Separation of School and State

Chris Cardiff posted a FAQ for the Separation of School and State Alliance to Libernet which is excerpted below.

Why should school and state be separated?

We should remove schools from government operation and influence for three reasons:

  1. One-size-fits-all doesn't work in a pluralistic society, especially for character values.
  2. Government take-over of parents' duties is often met with parental abdication of their responsibilities. Reduced parental responsibility hurts children.
  3. Politically-run schooling can't escape the age-graded time-based model imported from Prussia in the 1840s. Those offering glimpses of better paradigms (e.g., John Holt, Maria Montessori) are all but scorned.
  4. Our goal is the end of federal, state, and local involvement with schooling. We believe government has no role in financing, operating, or defining schooling, or even compelling attendance.

    What's wrong with the common school concept?

    We don't have a common pizza, a common magazine or a common church. They make no common sense. The way out of the "School Wars" is to drop the 1840s' notion of a "common school." Government has no business forcing kids from different backgrounds into a one-size-fits-all tablet of values. The Common School wasn't so bad for 100 years; they imparted the Protestant majority's values to mostly Protestant kids. Some groups escaped (e.g., Christian Reformed, Seventh Day Adventist, and Catholics); others were small and took their lumps (e.g., Jews, atheists, and Jehovah's Witnesses).

    The flaw of the common school only became clear to traditionalists when the tables were turned on them. Over the last 50 years, the modernists have won control and now they use schools to impart their idea of "The Good." But the traditionalists are not a tiny minority that can be abused with impunity. They're escalating the school wars to try to "take back their schools." Parent support for teachers is plummeting. Compromise is not possible: Some want prayer in school, some want condoms. Printing prayers on condoms satisfies nobody. Communities are split. Some even have to use police to maintain order at school board meetings.

    The way to get parents to support schools is for schools to support parents, especially their tablet of virtues and values. Cultural and religious pluralism in parents means we need the same pluralism in schools. Kids are now being injured in the psychological equivalent of a vicious custody battle.

    What about irresponsible parents?

    The 1840s' municipal takeover of schools told parents they weren't responsible for their children's education. It's the government's job. The 1890s' compulsory attendance legislation relieved parents of the awesome burden of convincing children to attend school. It's the government's job. The 1930s' Social Security told children they weren't responsible for their elderly parents. It's the government's job.

    The last three decades brought us government breakfast, lunch, health care and after-school care. When governments usurp, many parents abdicate their responsibility. Family life is weakened and children are harmed. This usurpation/abdication two-step has been ratcheting downward for 150 years and has been accelerating in the last 40 years. Government attempts to rescue children from poor parenting are the great enabler of irresponsible parenting.

    What's wrong with the Prussian approach?

    The factory-model school was designed when children were more obedient and the restless ones were allowed to learn by apprenticeship. Today's system is a dysfunctional pressure cooker. Educators know better ways but politics forces them to keep re-formulating the age-segregated, competition-driven, time-based system designed by Prussians after their defeat by Napoleon. Getting government out of schooling will allow the market to test potentially good ideas invented by creative educators.

    Source: September 5, 1995, post to Libernet by Chris Cardiff.