On Education: Class Warfare

Last November, the public schools in my area took a long weekend. The scheduling of that weekend — it ran through election day — was neither accidental nor coincidental. Its obvious purpose was to free up the time of a large number of government employees so that they could be pressed into service in support of the Democratic Party’s candidates and campaigns, having already spent the previous several months talking up Barack Obama to the students.

There’s nothing new about using government employees to sway election outcomes. Lincoln bent over backward to ensure that Union soldiers from iffy states got furloughs to vote in 1864. His re-election was very much in doubt, but he was popular with the troops.

There’s nothing new about using the public schools as political indoctrination centers, either.

When I was a kid, for example, we recited a loyalty oath to the federal government every morning before class. That loyalty oath — it’s called “The Pledge of Allegiance” and is still, I hear, used in some schools to this day — was written by a flag salesman of the socialist persuasion. Whether he wrote it to boost his sales, his ideology, or both is an interesting question, but there’s no doubt what the oath required. It required the person taking it to denounce secession, something the federal government wanted to suppress in people’s minds as it had recently suppressed it on the battlefield (“one nation … indivisible”), attest to a belief in deity (“under God”), and affirm the facticity of a highly debatable description of affairs (“with liberty and justice for all”).

So, I’m not surprised that the President of the United States would take an opportunity to reach the ear of every publicly schooled child in America, nor do I have any doubts as to his purpose in doing so. He has a vested interest in promoting not only his own presidency, policies and re-election prospects, but the system which got those kids into the classrooms and him into the Oval Office in the first place.

I’m not surprised to see some parents drawing a line in the sand versus his planned speechification event. Nor can I say that I disagree with Steve Newton of the Delaware Libertarian blog when he casts those parent’s concerns as making a mountain of a molehill.

Newton and I do part ways a bit on the big picture, though. We both agree that it’s no big deal, but I add “in the scheme of things” to that assessment, and would like to address that scheme.

“Public schools” means “government schools.” And where government goes, politics follows. If your children attend these schools, doubt not: They will be subjected to political indoctrination from the day they walk into kindergarten (or, these days, pre-K) to the moment they’re handed their diploma.

The tone of that indoctrination may change with the political landscape to better reflect the views of the party in power, but its substance will not.

“Public” schools serve two purposes which have long since grown to overshadow the one they’re sold on (teaching kids to read, write and do arithmetic).

The first of those purposes is to produce citizens who support, at least in its broad outlines, the existing political system. From elementary level social studies through high school history and civics, it’s all Pangloss all the time. The aim is to condition students to regard the existing system as a) inevitable and b) superior to all conceivable alternatives, and to prime them for participation in that system rather than for dissent from it.

The second purpose of the public schools is to produce workers whose skills fit the labor requirements of the political class, both the actual governmental elite and its privileged partners in crime.

Even if it were possible to produce a uniformly high level of erudition in public school graduates, there’d be no takers for the method. Some portion of students must emerge from the system ill-educated enough that they’ll be content to flip burgers and mop floors. In fact, it’s a wonder that real education hasn’t been completely outsourced to private academies for children of the elite yet — some students do emerge from the public education system with knowledge and ambition acquired against every effort the state can marshal to prevent them from doing so.

If you don’t want politics in your child’s education — or, to be more precise, if you want your politics rather than someone else’s — then keep them out of the public schools every day, not just next Tuesday.

President Obama’s planned indoctrination may be a mere molehill, but it’s a molehill on the face of a mountain shot through with such molehills.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory