Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dumb Question #1

Should teacher led bible reading or prayer in public school be allowed?

Well, if we are being totally honest about this, no.  No student should be exposed to religious propaganda while at a state run function.  Just think about what would happen if Mormons, Muslims, or Zoroastrians were in the majority?  Would you want your children to have to sit through the reading of their sacred scriptures?  Further, how many of you really want your children to receive religious instruction from public school teachers?  I didn't think so.

But, this is the wrong question.  The real question is, should there be such a thing as public schools?  My answer to this question is no.  I can't imagine a more socialist institution than an all day state run indoctrination camp.  Not only is it state run, and all day long, but it's mandatory.  What people need to understand is that education cannot be value free.  It's merely a question of which values schools promote.  Parents ought to be in charge of the values being given to their children, not a ubiquitous state.  Further, public schools are not free.  They are just supported through tax money. 

If we didn't have mandatory public schools, would some students not get a good education?  Yes.  But some students don't get a good education now.  Would some families choose not to send their children to school?  Yes.  But some students don't go to school now, even with compulsory education laws.  Overall, it's a matter of freedom.  Parents ought to be free to send their children to whatever school they want to send them to.  And they ought to be free from the burden of forced philanthropy, being taxed to provide education to other people's children.

I know that this will be quite controversial, even among the limited circle of people who read this blog.  All I would ask is that you read it carefully, and think about it.  If you disagree, let me know.  I won't be angry.  Honest debate is a great way for Christians to think carefully about things which they have never thought about before. I welcome your comments.


  1. You already know that I agree with the first point and not the second. We must protect children from their own stupid parents that do not love them enough to make sure that the get an education. Just like we need to protect some children from the parents that do not love them enough to not beat them and put out their cigarettes on their forehead.

    An education is the most valuable thing a person can have. It is coorelated with lower rates of social problems like drug use and poverty.

    More importantly it is positively coorelated with better health. The more education you have the less likely you are too fall into a group that has high rates of obesity, diabetes, or other chronic illness. (See "Social Policy as Health Policy" in JAMA 2009, can't remember the author, sorry). If we really want to improve health and social issues, education is a great way to start.

    Now does that mean the state HAS to be the one to educate children? No. But some people can't afford to send their kids to school, so that what people came up with at the time.

  2. Ben,

    I know you have already heard my answers to your objections, but for the rest of the readers, here goes:

    Education is extremely valuable. However, school and education are two very different things. I know people who have gotten superb public school education, as well as people who came out of the public schools roughly the same, or worse than when they went in. I'm sure you can think of people in all three categories. My belief is that schools do little to educate children without the backing of supporting parents pushing their children to succeed. Students are in school now who would be better off being educated in a technical program, or bagging groceries, or apprenticing to be an electrician, or any number of other possibilities. A liberal education is not for everyone, and the state should not mandate that everyone get one. This merely wastes the time of many students who really should not be in school.

    As to your objection about the state being responsible for the safety and well-being of our children, at what point do we stop? Correlation also exists between the well-being of children and the level of their parents' education. Do we want to establish a eugenic program through which we ban poor or poorly educated people from having children? That would promote well-being. Or how about a program to ban divorce among adults with children? Divorce is one of the leading indicators of many problems children face. Should we ban divorce? That would promote well-being. Or how about banning children from groups which suffer high divorce rates? Baptists get divorced at a higher rate than other Christians. They are harming their children. Do you think we should keep Baptists from having children? Or marrying in the first place? It would promote well-being.

    My point is that once the state begins meddling to promoting the well-being of society, we devolve slowly into tyranny. I don't see any clear line to draw which would be a good marker for the activity of the state. Therefore, I tend to believe that parents will generally take care of their children better than the state will. Further, they should have the freedom to make the best decisions they know how to for their children. Our current system prevents parents from doing so.

    Finally, in my opinion, your most valid point is that poor people may have trouble sending their children to school. No doubt situations like this would arise. But they arise now, I'm sure. The question to ask is, what did people do before public schools? Did poor students not go to school? Of course some students did not go to school. But poverty was also more crushing then. Modern poor people can be fat, and have televisions and cars. Our standard of living has simply increased. Most people would be able to send their children to a school if they wanted to. If they didn't want to, they probably wouldn't have been providing any sort of support for their children under a compulsory system anyway, and it would have been a waste of time. I'm also sure that, just as we had before public schools, a system of charity schools would develop. Humanitarians who would have their consciences twinge at the sight of the poor unable to afford an education would set up schools for the poor.

