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The Public School Myth

by David W. Kirkpatrick,
Senior Education Fellow, US Freedom Foundation
 

It has been said that if something is said loud enough, long enough and consistently enough it will likely be widely believed. Especially if contrary views are not forthcoming.

Such is the case with public schooling.

Given the responsibility for education, and thus the potential for indoctrination as well, the public school establishment has long praised itself as the primary source of our democracy. It has not only largely convinced the general public, it has persuaded itself as well. "Rarely is heard a discouraging word."

Herewith is evidence to the contrary. The following is not only from a single source, but is drawn from only the first five of 52 pages of text and seven pages containing 206 footnotes.

"...rather then bringing people together, public schooling often forces people of disparate backgrounds and beliefs into political combat. This paper traces almost 150 such incidents in the 2005-06 year alone." Executive Summary, p. 1

"Throughout American history, public schooling has produced political disputes, animosity, and sometimes even bloodshed between diverse people. Such clashes are inevitable in government-run schooling because all Americans are required to support the public schools, but only those with the most political power control them. Political—and sometimes even physical—conflict has thus been an inescapable public schooling reality." ibid.

"All taxpayers must support the public schools, but only those able to summon sufficient political power can determine what the schools will teach and how they'll be run." p. 2

"In the 1840s, disputes over the Bible's place in Philadelphia's public schools sparked rioting that inflicted millions of dollars in damage and killed or injured hundreds of people....In the mid-1970s, court-ordered bussing of children in Boston precipitated constant brawling in the schools and unrest in the streets." p. 2

"Decisions debated literally every day in public schools thrust Americans into political conflict, whether over district budgets, dress codes, the amount of time children spend in art classes, or countless other matters. To see this, most people need do little more than read about school board meetings in their local newspapers." p 2

"All public school conflicts have the potential to inflict social pain, but the most wrenching are those that pit people's fundamental values—values that cannot be proven right or wrong, and that deserve equal respect by government—against each other" "...in the 2005-06 academic year... None ...garnered more national attention than wrestling matches over intelligent design, with 18 states reporting some debate over it..." p. 3

"There were two major intelligent design battlegrounds in 2005-06: Dover Pennsylvania and the entire state of Kansas. In Dover...it was not uncommon for townspeople to refuse to even speak to those in their community who came down on the opposite side of the issue...Kansas, for its part continued a long-running roller coaster ride that has seen the state board of education change its stance on evolution several times in recent years... In August 2006, the evolution-skeptic majority on the board was eliminated in primary elections..." p. 3

"The basic problem is this: Government has the right neither to censor speech nor to compel people to support the speech of others, yet public schooling does both. Whenever a school district buys a book with public funds, it forces every district taxpayer to support the speech contained in it, and whenever it removes a book from a library, it condemns that speech" p 4

"Perhaps nothing—not even creationism—has produced as much anger as the portrayal of difference races, ethnicities, and cultures in America's schools. What groups should be included in history textbooks? What aspects of their histories? How does a school handle disputed 'facts' about different groups? Questions such as these produced a geyser of vitriol in 2005-06..." p. 5

"Overall, it has been the nation's commitment to limited government and individual liberty—not public schools' ability to indoctrinate children into some civic religion, or to mold them into 'proper' Americans—that has been the key to America's success...the only system of education that can effectively support a free society is one that is itself grounded in freedom." p. 2

And we only reached page five of a document with 52 pages of text and seven containing 206 footnotes.
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Neal McCluskey, "Why We Fight How Public Schools Cause Social Conflict. Policy Analysis No. 587. January 23, 2007. Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave. N. W.
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