In Which We Discuss the Meaning & Means of Education

Top three posts people read at Education Conversation…

Education vs. Schooling

How to Become a Genius

Dare the School Build a New Social Order?

The Ultimate Question: What is Education? Are we chasing something we can’t define? Links to essays, stories and excerpts to consider. You’ll find things here that aren’t anywhere else on this site.

Access all Voucher-Related Articles.

Religious Reasons to Choose Freedom.

Links to sites of related interest:
Alliance for the Separation of School & State

Freedom of Education
Cato Center for Educational Freedom
Exodus Mandate: Let My Children Go


The Problem of Education

One of the main reasons we have so many problems today deciding where to go with the education of children and young people is that we haven’t taken the time to figure out what education is.Once we’re clear on the purpose of education, we’re in a position to figure out how to make it happen.The purpose of education may not be the same for all people, which is another important issue to face. Who should define education? Who should define the future? Who should control education?

Some of my thoughts…

One of the most important decisions you’ll ever make is who will educate your children. Education is not just learning to read but learning what to think about what you read and how to choose worthwhile reading material. It’s about learning to discern truth and falsehood in what you read.Education is not just learning the facts of science but learning why they matter and how to apply them ethically. Education is not just learning dates and events from history but learning to apply the lessons of lives well lived and lives poorly lived — and how to tell the difference. Who will teach your children the meaning behind the facts? 

  • To participate, take a look at our Categories to the right.
  • To fuel your thinking, read through some of our articles and take a look at the Quotations page. 

All posts are subject to approval by our administrator. Please, no nastiness or crude language, and do your best to stay on topic. Consider fashioning a response in Word or Notepad before posting it — that way you’ll have time to think about and fine-tune your views.

Thank you for spending time with us!

Tammy Drennan, administrator



  1. BILL McCOMAS JR says:

    The recent developments in concerning home schooling in California is very disturbing. I don’t have to tell anyone that is aware of this website that our rights as parents is slowly and systematically being eroded and taken away. Thank God for this alliance and information given and shared on it. Thank you for being here!

  2. tdbwd says:

    Dear Mr. McComas,

    Thanks so much for your encouragement! Working together, I think we can make a big difference.

    Tammy Drennan

  3. anupofuniverse says:

    In Pokhara, Nepal I found an institute that is trying to provide education to deserved and backwarded students, this institution sometimes provides scholarships to those students when a foreign investor or donor helps.

  4. Paul Borowski says:

    I just found your website while searching the Internet for articles about the original purpose and intent of our US public education system. While I haven’t combed the entire website, the couple articles I’ve read on this site (which are extremely well-done!) appear to indicate that our Founder’s goals and objectives for the original public school system are not well-documented. I’m interested in this topic as a former public school student, as a parent with three children in Minnesota public schools, as a brother of a Milwaukee-area schoolteacher, and as a former school board candidate who likes to stay informed on issues affecting public school education. Recently, our school district started a conversation about a separate school for the “highly, highly gifted” student population in our community. Our community is affluent, and therefore has what is an above-average student population. I was surprised to read, however, that this “highly, highly gifted” segment of our student population only amounted to some 50-100 students. To build a separate school for these students seemed a bit extravagant to me, however most of what our particular school system engages in seems rather extravagant to me. I was educated in a low-to-middle class suburb of Milwaukee, and I feel I received an excellent, well-rounded education. I also feel that EVERYONE in our school system received the same; everyone was prepared to go in any direction they so chose because they were, indeed, well-prepared in the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Fast forward to today, and it seems the district my kids are being educated in aims not to prepare ALL the students for life after high school, rather our so-called “limited” funds are spent on all sorts of what I would call “non-core” programs that serve targeted groups of students; things such as Immersion programs and International Baccalaureate and a whole range of other seemingly extravagant things.

    Somehow I feel that the original purpose of public education was that which I experienced in my upbringing rather than that which my children are experiencing, and I’m very curious as to the thoughts of the members of this forum. Thank you.

  5. tdbwd says:

    Mr. Borowski,

    Just wanted to let you know I appreciate your post and am thinking about it (and have even written a little in response), but it may take me a little longer to post something. Life is a tad crazy right now. Thanks much!

