A Lifetime Spent In Formal Non-Education
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.
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’.