Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It Takes The State to Rear a Child is as Old as the Spartans

Privately educating your children is a civil right, not just a financial choice.

The Twittersphere seems to be in a tizzy about this MSNBC ad featuring Melissa Harris-Perry advocating collectivist rearing and training for your children:
She repeats the well worn idea that children should belong to the whole of society rather than their parents. The most frequent historical comparisons that I've noticed are the easy comparisons to Hillary Clinton's wildly popular It Takes A Village book, advocating a collectivist approach to rearing children be adopted (imposed) on American society.  Mrs. Clinton did not invent that idea, she is just being credited with an idea that has been around since 5th century Greece.

Something else that is interesting, the conservatives are beating the pants off of libertarians in this area of civil liberties, including the right to educate their children free of state interference. I hesitate to blame the problem on religion, since religious movements have been at the forefront of libertarian thought for centuries, especially in the civil right of education choice.  After over half of a century of trying to chip away at government schooling, the only people who have made a serious difference are the religious groups who thumb their noses at the state and educate their kids without a government rebate. Here is George H. Smith from 1985 pointing out the problem (full video on YouTube and farther down in this post):
This notion endorsed by MSNBC is much older and deeper than the vocal opponents seem to realize and it is directly related to the freedom to educate without the state. It goes back to the days of Sparta vs. Athens, or earlier. Fifth century Athens had free market education and Sparta had compulsory state education. Which society is remembered for its robust culture?  Athens of course, as George H. Smith informs an audience here, in 1985 (full video on YouTube and farther down in this post):
Apparently lost to ages among libertarian scribes is the history of government education and the historical argument against it was replaced by a government handout. Back in 1950s 'ancient' America, there was a suggestion by Milton Friedman, and other libertarian Chicago School Economists, that school vouchers (another government handout) be used to give parents "choice" in schools: The Role of Government in Education. For decades, libertarians have been preaching this belief that vouchers will be the end of the government schools, and it sounds pretty good too. The vouchers can be viewed as a "rebate" to taxpaying parents for educating their children elsewhere, etc.

One problem with that idea: No voucher program is a rebate to anybody, since the amount of the voucher is never tied to what an individual paid in taxes toward their local government schools.  Another problem with this voucher handout, it is never the amount that would have been spent on anybody's child in a government school either. The voucher is always some several thousand dollars that looks good in the papers and that is about it.

Some price the voucher near tuition at a private school, as if that "counts." Anybody serious about these handouts would be arguing for a full refund, something that either equals the percentage of the total school budget spent on one child, or the amount of taxes taken from that parent for the schools.

The big, huge, glaring problem is the libertarian abandonment of the argument for liberty and arguing the economic aspect exclusively. As Smith argues, the economic argument is an important minor aspect of the overall argument for liberty.

Maybe it is not that remarkable, since there has been a tendency on many topics for libertarians to go for the government handout instead of demanding that the government butt out.  Even though they are rarely argued in opposition: Which is more popular today, home schooling or school vouchers? The feds say there were 1.5 million home schoolers in 2007. Finding the number of students attending private schools and/or receiving vouchers is difficult. If you can find a reliable number please let me know. NCLS has all sorts of data, but the numbers to compare to home schoolers is not jumping out at me.  The fact that one number is easy to find and the other is difficult (I have not given up yet) indicates a whole bunch of people have an interest in keeping one number hidden.

It is not like no numbers related to vouchers are out there. It is easy to find the amount of vouchers offered by various districts. Aggregate dollar amounts are pretty easy to find too. Perhaps it is the nature of the argument that is all about money and not really about liberty?

The libertarian problem is not one of ignoring history either, especially on this topic, since the quotes George H. Smith gives about Western state education are used by libertarians all the time as you can see in this long clip of his 1985 speech (full video on YouTube and farther down in this post) and this is a good source for those of you who are interested in the cources:
The real problem is with the notion that the way to rally people to liberty is by handing out a few bucks.

Educating your children as you choose is certainly within the realm of the "free market of ideas," it is not a right reserved to religious orders, it is a civil right of all. It is the civil right that homeschoolers fought for and were jailed over in the 1980s. Typically they do not get a government handout either, they get to pay school taxes while they educate their children themselves, typically under government scrutiny.

It is not as if this civil rights idea was not introduced when the Chicago School idea gathered steam in the 1980s either, it is not as if we were not repeatedly warned by Smith:

This is Smith on the larger topic of the emergence of the Progressive era, where he gives other detail to compulsory state education.
Libertarians ignoring civil rights aspects of issues only further the success of the statists. Your children are yours to educate until they reach the age of majority. It is not only a pocketbook issue, it is a rights issue and giving government the power to jail people for not sending their children to government approved schooling is a surrender of rights that should not be tolerated.

Related post at The Freedom Bunker.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

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