    Tammy Drennan

  6. I am a UN Advisor of Global Education. I have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008 for my efforts to network global education leaders to understand other cultures, countries and particularly individuals in order to create a pathway to sustained peace. I have created over 100 different formulae, theories and practica in order to improve the practice of pedagogy and administration worldwide. I have been to and participated in fora and seminars in numerous countries including China ( where I had dinner by invite in The Great Hall of The People); Jordan ( where I had an audience with the Minister of Education as well as having dinner with Princess Aliya in The Amman Gun and Rifle Club, both located in Amman; Australia ( where I met the ex Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson;Siberia ( where I met and had dinner with the Leadership Chair of UNESCO Dr. Adele Safty); England ( where I participated in a education administration event in Oxford University ) and others. In my opinion, the practice of pedagogy can be defined as the facilitation of the minds understanding times collective compassion. The most important word in that phrase is ‘ Compassion ‘. The most important person in any school or school system is THE STUDENT. And since individuals are the summation of their understandings from their all of their experiences, we should ….no….
    we must honor their understandings. By the way, I have also given keynote speeches to PTK ( The International Society for Two Year Colleges ) as well as various colleges in the US. I am interested in networking with any individual who agrees or disagrees with my philosophy.

    Honorably Yours,

    Frank Palatnick

    • Rob says:

      Dr. Palatnick:

      As an engineer, I am perhaps more sensitive the the use and misuse of analogies and vague speech than the average non-engineer (or scientist or mathmatician). A phrase like “pedagogy can defined as the facilitation of the mind’s understanding times (x) collective compassion” does not make too much sense to me. Assuming you mean that each item on either side of the times symbol is a function, you have left the functions undefined. “The mind’s understanding” is rarely unconditioned and is therefore a really complex function. “Collective compassion” sounds nice, but I know from experience that there is no such function, as every person exhibits different compassions in various degrees. With regards my work raising money for the rescue of street children in India I find that individuals in the USA have very little “collective compassion” for this group, but may have great compassion for rescuing dog and cats from euthanasia at animal shelters.

      I, as an individual, am not a collection of understandings from experience – my own experiences form only about 1/2 of my understandings. For instance, I have never been to India. In the Kurdish movie “Turtles Can Fly”, the techno-geek teen in an impoverished Iraqi village understands much more about the world than anyone else in his village.

      When we read or view/hear about the world outside our “experience” our minds -some few of us anyway- can “leap frog” beyond our personal experiences and sometimes come to abandon the world view or parts thereof which had been conditioned by our experiences. Thus our experiences should not, in my opinion, be “honored”, but rather challenged.

      The child is not just, right or good simply because he/she exists, conditioned by experience. Experience is limited. Some, many in fact, seem to choose to limit their experience, prefering instead dogma or distraction in boorish entertainments.

      “Experience” in the active, rather than passive sense, requires self-challenge – I backpack and climb mountains. I find that the higher the elevation, the better and rarer the character of the other people I meet there. I can accurately use analogy to relate such outdoor challenges to the indoor challenge of say, math, or engineering.

      In math and engineering the mind must be challenged to go beyond experience, and to be compassionless for those who give up along the way, in the foothills, or worse, in the flatlands.

      We humans are born with rank – no one can honestly deny this. I was born with low rank in the area of sporting ability, but high in logic and abstraction.

      Education or pedagogy is then properly defined as, rather than two vague complex functions multiplied by other, the act on the part of the pedagoge of challenging, compassionlessly, the student to go beyond mere experience into the unknown of abstraction where there will be both successes and failures.

      The mind’s understanding is only limited by conditioned experience – it is true, as Immanuel Kant pointed out, that experience comes first with regards cognitions, but that is only the starting point from which abstraction can begin and lead beyond experience.

      Science and engineering move forwards on hunches, not method. (See Feryerabend’s “Against Method”) There is no room for “collective compassion” in going beyond, there is perhaps only compassion for the self, to allow enough rest and sustenence in order to keep going.

      The weakness in public education in the USA is the lack of challenge put to the pupils, and too much compassion for the difficulty of the path to higher ground. And too much compassion for the unfairness of rank, to the extent that such discussions as rank are verbotten, except perhaps in sports.

