Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Cue Card Libertarianism: Education

Each 'Cue Card Libertarianism' entry forms part of a series intended to introduce newbies to the terms used (or as used) by local libertarians. The series so far can be found archived here, and here, and the Introduction here.

“A tax-supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state.”
– Isabel Paterson, 'The God of the Machine.'

EDUCATION: The system of compulsory, taxpayer-funded education is another prime example of the state performing the opposite role to its proper one, i.e. initiating force against its citizens, rather than protecting them from it.

It forces children from their parents; it forces a curriculum on children with or without the parents’ approval; it treats the child’s mind as the property of the state; it forces people to pay for the education of other people’s children.

New Zealand’s public education has followed in the path of the United States: beginning with educating children to submit to the collective feelings of the group, rather than to develop their own minds ands use their own independent judgement – i.e. it teaches them to value 'consensus' before truth, and 'fitting in' above facts.

Peer pressure and politics are now important than good pedagogy. “Humanities” subjects have been hi-jacked by the purveyors of fashionable political viewpoints, and even the sciences have been infected with irrational nature-worship and notions like "Maori Science," ie., myth. A recent Minister of Education even claimed that science is not even concerned with the discovery of truth.

The travesty of education being perpetrated by the state currently is nothing short of criminal. Taxpayers paying more and more to get less and less -- more money spent, to fill the heads of more and more young New Zealanders with mush.

Despite governments doling out increasing election bribes on the state's factory schools, Labour Department figures estimate there are more than half-a-million New Zealanders who are functionally illiterate. It's clear what we have is neither free, nor a system of education.

We're left to deduce (as we must with all government spending binges) that education isn't a function of the money that's thrown at it; what matters more is what that money is spent on.

What it's been spent on in recent years is bullshit, mush and toxic swill -- and the seven-lesson inculcation of servitude.

“Education in the government's factory schools is pumping out an ever-increasing number of functionally illiterate and unemployable youths - good for nothing beyond stuffing a ballot box."

The 'liberal' view is that all that is wrong with state education can be fixed with more money, better staff-student ratios, greater control of curriculum, more qualified teachers and more paperwork. But as more and more money spent on education has shown that more of the same just produces more and more failure. The view of conservatives is generally that public education needs to be made more efficient. With more efficiency, they say, 'delivery' of education will be better.

Libertarians however maintain that public education is all too efficient: it has been ruthlessly efficient at delivering the government’s chosen values. After generations of indoctrination at the knee of the state we now have several generations who are 'culturally safe' and politically correct -- ‘good citizens’ unable to use the brains they were born with, unthinkingly compliant in every respect with the values in which they've been totally immersed; braindead automatons to whom group-think is good and for forty-two percent of whom the reading of a bus timetable or the operation of a simple appliance is beyond them.

In previous decades the government's chosen values included banning the speaking of Maori in schools; speaking Maori in schools is fast becoming compulsory, along with the teaching of the ordained versions of Te Tiriti and the inculcation of the ideas of multiculturalism and the inferiority of western culture. Governments and their values change, but their use of their factory schools for indoctination doesn't.

The government's recently chosen values are "fairness, opportunity and security." We know that because Helen Clark said so. Orwell would have recognised these words, as he might the rigid orthodoxies of what passes for teacher training. "What happens in our schools is a very big part of shaping the future of New Zealand," says Ms Clark in the same speech, acknowledging that this is the way to make subjects out of citizens. Libertarians agree with Ms Clark's statement, which is precisely why we want governments away from the schools and away from control of curricula. Both Liberals and conservatives endorse state control of schools and of curricula, and they both seek to be the state. Libertarians don't.

Rather than delivering new generations of New Zealand's children to be indoctrinated into servitude and their heads filled with mush, it's time for a radical rethink and a wholesale rejection of NZ's educational establishment -- of those who've sucked up the money, and produced only failure. It's time for a permanent and constituional separation of school and state, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of church and state.

Even the critics of state education, however, cannot imagine life without it, simply because they’ve never known anything else. They would have the same difficulty grasping the possibility of removing the state from the production of clothing if, all their lives, the state had exercised a coercive monopoly in that field.

Libertarianism holds that the removal of the state from education is a reform needed more urgently than most; and that all education should be private, non-compulsory, and paid for by the parents whose children are receiving it.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.


