Public school is NOT necessary in a democracy

One of the biggest arguments for a public school system is that it ensures a homogeneous educational environment for our voters. But there is no test for voting, so even totally stupid people, who flunked third grade over and over again, can still vote. Which means our political system is primarily set up so non-elected groups (the Electoral College and our higher courts) can override the stupidity that emerges from voters.

I don’t even know why we talk about the US as a democracy, because we are a very, very limited democracy. Ancient Greece is the closet thing we’ve seen to a pure democracy, and it only worked because the voters were so homogeneous. Diversity makes pure democracy impossible.

So public school does not actually create the educated and homogeneous electorate necessary for a democracy.

Then what does it provide? Class mobility?

America used to have a fluid class system. There was so much land that you could pick up and move somewhere where you could get land for yourself, and increase your status. But now there is no land. Or, there is land that’s free, but it’s in really awful places that have terrible Internet and no McDonald’s and people don’t want to live there.

So, it would be great if the public school system could ensure class mobility, but that’s not the case either. And we don’t have any evidence that we could ever fix that. Our nation is too diverse for us to actually use education to create a level playing field. There is nothing we can do to get non-Asian kids to test as high as Asian kids do.

The only path to social mobility is via the family. Schools have nothing to do with it. Which begs the question, why do we spend so much money on public school?

If we stopped with public education we’d have to start answering some tough questions:

1. Who will take care of children? Right now we do not value childcare so no one wants to do it.

2. Who will show poor kids a path out of poverty? The best way is to get their parents out of poverty. We have good data on how to do that. Jobs. But we don’t create jobs because we don’t want to be a welfare state. So we say. But I’d argue that public education is just another version of the welfare state. It’s just misusing the money. Then you can have the real discussion we should have been having all along.

3. What should we do with the middle class? Should we let the middle class dissolve into the just-above-poverty sector, or should we redistribute money from the rich to solidify a true middle class? That’s the real question: should we use public-school funding to create a three-class system or a two-class system?

These are not questions so easily answered. But the question of do you need public school in order to have democracy? That’s an easy answer: no.

37 replies
  1. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    Scott Adams wrote an interesting blog post this week about how in the US today there are essentially two different movies playing on this screen: one in which Trump is a monster and one in which Trump is a savior.

    A healthy, thriving middle class is how we have one movie. There may be fringe people at either end of the bell curve who think they’re watching a different movie, but then they are on the fringe, not among one of two alternative mainstreams.

    This bifurcation is tearing the country apart.

    So if public school funding can restore a three-class system, I’m in.

  2. Heather
    Heather says:

    I agree we don’t need public schools…but America is not a democracy. We are a Constitutional Republic. That said, I think question 1 is the only one that needs to be answered. Childcare as we know it is not the answer – a stay-at-home parent is. Along with that, there needs to be a restoration of the nuclear family in order to allow a parent to stay home. Sure, that means “making sacrifices” but I prefer to call that having priorities and living according to them. History is full of rags to riches stories, and having stable families makes it easier and actually learning history teaches kids this is possible. There’s not one path to be taught/shown, but knowing it has been done and can be done again is super powerful. Stable families have time and energy to read to their kids…do that, even after they are solid readers making sure to include biographies occasionally of real people overcoming their environment.

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      Heather, your comment made me think of something an older co-worker said that has stayed with me. We were talking about families and he confided, almost sheepishly, that his wife had been a stay-at-home mom. He said, “Kids need a lot–but they deserve a lot.” He was sheepish because being a stay at home parent has become unfashionable. As we talked though I could tell that he was very proud of her and deeply valued her contribution to their family.

      I work full time presently but my goal is to be able to stay home down the road. I feel like my kid is missing out–she’s sort of squeezed in between my husband and I’s work schedules. I feel like she needs a lot, and deserves a lot, but right now she’s getting the short end of the stick.

  3. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    When this country was founded, it was set up as a republic to be governed by the people. Governmental powers were limited and set forth by the Constitution. It was the States that formed the federal government and each State made decisions which were best for them with minimal interference from the federal government. Each State was an experiment and unique loosely held together by the federal government and the Constitution. The word democracy is not mentioned in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence – . Also there’s a separation of powers not only within the federal government but also between the States and the federal government. Unfortunately, it’s not practiced enough to say the least.
    Redistribution of wealth and an economic class society is a reality in this country today but it’s not an approach that I would use to solve education problems. If it was, it would be as a very minimal approach. Which brings me to when I was in elementary school and a family from MA moved into the neighborhood. I became very good friends with one of the boys. His family wasn’t wealthy. They were in what is commonly referred to as the middle class. The same as my family. I remember talking to his Mom about schools in MA and NY and the differences between them. What I distinctly remember is her telling me how much better the education system was in MA relative to NY. She was really disappointed with the school district here in NY relatively speaking. The family would have stayed in MA if it were not for her husband’s job which required them to move. So, to conclude, I am a strong believer that the federal government should not be involved in any way with education. The money should reside with each State as they would best know how to allocate resources. Further, each State would be motivated to make their education system the best it could be to attract and retain talent for their economy. Each State would be competitive with each other and offer unique opportunities best for them. And each person in this country would be able to choose a State and a school that fits their needs if it’s school where they choose to be educated.

    • Bos
      Bos says:

      Mark, I wonder how living somewhere with relatively lousy schools, and becoming aware that schools somewhere else in the same country were much better, led you to the conclusion that there should be no federal involvement in the schools.

      I also went to public school in places with legendarily crappy public schools – like rural Kentucky – and the conclusion I came to from it was that teacher licensing should be federalized. Some of my teachers there were one step north of illiterate; I had to bring a dictionary to school to teach them words so they could grade my essays in middle school.