      Of course good pedagogy should include discussions of diplomacy towards others, but what is a good diplomat if not a person of higher rank? Rank in any field can be improved through diligent effort on the part of teacher and student, both. But if we don’t acknowledge rank at the outset, how can we go about improving our rank? Compassion will never bring about improvement, unless one adopts as part of the defintion of “compassion” the idea that it is most compassionate to drive the student to excell, to improve his or her rank, for their own good, which will bring about a good for the community as the rank of all is driven forward and improved.

      The street children I support in India are put into the competent hands of Salesians – experienced pedogoges – and they are aided in, and expected to improve. Little of soft, modern “compassion” is shown to them for their street experiences and conditioned understandings, most of which have to be purged.

      The educational system in the USA, if it is to be rescued, must be purged of compassion and the low expectations of the pupils “experiences”, and replaced with a tougher, more stoic system of pedagogy which seeks to draw out abstractive abilities and allow individuals to live up to their rank, whatever that may be. As for those who can’t get beyond the foothills, so be it, as long as the rest of us are unfettered by them they will find jobs that WE create.

      • tdbwd says:


        Thanks very much for taking the time to add to the conversation about education. I think you have an excellent point about some of the weakness of the US education system. One advantage to a non-government system is that the variety in children/people can be accommodated in an equal variety of ways, and children who might not be able to soar in their particular areas of strength in the uniform system of state schooling can do so in a freer setting.

        Again, thank you very much.


  7. tdbwd says:

    Dear Dr. Palatnick,

    Thank you for your comments. I fully agree that the most important person/thing in any school or school system is the student. I’m sure you are acutely aware of the fact that in most government school systems the student is close to the least important thing. More important than the student is the agenda for promoting an ideology, money, position and prestige, power, and lots of other things. By way of example, I talked just yesterday morning with a mother whose honor-roll daughter was asked to leave her high school because her frequent illness-related absenses were having a negative impact on the school’s NCLB funding. It’s not an isolated incident. As long as governments run schools, children will suffer in endless ways, from receiving poor educations to finding themselves the targets of special interests that use schools to indoctrinate trapped children to being denied the freedom to truly develop their talents. It’s a sad state of affairs. We’re trying to help remedy it.

    Thanks much.


  8. CTCT05 says:

    Most famous Americans went to small, rural schools & became successful with major contributions to society.

    Now that we spend more money for education, the dummer our children become. Personally, I blame the NEA. If you cannot take your children out of public school then, at least, run for the school board & make a change. Become an activist!! I served on numerous school boards when my children were growing up. We can make a change.

    There is a new, modern day book out that is a great about a small town in America that stands up to federal tyranny. It parallels the American Revolution & what caused it. It’s powerful so I got a few for my friends. Read it!!

    Power to the People…..It’s We the people…..not you the government

  9. tdbwd says:

    Hi CTCTO5,

    Thanks much for your comment. I agree that if a person cannot remove a child from public school, they need to become extremely “pro-active.” First and foremost, they must immunize their children against the worst of what they’ll encounter in the schools; they must make their children strong leaders and help them learn not to be followers. Next, they must make sure their children receive a good education, even if that means doing extra themselves. Finally, they can try to improve schools in various ways, but this won’t do a whole lot of good. The changes that are usually effected tend to be insignificant in reality (though sometimes big in the media and in the public’s minds and hopes).

    But it’s important for parents to be honest and ask themselves if they really can’t afford independence or really just don’t want to. There are thousands upon thousands of parents living on very limited incomes and still managing academic independence for their children — the evidence says it’s far more feasible than many seem to think.

    Good to hear from you.


  10. Frances says:

    I like the new layout.

    Recently I asked a friend (who believes that public schools are not anti-Christian) what world view she thought public education was centered on. To date she has yet to respond. I think so many people think of education as neutral. This just amazes me. How can molding of a child’s mind be world view neutral?

  11. tdbwd says:


    Thank you! Your comment about schools and worldview is especially important right now, because more and more Christians are trying to argue that education and spirituality are completely separate things and that’s why theres’s no problem with having the state educate your children. They argue that math and science and history and literature can all be taught without the context of a worldview. A few argue that there is some worldview incorporated into the teaching of these subjects but that alert parents can easily counteract it at home. More on all of this very soon. If this attitude wins out in Christian circles it will be a sad day for Christianity and just as sad a day for the many people who could have been served and helped by a Christian community that led the way rather than followed the crowd.