    Fundamentally, my belief in freedom is simply stronger than my desire for equality of outcome. As such, I do not like a compulsory education system. The possibility of poor people going without education is a real one. And it hurts me to think about it. But there are good means to solve this problem voluntarily, not by using the fist of government to suppress its citizens.

  3. I believe Jon knows my position on the issues put forth in this post already, but in case Bigguy or the rest of you don't, here goes: The Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights held there within were formulated and put into being to prevent a federal government from meddling, controlling, or otherwise putting their hands in any aspect of the public's lives beyond that for which the federal government was initially created: providing for the common defense. The 10th Ammendment guarentees that the States, by the people, control the federal government, and that no matter what the federal government tries to do, the ultimate authority lands with the people through their elected representatives in the state legislatures. This now brings me to my point about public education: it is not now, nor has it ever been the responsibility nor the duty of the federal government to provide ANY education whatsoever to the American People, just as it has never been the federal government's responsibility to provide healthcare, or to bail out corporations who made such horrible financial decisions that, without a bailout, they would have been liquidated. The very idea of public education goes against our Consitution, and the fact that it is mandatory makes it even worse. The responsibility for education lies with parents and parents alone; if you happen to live in a home where your parents are less than inclined to provide education for you, thats a tough situation, but one that should not be rectified by the government, as it is not the government's responsibility. As Jon so rightfully said, the more responsibility reserved for the people that we give to the government, the more rights they will take. It is true what Bigguy said that many families are unable to pay for education, and that all children should be educated; however, home schooling is free, and even though it may not always be an option, it is still a better one than public education. Granted, some public schools employ teachers who have values centered on true education and not indoctrination, but most of these teachers are regulated in what they can and can't teach, and most of these teachers unfortunately oversee students who have no desire to learn. Public schools are not designed to educate your children; they are designed to produce a dumbed down, uniform public that all believes relatively the same things and are all have a very limited understanding or skewed view of a broad realm of topics. Just try to tell someone who graduted from a public school that the US dollar is a worthless piece of paper, or that there is true science that has proven that evolution is bogus; try to have a conversation about someone educated in the public system about the Constitution, or about our foreign policy. If you present any arguments or information to someone who has been publicly educated that goes against what the media preaches or the government says is true, unless they come from a Christian or conservative background, they will most likely call you a 'quack' and label you crazy. Now, I am in no means demeaning anyone who has gone through the public school system, I am just making the point that the system itself is unconstitutional and that there are plenty of alternatives for education. I will finish with this: remember that speech Obama gave a few weeks ago that was broadcast to every public school in the country? If that isn't government imposing its ideals on children, I don't know what is.

  4. Dear Jon,

    I am currently studying for an exam and have no time to make an intelligent response. However, I would like to have an opportunity to tell the interweb why my opinion differs. You may want to hold off the next dumb question untill I can explain why we don't have to scap the entire system, why O'bama is a handsome and nice man who can talk to children in a nice way and people should not fret, and why there is no "Science" that has proven anything ever ever ever ever that can not be directly observed, especially that "evolution is bogus."

    Thank you,


  5. You will, of course, note that I personally mentioned nothing about evolution or Obama's handsomeness and pleasant demeanor (the latter being undeniable). Merely because a comment is on the blog does not necessarily mean that I endorse it. That being said, the interweb and I look forward to your intelligent response very much.

  6. I think the real cure for the trouble in schools is local control. Get the federal government out of it, money and rules. Get the state government out of it, money and rules. Possible even get the cities out of it. I'd strip local control down to the neighborhood level or possible, in big appartment complexes, the block level.

    To say some parents won't educate their children, well, seriously, that's happening right now with drop out rates above fifty percent in some large cities and around 70 percent in some communities.
    And the schools just keep operating.
    I'd tear the whole structure down, toss out ALL the rules and regs, take away all the funding AND all the taxes to pay for the funding and I think schools would just appear. They wouldn't have swimming pools or football fields or marching band or away games.
    But the children might learn to read.
    And the ones that didn't learn to read, you know what? They're not learning to read now.

  7. Part 1:

    This reply is late compared to the original submission date arranged by Jon and myself. I apologize, here it is at last.