      I read an interesting article by James Krupa about the difficulty of teaching evolution and other biological topics at the University of Kentucky, given the propagation, in the state’s public schools, of ignorance and superstition in the place of science.

      This is the sort of thing federal licensing of teachers could help prevent. Many kids have entire fields of endeavor closed to them because their schools have failed them in meeting backwards local standards.

      I also believe that school funding mechanisms should be completely overhauled to divorce the money available for a school from the local tax base. It’s just not right to punish children because their parents are poor; those are the kids who need the most help.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        ‘I also believe that school funding mechanisms should be completely overhauled to divorce the money available for a school from the local tax base.’

        I agree with this.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        I’ve been reading all about how terrible the education is in the rural parts of America. Sounds like it’s only gotten worse since you left. One state can’t even afford a 5 day a week school system. Don’t even get me started on science in these areas. Might as well call it Genesis class. It’s infuriating thinking about it.

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        Bos, the next time I talk to her I can ask her specifics. I think she was referring to our elementary school and its teachers. It was small but not rural as it’s just outside Utica, NY. The middle and high schools combined these elementary schools into much larger buildings and more teachers. My graduating class was over 400 students. The school is doing well academically today. As an example, the district is one of only four school districts in the entire country to have its own scanning electron microscope in its science wing for students to use. I wasn’t using an SEM until I was working as an engineer. The high school I went to had enough good teachers to make it possible for me to be accepted at the three colleges I applied to – Alfred University College of Ceramics, RPI, and Clarkson. They’re all top ranked engineering colleges. I had to work to get good grades and SAT scores but it wasn’t just school and its related activities that helped me to get accepted. I still wonder to this day what exactly it was on my application form that appealed to them. I’m the oldest in the family and neither my Mom or Dad had gone to college. I really didn’t want to go to college but I knew I had to go if I wanted to become an engineer. Like my Dad who was able to become an engineering manager at a high tech facility (vacuum induction melted nickel based super alloys) with a high school degree. He inspired me and showed me through his actions how to learn in the way he self-taught himself. Even though those schools you went to were “crappy”, you managed to get advanced degrees. Obviously there’s more going on here than school experience and resources based on experiences of my Dad, myself, you, and many other people.
        I don’t see how federal licensing of teachers would be any better than an individual State could do it. Why couldn’t one State model its licensing requirements (or most anything else for that matter) from another State? Also I don’t subscribe to the idea that what would work in one State would necessarily work in another. The federal Dept. of Education was formed after I got my formal education in high school and college. I look back and I don’t see how things have improved. In fact, I think things have got worse. I’ve seen time and time again that resources are most wisely and frugally utilized at the local and State level. It is at those levels that government is most accountable to the people. I have no problem telling you that I’m for limited government, the 10th amendment, and an originalist interpretation of the Constitution. The Constitution is a great document for many reasons including its ability to be changed by the amendment process initiated by Congress or the States. Currently, there’s no mention of federal government involvement in education in the Constitution. It is the right of the State and the people. And nobody is punishing the children because they are poor. Why does government have to be the go to solution for what seems to me to be almost everything. There is such a thing as private charity and it would be more prevalent today if the government would tax less so that all of us would have more disposable income where we as individuals and a society make economic decisions best for us.

        • Bos
          Bos says:

          Hi Mark,
          It sounds like your high school was and is better than average! I did not go to any schools like that.

          When we left Kentucky, the schools in rural New York (9th) tried to hold me back a year on account of Kentucky’s schools being lousy, and the schools in Pennsylvania (10th) tried to put me in the lowest track – on account of Kentucky’s schools being lousy. So perhaps it is clearer now why I resented my school in Kentucky being lousy.

          I fought hard to escape these expectations; with the help of standardized tests, I left school after 10th grade and went straight to college. As in your case, social capital was key to my advancement; my mother worked at a series of universities and I was very familiar with that world. The schools themselves did me no favors at all. And the schools in New York and Pennsylvania, truth be told, weren’t much better than those in Kentucky (though the teachers could spell better). Call it an unfounded superiority complex, or delusions of adequacy.

          In terms of the Constitution, I have no problems telling you that I believe our Founding Fathers compromised the moral basis of our nation to get things done. The federalist system was written up as a way to protect and allow slaveholding Southerners to continue their perversion. Slavery was written into the Constitution, with enshrinement of the three-fifths compromise. Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution is despicable in its intent and function.

          In a way, I believe our revolution was premature. We would all be better off if it had happened a generation later, after England abolished slavery in its empire.

          The Constitution today, however, is our defining document, and even as I believe it to be imperfect, I once swore a sincere oath to defend it, because it’s all we’ve got. Current law (HEA) prohibits the federal government from “establishing or supporting a national system of teacher certification,” and I don’t disagree with you that this law comports with or derives from the 10th amendment. So I think the system that provides national certification for teachers should not be run by the federal government.

          You as an engineer were probably certified in just your state. But your state board of professional engineers certified you according to FE and PE exams written by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, following your graduation from an ABET-accredited university. Are those national organizations a violation of the 10th Amendment? It would be a step forward for teacher certification to become more like engineer certification.

          The way forward for this will probably be through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, or a similar organization.

