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RIP, Public Schools

Updated on December 30, 2017

Too Much Government has Ruined Public Schools

First, let me ask that the term "public schools" be retired in favor of a more accurate term: government-controlled schools. Unlike public parks, which people are free to use at their discretion, "public" schools operate through coercion. Imagine being told which public park you could use or being required to be located in the park for a specified number of hours weekly while government officials recorded your attendance. Furthermore, while a public library has librarians bound by professional standards to respect all viewpoints, "public" schools can be manipulated by political interests to promote certain viewpoints (United Nations, global warming, socialism) and denigrate others ( pro-life, patriotic, evangelical Christian, constitutionally-limited government.)

While the public is welcome to participate in endless fundraisers and help proctor end-of-year testing, parents are excluded from the educationally significant decisions. Curriculum and textbooks are determined by bureaucrats. This is not "public" in the sense that the public has a real voice in what really matters. Parents have very little influence if they choose the public option, unless they wish to uproot their family and move to a better school district--which will only be better until some bureaucrat finds out about it and pulls it back down to be equal with all the others.

Now let me state that I am absolutely in favor of education. It is possible to be pro-education while opposing government-controlled schools. The government has had generations to prove it can educate the populace and it has failed in the academic rigor department. Yes, education is essential; so are groceries. Private grocery stores do an excellent job of providing food and private schools do an excellent job providing academic instruction. According to Jay P. Greene (p. 155) school voucher programs, which enable students to attend private schools, give results that are as good or better than government-controlled schools "…with happier parents, for about half the cost. If similar results were produced for…fighting cancer…we might expect reporters and analysts to be elated about such promise."

Finally, many will insist that we must fix government-controlled schools because we cannot live without them. The problems of these schools are systemic. Generations of bandages have failed to effect healing. No Child Left Behind, expanding mandatory school ages, zero-tolerance policies (how dare you carry a butter knife in your lunchbox or take a Tylenol for your headache) and other endless rules and policies have made schools little more than prisons. Like a building extensively damaged by wind or floods, government-controlled schools need to be demolished. New schools must be built by private enterprises and groups of parents and teachers that are devoted to maximizing educational outcomes and minimizing overhead (non-educational) costs. It is time to stop pretending that "public" education is about the children; It's about the politics and the money and preserving the status quo.


Greene, J.P. (2005). Education Myths . Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Challenge Educational Assumptions

News Flashes: The Bad, the Ugly and the Awful

Here are examples of government-controlled schools in action.

What happens when the feds get involved in testing: Parents must prove child in hospice care in morphine coma can't take standardized test. Is there no decency?

A military veteran mom is disrespected by her child's high school because the principal is "scared" of moms with concealed carry permits--even veterans!

Girl punished by school for helping a friend avoid harm. She kept a drunk driver off the road and her school punished her.

Ignorant teacher tells child she can't write about God/Jesus. I guess the first amendment isn't part of the standard teacher education curriculum?

Kindergartener interrogated over cap gun. Suspended 10 days. Can somebody say, "overkill?"

Student suffers asthma attack and is denied any care or comfort. So-called school nurse leaves kid to suffer. Thankfully, he survived despite the school.

Screaming NC teacher does not understand the first amendment.


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    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Latest update: Child in hospice is visited daily by his dedicated teacher who makes him smile, but that teacher's bosses want her to get more paperwork to prove he's still dying so he can't take standardized tests. Because government doesn't care about your pain--only their numbers.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Updated with a new outrage from a leftist "educator."

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I have always said Mr. Giroud was the reason Acton students performed so well once we got older and mixed with Wanamaker and Bunker Hill. He greeted us in the morning, mde kids tuck their shirts in, and came into every 4th grade classroom to teach fractions. We were always better than other schools in fractions because, IMO, we figured they must be VERY important for the principal himself to teach them.

      The key is smaller schools and local control. Unfortunately, all trends are toward bigger and federal control--there is no way to win under those circumstances.

    • profile image

      Steve Robertson 4 years ago

      That's right (Robertson, close enough). I think Mr. Geroud in our grade school had a lot to do with it, too. Here in Nevada, public schools are even worse. If I had any children, I'd probably put them into the best private school I could find. Nevertheless, we both know it is at least possible for public schools to be excellent, because we witnessed it. We need to figure out exactly what they were doing right at Acton Elementary and Franklin Township in the 60's and 70's and do more of that. Ironically, your cogent argument against public schools is rooted in critical reasoning skills that you acquired in an excellent public school. From time to time, I've wondered where you wound up. Good to hear from you. Steve R.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Steve Roberts, is that you? Yes, Mr. Copeland's physics, Mr. Estes' calculus, and Mr. Walker's economics kept me from dying of boredom and prepared me for Purdue. However, we were blessed with small schools that were largely locally controlled. Having worked with children for decades now and being married to a professor who must deal with ill-prepared kids from our abysmal NC K-12 programs, I have to say that schools have changed a lot. They are too big, too afraid of lawsuits, and too handcuffed by state and federal bureaucrats to perform their mission. Excellent teachers are fighting a losing battle against impossible odds. Math education is especially awful, and getting worse in NC public schools.

    • profile image

      srobertanv 4 years ago

      I can name at least one Franklin Central High School valedictorian who obtained an excellent education in a public school. She excelled particularly well in Mr. Copeland's physics course.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Sober honor student punished by government school for driving home a friend who was drunk. She saved her friend from harm and a stinking public school decides to destroy her because of unthinking "zero-tolerance" policies. Zero-tolerance for preventing drunk driving? IDIOTS!! And people are letting these idiots "teach" their children?

