Irish Liberty Forum

A Lifetime Spent In Formal Non-Education

with 9 comments

Year-on-year the leaving cert results come out and one finds the same newspaper headlines:

Standards falling across-the-board, exams being ‘dumbed-down’, curricula being shortened, increasing numbers failing mathematics and unable to continue in education, fewer and fewer students capable of entering into third level science courses, lack of engineering graduates etc. etc.

In a time called the Information Age where information is more freely available than ever before in human history how is this possible? The internet exists in a staggering number of households today, yet students today cannot solve simple geometry problems and are becoming more and more ignorant and indifferent.

Many criticise the government for lack of investment. However, the government spends €10 billion of tax payers money on education every year in the Republic of Ireland in supplement to the enormous amounts already paid by parents for private schools and extra lessons for their children. That’s a ‘1’ with ten ‘0’s after it! Is more money really the answer? What is the government doing now that is so detrimental to education that it wasn’t doing in the past?

Well, why were there higher standards in the past one might ask? What did the government do in the past that worked?

Funnily enough the State originally had nothing to do with education. It was through the work of the private and independent sector that Irish people became known internationally as having a high standard of education.

So in that case who exactly built our schools and universities then?

Take, for example, St. Ignatius Rice who was the founder of the Christian Brothers. In his early life he was a merchant-banker in Cork who amassed a fortune and then, upon the death of his wife, decided to spend his fortune establishing schools to educate the poor. He then became a priest, founded a religious order with his wealth and became the ‘educator of Ireland’, all entirely independent of any State interference.

Most Irish Universities were funded by charitable initiatives of philanthropic individuals like Cardinal John Henry Newman establishing UCD (obviously independently of the British Crown) or the Catholic Church founding a university at its seminary in Maynooth.

All of these institutions provided a service that was to a large degree free for the poor with high educational standards that led Irish people to rise rapidly in other industrial countries, especially the United States. Under these Irish educational institutions, STANDARDS ACTUALLY ROSE!

So what happened?

Why is the State involved in schooling now and why are standards now falling?

Why on earth is education free and compulsory today if it was of higher standard and more effective at schooling the poor in the past when it was neither free nor compulsory?

In the book ‘Education: Free and Compulsory’, Murray Rothbard explains,

‘A tax supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state’. Obviously the state and the political class want obedient and docile citizens that will believe whatever they are told and not question their masters. But there is an even deeper and more sinister agenda at play as well. Why was it that free and compulsory education was one of the essential ten tenets in Karl Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto’?

One of the most important facts about human nature is the great diversity among individuals. The development of individual variety tends to be both the cause and the effect of the progress of civilisation. As civilisation progresses, there is more opportunity for the development of an individuals reasoning and tastes in a growing variety of fields.

The record of the development of compulsory education is a record of State usurpation of parental control over children on behalf of its own; an imposition of uniformity and equality to repress individual growth; and the development of techniques to hinder the growth of reasoning power and independent thought among the children. To understand this one must first recognise the underlying intentions of free and compulsory schooling at the hands of the State is a ‘drive towards savage uniformity’ and egalitarianism for as Rothbard says ‘the creed of equality and uniformity is a creed of death and destruction’.

The modern school is not far different from Sparta where the children were seized by State and educated in barracks to the ideal of State obedience. When one thinks about it, school is essentially as much a prison today as it was back then, a place where you are no longer in the protection of your family, but, in many cases at the mercy of those who now control and order you around. Interestingly, lying was considered a proper instrument of the State to use in its indoctrination of the people in Sparta.

Fascism, Nazism and Communism: it is a grave and unanswerable indictment of compulsory State education that these modern totalitarianisms were eager to institute public State schooling in their regimes. There is no need to discuss the mind-numbing State propaganda that melted the minds of these countries’ inhabitants and reduced them to helpless dependency upon the State. In time, they all became savages as civilisation was erased in the classroom and in the minds of the citizens and replaced with State idolatry.

