Get government out of the education business
By Beth Cody, Writers’ Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This fall, my six-year-old daughter did not go to an elementary school to start first grade like her friends, because she is continuing the academic lessons she began last year at home. Our family has joined the millions who homeschool.

Her friends’ parents cannot imagine how I could commit myself to 14 years of staying home with my daughter and her little brother; my parents are worried about my “career”; some of my more leftist friends believe I am doing something wrong. So why do I homeschool?

For two main reasons:

1. I can give them a far better education than what they would receive in public or even private schools. I myself attended (and was a high achiever in) college town public schools, but I have since become aware of all that I didn’t learn in those institutions.

2. Because philosophically I believe that government should not be entrusted to educate our children – that there exists a dangerous and very relevant conflict of interest.

I want my children to have a liberal education in the full sense of what that meant to generations past:

  • I want them to read the classic works of literature and understand the important ideas of the greatest minds of our civilization (despite mostly being written by “dead white men”).
  • I want them to understand the overarching narrative of history, how the story of humans has been the story of our striving toward freedom for individuals.
  • I want them to understand the incredible achievements wrought by the founders and builders of our exceptional nation – not to merely dwell on the mistakes they made.
  • I want them to understand mathematics, so that they can know the joy of abstract thinking – and “New Math” will not suffice.
  • I want them to understand actual scientific principles, so that they won’t be easily led by demagogues fomenting hysteria via “science” by consensus.
  • I want them to understand economics, why free markets work, why governments cannot spend us into prosperity, and how statistics can be used to illuminate or to mislead.
  • As a libertarian, I want them to understand why freedom really is the only path to happiness for humanity, and why freedom will triumph in the end – no matter what dark age we might pass into during their lifetimes.

The schools cannot teach them these things, but I can. And I can give them the free time to enjoy their childhood. The time they don’t spend standing in lines, shuffling between classrooms and waiting for teachers to deal with disruptions will be the time they can play outdoors, take music lessons, visit museums and other interesting places, or simply read quietly by themselves.

Some people believe that wanting a better education for my children is “elitist.” I do, in fact, want the same greatness for other children, but I control only my own children’s education. It is up to other parents to give their children the education they believe is best – government cannot provide it.

Nor should we want government to provide it.

Most Americans champion a free press: government controlling what we hear and read is a hallmark of tyranny.

Why, then, do Americans accept 12 years of compulsory indoctrination at state-run education facilities?

Some people believe that the purpose of schools is not just to teach the “3Rs,” but also to teach “civics” (knowledge of government and the rights and duties of citizens), so that we can participate in our democracy.

But government has an inherent disincentive to effectively teach any of these things. Government officials do not want knowledgeable and well-spoken citizens continually challenging their wisdom. Officials can only gain power and bigger budgets when most people have no idea what is happening, and are easily convinced that politicians have only our best interests in mind.

So it is not an accident that public school students not only have trouble reading and thinking abstractly, but also score particularly abysmally on civics tests.

My children will study that greatest of documents, our Constitution, so that they will recognize when government officials ignore or subvert it.

If we cede our children’s education to government, we will get exactly the kind of citizens government wants. My children will not be that kind of citizen.