          • Mark W.
            Mark W. says:

            Thanks Bos for relating your background and experience in the school system. I went to NY schools until I graduated from Alfred U. where I was recruited by an electronic ceramic capacitor company in L.A. to work in their R & D dept. I never did get certified as a P.E. as it wasn’t necessary. It most likely would have helped my career. However, A.U. is known and regarded as having the best undergraduate program worldwide for its ceramic program. It’s one of the reasons I chose it.
            Moving around from State to State during K-12 years and having one State recognize another State’s educational programs is a problem. I don’t know off hand how that problem is solved. It can be either handed off to the federal government or the federal government can say it’s not within our jurisdiction and each State must have clearly defined metrics and expectations for those children moving from State to State. I don’t like or agree that the federal government is the place to go for education policy making decisions. However, if the citizens of this country decide that’s the way to go, then an amendment to the Constitution should be passed to that effect.
            We have a much different reading and understanding of our history and Constitution. “Slavery was written into the Constitution, with enshrinement of the three-fifths compromise. Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution is despicable in its intent and function.” It is my understanding that the three-fifths compromise between the agricultural south and manufacturing north was made because the south wanted to keep their slaves as property (so contrary to the Declaration of Independence for which this country was founded) AND have those same slaves count as votes equal to that of a free man. So a compromise was made in the hopes that the Constitution could be amended later in a civil manner. This country paid an awful price with the Civil War when that didn’t happen. I think the British forced our hand with the Stamp Act and other things without due representation. I don’t see how the Revolutionary War could not have happened when it did. And then they came back a few decades later to set fire to the White House!
            “The way forward for this will probably be through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, or a similar organization.” Professionally recognized and accredited organizations are a good way to go imo. Also you may be interested in this post by Gary Houchens – . He’s a former teacher, principal, and district administrator now serving as Associate Professor of Educational Administration, Leadership, & Research at Western Kentucky University. In 2016 Governor Matt Bevin appointed him to the Kentucky Board of Education for a 4-year term of service. He’s got a blog at . I hope Kentucky and other States find a way to get a better education delivery system.

    • aquinas heard
      aquinas heard says:

      Mark W., given your sympathies to liberty, which I have observed over the years on this blog, I’m a little surprised to see you argue for state’s rights. After all, it was certain individual states that wanted to keep slavery. States, like the federal government, are just as capable of violating individual rights. As recently as 1986 (in Bowers v. Hardwick), The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the constitutionality of a Georgia law against sodomy. That is an example of “state rights” trampling on individual rights.

      I am definitely against the federal licensing of teachers. Bostonian laments about the superstition and ignorance promoted in some science classes in many Southern states. As an atheist I, too, find this abhorrent but I am equally concerned about the dogma and propaganda of environmentalism and many other leftist causes that are also pushed on children in public schools. This is especially unjust when you consider taxpayers are *forced* to pay for the indoctrination of children with views they find reprehensible. With the abolition of public schools, this state-sponsored indoctrination becomes a non -issue. Each parent can choose the type of philosophical environment of learning centers that is most in line with their values.

      I find it interesting that Bostonian frames his understanding of the founding of America in these terms:

      “The federalist system was written up as a way to protect and allow slaveholding Southerners to continue their perversion. Slavery was written into the Constitution, with enshrinement of the three-fifths compromise. Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution is despicable in its intent and function.”

      The way he writes it, it seems like the federalist system (constitutional republic), from The Declaration of Independence to The Constitution, was set up with * the purpose * of maintaining slavery. My understanding for the reasons for the formation of our country are very different. And you know what, in a separation of school and state environment, Bostonian would be free to enroll his child in a history/government class that taught with his view in mind. And, I would be free to do the same. People might be concerned that parents would limit their child to only being exposed to ideas with which they agree – ideas which could be very irrational. However, we shouldn’t make laws against irrationality – which would be laws against types of thinking. But we should make laws that protect us from the violation of our rights. In a society dedicated to the principle of individual rights, the more accurate ideas in any field will eventually win out. Why? Because only force can prevent them from doing so.

      • Bos
        Bos says:

        Hi Aquinas.

        The political system referred to as Federalism is a compound mode of government combining a central (federal) government with strong regional (state) governments, with a relationship of parity between the two levels of government. At the time of this nation’s founding, the biggest political debate was between a Federalist group, supporting a stronger national government, and an Anti-Federalist group, supporting stronger states. It’s a matter of settled history that this nation was founded on a compromise between the more modern, industrialized North (which supported a stronger national level of government) and the agricultural, slaver South (which supported stronger state governments).

        The compromise reached, of federalism with a tightly constrained national government, permitted Southern states to continue the evil of slavery, and it severely restricted the ability of the nation to change that in the future. It gave slave masters more power in America than it did free people, through the 3/5 compromise enshrined in the Constitution, which gave extra voting power to all slave masters to the tune of +3/5 for each person they subjugated. That was a terrible compromise, and we haven’t recovered from it yet.

        After slavery became abhorrent in most civilized nations, and its end was postulated here, those states wishing to continue with evil practices declared themselves Confederate, which system differs from Federalism in that the national government would be subordinate to the State governments. The struggle between the two factions continues to this day, as certain areas wish to continue with their traditional practices – be they Jim Crow, housing discrimination, police abuse of minorities, free grazing on public land, or lack of labor rights – without regard to the human rights guaranteed to all citizens by the national government. I think you know which side I’m on.

        • aquinas heard
          aquinas heard says:

          Hello Bostonian,

          I am very familiar with how the USA was founded; including the debates between the Federalist and the Anti-Federalists. I am not disputing the settled history of the compromise that was made. I am disputing the primary motivations for this compromise. Unless I am reading your previous statement incorrectly (which could very well be the case) it sounded like you thought the main reason why The Constitution was set up was to protect (as in want to keep it going) slavery. My interpretation, especially in light of the recent war with England, was that The States – through their representatives – wanted, and some reluctantly so, to be bounded together, in a formal government as bulwark to guard their liberties (admittedly only for white men) basically, against foreign and domestic (criminals) enemies of these liberties.

