Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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A Nonsense Debate at the New York Times

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The New York Times is hosting a online debate entitled “Should the School Day Be Longer?

Wow, how exciting is that? Not! Well, at least not for libertarians. It’s the same old statist nonsense over how to fix and reform a socialist program, one that has been a mess for decades.

That’s the trouble with people of the statist mindset — their minds are trapped within the statist box and are unable to break free of it. Ironically, it’s the government school system that inculcated that mindset in the first place — the same system that its graduates spend their lives trying to fix and reform.

Public schooling is just another form of central planning, one of the variations of socialism. The state plans, in a top-down, command-and-control manner, the educational decisions of hundreds, thousands, or millions of children.

Public schoolteachers are government employees. They use government-approved textbooks and teach from a government-approved curriculum.

Funding is assured no matter how bad the results because it’s done through taxation. Even people who don’t have children are forced to pay, on pain of liens and foreclosures on their property if they refuse to pay.

How can it be any wonder that public schooling is always in crisis? Socialism always produces crises. Duh! Just ask people living in North Korea or Cuba, both of which, needless to say, have public-schooling systems.

In fact, public schooling is such a mess that not even the president of the United States, Barack Obama, will entrust his own children to the system. Oh, sure, he’ll force other parents to send their children into the system but he’s not about to do that to his children. He places too high a value on them to subject them to such abuse.

The only real success of public schooling is the mindset of statism and deference to authority that is inculcated in most of the public-school graduates. How can that surprise anyone? The state has control over the mind of a child for 5-6 hours a day from the time he’s six years old until he reaches 18 years of age. That’s far more time than the standard few months it takes to inculcate that sort of mindset at army boot camp.

By the time most students graduate, they have been molded into “good, little citizens of the state,” trusting their government officials to do the right thing and deferring to their authority. Those who resist the conformity, regimentation, uniformity, and indoctrination are injected with such drugs as Ritalin or Adderall until their minds are permanently molded in the right way.

Best of all, as a result of the 12 years of state indoctrination, most public-school graduates are convinced that the statist system under which they are living is freedom. Indeed, hardly any public-school graduate even knows he’s the victim of indoctrination. Goethe’s words best describe the plight of the American people: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” Of course, the same would apply to the North Korean and Cuban and North Korean people as well, thanks to the statist indoctrination they receive in their public schools.

That’s not to suggest, of course, that private schools are significantly better. Operating under the authority of a government-issued license, private schools are on a tight leash given that their licenses can be revoked at any time. Oftentimes staffed by public-school graduates who believe in state control over education, the teaching of statism under the pretense that it’s freedom is part and parcel of the private-school system too.

Notice that the New York Times doesn’t have any libertarians participating in its online debate. That’s because libertarians have broken free of the statist box. We’re not interested in participating in such silliness as, “Should the school day be longer?” or “Should students wear uniforms to school?” or “Should prayer be permitted in school?” or “Should creationism be taught in school” or “Should students be required to recite a pledge of allegiance that was composed by a socialist?” or any other silly debate over how the state should run its schools.

The libertarian mind asks: Why should there be government schools at all? Why not separate school and state, in the way that our ancestors separated church and state? Why not end all state involvement in education? Why not a total free market in education? Why not liberate American families and entrepreneurs to handle the education of people’s children?

Alas, those questions are so far off the radar screen of the average statist that his mind is not even able to comprehend them. In the minds of people who are unable to break free of the statist box, libertarians are extremists, out of the mainstream, irrelevant, or radical.

The ultimate success of public schooling is the ingrained mindset of statism that is inculcated in the student, a mindset that unfortunately oftentimes remains with that person until the day he dies. That’s why so many of them see nothing amiss about hosting and participating in perennial nonsensical debates over how to make statism work.

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.