At the basis of totalitarianism and compulsory education is the idea that children belong to the State rather than their parents. One of the leading promoters of that idea in Europe was the infamous Marquis de Sade, who insisted that children are the property of the State. For it is essential for the growth of State power that habits and minds and feelings of all the children be molded into absolute equality, and then the nation will be ripe for the final of equalisation of property and incomes by means of State coercion. Throughout the plans of these State ‘educators’ run hatred of human diversity, particularly of the higher standard of living of the rich as compared to the poor. Their agenda is not only one of promoting State Absolutism and ‘Absolute Equality’- to which the system is admirably suited- but to educate the ‘whole child’ and create the ‘New Socialist Man’. A man of no thoughts of his own but who simply acts in obedience to his masters.

Now in Ireland, the fact of the matter is that with the exiting of the Catholic Church and other religious groups from the management of schools we have seen the final total nationalisation of the educational system.

Now the system was always somewhat nationalised since the founding of the State. The State and the Church were always in battle over the control of the minds of the people but in many cases they came to mutually beneficial arrangements. By paying the wages of the teachers whilst allowing the schools themselves to be ‘nominally private’ under the Church, the state found a way to induce the private schools to teach state supremacy without outlawing private schools, as was done in some other countries.

Thus, Plato’s ideal of full State communistic control over the children has now finally been realised.

The idea that there is any need for a Department of Education is absurd. These meddlers have ruined the entire educational experience for generations of Irish people. By enforcing certification for minimum standards, the State effectively, though subtly dominates the private schools, and makes them, in effect, extensions of the public school system. Aside from all these underlying intentions, the State still wants scientists to develop the technologies necessary to fully control the human mind and engineers to man the nuclear power stations that will power the bureaus of statistics where the mathematicians develop their projected growth models of future food rations.

However, further education in civilisation cannot be obtained at all under full political control of the schools. It is possible only to a certain frame of mind in which knowledge is pursued voluntarily. Furthermore, in a State system there are no competing curricula. There is no way of know how best to teach subjects because the State does not have other curricula to compare against. The Irish Curricula is essentially an enclosed system. The requirements to be learned shall always fall. In the UK now universities are no longer accepting the A levels but are introducing their own standardised examination for applicant students. In this case, the British government have managed to devalue the once impressive and comprehensive A levels such that not even their own public universities will accept the results anymore but demand the private sector to supply them with an adequate testing system!!!!

To the Statist who is convinced that unless there is compulsory education parents will neglect their children and not send them to school ‘Do you think nobody would entrust his children to you to pay you for teaching them? Why do you have to collect your pupils by compulsion?’ The spirit of schools has changed from philanthropy to the poor to something which all children are induced to attend.

One of the most damning indictments of the schooling system is that teachers are under the Civil Service. As a result, once a formal examination is passed, which has little relation to actual teaching competence, and a little time elapses the teacher is on the public payroll, and foisted on the children for the rest of his working life.

Tyranny by majority vote may be unpleasant enough, but at least if the rulers are subject to democratic checks, they have to please the majority of the voters. But government officials who cannot be voted out at the next election are not subject to any democratic check whatsoever. They are permanent tyrants. “Taking something out of politics” by putting it into the Civil Service certainly does increase the ‘morale’ of the bureaucracy. It elevates it into near perpetual absolute rulers in their sphere of activity. The fact that teachers are under the Civil Service is one of the most damning indictments against the Irish compulsory system of today.

In summary:


The effect of progressive education is to destroy independent thought in the child, indeed to repress any thought whatsoever. Instead the children learn to revere certain heroic emblems and to follow the domination of the “group”. Thus, subjects are taught as little as possible and the child has little chance to develop any systematic reasoning powers in the study of definite courses. This is evident where school is seen by many to be a chore when in fact learning is the most exciting and natural pleasure for humans! We are beings who learn constantly from the moment we come into existence so when learning becomes a horrible chore it is because the system has squeezed all creativity, inspiration and humanity out of the learning process.


Equality and uniformity are pursued more than ever, even under the guise of letting individuals do whatever they like. The plan is to abolish grades, by which better and worse children know the extent of their progress, and instead to grade “subjectively” or not at all. This is clear in the Irish educational system where they are gradually replacing the Leaving Cert exam with continual assessments. Even in the UK they are now considering abolishing the GCSE exams and replacing them with a new syllabus revolving around ‘team work’.