    The fact that some schools are worse then others I feel is irrelevant to the argument that the youth of our country should be coerced into education. The argument is: Should we make sure that everyone has this thing called education? Not: Is the education we are giving people a good one? The second is a functionality argument, where as the first is a question of ideals. Nearly all public schools allow for some type of technical education option if the students would prefer. This too is education, so arguing that we should stop all education because a lot of people do not choose to go to college, is logic that currently eludes my grasp. As Jon will point out, education has become a huge governmental enterprise. No doubt increased competition and elimination of the department of education would help the situation; but this is secondary to the question: Should we have compulsory education? Objection! Relevancy, your honor.

    To the next paragraph, if we a TRULLY being honest the responsibility of the state is at least in part to provide for our safety. The state has things called laws that provide us freedom by eliminating the freedoms of others. The obvious example is murder. The state removes your right to harm another individual. This gives you more freedom, because you can choose the numbers of holes you want in your head. I would argue that an education gives you the same type of freedom. The freedom of mind that allows you to look at the world in an organized fashion, to have knowledge that things like math and science and grammar and other things that the educated people that seem to run things expect you to know about (Values as an objection to this argument will be covered below). Think of abortion as another example. Many people of a particular demographic would like this to end in the US. They feel that it is violating the inherent rights as a human being for the fetus to develop into an infant and that he or she needs to be protected. Others contend that the women’s rights to not be pregnant need to be protected, and thus abortion should be legal and publically funded for those who can not afford it. Well, somewhere, somebody is loosing their rights and it is the government that is doing it. Society decides what freedoms it wants and which ones it wants everyone not to have. This chain of logic crystallizes Jon and my disagreement to one word. Is this a right we should create for some by eliminating another right? Jon says no, I say yes. The slippery slope argument is something I am not comfortable with. Just because we regulate one thing (education) does that that mean we will regulate everything (divorce) based on negative outcome statistics? That is for society to decide. The answer seems to be no, depending on how much people like it (i.e. Smoking people do not like so much so out it went, but having sex with more then one person for the rest of your life and not having financial dependents people really like, so abortion and divorce stay in). As a society, we make judgments on what freedoms we should have taken away from us. Jon thinks that we should keep the one that parents can do whatever they want to their kids one, and not the everyone deserves a basic means to develop a personal social and economic strategy for life I, apparently, disagree.

  8. Part the second:

    “Now hold on,” you say. Are you actually trying to equate killing a human with not forcing them to be at least marginally educated? Why, yes I am, thanks for asking. Just like having roving marauders that rape and murder everything in site, forcing people to defend themselves with Kevin Costner like mistrust and violence (i.e. Waterworld and The Postman). It hurts a country and makes it weaker and sicker and unable to defend itself and owe money to other countries to have people who are unable to contribute to society as more then eight to sixteen man-hours of labor a day, subject to the whim of others who are able to organize their skills, desires, and wills, at least at a basic level within a market economy. Furthermore, I would argue that upward social mobility is also made easier by education and that we should support that type of thing.

    Values, Values, Values. Yes, no education is value free; however, education has much less to say about a child’s values then the people he or she is friends with, and the role models he or she chooses. My own personal values have changed over the years, public education did influence them, but (sigh) people change, and stuff… I think it is important to note that a child’s opinion matters little to the world, seeing as they do not have the right (hey there is a freedom being lost again, damn government) to vote, and that young people in this country do not vote anyways. So if our education system makes them all love (or hate) the president, wait a couple years their opinion may change.

  9. And Finally:

    I am glad that we agree that some students would not be able to afford an education if it was not funded publicly. I also agree that in the absence of publicly funded schools, that humanitarian efforts would arise in order to give students an education, especially if public education ended tomorrow. But let us take this scenario to its logical conclusion. Realize that these groups will receive funding from private individuals and organizations, and that these schools will attempt to enroll as many students as they can support financially. Many parents will send their children to these schools because they think that education is valuable. They will think this not because of any well founded faith in education, but because when public education stopped there was intense public debate and all the politicians on CNN said it was very important. Now these kids in these schools will be like kids in schools now. They will try to undermine their teachers, they will have sex with each other, and they will cost a heck of a lot. Frustrations will rise among the educators who will exclaim, “Education isn’t mandatory, if you don’t care why are you here!” To which the children will say, “My dad makes me come.” When the schools try to remove the disruptive kids from their ranks the parents will be upset that their children are not allowed to attend the school, “Because the teachers didn’t like them.” This is where the lawyers get involved, accusing some schools of racism and favoritism. The beneficiaries of these schools will become frustrated with the controversy surrounding these schools and will then instead give their money to starving children in Africa. “At least they appreciate the gesture.” “But wait,” you say, “Jon is arguing that those parents that do not want their children in school should not have to send them.” Well, I think this will be a small number, and that the philanthropists will encourage all parents to send their children to school. I am also contending that the parents that do not want to send their children to school are directly harming their own children, and are directly harming society by creating a self proliferating uneducated class You think parents will send thier kids to school if they did not attend school? I disagree. (“I didn’t go to school and I turned out just fine.” *Turns and puts dip in, opens soda bought with food stamps, pours said soda into glass containing Jack Danial’s, proceeds with profanity and chronic disease due to a sedentary lifestyle*). As such they should be told what to do just like we tell those people who harm their children in a more acute and physical method.