          As to whether or not there should’ve been any compromise when it came to slavery and our original founding is a different debate. With the mindset I have now, of course there should not have been any compromise. But I’m not kidding myself into thinking that I would easily be advocating for abolition if I had been born in that time period and environment as a white man (I’m Hispanic) – and without the knowledge I have now. And when I judge the founders who did have slaves but otherwise advocated for liberty I keep that context in mind.

          I will say slavery seems so obviously wrong that it is hard to see how anyone, of any decent character could support it. At the same time, it seems so obviously wrong to spank a child, but many people still do. I am not equating slavery with child-spanking. All I am doing is saying how things can look so obviously wrong for one person at a given time but for someone else, seem like not such a big deal. It’s pretty rare when people choose to stand out and against the prevailing and dominant (morally) bad attitude/behavior of a time.

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        Aquinas, I argue for States rights when discussing the Constitution. The reason being is that the federal government has usurped many States rights. However, it’s not to the exclusion of individual rights by any means. State and local governments are closer and more accountable to the people by their very nature. The Supreme Court has a very checkered past which include the Dred Scott and Korematsu cases. It’s the branch of government which should have the least amount of power. They have a proclivity for legislating behind the bench rather than reading and interpreting the original intent of the text in many cases. Also the legislative branch (States and the federal government) get it wrong at times. And then there’s the executive branch bureaucracy that can write statues, enforce them, and adjudicate them.
        I argue for State’s rights because I don’t believe in the one size fits all. Also if I don’t like the laws or conditions of one State, I have the ability to move to another to better my circumstances. I view each State as an experimental testbed. People have a choice of where to live and the federal government can adopt laws and regulations that work well once a large number of States have already implemented them. All of these things are in a constant state of flux with checks and balances. As you’re probably aware, there’s a concerted effort by the people and legislatures of a number of States to organize a Convention of States per Article V of the Constitution. It can’t happen soon enough as far as I’m concerned. Washington, D.C. needs to be reigned in for so many reasons too numerous to go into here.

        • Bos
          Bos says:

          Mark, I agree that some egregious legislating has been done from the bench. I can think of no more shocking case than Citizens United, in which the Supremes breached never before contemplated legal ground in declaring that corporations are actually people, and have the rights given in our Constitution to people. This horrid miscarriage of justice will likely require a Constitutional Amendment to fix.

          So I agree that a few new Constitutional Amendments would be in order. Here is my list:
          -Finally pass the ERA, the latest putative Amendment which actually got close to passing, with ratification from 36 out of the 38 needed states – just ratified by Nevada this March!
          -Amendment to abolish the Electoral College
          -Amendment to clarify that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights. Sixteen states are already on board with that.

          As for the idea of returning to a more Confederate and less Federal system, it’s not going to happen and it shouldn’t happen. The traitors of the South tried to accomplish this and were put down at force of arms; any similar treason would meet the same response today. No nation has survived to the present day with a Confederate form of government, and ours wouldn’t have either.

          The idea this should be appropriate in the American setting is based on a misreading of the Tenth Amendment, usually through the spurious insertion of the word “explicit” in “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The word “expressly,” which appeared in the Articles of Confederation, was struck from the Constitution for a reason: any powers necessary to the federal government to carry out its legitimate duties, including implied powers that are not expressly or explicitly laid out in the Constitution, remain legitimate to the federal government.

          This is why founding father and Chief Justice John Marshall rejected the argument that because Congress has no express power to create a bank, it was forbidden to do so. As he said, “The men who drew and adopted this amendment had experienced the embarrassments resulting from the insertion of this word in the Articles of Confederation, and probably omitted it to avoid those embarrassments.” He would know: he was there.

          This is also why the Supreme Court in 1941 (US vs Darby) unanimously overruled the mistaken 1918 decision in Hammer v. Dagenhart, allowing the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to become the law of the land. No amendment of the Constitution was required, because the power to pass such a law, despite not being called out specifically in the Constitution, was determined to rest with Congress. This is the reason that we don’t have poor children in heavy labor today, as was common in the early 20th century, and the reason that the Fair Labor Standards Act remains federal law, overruling any objections any state might have to it.

          As for the Korematsu decision, I agree that the war powers of the President should not have been allowed to extend to that degree. Although the Supremes did build on prior law and the Constitution in making their decision, I disagree with it, and agree with the dissent of Judge Frank Murphy:

          “I dissent, therefore, from this legalization of racism. Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life. It is unattractive in any setting, but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States. All residents of this nation are kin in some way by blood or culture to a foreign land. Yet they are primarily and necessarily a part of the new and distinct civilization of the United States. They must, accordingly, be treated at all times as the heirs of the American experiment, and as entitled to all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.”