The idea that the school should not simply teach subjects, but should educate the “whole child” in all phases of life, is obviously an attempt to arrogate to the State all the functions of the home. The idea that the State can re-engineer man is a hang-up from Marxism that has become blurred into the supposed ‘essential’ functions of the State. In the end, this egalitarianism is as Rothbard put it ‘A Revolt Against Nature Itself’.


Written by NaomhAdamnan

September 13, 2008 at 11:10 pm

9 Responses

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  1. There is no compulsory state education in Ireland. The constitution states that parents have the prime responsibility for educating children. State schools exist but one always has the option to educate their children at home. There are obligations on home-schooled children to meet certain levels of literacy but the curriculum can be devised by individuals themselves.

    Surely most posters on this site have been through the cogs of the Irish education system and have been able to settle upon anarchist/libertarian thought, so where is the evidence of an absence of ‘developed reasoning’?

    Finally, many (though not all) flaws the education system might have had historically lie with the Church’s management of it. Surely that organization had its own agenda of conformity which stifled free thinking. Why then do you praise it?

    Interested individual

    September 14, 2008 at 9:11 am

  2. Excellent work, Carl! 🙂


    September 14, 2008 at 9:44 am

  3. The State despises home-schooling.

    There are heaps of laws and regulations prohibiting the average parent from home-schooling their kids. Have you seen the The Education (Welfare) Act 2000? In order to home-school your children you have to apply for permission from the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB). If your application is approved the children will then be added to the register but this is not an automatic process and you may be possibly refused again by this body. There is an appeals procedure.

    Amongst the Irish home-school movement there are many stories of some school Principals and teachers being unaware that home education is a legal right and making the withdrawal process from school difficult and telling parents that home education is not allowed.There have been many cases of principals unaware that home-schooling is a legal alternative in the State at all!

    The ‘Education Welfare Officers’ patrol the home-schoolers and are asked to provide an evaluation of whether the education provided is ‘a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social’.

    What exactly a ‘certain minimum education’ is, has never been exactly defined in law. To quote the ‘Guidelines on the Assessment of Education in Places Other Than Recognised Schools’ from the The Education (Welfare) Act 2000, ‘a certain minimum education should,

    Be suited to the age, ability, aptitude and personality of the child
    Be responsive to the child’s individual needs, should take cognisance of the areas of learning that are of interest to the child, and should ensure that his/her personal potential is enhanced and not suppressed
    Address the immediate and prospective needs of the child, in the context of the cultural, economic and social environment
    Provide a reasonably balanced range of learning experiences, so that no one aspect of the child’s learning is emphasised to the exclusion of others
    Develop the personal and social skills of the child and prepare him/her for the responsibilities of citizenship
    Contribute to the moral development of the child
    Ensure the development of basic skills (as outlined below) so as to prepare the child to participate in society and everyday life
    Provide opportunities for the child to develop his/her intellectual capacities and understanding

    This is as broad and nondescript a definition as one can imagine. Furthermore, it is obvious that children develop reading and writing abilities at different ages and that their abilities vary widely, thus any attempt to ‘grade’ the progress of a home-schooling parent is flawed from the outset. The decision to allow a child remain in home-schooling rests entirely on the whim of the ‘Educational Welfare Officer’ and as such, no such ‘right’ to a home-schooling education in fact exists.

    If the Department of Education were to be as strict with its own educational system where countless students leave school without the ability to read and write every year then there would possibly be no need for a home-schooling movement. But, if this was the case most public schools would be immediately fore-closed and the Department of Education would be out of the education business entirely.

    The readers of this site are by no means typical. It certainly took me up until I nearly completed third level education before I arrived at my current point of view and it was only found through independent reading and a burning desire to get at the heart of the issues of society. The internet with its unrestricted access to ideas has been the only force I feel that has ever given me a real education. It is unsurprising that the internet is the epitome of an anarcho-capitalist society. The books I read are not found in public libraries or on university prescribed reading lists but are distributed by any means possible by those who have read them already, normally for free on the internet. The solutions to society’s problems arrived at in the Department of Education are all retrograde as my article clearly demonstrated. To take a quote from Einstein,’It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education’. The fact that having passed through the educational system and that I still have a mind that can understand reason is a testimony to the power of the mind, not to the gracious enlightenment of an intellectually bankrupt ‘system’ of public education.

