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Socialist Education Battle in Texas

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A battle in Texas provides a good example of the socialist central planning that takes place in public (that is, government) schools. All sorts of people are lobbying feverishly before a 15-member state board to try to get their favorite historical, political, and economic perspectives included in the social studies textbooks, which will be used in Texas public schools for the next 10 years. According to an article on FoxNews.com, the issue is of importance to all Americans because “90 percent of American textbooks are based on Texas’ curriculum.”

We often think of socialism as government ownership of the means of production. It is that, of course, but it’s more than that. Socialism also involves the concept of central planning, where a government official or a board of government officials plan, in a top-down fashion, the peaceful activities of multitudes of people.

Imagine: Here you have 15 government officials deciding what doctrines and philosophies are going to be fed into the minds of thousands of children. Since it is a virtual certainty that those 15 people are statists, rather than libertarians, it is also a virtual certainty that the social studies textbook will be filled with statist ideas and philosophies rather than libertarian ones.

What caused the Great Depression? Students will learn that it was caused by free enterprise, not the Federal Reserve System.

The 9/11 attacks? Students will be taught that it was because the terrorists hated America for its freedom and values, not because of the bad things the U.S. government has done to people in the Middle East.

World War II? Students will be taught that it was a triumph for freedom because Eastern Europe was delivered into the clutches of America’s WW II ally and partner, the Soviet Union, instead of Nazi Germany.

The Vietnam War? Students will be taught that 58,000 American soldiers died for freedom rather than for nothing.

U.S. foreign policy? Students will be taught that to dismantle America’s military empire would constitute isolationism rather than anti-imperialism and non-interventionism.

The economy? Students will be taught that America’s welfare-state is freedom because the government takes care of people.

And on and on.

What is the alternative to central planning? A free market. In a free market, everything is depoliticized — or, more accurately, “de-governmentalized.” There are still differences of opinion between people but the controversies involve multitudes of private groups, ones that people are free to abandon in order to join others whose views are more acceptable.

Consider, for example, the area of religion, where government plays no role. There is a total free market in religion. There are debates and controversies constantly taking place within each religious denomination. If people become dissatisfied with the doctrines or practices of a particular religion or church, they’re free to go to another one.

Now, suppose religion had been placed under the control of the government, like education has been. In that case, we would have a 15-member board in Texas deciding which religious doctrines would be taught to all the school children in the state. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, and others would be feverishly lobbying the board to insert their particular concepts into the religion textbook. The battles would be fierce, as they are in the educational arena. The losers would be unhappy, but many of them would have no effective choice but to leave their children in the public churches, just as circumstances require many people to leave their children in public schools.

There is only one solution to central planning in education — a separation of school and state, in the same way our ancestors separated church and state. With a free market in education, controversies over what concepts to include in textbooks would be decentralized and “de-governmentalized.” If people didn’t like what one school was teaching, they could move their child to one whose views they favored. This concept of freedom in education is comparable to the concept that we embrace with respect to freedom in religion.

But just don’t count on those students in Texas learning about the idea of separating school and state in those government-approved social studies textbooks. After all, that’s a libertarian idea.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.