  1. How True :)

    On another note, have Montessori's teachings been succesfully implemented on secondary school students? As much as I can agree with her philosophy, it seems that her method could only be applied to primary students.

  2. Dr Montessori herself was primarily concerned with designing her system for children aged 0-6, and then for 6-12 year olds.

    She left notes on how her system might be developed for secondary and even tertiary students which have been taken up by contemporary Montessorians, and in recent years more and more successful 'Montessori' secondary schools have been established, three of them in NZ.

    Among the most interesting is David Kahn's 'Erdkinder' Hershey Montessori School in Ohio. Says the Erdkinder Blog: "Hershey Montessori Farm School is the only Montessori adolescent program in the world that has developed a complete prepared environment as described in Maria Montessori’s writings (the Appendices to her book From Childhood to Adolescence), with a full boarding component. The Farm School is the only existing Montessori adolescent project with an “Erdkinder prepared environment,” including a youth “hostel” (dorm), a bed-and-breakfast, an operating farm, and a functioning micro-economy with a community farm market (shop). Hershey Montessori Farm School model proved that the Montessori Syllabus is workable and able to provide structure that is comprehensive and uniquely connected to the psychological characteristics of the adolescent."

  3. Peter, whilst I agree with you that state brainwashing of our children is abominable etc and standards of literacy and numeracy have been all but sacrificed at the altar of political mind-fucking for the benefit of a corrupt and grasping government.... (do I paraphrase correctly?)... I don't see that simply chanting the mantra about "the removal of the state from education" will do anything to repair our parlous situation.

    Most school children would prefer to be donating their kidneys without anaesthetic than to be stuck in a classrom, and most parents are either too lazy, to disorganised or too stupid to make their children attend school unless they are vitually forced to do so. The only reason many children attend a school at all (however poor the education) is that they are compelled by law to do so, and in return their parents are fed the convenient lie that the little buggers are being 'educated'.

    If you simply "remove the state from education", how the fuck do you think that will help in any way?

    In my view, the state should be forced out of peoples' lives in a huge amount of areas, but there are certain basic services (or infrastructures if you like) where it is the duty of government to supply excellence. Education is one of these, as is Law & Order, Defence and Health.

    I don't think our education system is serving our future at all well; but the answer is to force the fucking government to live up to their responsibilities, not to just let them off the hook. Remember when our nation was depleted and exhausted by two world wars in which our losses exceeded per capita many of our allies'? In the '50s and '60s this country still managed to have an eviable level of literacy, numeracy and a broadly and successfully educated poulation which enabled the country to be one of the most progressive in its time. Education was the domain of the state and it was working properly for the benefit of the citizenry. We can achieve this again if we have the will and the focus.

    A good place to start would be to re-introduce a proper examination system and start firing principals who fail after a reasonable grace priod to turn out fully literate and numerate pupils. This would be the first step. Then we should progress to criminal prosecution of said principals (the death camps would only be necessary as an extreme measure...).

  4. David

    You must be kidding! The state education system NEVER worked. It produced generations of ignorance, socialism, petty jealousy and small mindedness. Read your history on what NZ schools were like and the type of "culture" they promoted.

    It is not the state's role to educate. Just because YOU want it to is not a justification. Kick the monopolists from the govt out of it and there'll soon be private suppliers present. The problems can be solved IF PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO (as in not stopped by central govt, teacher unions, education academics and all the rest of those thugs- monopolists all).


  5. lgm, no I am not kidding at all.

    State education produced a nation that, despite being an underpopulated pimple on the bottom of the world, was No 4 (or thereabouts) on the OECD list. This led to things like a fantastic infrastructure, good roads, drinkable water, a health system that was ahead of its time, industry that actually produced things (me made our own trains), three proper universities, ground breaking scientific and agricultural research establishments.... the list goes on.

    In the 1930s, New Zealand's answer to the starvation and hardship of the poor brought about largely by the depression was for the state to intervene and give the out-of-work a temporary 'hand up'. This was entirely appropriate to the situation at that time.

    What we see now is a country plunging dramatically into the third world (I kid you not) as the poisonous effects of generations of extremist socialism infect the lifeblood of our society because the 'hand up' philosophy has been allowed to mutate into an entitlement mentality that completely saps the will of the people to make an effort in their lives. The problem is not that the State is involved in education; the problem is that the state is rotten and degenerate.

    How, exactly, do you suppose a totally state-free education system would succeed? The people in this country can hardly be persuaded to go to work any more, let alone educate their children.