    If you will re-read my article you will notice the following quote:
    “The State and the Church were always in battle over the control of the minds of the people but in many cases they came to mutually beneficial arrangements.”

    I am fully aware that the Church has many facets of the State and even is the State occasionally. You will notice that I also emphasised that the Church was operating outside the claws of government when the great advances were made to Irish education. The Church was a product of the market when the Christian Brothers established their schools and the great Irish Universities were founded. You will also notice that I then described how the State gradually nationalised the educational institutions that the Church had founded. Of course the Church wants to increase its domination over its flock but when it acts in the marketplace it must prove its worthiness to the people, whereas once it associates with government its innovation and creativity is lost in its new-found monopoly.

    You accuse the Chruch of causing the problem of falling standards in Irish education? I ask you to re-read my article again. The Church has been all but dissolved in Irish society today and the State is now in total control of the public schooling system. Before the Church schools THERE WERE NO SCHOOLS IN IRELAND. The Church did want rich followers to donate handsomely to its coffers so it was in their interest to give the best education they could. This is obvious for not everybody could become a priest. To find a previous educational system before the Church one will have to return to the Bardic Courts of Gaelic Ireland and the monasteries when Ireland was known as ‘the Island of Saints and Scholars’. Your final question was a throw-away comment. If would like to clarify what you mean I would appreciate it.

    I am not praising the Church. At times I find Church teachings upsetting. My point is that whatever their ultimate goal was, the Church, and especially certain entrepreneurial and philanthropic individuals within the Church, provided a great service to the people of this island independently of the State.

    Edit: last line. Country= people of this island


    September 14, 2008 at 10:50 am

  4. I understand how the state has some checks on home-schooling, but I would disagree on the motive for these. Arguably, they are there for the best interests of the child, but you would presumably disagree with that interpretation.

    The state actually has little control over the overwhelming majority of schools in Ireland. Yes they pay teachers salaries and provide grants, but in fact the Church, Educate Together and the various Protestant faiths tend to be the major patrons. I also think the Islamic community is introducing its own primary schools too. These organizations decide the ethos of these schools and to that end, are quite influential on the teaching of these children. I would disagree strongly with the notion that the state has a monopoly on our education system. It is in a curious position, whereby although it funds the system, it actually has relatively little power over it. In economic terms, its like a state sponsored subsidy, more than anything else. Even state controlled primary schools have embraced some of these religious organizations. There are a number of community (ie state) schools which are explicitly Catholic, for example.

    One could argue, with validity I would say, that in fact the state has managed to curtail much of its responsibilities for education in Ireland since 1922. In that sense, your last paragraph was right. The Church has made a major contribution to our education system. Whether or not that is desirable for the future is another matter. Only now is the state beginning to address the responsibilities it has.

    Interested individual

    September 14, 2008 at 11:19 am

  5. It is often asserted that the poor man’s failure in the competition of the market is caused by his lack of education. Equality of opportunity, it is said, could be provided only by making education at every level accessible to all. There prevails today the tendency to reduce all differences among various peoples to their education and to deny the existence of inborn inequalities in intellect, will power, and character. It is not generally realized that education can never be more than indoctrination with theories and ideas already developed. Education, whatever benefits it may confer, is transmission of traditional doctrines and valuations; it is by necessity conservative. It produces imitation and routine, not improvement and progress. Innovators and creative geniuses cannot be reared in schools. They are precisely the men who defy what the school has taught them. (Human Action, c15, s11)

    Children should not be taught to “trust and parrot”. Writing is not a team-sport and learning is not team-dependent. To deny choice and to enforce monopoly is to de-humanise the individual and to remove the faculty of his reason. Rather than upending establishment ideas and theories, public schools create the worst form of stasis: a totalitarian society in which the state is revered as the omnipotent yet benevolent ruler and the people become nothing more than cogs in a machine.

