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What is it about today's school system that so many find unsatisfactory?
Why have so many
generations of reformers failed to improve the educational system, and,
indeed, caused it to
degenerate further and further into an ever declining level of mediocrity?
In this radical and scholarly monograph, out of print for two decades and restored according to the author's original, Murray N. Rothbard identifies the crucial feature of our educational system that dooms it to
fail: at every level, from
financing to attendance, the system relies on compulsion instead of
Certain consequences follow. The curriculum is politicized to reflect the
ideological priorities of
the regime in power. Standards are continually dumbed down to accommodate
the least common
denominator. The brightest children are not permitted to achieve their
potential, the special-
needs of individual children are neglected, and the mid-level learners
become little more than
cogs in a machine. The teachers themselves are hamstrung by a political
apparatus that watches
their every move.
Rothbard explores the history of compulsory schooling to show that none of
this is accident. The
state has long used compulsory schooling, backed by egalitarian ideology,
as a means of citizen
control. In contrast, a market-based system of schools would adhere to a purely voluntary ethic,
financed with private funds, and administered entirely by private
An interesting feature of this book is its promotion of individual, or home, schooling, long before the current popularity of the practice.
As Kevin Ryan of Boston University points out in the introduction, if
education reform is ever to
bring about fundamental change, it will have to begin with a complete
rethinking of public
schooling that Rothbard offers here.
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Austrian Economics, Freedom and Peace