor league baseball stadium that possibly could be upgraded to major league if needed. I oppose bringing in major league as we are in a deepening recession and more tax-funded projects would not help, and private concerns need to be pinching pennies now, too.

Having said that, why can the state afford a new arena when it cannot afford to keep tuition rates down and can no longer afford to provide what it has been providing to students?

Nobody questions this on the mainstream news, and most people know so little about economics that they believe the state should not slash education budgets, for the federal government can always step in and pick up the tab. If they don't say that, they will probably say the new arena will come out of a "different budget," will "provide jobs," and will "attract tourism."

In any case, no matter how it plays out, bureaucrats and the well-connected will make out like bandits on the backs of students and taxpayers, and the arena will become a white elephant, sitting empty most of the time. I have seen this so many times.

Gatto winds down the book (55) by comparing "schooling" with "education." He is on my page ... actually I am on his since he had this all figured out before I did. Education fosters independent thought and independence on the part of the individual. Schooling renders one, well ... brain-dead. Let's face it. People believe that the accumulation of "things" is the be-all end-all, and how you do that is to conform, obey, work hard at a non-thinking job, and stay out of trouble.

There is nothing wrong with living well. But there is a lot wrong with conformity and obedience; what is the point of living well if you are sleepwalking through life?

While I was in a health-related career, there was nothing that made me feel better than to have a doctor tell me that my work had helped him or her save a patient's life. This has to be the best feeling one can have.

But a very close second is the euphoric feeling I get when I say "No!" to someone in "authority." Not only is it because of the sheer act of will, but their facial expression is always priceless! It shows how obedient people are, since "authorities" are not used to being said "no" to, so their eyes widen and their jaws drop.

Only educated people can experience this and I would not trade it for any amount of gold.

So, to go back to the original question: What are we going to do about this? To separate school from state is what is needed but it won't be that simple. Mr. Gatto ends Weapons of Mass Instruction with what he calls "The Bartleby Project." In a nutshell, when students are told to take a standardized test, they can refuse, come what may (56).

(1) Albert J. Nock, The Theory of Education in the United States, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, 2007 (First Edition 1932).

(2) John W. Whitehead, "Raising Up an Orwellian Generation." October 11, 2010.

(3) Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States, HarperPerennial, New York, 1990.

(4) Ibid. P. 256-258. If one reads this in context, at least beginning on P. 256, one can see the marked leftward slant.

(5) Nock P. 21-24.

(6) Ibid. P. 27.

(7) Ibid. P. 42, 43.

(8) Ibid. P. 32, 33.

(9) Ibid. P. 58.

(10) Ibid. P. 59.

(11) Ibid. P. 62.

(12) Ibid. P. 70.

(13) Ibid. P. 72-75.

(14) Ibid. P. 77.

(15) Ibid. P. 89.

(16) Ibid. P. 90.

(17) Ibid. P. 92, 93.

(18) Ibid. P. 113.

(19) Ibid. P. 116.

(20) Ibid. P. 119.

(21) Ibid. P. 122.

(22) Ibid. P. 124.

(23) West, P. 35.

(24) Ibid. P. 37-39.

(25) Ibid. P. 40, 41.

(26) Ibid. P. 48.

(27) Karen Kwiatkowski, "Brad Manning Has Rights!" December 20, 2010. Manning has not been convicted but is suffering unconstitutional treatment at Guantanamo Bay for scaring the establishment. (Actually he is being held in an onshore facility, but he might as well be at Guantanamo.)

(28) West, P. 61.

(29) Ibid. P. 71, 72.

(30) Ibid. P. 76.

(31) Ibid. P. 82. West quotes Dicey, Law and Public Opinion in England.

(32) Ibid. P. 84 on, Chapter 6.

(33) Ibid. P. 115-116.

(34) Ibid. P. 118.

(35) Ibid. P. 120.

(36) John Taylor Gatto, Weapons of Mass Instruction, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island (B.C., Canada), 2009.

(37) I could not find the book in the public or university libraries. Maybe someone does not want it read.

(38) Gatto, P. 3, 4.

(39) Ibid. P. 5.

(40) Ibid. P. 6.

(41) Ibid. P. 15.

(42) Ibid. P. 54, 55.

(43) James J. Drummey, The Establishment's Man, Western Islands Publishing, Appleton, Wisc., 1992, P. 59, 60.

(44) Gatto, P. 96, 97.

(45) Ibid. P. 107.

(46) Ibid. P. 126, 127.

(47) Ibid. P. 127.

(48) Steven Greenhut, Plunder! How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling our Lives, and Bankrupting the Nation, Forum Press, Santa Ana, Calif., 2009.

(49) Ibid. P. 1-3.

(50) Ibid. P. 164.

(51) Ibid. P. 166.

(52) Ibid. P. 170.

(53) Ibid. P. 173.

(54) Ibid. P. 180.

(55) Gatto, P. 177, 178.

(56) Ibid. P. 202-206. The project is self-sustaining. Please see

Please continue on to the Epilogue and Further readings, which might show up on your computer as "Older Posts." Thank you.

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