    • Schoolmom24 profile image

      Schoolmom24 4 years ago from Oregon

      Excellent points and great hub. Although I know that public school will probably never be abolished I just hope and pray that parents still have freedom to make educational choices in the future. I have home schooled my kids for the past 8 yrs and it has been so rewarding. Not sending them off to strangers all day -but actually raising them myself, what a concept! ;)

    • profile image

      An AYM 5 years ago

      They wouldn't be in a values vacuum, since they have their home life. Even if you don't teach or say anything of values they will still absorb the core values of those around by observing their actions.

      Where I get confused on the notion of public schools advancing any one particular agenda is that I never felt like it did. At least when I went through public school I never felt there was any particular slant against religion or any advocacy of Socialism.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Children can't be raised in a values vacuum any more than they should be raised in a language vacuum. I teach my children English and I teach them the Bible. I don't shelter them from other beliefs, but neither do I say all beliefs are equally true because that would be impossible (e.g. there is one God and there are many and there is no god cannot all be true.)

      I thought I made it clear that public schools should not be in the business of advancing political viewpoints or of denigrating anyone's religion. I'm not asking them to teach the Bible--but I do not expect them to spit on the Bible either. I especially object to them teaching socialism and ignoring limited constitutional government. For a public school to teach socialism is self-serving, since they are themselves creations of the government.

    • profile image

      An AYM 5 years ago

      I agree with you wholeheartedly on this point about education in America. Though I didn't really understand where the social messages fit in with it.

      I disagree with you EducationUSA. Religion is a social invention which specifically advocates a particular cultural/social subset, and the subset you are advocating through those messages might not be what applies to that child. And then we end up doing undue strain on that child's perceptions and possibly creating an unhealthy cultural divide between them and their family at home.

      I agree we should teach about religions past and present, but I think we shouldn't teach children to adhere to any particular values of them so they can decide for themselves what best suits them.

    • EducationUSA profile image

      EducationUSA 5 years ago

      Great article! I agree that the school system these days is instilling an intolerance toward different religions while stifling the growth and creative development for children. Some may argue that religion and it's values should be saved for home, but I argue that this approach creates bias view points for children starting at a young age. This grows into intolerance and in some cases even hatred. Instead, I think that children should be taught about all religions and beliefs from both the past and the present. Thanks for the great article! Upped and interesting! :-)

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Added another perspective: Seth Godin has really thought about a new model for schooling that suits our modern world intead of the old industrial model.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Seafarer, vouchers would be given to parents for the money the state would have paid for educating that child--only it wouldn't take the entire amount the state pays, because the state is very inefficient. The good teachers could be free to start schools to serve various clients (e.g. gifted, ADD, general population, single-sex, religious, pagan, communist....) which would also require deregulation. I think it could be a beautiful thing--every child could find a school that fit instead of one-size-fits-all-sort-of.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I'm not asking that my views be taught--but they should not be ridiculed or singled out for scorn either. I also believe that many of the poor are intelligent enough to use vouchers to select a good school--and good schools would proliferate in a free market. Bad schools would get weeded out because parents would be free to leave them. Not all poor people are poor parents.

      I did not grow up rich, but we always had books in the house and I'm sure we could have done like Abe Lincoln and taught ourselves if necessary. Nobody believes the free market will work in education because the market has never been free.

      As for compassion, Catholic schools have always served the underserved and continue to provide great education in places like NYC--for far less money than the city's schools.Given even a third of the money spent per pupil today, parents could buy excellent education for their children--education they chose for their special children.

    • greatparenting profile image

      greatparenting 5 years ago from philadelphia, pa and corolla, nc

      Your hub is interesting but I must disagree with the basic premise about eliminating "government-controlled schools." Your premise leaves out a huge segment of the population that is disenfranchised and cannot provide education for its children. The poor, for example, have a right to a viable education but it's unlikely their families will be able to handle that. If a society is to be judged by how it handles its least fortunate members, your world would be woefully lacking in compassion, I'm afraid. True our public schools are failing but we need new approaches and new methods, not elimination. The views you believe to be denigrated in public schools, i.e. "pro-life, pro-military, evangelical Christian, constitutionally limited government" are values that are best taught at home. I wouldn't want my public school teaching my children values other than the universal ones of respect, compassion, fairness, honesty, responsibility, civility and integrity. The other values should be taught to my kids by me. That's the parent's responsibility, not the schools.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      There can be no doubt in the mind of the most ardent supporter of public schools that they are broken. I have never been an advocate of public schools; thus my sixteen years of teaching in a private school. Well-stated arguments.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 5 years ago from New England

      On the one hand, I agree with you about the systemic problems with public schools, which is why I am a home educator (with an M.Ed.) Yet...some of the problems are related to what state the schools are in, not on a federal level.

      But, one question I have is about how the administrators of those private schools will determine who can be educated if they do not have enough money for their children to attend a private school? Will they be able to pay less taxes to the federal government, taxes that pay for public education, so that they can pay for their children to attend such private schools? Please keep in mind that a full tax deduction later on may not be enough...they may not be able to afford the upfront cost of the tuition in September.

      I voted this hub up and interesting because your thoughts are well-articulated, though I do not agree with them.


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