    Frances, if your friend comes up with an answer, I would very much like to hear it. I want to fully understand what people are thinking along these lines.


  12. Frances says:

    Another issue that just really hit me is the money we spend. The average that Americans spend per classroom per year is around $203,000 or $9266 per student per year. Where in the world does all of this money go? How can this possibly be good stewardship of the resources God has provided us? And yet the government always wants more.

  13. tdbwd says:


    Hear, hear. Let’s say we have a class of 20 students and we pay the teacher $60,000 a year. We have $143,000 left. Let’s spend $500 per child on books and supplies: $133,000 left. Let’s rent a large room for class at $200/week for a full year: $122,600 left. Let’s pay $10,000 a year for some kind of insurance: $112,600 left. Let’s pay $30 per child to administer a standardized test: $112,000 left. Let’s pay someone from the outside $100 a pop to come in and do an enrichment class once a week for 40 weeks — say art or music: $108,000 left. We have money to blow: Let’s do two enrichment classes a week: $104,000 left. Let’s pay parents $20 a week per child to send their kids to school with lunch: $92,000 left. Let’s allot $20,000 a year to pay a few parents to pick all the kids up for school and shuttle them home: $72,000 left. Let’s allot $10,000 a year to some good field trips: $62,000 left. Let’s allot $20,000 a year to misc. and for unforeseen expenses: $42,000 left. Let’s rent another room so we can spread out: $31,600 left…. and so on. Whoever thinks we can’t do education well on 10K per child is either not thinking or has their hand in the till.

    Thanks, Frances.


  14. Frances says:

    I think you forgot the amount that the Department of Education gets for whatever it is that they do. And the State Board of Education. And the school district. And the principal to hire the teachers and set the rules and rent the rooms, etc. And buses to get the kids there and drivers to drive them. And bands with uniforms and instruments. And choir. And sports teams. And playground equipment.

    I think that is a large part of the problem is how much is eaten up in administrative oversight. If all education was either in private schools or homeschools, we could eliminate all of the expenses mentioned up to the principal without any change in the actual education of our kids. It would also eliminate the expenses of the bus system. In most private schools that I am aware of the families that want to participate in band, football, etc. pay an extra fee to do so.

  15. tdbwd says:


    Yes — exactly the point, but I didn’t make it clear enough — look what all that money might do without the “fluff.” But that’s not all. I exaggerated what many things would cost if we were using the money privately. And on top of that, the $10,000 a year we now spend on each student doesn’t take into account many other public school sources of revenue, from donated equipment to advertising sales to funbdraising income, grants, donations, fees charged to parents, etc. It’s actually even worse than is at first apparent.

    Thanks for the extra input!


  16. Karl Priest says:

    A quick scan of this site impresses me.

    As a retired public school teacher I am convinced that our only hope is to rescue our children from the public (government) schools and raise a godly generation. Please see “Call to Dunkirk” at Public schools cannot be redeemed. Saying we should not abandon them is like saying the passengers of the Titanic should have stayed aboard because the band was playing good music and the captain was a good man.

    For those in West Virginia, please also see

  17. tdbwd says:


    Thank you. I’ve featured “Call to Dunkirk” on this site before. but it’s worth as many reminders as possible. Your Titanic analogy is especially apt — something people should give deep thoght to. The good people within the system cannot repair the inherent weaknesses in it, nor are a few good elements of the system worth sacrificing our children over. The boat is in deep and dangerous waters — there’s no possibility of dry dock where it can be repaired. The best solution is to fashion solid escapes and board better ships.

    Thank you for spurring our thinking.


  18. Frances says:

    I just read an article by Walter Williams (economist) about conflict. (I don’t know how to hyperlink in WordPress or I would.) There is one paragraph that goes well with your website. I am posting it below.

    “Take the issue of prayers in school as an example. I think that everyone, except a maniacal tyrant, would agree that a parent has the right to decide whether his child will recite a morning prayer in school. Similarly, a parent has a right to decide that his child will not recite a morning prayer. Conflict arises because schools are government owned. That means it is a political decision whether prayers will be permitted or not. A win for one parent means a loss for another parent. The losing parent, in order to get what he wants, would have to muster up private school tuition while continuing to pay taxes for a school for which he has no use.”

    He goes on to talk about vouchers as an option (which I am not too keen on). But I did think that his main point was a great one.