          I am saddened that no man of Murphy’s moral stature remains on the Supreme Court today. I applaud his bravery in opposing the mistaken overreach of the man who appointed him. It is a case that has echoes in today’s events, and in the words of Judge Roger Gregory:

          “The question for this Court, distilled to its essential form, is whether the Constitution, as the Supreme Court declared in Ex parte Milligan, remains ‘a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace… And if so, whether it protects Plaintiffs’ right to challenge an Executive Order that in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”

          • Mark W.
            Mark W. says:

            Bos, our politics are about 180 degrees from each other. It’s not that we can’t discuss them, though, so I will say the following. The Citizens United ruling was refreshing and correct in my opinion. The following is a brief excerpt from the April 2017 issue of the Imprimis (Hillsdale College publication) which was adapted from a speech given by Kimberly Strassel – “With that introduction, my main point today is that we’ve experienced over the past eight years a profound shift in our political culture, a shift that has resulted in a significant portion of our body politic holding a five-year-old’s view of free speech. What makes this shift notable is that unlike most changes in politics, you can trace it back to one day: January 21, 2010, the day the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling and restored free speech rights to millions of Americans.
            For nearly 100 years up to that point, both sides of the political aisle had used campaign finance laws—I call them speech laws—to muzzle their political opponents. The Right used them to push unions out of elections. The Left used them to push corporations out of elections. These speech laws kept building and building until we got the mack daddy of them all—McCain-Feingold. It was at this point the Supreme Court said, “Enough.” A five-judge majority ruled that Congress had gone way too far in violating the Constitution’s free speech protections.
            The Citizens United ruling was viewed as a blow for freedom by most on the Right, which had in recent years gotten some free speech religion, but as an unmitigated disaster by the Left. Over the decades, the Left had found it harder and harder to win policy arguments, and had come to rely more and more on these laws to muzzle political opponents. And here was the Supreme Court knocking back those laws, reopening the floodgates for non-profits and corporations to speak freely again in the public arena.”
            So I believe corporations have the right of free speech. They are composed of people, run by people, and are accountable to people (customers and shareholders).
            I listen to and read from many people on both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ (or as POTUS Reagan once said – the ‘up’ and the ‘down’). I frequently listen to a radio talk show host (Mark Levin) who was chief of staff to AG Ed Meese and is a Constitutional scholar and author. One of his books is ‘Men in Black’. I don’t have the book but I have heard him discuss it and read from it. I respect some justices from some decisions that have been made from the Supreme Court. However, not so much respect as an institution. Currently nine lawyers in black robes with outsized influence in our government. I do have two other books from Mark Levin, though, which are Liberty and Tyranny and The Liberty Amendments. The later is about Article V of the Constitution and proposed amendments as a starting point. His books are very good with notes and citations to other works from which he researched. He recently remarked on his radio show that only 5% of his research makes it into any one of his books. I don’t always agree with his opinions but I have learned much from him as he is brilliant and has many facts to base his arguments on. So now I think it’s clear where I’m coming from. I can cite many other people and articles and counter your views on the founding of this country and slavery. And it would be a lot of going back and forth here in the comments. But this will be my last comment on this blog post as both of us are so far off the blog post topic.

        • Aquinas Heard
          Aquinas Heard says:


          I’m glad to see you on the side of liberty when it comes to issues concerning freedom of speech. For me, that is the biggest issue of our time. After this recent election, with equally deplorable candidates from the major parties (I reluctantly voted for Gary Johnson), I have decided from now on to use a candidate’s views on freedom of speech to be my primary voting criteria.

          I agree with Steve Simpson, legal scholar for the Ayn Rand Institute, when he wrote:

          “It’s true that Citizens United led to billions more in political spending. But all of it was spent to produce speech promoting political views. From the standpoint of free speech, that’s a good result, not a bad one. True, much of that money is spent by people who want to feed from the public trough. But freedom to spend money on political speech is not the cause of cronyism any more than freedom of the press is the cause of libel.

          Overturning Citizens United won’t eliminate government corruption. But it will allow government to limit our speech — and with it, our right to affect the course of our government.”

          Since you cited Kimberly Strassel’s, of The Wall St. Journal, invaluable efforts in advocating against the silencing of free speech, I thought you might appreciate Steve Simpson’s assessment, in The Objective Standard, of the Citizen’s United decision when it came out. *Citizen’s United and the Battle for Free Speech, Spring Issue 2010.*

  4. Mali
    Mali says:

    start a new life where there’s free land. start a McDonald’s franchise. win? I don’t know about internet yet…

  5. Deidre
    Deidre says:

    Somebody figure out the math please? Taking all school funding, divide between all incremental stay-at-home moms this would create (based on avg kids per family) – how much per family? Also, sell school properties and invest the funds in support resources for homeschoolong. What could be achieved with those $?

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Is this similar to the voucher system? Redistributing government funds in the name of choice?

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Our last year living in LA we joined a charter that catered to homeschoolers. I received about $2600 per kid in “funds” I could use to pay for activities, classes, lessons, tutors, enrichment, art supplies, books…etc. Hardly enough to live on if poor parents had to stop working their 3 part-time jobs to stay home. Plus, they won’t stay home. They will just leave their kids home alone all day unsupervised.

  6. aquinas heard
    aquinas heard says:

    Thank goodness America was not founded as a democracy. Socrates in Athens anybody? Unfortunately, the longer each American generation passes through the public school system the closer we seem to be getting to a direct democracy. In other words, the closer we get to mob rule.

    Americans could still have access to plentiful “free” land if the federal and state governments didn’t own so much of it.
    Freedom would enable more class mobility.

    Public schools and the people who support them are what show that many Americans people don’t value childcare. As far as who would take care of children in a free society, it would be parents, family members, friends and whoever the parents (or custodians) were willing to pay for that service.

    Businessmen/women are who create jobs. That is not a proper function of the government other than employment in those proper functions: police, military, and the judicial system.

    How about we establish an economic system, capitalism, that has been proven repeatedly to make a large middle class possible?

  7. Christina
    Christina says:


    Why would poor people “Leave their kids home alone all day” I think you meant unfit, which their are plenty (among all social classes) and their kids are in school all day because they law requires them to be. If person is going to dedicate their life working for a company they deserve to be paid a living wage for it and we are not even there yet, neither mind putting a stay at home parent in every household.

