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Education: Free and Compulsory

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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 voluntary consent.

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 enterprise.

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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by Jeff
on 2/16/2016
from Rochester
This work could not have been written by Mr. Rothbard. I'm a huge fan of his, I've read tons of his works over the past 20 years and everything else has been 5 stars (or better) but this is a relative abomination. Of course the points he makes are all true, but the thing is so trite that I could barely push myself to finish the 55 pages of elementary scribbling.

Here's an example from page 4: "One of the most important facts about human nature is the great diversity among human individuals." Gee, whoda thunk, eh???

Mises really ought to discontinue publishing the thing since anyone being introduced to Rothbard through it would be scared off from the start, and that would be a shame.

This is either Rothbard at his worst, something he wrote in the 5th grade, or not Rothbard's at all. Nearly a complete waste of resources.
by Marxist
on 10/29/2009
from Ex-Libertarian
A highly informative work, and since its Rothbard you know it'll be quality. Not the best of his shorter works, but as a victim of the public school system this work really resonates with me. Hopefully it'll do the same for you. It has a lot to offer.
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ISBN 9780945466222
eISBN 9781610165297
Publisher Ludwig von Mises Institute
Publication Date 1999
Binding PB
Page Length 58
Dimensions 6" x 9"

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