  19. tdbwd says:


    Hi. Thank you for the above excerpt from Walter Williams. He always makes so much sense. I once sent a link and note to him about one of my articles that addressed one of his articles and he very graciously replied. I think he would love to see state-free schooling but can’t imagine how it could possibly happen (understandably so). I believe it could happen but would take a very long time to become a reality. I wish I had more time to work on solutions, but right now my life is full of other commitments. Still, I do need to brainstorm and write more about ideas for change, even if I can’t help implement them right now.

    The truth is that until parents want something different for their children, not much change is likely. Yet we have several generations of parents who hardly know how to think about education and what it could and should be, because they were reared in state schools under state definitions of what it means to be educated.

    School reformers are constantly comparing the US to other countries, but one thing they’ll never do is compare us to the thousands upon thousands of poor parents in India and Africa who have rejected state schooling and are paying for private schooling for their children (see James Tooley’s book, The Beautiful Tree: A personal journey into how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves). If poor, often illiterate parents in India and Africa can see what’s not good for their children and do something about it, surely we can.

    Thank you, again, Frances.

  20. gman5284 says:

    If we wish to take our public schools back, we will have to run for local, state, and federal education offices AND become teachers and/or administrators in our local schools. This is, after all, how those who would indoctrinate our children took them over in the first place.

  21. tdbwd says:

    Dear gman5284,

    It’s very true that this (previous comment) would be a strategy for taking back public schools. But that’s precisely what the problem is with government schooling — it’s a constant battle of people who CAN take it from one another. Independence would resolve that problem, since parents would choose or create schools and education options that meet their criteria for the education of their children and would not have to worry that next year some other group would get the upper hand to promote its ideology.

    Thanks much for contributing to this conversation and keeping us thinking.


  22. gman5284 says:

    There is another little problem that musn’t be overlooked. The biggest problems in the schools are not problems that the schools can fix. The majority of the problems in schools are rooted in the homes of the students. Until parents decide to start being parents, these problems will not go away. I remember how many “bad” kids with whom I attended school. And the schools were awful back then (I graduated in the early 1980’s). Now the troublemakers with whom I attended school have their kids in school. In most cases, those kids are as bad as, or worse than their parents. I see people are now transferring to better school districts whenever possible. When it isn’t possible, they move or use the address of someone they know who lives in the more desirable district. I myself have transferred my kids to a neighboring school district to avoid sending them to schools which I know are doing a lousy job. If there was a private school nearby, I would put them there even if I had to work three jobs to make it happen. Our public schools are, for the most part, a disgrace and are not deserving of our tax dollars. In Texas, one can pass the teaching certification exam with a 35! And this has been going on for years (decades even). This results in having lousy teachers (as well as higher level administrators) who can barely pass a test (that a ninth grader should be able to pass) being given a certification along with those who score 80 or more. We do have some good teachers, but we have far more lousy ones. When I was in college, even the jocks laughed at the “education” curriculum. It’s is the single easiest degree to obtain. While I’m no Einstein, I did notice that many of the “education” majors weren’t really the sharpest tools in the shed (no exaggeration…just fact). And these are the people to whom we trust our children’s education. It’s no wonder that the country is in such a mess.

  23. tdbwd says:

    Dear gman5284,

    Thanks much for your comments and observations. You are absolutely right about the responsibility of parents in the school debacle. But I think it’s a more complicated issue than just parents not doing their job. From the very beginning of public schooling as we know it today (circa 1850; Horace Mann, et al), the social activists have wrestled parents for control of the children. Every decade of schooling has seen schools both stealthily and forcibly taking more control of children’s lives and relegating parents to the trash heap.

    So the question is: Is one of the reasons parents parent less because they’ve been robbed of their authority (literally and psychologically)? You would think in our self-help, improve yourself world that parents would keep getting better and better at their job. There’s certainly no shortage of books or workshops on the subject. But parents at all social levels seem less and less sure of their role than ever.

    I think schools have been a major cause of this. And all the while they’ve been contributing to the problem, they’ve been pretending they’re actually just responding to an already existing problem, much the way Hoarce Mann demanded compulsory state schooling — on the premise that children were going without schooling — in a city in which almost all children were already in school.

    That is, unfortunately and increasingly, the government way. Whatever problem you need to exist in order to justify what you want to do, you simply declare exists. Who’s going to question the government?