    I think people are under the mistaken impression it use to be this way and it never was.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      In the poorer communities it already happens. Where parents are working 3, 4, 5 part time jobs just to live. The kids are inevitably left at home. It’s just the reality of life, but no one talks about it. I am not in support of babies taking care of babies. So, in these scenarios, isn’t school a better daycare system?

  8. Aquinas Heard
    Aquinas Heard says:

    Arguably the best book out there examining the different educational systems of the past is Market Education: The Unknown History by Andrew J. Coulson.

    As to the connection between democracy and public schooling, Mr. Coulson’s section comparing the educational systems of ancient Sparta to ancient Athens is especially enlightening:

    “What makes Ancient Greece such an ideal starting point for our investigations is not jut that it was one of the first places to see formal education spread beyond a tiny elite, but also that Greek schooling developed along two very different and conflicting lines. This contrast, which pervaded every aspect of education from curriculum, to management, to the role of the parent, is an unparalleled showcase for the topics discussed in Chapter 1, and it’s best representatives were the city-states of Athens and Sparta.”

  9. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    Thanks for taking on this topic, especially saying “Diversity makes pure democracy impossible” and “There is nothing we can do to get non-Asian kids to test as high as Asian kids do.” Those aren’t easy things to say at this time but we could relieve a lot of the tension we currently experience if we could accept this.

  10. Publicschoolstudent18
    Publicschoolstudent18 says:

    The main issue I see with this post is that the author seems to believe that Asian countries produce higher test scores because their children are more intelligent than American children. This is simply not the case. In a majority of these countries that produce higher test scores, they only allow the brightest students to be tested. This skewers their scores.
    In America we are required to test every student, with little to no exceptions. Considering this fact, America has some pretty impressive testing scores.

    • Bos
      Bos says:

      The link doesn’t appear to be working on the Asian students comment, but I imagine it probably went to something talking about how much higher Asian students _in_America_ test on average than non-Asian students _in_America,_ not a comparison of scores between countries.

      Go to a school like Stuyvesant, to which entry is test-based, and you will see a remarkable concentration of Asian kids. The average SAT math score in NYC was 562 for Asian kids, followed by 522 for white kids, 421 for Latino kids, and 409 for black kids. This difference is persistent year to year and reproduced in many other locations.

      FWIW, I also don’t believe it’s because Asian children are smarter on average than children of other origins. I believe cultural factors are at play, not biological forces.

      A study of the question was published in 2014 at PNAC, authored by Amy Hsin and Yu Xie, and their conclusion was that “Asian and Asian American youth are harder working because of cultural beliefs that emphasize the strong connection between effort and achievement… Asian and Asian American students tend to view cognitive abilities as qualities that can be developed through effort, whereas white Americans tend to view cognitive abilities as qualities that are inborn.”

      Surprisingly high standardized test scores among Asian students occur in other countries as well. In a study of Asian students in Australia – which showed that if they were a separate country on the PISA exams they would be second in the world – the conclusions were similar: “They had a very strong work ethic and were more likely to believe that they could succeed if they tried hard enough…” Such studies have also been done in England, with similar results: Ramesh Kapadia said “I think within Chinese society, there is an emphasis on practice. Children are told: ‘If you want to learn something, practise, practise and practise it again and you will get better’. It may be that this helps to motivate pupils when the rewards can seem a long way away.”

      It’s possible that part of the cultural basis for this phenomenon is the fact that promotion has been gained through standardized testing in Chinese society for longer than the West has had society. Germans were still half-naked barbarians running around in the woods when the Chinese established civil service examinations based on standardized tests as a means of maintaining the caliber of imperial bureaucracy.

      A 2000 year head start has got to help some.

      • Publicschoolstudent18
        Publicschoolstudent18 says:

        If that’s what the author was indeed referring to, then her argument is still weak. She mentions that there is nothing we can do to get quote “non-Asian” kids, to test as high as Asian kids. This is obviously not true. Our society could develop higher standards for our students and improve our public school system, rather than suggesting that it’s disposable. Sure the family unit does play a large role in the success of Asian American students but, without the public school system helping many immigrant students learn English, many of them would not be able to even sit the standardized test they do so well on.
        Its obvious to me that many Americans are aware of the privilege that public school is. Not to sound cliche but, many places aren’t so lucky, they don’t get the opportunities that many take for granted in America. I’m not trying to say the school system doesn’t have its flaws, it absolutely does but, at its core I believe it does more harm than good. As someone who was home schooled for almost my entire school career, I can say its not all it’s cut out to be.
        When I entered public school my freshman year, I was slightly overwhelmed. But before long I had realized how important an experience like public school is to the adolescent psyche. That’s a feeling of unity and, even dare I say unity that comes along with going to public school that is so thrilling. Although its said again and again, and disputed by many, the experiences of public school are amazing. The teachers are so dedicated and caring. You almost feel as if you have a second family. Many teachers will go out of their way to make sure you have everything you need to succeed academically. Even going as far as offering rides home and buying school supplies for their students.
        Its a common mistake to believe that every teacher has the same expectations and uses an outdated curriculum. Almost every teacher I’ve ever had has spent countless hours planning their own curriculum. And they’re met with little to no respect and pay.
        Our school system is trying despite the cuts coming from the federal government.
        Every child deserves to try the system and have an opportunity to be among a large, diverse group of their peers.

        • Bos
          Bos says:

          Student, you are correct that this is obviously not true on an individual basis, but I believe it is true on a cultural basis. Individuals may do wonderfully at things in which their social group on average is poorly represented, but averages are made of many, many individuals, and one individual variation may not represent any kind of shift or trend in the group. Yao Ming isn’t the herald of a Chinese takeover of the NBA, and Neil Degrasse-Tyson isn’t the harbinger of African-American domination of astrophysics.

