The Ayn Rand world has no room for public schools. They indoctrinate instead of educating, and far from protecting rights, often violate them.
The Ayn Rand case against public schools
Ayn Rand herself said little about public schools per se. She said, often scathingly, that most schools do not properly teach children about their own moral worth. In Atlas Shrugged she poured contempt on teachers who taught pupils to conform instead of standing up for justice or their rights. But she said little about public schools directly.
But in one essay (“Man’s Rights”), she directly criticized the Democratic Party for its 1960 platform. In that platform the Democrats mentioned eight “rights” that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that every person should expect from society. Those were not rights at all, but entitlements: a job, “adequate” pay, guaranteed security, “a decent home,” “adequate protection from economic fears,” and—the key—health care and education.
A single question added to each of [these guarantees] would make the issue clear: At whose expense?
In other words: these are goods and services. Someone has to make them or do them. None of these have anything to do with protecting real rights, and protecting people from one another.
Today, The Ayn Rand Institute says volumes about public schools (and colleges and universities), and why free citizens should abolish them. Thomas A. Bowden, in 2008, condemned a California appellate judge for saying that children are State property. Of course, “State property” is a misnomer anyway; anything that the State holds is a common, not the property of any one person. The point here is that children are no one’s property or common. The adults who have responsibility for children are the parents or guardians, not the government.
The specific context of Bowden’s remarks is worse than the usual context of “an entitlement from the State that other taxpayers must pay for.” The defendant-appellant in that case chose to home-school her children, and a judge said that she may not do this. Why? Because
allowing every person to make his own standards on matters of conduct in which society as a whole has important interests
would lead somehow to social chaos.
Matters of conduct?
What “matters of conduct” do interest society? CNAV can name at least five: do not murder, cheat, steal, lie, or covet. What irony! These are the last five of the Ten Commandments. But public schools must not teach anything called “The Ten Commandments.” That would break “separation of church and state.” (Yet in California, no one in authority objects to blending mosque and state. But CNAV digresses.) Furthermore, public school teachers teach their pupils to covet, both in lessons and by example.
Public schools do not work
The most important reason that any parent wants to home-school his or her children is that the public schools have failed. Trade media for the public school “industry” admits as much. In 2011, according to School Library Journal, only thirty-two percent of Americans graduating from high school were proficient in math, and thirty-one percent proficient in reading. These figures come from a Harvard University study.
Detractors of American freedom often cite figures like these. But this study looked at all American students, most of whom graduated from public schools. The Harvard team broke their sample down by race, but not by public schools v. private schools or home-schooling. They took no interest in schooling other than public schools, schooling that might give better results.
By what authority?
But more important than whether public schools work or not, is: by what authority does government keep a school? Ayn Rand focused on one problem only: schooling is a service. Student and teacher (or parent and teacher) decide together, by mutual consent, how much that service is worth. When government does any service, it decides what it is worth. (And often it decides that a school needs more administrators, and secretaries for the same, than teachers.)
The California court opinion that Thomas Bowden objected to, illustrates a worse problem. When the government teaches your children, it decides what to teach. Basic subjects like math and reading present little controversy, other than how well the schools teach math and reading. But when teaching the “Social Studies,” and even science, teachers can and do distort reality and social memory. Adolf Hitler perfected the art of distorting social memory, and using government schools to do it. So, too, did Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong. Barack Hussein Obama and his “czars” learned their own lessons well.
A different opinion
CNAV does differ with the Ayn Rand Institute in one critical area that confused even Ayn Rand herself. Her apologists would like to forget that she once said to her then young lover and “intellectual heir,” Nathaniel Branden,
After all, the theory of evolution is only a hypothesis.
She was correct. The theory of evolution is “only” a hypothesis, and one with fundamental flaws. That the Ayn Rand Institute still believes in it today is a tragic error on their part. That error of course follows from a more fundamental error: they believe that the universe began in pure chance. But Ayn Rand herself condemned those who say that “catastrophes are a matter of pure chance,” and emphasized cause-and-effect in everything she wrote, fiction or non-fiction.
So even the Ayn Rand Institute should re-learn the lesson that Ayn Rand tried to re-teach the world, quoting Aristotle:
The same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject in the same respect.
Or as Ayn Rand herself put it:
Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you find yourself facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.
This is another installment in the Ayn Rand World series.
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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