  6. Dave

    A nation with a guaranteed market for all the agricultural product it could produce, a country with titanic resources (mineral and otherwise- still hardly exploited), a country with so much potential.... and it got no better than #4 at a time when those other countries were economically devastated?

    Seriously, this place should have been way ahead of Singapore and HK by now. But it is nowhere. Once those other countries got out of the depression and the devastation of war they left NZ in the dust. Kiwis have been kidding themselves for decades about how well things used to be and how well they once did. The facts are different.

    Those famed socialist and egalitarian experiments of the 30s onward necessarily led to the mess of NZ today. That is what govt intervention in areas it does not belong (such as education and heathcare and diet and broadcasting, banking and welfare etc etc etc) necessarily results in. What happened was that statist NZers consumed the capital value that had been built up or invested previously (they didn't invest it or use it to create more wealth, they consumed it). When that ran out they consumed the capital of the future (ultimately mortgaging against the future earnings of their own children and grand-children). Then when the note got called they sold what assets were still left. None of this was possible in the absence of government. Govt allowed the colectivisation of what weath was in NZ and allowed its dissapation. Simple as that.

    Now what has this got to do with education? The state always was "rotten and degenerate" in NZ. That's why it should not ever have been allowed to be involved in things like education. What you are experiencing today is the result of these foolish interventions.

    Now consider. What was not seen?, as Bastiat asked. What would the plundered wealth of individuals have been able to have produced if it hadn't been expropriated and squandered on socialist experiments?


  7. lgm, I repeat, whilst a good deal of what you say is true regarding the decline of New Zealand, it is not the state's role in EDUCATION per se that is responsible, it is the WAY the state has EXCERCISED it by reducing standards and failing utterly to enforce even these reduced standards.

    And again I ask " How, exactly, do you suppose a totally state-free education system would succeed?"

    How would you propose non-state involved education would work, exactly?

    I don't think you or PC have thought this through at all. Its all very well to keep repeating your mantra, but how actually do you propose to educate children in your glorious free world? Vouchers with Big Macs?

  8. Dave

    The state has no legitimate role in education. Never did.

    When the state enters the realm of education it rapidly becomes a monopolist. It sets the syllabus, it determines who will be allowed to teach and what they will be allowed to teach, it determines what the objectives of the system will be and how they will be pursued, it determines who shall be forced to pay and it expropriates the time and wealth of those people regardless of their particular values. Worst of all, it sets all prices and eliminates competition. There is left no room for alternatives.

    Ultimately all alternatives get marginalised until they are regulated out of existence; forced to cease. That occurs because is it the nature of the state to behave in exactly the way it does. Granting it a role for which its nature is unsuited gives the result you are worried about; failures at every level. Given decades of disgrace and failure why would you want to continue on the same pathway? That is analogous to asking a known rapist to look after your 16 year old daughter for the evening. You wouldn't do that would you? He's already a known criminal... It's in his nature to look after her; to REALLY look after her (if you get what I mean).

    The reason the state exercises the powers it awards to itself (in the realm of education) in such a poor way is due to its nature. It has no competance to rule education, let alone to be involved. That's why it necessarily fails and that is another reason why it has not a legitimate role to be involved in the education sphere.

    Put it this way, while my doctor may have competance to treat certain illnesses (and not others), he is certainly not competant to control the finances of all the patients. That is right outside what his legitimate role actually is (giving medical advice and undertaking medical procedures as and when requested).


    Perhaps you need to read some. Try to comprehend what PC actually wrote. He pointed out (in several posts) that vouchers are not a method that prevent the state from interfering with education. All that voucher stuff achieves is to alter the particular processes employed in the adminisration of the system. Little else is changed. The results will remain exactly as they are presently; poor. (Of course, that does depend on your perspective. Mine, and I suspect yours too, is that I want my children to be well educated and free. I want them to be individualistic. The state may not want this at all. They want compliance and "well socialised children". Sameness. Obedience. Subservience to the national myths. The teacher unions don't really care. It's all about retained sinecure for them. And, well behaved, non problematic kids. For the statist the education system is going along just fine. No serious problems except noisey parents and a little media issue from time to time.)

    How would a private education system operate? We parents would not be taxed to provide any state schemes and state involvement within education. I could choose who teaches my childrean and exactly what they get taught. These days I have a limited set of choices and I have to pay twice. Once for a state system I don't subscribe to and once for the actual services my kids actually receive. In a private system I'd only pay for what I wanted for my children. Pay once. I'd also get to choose independently of state interference.

