By Gene Lehman

"Public schools do not educate, at least not on purpose.  They are the first line of social control. Children are taught what to think -- not how to think for themselves effectively.  Those who defend this system say that people have a right to an education, that it is somehow in the public interest and for the good of all, therefore somehow justifying support by taxation.  Getting an education is certainly desirable, but it is an individual choice -- you do not have the right to force others to provide funds so that you can have one.  Libertarian and Objectivist minarchists hold that 'legitimate' government has but three valid functions: national defense, protection from aggressors, and courts of law to adjudicate disputes and handle criminals.  A public school system has no place there?."

"The youth have done nothing to deserve being sentenced to a system that is destroying their minds and their individuality.  In the absence of state interference, private individuals and organizations will see to it that all who want a real education will have access to it.  So, let's abolish the youth propaganda and indoctrination camps once and for all." [Tobin, The Thought, May/June 00 #118]

Ronald C. Tobin, editor and publisher of The Thought bases much of his argument for terminating our public school system on libertarian principles.  What set him off is a proposal by Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull to raise the state sales tax "to extort an additional 450 million a year from consumers to fund various 'improvements' to the public school system."

Tobin leads off his argument with the libertarian cliché, "Taxation is theft." For most people this statement sounds absurd.  Theft implies something illegal, but our courts have always upheld the power of government to tax.  It might make more sense to say that taxes are legalized theft.  "Extortion" is not such a bad term since governments use all manner of intimidation and enforcement to 'extort' as much money as they can get away with, but 'extort' sounds a bit too strong to include all the subtleties used by governments and special interests to pass, implement, enforce and pervert our system of oppressive taxes.  Tobin also includes the simple anarchist answer: "the State itself has no right to exist, which renders the issue of public schools moot."

Tobin, himself, seems to favor 'minarchy,' or limited government [see Minarchy: A Functionalist Argument for Limited Government, Kent B. Van Cleave, Thought May/June 00].  I think there is a good functionalist argument against abolishing our government school system.  It does not seem that in the foreseeable future there is any realistic possibility for eliminating an institution that has been around for 150 years and is strongly supported by most people, even though there is widespread dissatisfaction with the way schools are funded and operated and with the level of learning.  There have long been cries for school reform, and schools have instituted many reform programs, but all these programs (such as Goals 2000) almost always are imposed from above, increase authoritarian control and demand more funds.  They seldom can show any lasting improvement in the quality of education, in fact, they often actually work against optimal learning and effective teaching by diverting funds to propagandizing, and imposing standardized testing and special remedial programs for teachers and students.  Most distressing is the waste of time, energy and attention needed to implement them.  And then there is the overall distraction that keeps both educators and public from understanding and seriously considering what would most benefit optimal learning.

Many think the best way to bring about school reform is to increase competition through such challenges as charter schools, which may offer a little more freedom to operate.  But the struggle of Polly Williams in Milwaukee and Wisconsin has waged to pass and implement charter schools does not look very promising for any widespread reform and education improvement.  Some favor student vouchers that would increase competition and equal opportunity by giving parents and students the means to help them choose and afford the system they believe best.

Any reform program that limits the control of politicians and educationists will be opposed by the education establishment, which has resources that no other can come close to matching.  Reform programs are easily co-opted by the system; an institution that has grown and prevailed for 150 years is not likely to go gracefully away.  A more productive course for critics is working freely together to create unlimited learning options through open networking and all media.

Gene Lehman

Learning Unlimited Network of Oregon

31960 SE Chin St.

Boring, OR 97009

E-mail: luno@cse.com



By Ronald C. Tobin

Before I really get down to business, I do want to thank Gene Lehman for taking the time to write a critique of my "Terminate Public Education" article, and presenting same in his latest LUNO mailing.  Gene Lehman has been running LUNO for many years now, and I have often run his articles in this magazine.  He often presents effective educational alternatives and he also has been known to put out some intriguing political commentary.  Mr. Lehman has my respect and I admire his tenacity.

Now, onto the matter at hand.  The first issue I wish to make crystal clear is that I am an anarchist, not a minarchist.  I look at minarchism as likely being a logical stepping stone between the mess of today and the goal of the stateless society.  The minarchist does not share that goal, he or she looks at the creation of a minimal state as being an end in itself.

Secondly, I must take issue with Mr. Lehman referring to "Taxation is theft" as being a 'libertarian cliché.'  It is in fact an axiom of libertarianism, and it is valid.  It also does not matter what the courts say about it, the government's taxing authority is indeed a theft.  Why?  Well, theft is simply an involuntary taking, an involuntary transfer of property from one entity to another without due process.  In aboveground society, one really has little choice but to pay taxes -- the government will come and take it from you if you don't cough it up, so to say.

I did mention due process because while restitution payments may be involuntary, they are only imposed to indemnify the party one is paying restitution to.  That is to say, you damaged them, and you are making them whole again.  This involves due process, and is therefore acceptable.

I never debate about reforming public schools, because I have long held that they have no right to exist.  Why would I discuss reforming something I want to see abolished?  I oppose all half measures such as vouchers and tax-supported charter schools.  They do not address the root issue.

Mr. Lehman writes: "I think there is a good functionalist argument against abolishing our government school system."  He does not present what that argument might be.  He simply states: "It does not seem that in the foreseeable future there is any realistic possibility for eliminating an institution that has been around for 150 years and is strongly supported by most people?."  All that means is that it will be difficult to be rid of them.  Often, doing what is right is not doing what is easy.  Further, I challenge Mr. Lehman's assertion that public schools are strongly supported by most people.  I don't see a lot of support out there, I see acquiescence.  There is a difference.  So what if public schools have been around for 150 years?  The Inquisition and the institution of chattel slavery lasted longer than that (slavery not entirely abolished to this day).  Just because an institution has been around for a long while does not make it good, does not mean it should not be done away with.

So, difficult though it will prove to be, I will continue to work to abolish the government school system.  They are an abomination.  They destroy the minds of the youth.  They are parasites on the productive people in society.  That is why I consider the abolition of public schools to be a moral imperative.

I again thank Mr. Lehman for his critique.  All Governor Hull's antics did was get me to write that article.  My opposition to public schools goes back to the early 1980's, and it has only grown more firm as the years have passed.  I am firm in my resolve.

[These articles originally appeared in the July/August 2000 issue of  THE THOUGHT.]