          One of the perennial themes of this blog is that family is more important for the formation of a child than school is, and I believe that rule has few exceptions. A 562 math SAT isn’t a ridiculous target for an individual; my son scored higher at 12. But the fact he outscores the average for his ethnic group doesn’t represent a shift in the culture. It is also not because of anything he learned at school (which he left from first through sixth grades). Nor do I believe it’s because of any genetic trait unique to him. I believe it’s mostly because of his attitude towards learning and our family values. We believe we can do things, and we like math.

          A culture is made up of individual families and their traditions, and most white American families value neither intellectual effort nor intellectual achievement, in strong distinction to most Asian-American families. This cultural fact is enough to make a huge impact on average test scores, and it won’t be remediated quickly. Anti-intellectualism is very strong in American culture, and has been for decades. School won’t change that. To the contrary, school is a place Americans might more deeply develop anti-intellectualism: more money is spent on sports than on academics, and teachers themselves tend to be drawn from the lowest fifth of college graduates. I’m sure you, like, I, sometimes took class with a teacher who was really hired to coach sports and faked his way through Social Studies or Math. This is not the way a culture values intellectual achievement.

          I am glad you have had a wonderful experience in your public school. I don’t believe most kids do. Nor do I believe that most kids in public school are among a large, diverse group of their peers, as our nation’s public schools are increasingly segregated. So consider yourself lucky!

          You are not uniquely privileged, however, that this country has public schools. Most countries have public schools, and in most industrialized nations the public schools are much better than ours. As you can see from other comments here, America will never have a national curriculum like other industrialized countries do. We do have schools that teach other countries’ national curricula, though. If you tell English people that there’s a private school in Boston offering nothing more than the British national curriculum to the tune of 35 thousand a year, they laugh their arses off.

          As for federal cuts to school systems, there really isn’t much that could be cut that would affect the typical student. Only about 8.3% of funding for primary and secondary education in the United States comes from federal agencies, and that includes things like Head Start and school lunch subsidies. The amount of federal support for schools has actually been rising, not decreasing, as in 1990 it was only 5.7% of school funding. About 2/3 of the federal funding goes to support children with disabilities (IDEA, part B), and economically disadvantaged students (ESEA, Title I). Your teachers receive no pay at all deriving from the federal government. If you think they should be paid more, that’s a local matter.

  11. Publicschoolstudent18
    Publicschoolstudent18 says:

    I love how you basically summarized what I had wrote, and entirely failed to acknowledge my comments about how public schools greatly benefit immigrant students.
    The main thing that worries me about your comment is that you truly believe teachers don’t get paid through the federal government. They absolutely do! Of course teachers are hired at a state and local level but, the funds that are used to hire teachers regularly come from the federal government. Nonetheless there are people who agree with you, one of them being former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney was called “out of touch” for his comments on the funding of public schools. “Your teachers receive no pay at all deriving from the federal government” is a strong claim from someone I’m assuming doesn’t work in the public school system.
    Also your claim that there have been no cuts to public education that hurt students is just painfully wrong.
    The Trump administration plans to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives in 2017.
    The cuts proposed may not directly effect students in middle or elementary schools but, high school students requiring financial aid to attend college are going to have major problems.
    Trump is also calling for a $9.2 billion cut to the Department of education. With these proposed cuts special education and Title 1 funds would go unchanged in the 2017 fiscal year. But, higher poverty schools are likely to receive less funding than before due to a new law that allows states to use up 7% of Title 1 money for school improvement before distributing it among districts.
    The cuts would eliminate 22 programs. For example a $1.2 billion for after school programs that serve 1.6 children, and $2.1 billion for teacher training and class size reduction. These amazing programs would be gone. If you don’t see how public education is being hurt, you are truly blinded by ignorance. Just because you have a distaste for the public education system doesn’t mean it does not benefit billions of American children.

    And thank you! I do feel so lucky! And so do the many students who feel the same way because they have teacher and administrators who care for them and their families. Maybe you should stop assuming that every child has a hate for education and especially the public school system. I mean have you taken any surveys? Or actually even talked to a public high school student recently? Sure there are a lot of people who get lost the our system, but I guarantee that it is not most. Many students who do have trouble in the system, do so because of some underlying mental health issue that either goes unnoticed or ignored. These incidents can be blamed on America’s poor excuse for a healthcare system, not our education system.

    I would suggest getting out sometime and visiting the public schools in your distract, rather than relying on articles written by people who haven’t stepped foot in a public school in at least 25 years.

    I’m sorry but, I’ve never had a coach try to be a core class teacher, unless they possessed the proper degree and training. Every teacher I have ever had has at least a Masters. Many of the teachers at my school actually have their Doctorates! And I go to a public school in a poverty stricken southern town.

    • Bos
      Bos says:

      Hi again, Student.

      You really should learn how teachers get paid. You can look this information up for your state and town; it’s public record. One of the things you will find is that your teachers do not get paid a salary by the federal government. Public school teachers get their salary from a combination of state and local money. This is why teacher salaries will vary not only from state to state but from town to town. Only a very few teachers (about ¼ of 1% of teachers nationwide) are paid through federal grant programs like Title II.

      In my state of Massachusetts, the school budget comes 38.8% from state revenue, 53.8% from local revenue, and 7.4% from federal revenue. This is near the bottom (47th) for federal funding. Most of the federal funding Massachusetts received went to building schools. Approximately 82% of the BPS budget goes to employee salaries and benefits.