    To the sentence, “Fundamentally, my belief in freedom is simply stronger than my desire for equality of outcome,” I can only say, “here here!” But, in this statement is my main point of disagreement with the libertarian party as it exists now. Freedom is not displayed by strait equality of opportunity at all times. Other forces exist in this world other then political and legal ones. Some people, definitely not all, not most, but some people would not be able to have an education otherwise, because they figure they should work and help support their family, or because their family does not believe in it. This is a short sighted solution that comes from a lack of education, and often continues the problem throughout generations. I have always been a strong believer in “Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” One thing is for sure an education makes financial security a heck of a lot easier to obtain in a world run by educated individuals. Is it worth for us to take away some people rights to not have their tax dollars fund public schools, in order to make sure that some people from the inner city of Detroit, and some new citizen who immigrated from Cambodia can achieve the dream that my family has been blessed to pursue? What if it only makes a difference for 20,000 kids? What about 1,000? What about 50? Jon says no, I say yes.

  10. Well, that was quite a lengthy response. I'll try as best as I can to answer, but each response keeps getting longer and longer, so I will try to quell the madness.

    1. It seems to me that something that government should ensure that everyone gets is a "right". I do not believe that education is a right, in any sense of the word. It is a privilege enjoyed only by those who are willing to put the time in to get it. Many people fail to become educated in tech programs, normal schooling, advanced school, and elsewhere, despite government's best efforts. Also, the establishment of "positive rights" as defined as something government or society owes you is a dangerous, un-American idea. American government was founded on the basis of "negative rights", that is, something government cannot take away from you. It's my belief that the state cannot take away your liberty to pursue whatever education you choose to, if you choose to at all. But society at large should not be responsible for ensuring that you are educated.

    2. My argument about divorce was not simply a slippery slope argument, although it appeared to be so. It was more an argument about the difficulties of using government to protect people. Where does government draw the line? This is the central question to the schooling debate. Can the state force you to exercise a certain amount? It's for your own good. Can the state decide what you eat? It's for your own good. Can the state tell your parents not to get divorced? It's for your own good. And so on with a thousand different questions. I don't see anything specifically, philosophically or functionally, that makes education a supreme right which government must force you to have. And so I bring up the point to make you ask the question, what is it about education that makes it of supreme value, so valuable that it must be forced upon you?

    3. The comparison between abortion, murder, and education is an absurd one. Government has a responsibility to ensure that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Taking away someone's life is naturally to be opposed. I am no anarchist. Again, though, that is a negative right. No one has the right to take away your life. And so government ensures that those who violate your right to life pay a severe penalty.

    4. Even if parents are pressured to send their children to school by society, I view this as a positive. A society that values education is a good thing. Our society does. I am sure that incredible amounts of societal pressure would exist to make school attendance "chic". But this is morally different than forcing school attendance. A postitive societal ethic is very different from a positive compulsory ethic. No one should be forced to go to school, and no one should be taxed to send their neighbor to school. Both are violations of their natural rights as human beings.

    That's essentially all that I have. Stay tuned for another dumb question. And perhaps ongoing debate about public schools.

  11. Yes, I think it is good to let this discussion end. It is interesting to note, however, that Jon seems to focus on the individual and I seem to focus on a what does it mean for groups. I would contend that neither of us are "wrong." The score must then be fun - fun.

  12. I just felt it necessary to point out that thinking "for the group" is part of the foundation for socliasim/communism, and our country was founded on the principles of "individual liberty", not "group rights". On to the next dumb question!