Government’s Immoral Intervention in Education

The State has long imposed itself into the lives of families, in particular intervening in parental decisions when it comes to their children’s education. Taking on a parental role itself, American government seeks to aid in the general welfare of all children, whether parents desire government assistance or not.

The State has been successful in establishing itself as a father figure in this regard, as most Americans blindly accept PapaGov as its provider and overseer in the education of America’s children. However, the State truly has no authority to provide, mandate, or regulate education at all.

Three characteristics of government intervention in education stand out as immoral:

It thrives off taxation

No rational person can deny that stealing is immoral. Yet, when government provides certain goods and services determined acceptable or desirable among the citizenry, theft is redefined and in these cases is not considered theft at all. Anytime wealth is forcibly removed from the owner it is a form of theft. Frederic Bastiat notes:

When a portion of wealth passes out of the hands of him who has acquired it, without his consent, and without compensation, to him who has not created it, whether by force or by artifice, I say that property is violated, that plunder is perpetuated.[1]

When the government steals, it is legalized plunder. When the plunder is redistributed, in this case to provide education (or subsidize private schools to do so), it is socialism. Indeed, government-provided education is the centerpiece of the welfare state.

In our time under democracy, The People™ have embraced education as a right. It is, however, an invented right. It is a positive right that requires one person to do for another, e.g., said person must either provide the education or pay for it. Government is quite happy to be the “person” to provide it, and it is quite happy to steal from people in order to provide it. Worse, The People™, successfully moulded into the government’s image, dress up taxation as “the price we pay to live in a civilized society”; however, taxation is anything but civil. It is, in fact, unsophisticated, institutionalized theft. It is absurd to suggest that aggression of private property can rightly be considered civilized.

Because government intervention in education depends upon taxation, which is legalized theft, it is immoral.

It is compulsory

Not only has government invented the right to education and extorts wealth to provide it, but it also requires children to be educated. Truancy laws differ in each state, but were originally established to prevent children from working. Ultimately, the State circumvented parental authority thus requiring children attend school, regardless of the parents wishes or the children’s aptitude.

But let’s be honest, not all children are fit for formal education and are much more suitable to natural learning, and yes, even learning through trade and apprenticeship. That government asserts itself as the arbiter of education and coerces individuals to participate does not legitimize the practice or the institution. The following sizeable quote from Murray Rothbard is worthy of consideration:

A crucial fallacy of the middle-class school worshippers is confusion between formal schooling and education in general. Education is a lifelong process of learning, and learning takes place not only in school, but in all areas of life. When the child plays, or listens to parents or friends, or reads a newspaper, or works at a job, he or she is becoming educated. Formal schooling is only a small part of the educational process, and is really only suitable for formal subjects of instruction, particularly in the more advanced and systematic subjects. The elementary subjects, reading, writing, arithmetic and their corollaries, can easily be learned at home and outside the school.

Furthermore, one of the great glories of mankind is its diversity, the fact that each individual is unique, with unique abilities, interests, and aptitudes. To coerce into formal schooling children who have neither the ability nor the interest in this area is a criminal warping of the soul and mind of the child. Paul Goodman has raised the cry that most children would be far better off if they were allowed to work at an early age, learn a trade, and begin to do that which they are most suited for. America was built by citizens and leaders, many of whom received little or no formal schooling, and the idea that one must have a high-school diploma...before he can begin to work and to live in the world is an absurdity of the current age. Abolish compulsory attendance laws and give children their head, and we will return to a nation of people far more productive, interested, creative, and happy.[2]

Government has no authority in the family nor in what the family chooses as its mode of education. To force parents against their will to formally educate their children - in the government system or otherwise - is to violate their private property rights. Thus, compulsory education laws are immoral and, moreover, often harm the children and the family at large as children are forced into separation for most of the day especially during a child’s most formidable years when they should be with their parents.

Because government intervention in education circumvents parental authority and violates individual rights, including those of the child, it is immoral.

It is regulated

Government extorts wealth to finance education of the masses and it requires the masses to be educated. It also invents the standard upon which the masses must be educated. This characteristic of immoral government intervention may be the most egregious.

Over the years select individuals have determined suitable curriculums for their government education centers. Taking ownership of children for one-third of the day, government schools can mould their students into the citizens they want them to become, individualism be damned. These days, that mould is shaped by progressive socialists who revere the State as their god. Whatever academic success could be gained through government education, it is overshadowed by the State’s indoctrination of its students into the collective. Furthermore, while being more independent from the State’s influence, private schooling and homeschooling are still largely controlled by State regulation of curriculum standards. Ultimately, unless a curriculum or aptitude test is blessed by the State, it doesn’t pass as a legitimate form of education or measure of success.

But the question must be asked - who on God’s green earth has legitimate authority to determine any standard? Quite literally, no one on God’s green earth does, albeit, naturally, there is a standard.

My wife and I train our children. It is our responsibility to ensure they are trained according to our beliefs. The State has absolutely zero authority here. In our journey of how to best best train them, we’ve discovered Charlotte Mason and her philosophy of education. From what we’ve ascertained, Mason’s approach to education is the most consistent with the Christian worldview and libertarian philosophy. In the helpful book, When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy for Today,  Jack Beckman explains:

[Charlotte] Mason places the knowledge of God on the leading edge of her curriculum, with the knowledge of man and the universe following in order. God has revealed Himself, His being and purposes through the pages of living Scripture, which has its focus and meaning in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Because of this starting point, we must infer that all of life has a theological or religious base. A purpose of education begins to emerge, that of developing an understanding of God and His created reality and to use that understanding in exercising a creative redemptive dominion over the creation in which we live. The child is not passive in his education; he experiences, understands, and acts upon understanding in ways that show the image of God in him - creating, exploring, making choices, building relationships.[3]

This is exactly our philosophy, which is why we were thrilled to learn about a law in our state allowing for religious exemption in the education of our children. Because the State hates God and has abolished Him from the government curriculum, we claim we are exempt from government education centers. We reject the arbitrary distinction of secular education and religious education. With Charlotte Mason,

we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the culmination of all education is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.[4]

This world is God’s world and this reality is God’s reality; thus, all things therein are God’s and revealed by Him through various means. Handing over our children to a system that asserts itself as the highest authority and teaches through the materialist worldview is, in our view, the worst thing we can do for our children. Thus, we informed our state's education overlords that we are exempt from their system due to our religious convictions, and as such, we are not bound by its curriculum or testing standards.

Because government intervention in education circumvents God’s authority and violates individual liberty in determining educational standards, it is immoral.

Conclusion

Government has one legitimate role: to punish individuals who violate the private property rights of other individuals. In institutionalizing the right to education, government itself violates private property rights through taxation, compulsory education, and regulating education. Government intervention in education is thus immoral and should be abolished.


[1] Bastiat, Frederic. "The Law." The Bastiat Collection, 2nd Ed. Ebook. Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2011.

[2] Rothbard, Murray. "Education." For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manefesto, 2nd Ed. Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2006.

[3] Cooper, Elaine. "Education Is the Secience of Relations" by Jack Beckman. When Children Love to Learn:  A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2004.

[4] Ibid.