    Upon who’s shoulders does the responsibility of the education of the child lie? Well, at the end of the day we are all ‘self-educated’ in a fundamental sense. But if there is a decision to be made as to where children are to spend their childhood, surely it is the parents who should decide and not a bureaucrat? It is not surprising that the Department of Education is so vigilant with regards shoring up the kids from families, for their careers depend on having children to control. If everybody were to home-school their children these ‘civil servants’ would be unemployed!!!! Are these pen-pushers not self-interested like all other human beings? Simply because somebody works for the government surely does not mean there is a change in human nature? The more students they can control, the greater their pay and the more secure their job is.

    This is found most horrendously in the United States where there is a $100,000 bonus to local School and Welfare Boards for every extra child they manage to take off home-schooling parents and put into state care, where many are abused and de-humanised as the litany of stories on US media will confirm. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. You say that the state is justified in interfering with the desire parents have for the up-bringing of their children, but you ignore the flaws in the rotten and decrepid state school system that you propose is better. Do you see tribunals of investigation of peadophile parents? Does the State pay for their defense and then lump the burden of compensation on the tax-payer? Whatever their best wishes for the child, all the government succeeds in doing is in subsidising evil. The Statist is completely caught-up in the ‘good intentions’ of State action, but are indifferent to the results. There is a striking failure of recognising that all society is comprised of individuals and that as such when the state acts it uses coercion for it exists outside of the market place. Inherent in coercion is unintended consequence.

    The ultimate ‘motive’ of the State invading the family home and demanding attendance at their decrepid indoctrination prison is that the State defines itself as a superior moral being to the family; that the family is somehow a danger to ‘society’. They have forgotten that society is only a collection of individuals who are all members of families. If you decide to raise your children in the loving warmth of your family you are immediately a danger to the monopolous elite and a threat to their powers. For if choice in education is a sacred human right then surely so is choice in health and choice in the justice system? This is the fundamental reason that governments grow, for government is a business like all things, to increase your wage you increase the numbers you enslave. If people begin to rationalise that the government should not be involved in schooling, then the other state monopolies and rackets are also in danger of being abolished. Thus they must sing in chorus the glory of the State to protect their interests.

    Fundamentally, the Statist must ask himself the abstract question of whether Rights actually exist at all. Are Rights determined simply by whatever the mob feel is the order-of-the-day? Do Rights even matter? Maybe government models and the command of a powerful political figure can solve the Irish educational system? This is to a large extent what the situation is like today.

    As Linda Schrock Taylor has pointed out, when one examines the standard of education in the United States before the estbablishment of public schools in the early 18th century we see a society with virtually universal literacy at nearly 98%. Private education met the demand of an industrial society independently and managed to evolve an educational system of nearly universal literacy without any government edicts. Massachusetts had reached a level of 98% literacy in 1850. This occurred before the state’s compulsory education law of 1852. Senator Edward Kennedy’s office released a paper in the 1980s stating that literacy in Massachusetts was only 91%. 98% is possibly as high as the literacy figure could possibly ever be considering there are people in society born with genetic difficulties that impair their ability to read and write. After two hundred years of state-supremacy, if the Statist system was of any value whatsoever it would have at least maintained this percentage. Surprise, surprise, the results are to be expected, today there is ever-growing mass illiteracy in the out-of-control bureaucracy in the Department of Education in the United States.

    All the burden of justification lies at the feet of the statist to prove how their system is supposed to improve society and why it fails at every stage of its development.

    In the United States, home-schoolers consistently out-perform both the quasi-private and public school kids, so much so, that as Prof. Arthur Robinson has pointed out, they are increasingly dominating third level institutions. These students are re-nowned for their enthusiasm and insatiable desire for learning and maturity in comparison to their peers but they are considered a threat to society by government. The public school system in contrast churns out a knowledge stunted, adolescent citizenry, unable to ascertain the source of their own disquiet, and who stumbles headlong through life unable to recognize, let alone attempt, a life well lived. Amongst the home-schooling movement there is the belief that the public school system is so incapable of improving that they expect it to simply implode in the not too distant future. Their numbers are growing year-on-year and now around two million students are homeschooled in the States. Why then is home-schooling being outlawed in more and more States at an ever increasing pace?

