Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
I got started in the Right of the 1950s, federal aid to education
was controversial. My side argued that the strings attached to the
aid would bring federal control. The Left pooh-poohed us.
with the monstrous Department of Education fastened on American
education, government officials openly advocate not strings, but
recent strand was the innocuous sounding but deadly dangerous "America
2000 National Goals for Education" promulgated by President Bush.
There was little controversy when he announced these goals, for
no one questions the notion that the central government should set
goals for the education of American children.
expensive as they are utopian, the National Goals assume that every
child has equal capacity for learning, even though intelligence,
character, self-discipline, will, and other traits are not evenly
distributed. The purpose of such a lunatic assumption has nothing
to do with its truth, however. By guaranteeing that schools will
always fall short of the government's goals, such an assumption
justifies unlimited meddling.
ONE: "By the year 2000, all children in America will start school
ready to learn."
federal talk of "early intervention strategies," this means that
childrearing will be supervised by social workers and other bureaucrats.
Already, legislation is being discussed in the Bush administration
to authorize government visits to all new parents.
TWO: "By the year 2000, the high school graduation rate will
increase to at least 90%."
is a warrant to dumb-down standards and curricula even further.
Most American public schools are already an intellectual wasteland.
THREE: "By the year 2000, American students will leave grades
four, eight, and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging
subject matter, including English, mathematics, science, history,
and geography, and every school in America will ensure that all
students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared
for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment
in our modern economy."
students learn to use their minds well? This is more egalitarian
folly. In addition, since the feds will design the tests for grades
four, eight, and 12, they will effectively determine curricula and
"By the year 2000, U.S. students will be first in the world in science
GOAL FOUR: If not, the feds will take over. P.S.: I'm not
holding my breath until U.S. students as a whole beat Asian and
European students as a whole.
FIVE: "By the year 2000, every adult American will be literate
and possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global
economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship."
adult? This justifies unlimited money for special programs.
SIX: "By the year 2000, every school in America will be free
of drugs and violence and offer a disciplined environment conducive
drugs or violence? It can be done. American schools were like that
in the 1950s, but the cultural foundations of decency have been
eaten away by the Left-State combine.
the federal government attempts to put this goal into effect nationally,
let's try a test. The central government has a constitutional responsibility
for the schools in Washington, D.C., unlike those in the rest of
the country. First, the feds can abolish drugs and violence in the
D.C. schools, and then they can talk to us about Wyoming and Alabama.
2000 also envisions public schools of a Stalinist type to "parent"
children from their preschool years until college, and provide nurturing
and "non-school services" before and after normal school hours.
The same set of teachers and social therapists would stay with each
group of children through the years, with the specific intention
of becoming imitation parents. This, from an administration that
calls itself "pro-family."
Barbara holds an AIDS baby," said Mr. Bush in his State of the Union
speech, "it tells all Americans that family values are important."
No, Mr. President, it tells us nothing of the sort. It may tell
us about charity, or political hype, but it tells us nothing about
families, any more than your education goals tell us about learning.
They are, instead, just a few more steps on the road to omnipotent
Bush administration policy, it's time to reconsider school choice
as well. The original idea, promulgated by Milton Friedman, sounded
good. Parents would get an education voucher they could "spend"
at any federally approved institution. Such a plan would, we were
told, force public schools to compete with each other and with private
schools. President Bush has allocated $500 million in his new budget
"to support this growing movement" not the only reason to be
suspicious. In fact, "choice" will undermine the independence of
today's public schools, parents fit into one of two categories:
superfluous or "trouble- maker." They have no control over what
their children are taught, even if it contradicts their religious
or other deeply held beliefs.
schools offer an escape, and a real education besides. But perhaps
not for long. Schools that accept even one vouchered student will
be subjected to massive federal regulation of their curriculum,
admissions, academic standards, and disciplinary code.
R. Kemerer, an education law professor at the University of North
Texas, Denton, points out in Education Week that private
schools have long had to fight for their independence. The Supreme
Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters in 1925 ruled that bureaucrats
can "inspect, supervise, and examine" private schools and "their
teachers and pupils," to make sure that "certain studies plainly
essential to good citizenship" are taught, and that nothing taught
is "inimical to the public welfare."
decade ago the Supreme Court reaffirmed Pierce when it upheld Nebraska's
shutdown of a Christian school and jailing of its principal, who
was also pastor of the local church. His crime? He had used parents
as teachers. They were motivated, hardworking, and well educated,
but they didn't have state licenses. Religious freedom, said the
court, is no defense against state regulation.
intrusions happened without government funding. What will happen
with vouchers? One precedent, says Kemerer, is HUD's housing vouchers.
When a landlord accepts a tenant with a voucher, he comes under
an incredible array of regulations telling him to whom he can rent,
at what price, for how long, under what conditions, how much upkeep
he must do regardless of tenant vandalism, and when and if he can
cancel the lease.
professor Estelle James of State University of New York, Stony Brook,
has studied school vouchers all over the world and found the same
pattern. Whether in Holland, France, Belgium, or any other country
she looked at, private schools that accept vouchers become semi-public.
the U.S., school choice will mean that private schools can't offer
distinctive curriculums. Christian and Jewish schools may have to
water down their doctrinal teachings. Now will schools be able to
control their admission standards. All-girl schools will have to
include boys, and vice versa; fundamentalist schools will have to
accept non-believers, and vice versa.
as the new Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for companies to use
any test that has a "disparate" impact on minorities, private schools
will find themselves accused of discrimination unless their admission,
scholarship, and honors programs are ethnically proportionate. Discipline
too will have to be administered on a quota basis.
are other reasons to oppose school choice. It can't create any
more than Gorbachev could a free market in a socialized industry.
It will subvert the decent public schools left. And it will cost
American education has become more centralized, it has also become
more left-wing, more dim-witted, and more anti-parent. Only one
small area of freedom remains: the private school. Nothing is worth
subverting that freedom.