Public versus Government Schools


In an essay posted at the law and liberty blog I explored how Progressives seek to rear citizens–to create the kind of citizens well suited to the Progressive administrative state.  Part of my argument is that government schools have ceased being public and are prone to serve as a means of changing local communities rather than being a reflection of their values and goals.  Here is a taste of my argument as applied to schools:

“Among the institutions crucial to the Progressive task of rearing citizens, none is as important than the vast government-sponsored educational establishment.  Government schools (by which I mean primary and secondary schools) have largely given up being public institutions and are, instead, instruments of government elites to mold the beliefs and affections of each rising generation.  The distinction between government and public is crucial and revealing in this case.  Let us call public schools those that are responsible exclusively or primarily to the community they serve.  Imagine a small town with one k-12 school that is funded exclusively by local taxes.  School goals and curricular objectives issue from an elected school board.  Through this form of democratic representation, the community establishes the criteria by which to hire and retain faculty according to their needs, standards, values, and particular local culture.  In short, the school is an extension of and a reflection of the community.

By contrast, government schools seek to transform rather than reflect the communities they propose to serve. For schools on this side of the spectrum (and the details still vary dramatically from state to state) funding is funneled through the state in order to create equity among districts, making the schools responsible (obedient) to the state educational establishment rather than to the community in which they are embedded.  Decisions about curricula and textbooks issue from government bureaucracies and the development of credentialing requirements places assessment of qualifications for teaching outside the reach of the community or its representatives.”

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