    In the mind of the statist, home-schoolers are the most horrifying example of individual flourishing. All the evidence of State laws and rules point to a continual attempt at limiting the number ‘slipping through the public school net’ and that is not to be permitted if the end goal of society is egalitarianism. But the central planners have nothing to offer the concerned parent. The social engineer is witnessing his public school system collapse just like the rest of the government institutions of ‘the Great Society’. Education is compulsory for the ‘professional educator’ must use coercion to keep the public school system afloat with children, otherwise it would no doubt cease to operate for long.

    The State has total control over the Irish educational system. The State writes the textbooks, appoints the teachers, sets the exams, enforces its ‘code of practice’ and bleats propaganda. Good teachers are not rewarded and are utterly frustrated whilst the wasters and the indifferent have tenure and a job for life. Teaching is like any other good, it is a service provided by one individual for another. Education is a service that exists in the marketplace. When you remove the marketplace, you remove the education.

    It may not be blatently obvious, but for you to understand how complete the State control of the schooling system is, try and imagine the schooling landscape of the country without any of the above facilities in the employ of the state. The mind is simply blown away by endless possibilities of how wonderful the educational system could be constructed if it was left to the private and independent sector. Different teachers would be hired with wildly different styles of teaching, numerous different courses and subjects, tayloring to the student’s individual needs, taught in the Socratic manner etc. This in fact is the service provided by expensive private schools where parents who are capable of paying not only through-the-nose in their taxes but doubling up with a further private schooling fee. In private schools the teachers return to treating the students increasingly as individuals as the cost of the education increases. Their work is rewarded in their increased salary and their ability to attract students to their school. This is undoubtedly how grind schools operate. Education is a scarce resource that is in high demand. State intervention cannot change this situation. All intervention can achieve is disruption in the price system that allows for the possibility of an ever-increasing standard of education.

    The Protestant and Catholic Churches and Educate Together schools etc are all in the same boat, their control of what actually goes on in the school is nominal. What sort of control do they have exactly if they cannot write their own texts etc as I explained above. Not much. They are free to brainwash whatever philosophy they want into the heads of the children during religion class or at assembly but their real ability to help the children is lost.


    September 19, 2008 at 10:40 pm

  6. We homeschool in Ireland. Our daughter, soon to be 19, took the Leaving Cert with NO problems. In fact everyone involved was very helpful. I don’t know how long this will last. We have an additional 3 children (15,11,9).

    We will teach them ourselves and with the help of whomever WE HIRE or COOP for as long as we possible can.

    We encourage all those how want to homeschool to do so. You get your children back, physically but more important mentally.

    We are working on a series of blogs with free lessons for Grammar School. Economics is one of them. is fantastic for secondary and above.

    Never stop learning! Never Give Up! Homeschool!

    For the love of our Triune God in whom we find Liberty!


    September 20, 2008 at 7:05 am

  7. Just thought I’d reference a few of my points for those interested, I’m not exactly certain what should be referenced but if you would like a reference please ask and I’ll find where I got it. The stats I quote are in the following:

    “Free” Education and Literacy
    Daily Article by Barry Dean Simpson

    ‘Education: Free and Compulsory”
    by Murray N. Rothbard

    ‘Public Schools, Public Menace’ by Joel Turtel

    Prof. Arthur Robinson Home-Schooling Curriculum

    There’s loads of the following articles to be found, thought I’d throw in a few:

    GCSE standards ‘deliberately lowered’ to make sure pupils pass

    Bringing up grades by dumbing down equals failure

    Failures of the Leaving Cert

    Dumbing down school exams risks ‘catastrophe’, warns Royal Society of Chemistry

    For anybody paying attention to the battle being waged between the home-schooling movement and the government;
    Homeschooling Banned in California as State Turns Parents Into Criminals for Teaching Their Own Children


    September 22, 2008 at 2:24 pm

  8. Hey Retro, I think your comment got put in the queue for moderation because of the link content!

    Hi Chalcedonite, thanks for linking to us, and best of luck. It’s great to hear that things are working out so well for you! I will add you to our blogroll.


    September 22, 2008 at 5:22 pm

  9. 9DjtK9 Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!


    March 6, 2010 at 7:48 pm

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