The Government Program that Saved Us from the Jungle

by Mrs. Samurai on January 15, 2005

in Gubmint

dude wrote:

The public school system is what made this country a world power instead of a thirdworld jungle. Remember, the clues have the little blue paw prints on them. Find one.

The public school system is what made this country a world power instead of a thirdworld jungle. Remember, the clues have the little blue paw prints on them. Find one.

(I typed it twice so I wouldn’t type it incorrectly.)

_______________________________

Message sent from IP: 206.222.219.77

What a witty and informative email! I never knew that we had jungles in this country before public schools came along. Whew! I don’t like humid heat and bugs the size of my foot.

Unfortunately, this clever fellow suffers from a common misconception regarding the history of public schooling. Most people don’t even know when public schools started or why. The when is around the 1850’s. The why is a bit more complicated, but had a lot to do with assimilating the immigrant children quickly and helping them to conform with the existing population. (A lot of the intellectuals of the time had grave concerns about the effect of the Irish and others on the quality of the U.S. citizenry.)

By the time public schools opened, the U.S. had already rocketed to premier first-world status and was an amazing financial success story. This was due to the unprecedented freedoms in our country at that time. Simply speaking, the government stayed out of its citizens’ lives and the result was prosperity and relative peace. Most of you can look at our country’s history since the mid-1800s and see that public schooling was just part of a pattern of increasing government intervention.

The result? Our literacy level has steadily decreased since the first public school opened it’s doors. Many people mistakenly think that we had a bunch of barely literate country bumpkins in this country in the early years. Not so! As an example, Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” was estimated to have been read by half of the adult population at that time. Now, it is considered difficult reading for high schoolers. Furthermore, over the span of the 20th century as public schooling became the norm for the majority of children, functional illiteracy (unable to read or write a simple message) doubled to over 20%.

I see public education as an experiment that has failed. I look around me at all of the great services, products, and medical advances that exist because of free enterprise. Given competition and a profit motive, it is rare that a failing system will survive for long (Microsoft Windows is arguably the notable exception to this). But given government protection, a mediocre (or worse) program can live on forever. Think of it – how does a private school increase it’s income? By having a successful, appealing program that draws more students and justifies higher tuition. How does a public school get more money? By proving that they have failed to produce adequate results and therefore need more funds to address the problem. The quality of students continues to decline (the author of the above email excepted, I’m sure), yet we are expected to pay more and more. Is it just me, or is this insane?

If you are interested in learning more about the history of education in this country from someone who really knows about it, read the excellent books written by John Taylor Gatto.


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