      If you are in a Southern state, the poverty level is likely higher than it is Massachusetts, and your state’s schools probably receive more federal funding sent through programs intended to address poverty at school. Your teachers, however – with the exception of very few – are paid 100% from state and local sources. If you don’t believe me now, please do yourself a favor and look into it!

      One of the major sources of educational inequality in our country is the fact that so much of the funding for schools depends on local property taxes. This is why rich towns have fancy schools and long teacher tenure, and poor towns not so much. In one state where I attended public school as a child, the disparity in funding between rich and poor municipalities was so great that the state supreme court declared their funding system unconstitutional. The case was called Rose v. Council for Better Education (KY, 1989). Now, think about this for a moment. If the schools and teacher salaries were paid by the federal government, how would such a case ever exist? It wouldn’t. Go read up on it.

      Another misconception you seem to have is that I hate public schools and don’t send my kids to public schools. Surprise! Not only did my wife and I, and our brothers and sisters, and all our parents all go to public school, but my son goes to public school. I sent him to public school for Kindergarten, and it went terribly for him, so I withdrew him in First Grade and homeschooled him through Sixth Grade (that’s how I ended up on this site). He is now finishing Seventh Grade in a public school, which I think has its problems but is not terrible. It’s far, far better than any public school I ever went to, especially the rural Kentucky public school I went to at his age. I wouldn’t be unhappy if he decided to complete high school there.

      Now, you may also want to scroll up to my previous posts and try to find the part where I “claim that there have been no cuts to public education that hurt students.” Found it? No? That’s because I didn’t say that. You are battling a straw man. Yes, I do believe that the cuts proposed by the current regime will harm public school children. However, if you put the cuts into perspective – they will be directed to peripheral programs, as these are the parts of public school receiving funding from the federal government – I don’t believe they will do so through reducing teacher salaries, nor do I think they will greatly affect the typical student. Special programs may be canceled at many schools. School lunches may get even worse. The way in which the federal cuts would affect mainstream students is if school districts decide to readjust their budget to move money away from their current allocations to maintain special programs currently receiving funding from the federal government.

      Look at the link you yourself just put here, to the proposed budget. What is getting cut there? Teacher jobs and salaries? Only to that very small group of teachers (¼ of 1% of the teachers in America) funded through the Title II teacher development grant program. Most of that money doesn’t pay teachers to teach, it pays for recruitment and education of teachers. Also on the chopping block are a literacy program and an after-school program. Do you yourself participate in these programs? And, also importantly, will this budget as is ever be passed? The answer to both is probably no.

      To be clear, I don’t think this is good policy. I think it would be bad if these programs were canceled. I believe that after-school care is necessary for many families, and the families for whom it is most necessary aren’t the ones who could pay for it. At the same time, I think that communities should work to provide after-school care for schoolchildren themselves, without reliance on the federal government. At my son’s kindergarten, the after-school program was run and funded entirely by parents.

      I am glad for you that your school is so well run, and fits so well for you. I never went to such a good school myself. The schools I went to, in several different states, were all pretty bad. And at every school I ever went to I had at least one academic class taught by some beetle-browed dolt wearing those weird gym teacher shorts, who did little more than play filmstrips and read from the textbook.

      For you to have many doctorates at your small, rural school is very unusual, too! What school is it? I’m sure I would have loved it too. At my son’s school, considered one of the best public schools in the nation, only three out of about 120 teachers have doctorates. District-wide, only 1.9% of public school teachers in Boston have doctorates. You can’t swing a cat in Boston without hitting a PhD; the school must have a lower concentration than the Starbucks on the corner. Here, the norm for teachers is a Master’s, with about 80% having a Master’s (and 20% just a BA). Here, the pay differential for a football coach is only 10K, so that is something extra they do in addition to teaching, rather than vice versa. In places like Texas, however, the football coach will make only slightly less than the principal, and maybe twice as much as a regular starting teacher. Most high school football coaches teach classes, and many of them lack any classroom teaching certification, let alone genuine academic degrees. I’m glad your school is different!

  12. Yocheved
    Yocheved says:

    You’re upper middle class. Public schools haven’t failed you. When I was in ny most charter schools had wait lists was sad. But you’re not fixing broken families sadly. Public schools will never ever go away. Unions. Democrats. They just won’t. It’s fine.

  13. C T
    C T says:

    I think schooling provision by the public serves important purposes that promote the continued existence of our democratic republic: 1) It protects children from being exploited as child labor (remember, the Athenians had a lot of slaves, and children tended to work hard in colonial times) or neglected all day, 2) It (sometimes) educates children from homes that wouldn’t provide an education, and 3) It can (but too often doesn’t these days) provide a solid civics education that provides a national identity independent of tribalism and class.

    However, a public school district is a monopolistic system that inevitably starts to serve its own interests more than the interests of those they are supposed to be educating. That’s how you get schools where nobody is proficient, like in Baltimore, and bloated administrations combined with overworked teachers. School choice is essential to protecting the function of actual education. Just like EBT cards can be used at many stores, pupil funding should be usable at many schools. And unlike EBT cards, the funding shouldn’t be usable for proven “junk.”

  14. Jasmine Demeester
    Jasmine Demeester says:

    Public Schools are over populated. Every significant condition in knowledge is caused by too many learners, not enough instructors not enough category areas. The way to fix this is easy, seek the services of more instructors, develop more schools. That’s it, it is simple. Children are doing bad in university, it’s because they do not get enough interest. Offering them more standardize analyze won’t fix that. Only having less kids in the category will.

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