Voluntaryist.com | The responsibility of parents for the education of their children is deeply rooted in the spirit and history of America. In his book, IS PUBLIC EDUCATION NECESSARY?, Samuel Blumenfeld points out that there was no mention of education, much less “public/government” education in either the Declaration of Independence or the federal Constitution. Even if one were to argue that education fell within the jurisdiction of the states, rather than the national government, one is hard pressed to explain why only two of the constitutions of the original thirteen colonies (Pennsylvania and North Carolina) mentioned the subject. This absence of concern for what is today deemed to be one of the most central of government functions (both on the federal and state levels) is not too hard to explain.

Education, both before and after the American Revolution, was certainly not the responsibility of governments. The educational backgrounds of the signers of the Declaration and Constitution attest to the richness and diversity of the voluntary educational environment of the time. Their schooling encompassed “every conceivable combination of parental, church, apprenticeship, school, tutorial, and self-education.” As Blumenfeld observes: “George Washington was educated by his father and half-brother, Benjamin Franklin was taught to read by his father and attended a private school for writing and arithmetic,” and “Thomas Jefferson studied Latin and Greek under a tutor.” [1] Charles Dabney, in his book UNIVERSAL EDUCATION IN THE SOUTH, reports that “a great advance in educational enterprises of a private and ecclesiastical character followed” the years after the American Revolution. “The wealthy established private schools. Academies and colleges were started wherever a few pupils could be gathered together and teachers found. A new ideal of education was in the making, … .” [2] In 1798, Joseph Lancaster opened his first free school in London, England, followed by its spread to New York City in 1805. [3] In short, the “men who founded the United States were educated under the freest conditions possible” and it would have been strange to most of them, indeed, to think that government should have been a provider of education. [4]

This is our ideal, the “what might have been” for American education, and our hope for what might be. Yet, as every 21st Century reader knows, educational freedom in America has been nearly destroyed, so much so that even the validity of homeschooling has been challenged in many states. This collection of eclectic articles from THE VOLUNTARYIST, which has been published since 1982, is designed to make you think about educational freedom and political statism. It takes the following points for its main theme:

… Government schools are paid for by compulsory taxes. (Why is it assumed that the majority of parents would not willingly pay for their children’s education? Why are they presumed guilty? At the very least, if taxes must be collected to pay for public schools, why not collect them only from those who refuse to educate their children and necessitate such schools?)

… Government schools depend on the coercion of compulsory attendance laws. (Why is it assumed that the majority of parents would not willingly educate their children? Why are they presumed guilty? At the very least, why not apply compulsory attendance laws only to those parents who refuse to educate their children? To teachers and state educators we ask: Do you think nobody would willingly entrust their children to you? Why do you have to collect your pupils by compulsion?) [5]

… Before the advent of government schools, parents were primarily responsible for the education of their children.

… The home has always been the main place where education occurred; and the parents were often the primary instructors of their children.

… Although restricted by every conceivable law and political regulation, it is the natural and common law right of the parents to direct the education of their children.

… Parents have a moral duty to educate their offspring. However, a child has no right to an education. (The common law held it as no offense for a parent not to educate his child.) [6]

… Government schools are designed to indoctrinate students in statolatry, in the worship of the State as the provider of all ‘good’ things. (A tax-supported educational system is the life-like representative of the totalitarian state.) [7]

… Someone or some institution must control the child. (Shall we have a free society with parental control of the child’s education or an authoritarian society with state-controlled education?) [8]

… If there is any hope for America as a beacon of liberty and freedom it is to be found in home education.

How does voluntaryism relate to education? Voluntaryism is the philosophic doctrine that all the affairs of mankind should be voluntary. No one has the right to force another peaceful person to act as he or she wishes. Voluntaryism comes about naturally if no one does anything to prevent it. Voluntaryism was a term that originated in the early 1800s in England to identify those who advocated voluntary, as opposed to State, support of religion. It was later extended to those who opposed the coercive collection of taxes. Ultimately, those who shared this position realized that government would probably receive little revenue if it did not threaten jail time or confiscation of property to collect its taxes. In short, voluntaryists question the legitimacy of coercive political government because it initiates violence against those who would decline its protection because they want none, or would provide their own protection, or hire some other organization to provide them with protection. Furthermore, by its monopolization of services, government violates the rights of those individuals or groups of individual who might choose to offer competing services to those offered by the government. Many voluntaryists see a parallel between government churches and government schools. If it is not proper to support a State church by compulsory attendance laws and coercive taxes, why should it be proper to support State schools in a similar manner? Why is one’s spiritual health any less important than one’s educational development? Read Entire Article

By Carl Watner