    BTW had you ever considered how other markets for goods and services operate? How do people ever feed themselves in the absence of a nationalised food distribution system? Think on it.


  9. lgm, thank you for the explanation - although it was a long time coming and occupied part of the penultimate paragraph only.

    Your 'answer' is not really an answer at all. Only about 15-20% of parents would be either organised or motivated to seek private education for their children if the state wasn't involved and it wasn't compulsory by law. You and I might have these noble qualities, but, if the chips were down, 80% of parents would just let thie whole question ride. They might try 'a bit of home schooling' for a while, or they might fall for TV ads that sell a 'holistic natural Gaia education supplement', or the local marae might offer a few courses in advanced flax weaving at inflated prices.... but generally speaking only a small elite would learn to read and write, and an even smaller elite would obtain a comprehensive and workable education of their minds.

    We already have private options in education. Its not perfect and its not pure in the Libertarian way of thinking, I know, but there are, nevertheless, private alternatives available.

    The previous comments about Montessori, as well as other alternatives such as Steiner Schools etc go to show that we already have the option of a different educational system to the state system. Your objections are simply idealogical and not based on reason or fact.

  10. Dave,

    It's a bit rich of you to claim to know what 80% of parents would do about their children's education in the absence of state interference. You speak for yourself only. You do not know what such a large body of people would actually do in the circumstance. Bastiat's writings regarding the loss of the unseen comes to mind.

    Perhaps in NZ there are a lot of stupid people about the show these days, but hey, they are the products of the very education scheme you prattle on about- you know, the state run system, the one that promotes the ideas that lead to the disasters you claimed to have been concerned about (but actually aren't really serious about beyond a superficial level). These "bad parents" are the product of the very system you wish to promote. It hasn't worked for decades and yet you want to continue on with it? Damn! Surely you wouldn't really leave the known rapist to babysit your daughter? Surely not?

    A causal agent in the failure of the stupid to make good decisions is the very agent you want to preserve. That is the agent that prevents them for experiencing the consequences of their own decisions and actions and learning from them.

    When left to themselves people form values and look after their own interests. They pursue those values. They get very good at making rational choices provided they are allowed to experience the consequences of choices and actions. Some will make errors and mistakes. Some will learn from those and do better in future. Some will make really titanic errors, but that is life and it aint about being egalitarian or "fair" (whatever that term may happen to mean this week).

    Interestingly enough, many people quickly recognise that should they have children, it is in their own best interest to have the children well educated. This is no big surprise. Take a serious look at the historical record and you'll see a common theme of people struggling to get their children educated, often at enormous cost to themselves.

    Having children is a big overhead and a massive drain on resources and time. Assuming you are the one investing all this resource it does not take much thinking to determine what is the best policy. On the other hand, if a "parent" is existing on receiving "free" money and services, well then, they may not give a tinkers cuss about the kids at all. Having children in such circumstance is of no serious consequence. It requires little thought or action. Big nanny takes care of one's consequences. Ask yourself, what is providing the "free" money and resource exactly.... What outfit might that be?

    As an aside, it does not take a lot of wit to appreciate that when one gets older, it is one's own children whom must ultimately be relied on for a continued life, let alone a life of some small pleasure and happiness. If you are going to the bother of having children and keeping them around, then it is unlikely to be good policy to stunt their intellect and retard their productive/tradeable skills. It does not take very long to work that out, not even for 80% of your fellow New Zealanders, the ones you so casualy wrote-off. They are not all as stupid as you might like to think.

    Perhaps you may like to consider how it was that prior to compulsory state run education schemes people learned to read, write, count and acquire skills and knowledge. How was it that the rate of functional literacy was higher in the US prior to the advent of the compulsory state run school than it is now?

    BTW the private examples you mention are controlled by the state. Who can teach, what they can teach, what qualifications and allegiances and registrations they must have, who they can teach to etc. are all controlled by the state. At any time the state can decide what extra burdens and restrictions can be placed on "private" alternatives. As stated, they are gradually squeezed out and away. Check it out.

    Final point. You seriously need to do some solid research in this area instead of repeating the national myths and legends that get regurgitated whenever this topic comes up. Likely you'd be most surprised by what you'd find.


  11. It’s great to see this information being shared...


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