July 15, 2005


The Case for the Private School (George S. Schuyler, March 1956, The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty)

A century ago education was almost entirely privately supported and controlled throughout the United States. Indeed, it was not until the early years of the nineteenth century that the first free school (for Negroes, incidentally) was established in New York City. Schools were operated by religious organizations or individual educators. The parents directly paid tuition with occasional benefactions from grateful alumni. The private schools turned out fewer graduates proportionately than now emerge from the government (public) school system, but there was no criticism that these could not properly read, write, spell, and figure, nor that they were ignorant of geography, civics, and the great Christian principles that motivate men. Under this diverse system based on various educational philosophies and with widely varying curricula, the percentage of literate persons was not only large and increasing but regimentation of instruction was impossible, and there was wide experimentation. This diversity by its very nature enriched our culture.

While the government school system has never entirely displaced the private schools, it has largely superseded them. With the growing desire and demand for mass instruction following the Civil War, municipalities, cities, and states turned increasingly to tax-supported government schools until the latter became swamped by enrollment. There is now a widespread agitation for some form of federal subsidy. Thirty or forty years ago, such a suggestion would have been overwhelmingly rejected as leading inevitably to repugnant regimentation. This fear has been considerably justified by events, and accordingly dissatisfaction with government schools has grown, with widespread criticism of what and how our children are taught.

It is significant that despite the heavy school taxes which all must pay, an increasing number of parents are willing to assume the added burden of private tuition to assure their children the kind of educational discipline they want them to have. Many families are prepared to forego expensive gewgaws in order to do this, believing that the scholastic and ethical standards are higher in private than in government schools. They are scarcely in the mood for expensive frills and experiments of dubious value, preferring to have a more direct and final say about what, how, and by whom their children are taught. If they are not intrigued by efforts to instill in their offsprings’ minds enthusiasm for the United Nations, world government, TVA experiments, and “progressive” education, but prefer that they be instructed in the background and meaning of our Constitution, the clear and precise use of our language, and the mastery of mathematics or another language or two, they would like to choose their school.

Many American parents feel rightly that they, and not the State, should be responsible for what their children become; that education should be divorced from political control; and that those who prefer private instruction for their children should not be taxed for the upkeep of facilities which they did not choose nor curricula to which they do not want them exposed.

Schuyler was merely before time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 15, 2005 10:06 AM

There's an interesting twist in education afoot in an neighboring city. A builder is proposing to build a charter school at his own expense within his development as an inducement to buyers. He's trying to sell it as income enhancement for the city.

It's a novel concept that might catch on as other developers and/or municipalities seek to lower their costs and in the bargain turn out kids who have some skills.

Here's an editorial in our local paper. Surprise! They're against it.

Posted by: erp at July 15, 2005 1:15 PM

No one will face the elephant in the living room. Parents strap themselves, work multiple jopbs, to afford a house in a district or even neighborhood which has "good" schools. "Good," in this case, means not tipped over.

When a school achieves a certain critical mass of disfunctional sociopaths, learning stops almost entirely for everyone. The percentage will vary widely, but the effect is the same. The good students are distracted, the weak are terrorized, classes are intentionally disrupted, bathrooms are closed, lunch periods are cancelled. Soon every single family which can possibly afford to do so leaves the system. It's, "Mom, Dad, get me out of that place, I'm scared all the time."

The market almost compels this result. dysfunctional, sociopathic children tend to have dysfunctional, sociopathic parents. These in turn are less likely to be able to afford a better neighborhood, and the school is caught in a downward spiral.

In our district, those students whose conduct is so atrocious that they have gotten themselves s**tcanned out of their neighborhood school are bussed to a "better" school, which they soon transform into another prison-like environment.

The name of the game is getting your children out of that kind of trap, everything else is cynical euphemism.

Repl. Obj. I write from experience in big-city elementary education. My observations are generalities--of course many of the poor are innocent and deserving of better than they are getting. The answer is to crush the infamous thing that big-city public education has become, give everybody a voucher and provide special ed prison prep schools for those who can be handled no other way.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 15, 2005 10:19 PM


Why not send your prison wannabes to various madrassas in Pakistan? Now, that would be fun to watch.

Posted by: ratbert at July 15, 2005 11:28 PM