Friday, June 23, 2006

Another Blunder at “Public” Schools

Tibor R. Machan

The Miami Herald reported the other day that “A parent's challenge to a book about Cuba resulted in the Miami-Dade School Board voting to ban it—along with 23 other books in the series, even though no one objected to them.” This action then prompted the ACLU to sue, demanding that the books be put back on the shelves.

This is another wonderful—or, actually, horrible—case where the true culprit is not being identified in the major media or even by the interested parties. The most prominent conservative commentator on the air, Rush Limbaugh, also managed to miss the point completely, offering, instead, his rant against the book in question that depicted Cuba glowingly.

Yes, one can appreciate it when a parent is outraged who grew up in a Communist or Nazi country and sees his or her child exposed to “education” that ignores the vile aspects of those systems. It’s like putting books in children’s hands that show only the wonderful German Autobahn as Hitler’s legacy. Yet, in a free country there is nothing a government should do about such misuses of the right to free expression. The protestations must be left to private parties.

Trouble is, of course, that when it comes to elementary, secondary, and even much of higher education, the United States of America is not a free country. The bulk of these institutions are run by—and paid out of taxes extorted from us—by governments. As such, education in the U. S. A. is effectively nationalized, a part of the public sector.

And here then comes to ACLU! They know that when it comes to the public sector, playing favorite with those who hate Cuba is technically illegal. (Let’s face it, the ACLU also defended the Nazis when they wanted to march on public roads in Skokie, Illinois, some decades ago!) So, what’s the solution?

Abolish government education, that’s what. Education ought to be approached the very same way religion is in this country, in any free country, in fact. There should be a powerful wall of separation between state and education. Once education is fully privatized, whether one school or another will have favorable or critical books about Cuba or the Third Reich or North Korea in its libraries will be up to those who own the school and those who are considering sending their children there. The ACLU will have no role in the matter whatsoever. Nor will some politicized bureaucracy, such as the state, county, or city school board.

Until this state of affairs is realized, there will forever be protracted squabbles about whether to have this or that kind of fiction, poetry, or non-fiction in the libraries and curricula of public schools. Citizens with different political ideas and ideals, different commitments, dreams, hopes and such, will fight others about what books children should be reading.

A privatized system avoids this kind of ugly mess. There is no public education to control, for any faction of the citizenry which members of other factions can then resist since they, too, are made to pay for it all.

Unfortunately, as with so many other matters in most societies, at this stage of the discussion defenders of government control of education bring up the supposedly sad state of the poor who, they alleged, will be left uneducated in a fully free country. This is bunk, no different from a claim that without government shoe stores, the poor will have no shoes—or any other goods and services traded in the mostly free market place in many societies.

But never mind that for now. The main point here is that if the likes of Rush Limbaugh or the ACLU have problem with what kinds of readings children must do in schools, they ought to consider, very seriously indeed, the privatization of all of education. There is no better solution to their problem.

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