    But back to parents. While I believe schools have been the major contributors to the problem of bad parenting (I might add here that one big role schools take over is the fundamental decision about where and how children should be educated, a decision that belongs to parents and not the state), I am not excusing parents for abdicating their role. Parents are adults and should be held accountable for their responsibilities just as all adults are.

    Maybe we need to stop making so many excuses for everyone — parents, teachers, schools, politicians, ourselves, everyone. I sometimes think we expect better behavior from kindergartners than adults.

    Again, thanks very much for contributing to this vital conversation.


  24. gman5284 says:

    I have found a decent school district for my children to attend. However, I will be reading their textbooks to determine whether the information in those books are unbiased…especially science and history/government textbooks. Woe unto the social engineering teacher who assigns one of my kids a paper to write. I can point my kids to numerous unbiased scientific and/or historical references that could collide with the information contained the text books. But I will see to it that my kids get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s the best I can do short of home-schooling. And even then you have to be careful about which curriculum you use. But any way you slice it, I am resolved to make sure my kids grow up to be thinkers, not robots.

    • tdbwd says:

      Dear gman5284,

      Would that more children had parents who cared enough to put this much work into making sure they got a good and honest education. Your children are very fortunate.

      Thank you.


  25. Frances says:

    Do your views on separation of school and state extend to community colleges and universities? Just curious.

    • tdbwd says:


      So good to hear from you. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted anything for a bit. Life is a little crazy.

      I need to think and read on the whole college/university issue, but for the time being what it seems to me is that government-controlled (or heavily influenced) colleges are not working very well and are getting worse. Money is grossly mismanaged, courses are increasingly dumbed down, and the moral tone of campuses is heartbreakingly bankrupt.

      As with privately run pre-college schools, private colleges often find themselves suffering the same ills as the state schools because that’s the model they follow — it’s the only model they know, the one they grew up with. There are many exceptions, Hillsdale being one of the notable ones.

      Just getting government out of the way of education is not the whole answer at any level, because people are not defining education at a thinking level.

      I think the best and most realistic answer is just for the people (and churches and other groups) who do think about education more deeply to commit fiercely to independence and share their ideas and experiences as far and wide as possible. This is harder at the college level, but not impossible — at least for a lot of careers.

      I would like to see an entirely different model of education at the post-high school level, including options to get certifications (another thing to debate) for many careers by testing for them instead of going to college then testing for them. That in itself is a long discussion.

      It seems to me that the best way to get freedom in an area is to start practicing intensely the freedom we already have, then pushing the envelope.

      I hope you’ve been doing well and have a happy and prosperous new year.


  26. Brad says:

    I’ve been subbing for years in the public school system. The biggest problem I see there is that the kids entering the schools reflect society at large – the place society is at right now. They come in and they’re extremely entitled, anti-authority, entirely social, and very vulgar. They’re shockingly disrespectful and offensive.

    The other side to this problem is that the laws don’t permit teachers to really control their classroom and discipline the children. We have to tiptoe around them. They know this. They also know how to behave. They simply won’t unless held accountable. There is no way to hold them accountable. Deans often can’t or won’t deal with it for their own reasons which are admittedly complex. So it is a catch 22. I’ve been offered my own classroom. I won’t take it. I won’t be held accountable for the safety and order of a classroom and not be permitted to discipline the children in it.

    Also, there is a basic assumption at some level that chilren are inherently good and just need encouragement. That simply isn’t true. Children far more than adults, can be selfish, mean-spirited, and emotionally tyrannical. We live in a time of decline: chilren have the upper hand over adults and that’s bad news!

    • tdbwd says:


      Thank you very much for writing. We need to hear more from people on the front lines. What you say mirrors what I’ve heard from many other teachers.

      You mention that kids are reflecting society at large, which I think is very true. One question I ask myself a lot is: To what extent has education by the government created society at large?

      I think the answer is: Quite a lot. It has eaten away at the role and concept of family to the point that many, if not most, parents don’t feel it’s their responsibility to teach their children respect and common courtesy. Further, because it has fostered a herd mentality and set a standard of conformity for so long, society at large simply accepts that children are naturally rude, irresponsible, immature, and unable to control themselves.

      There are more contributers than just public schools, but I believe it’s the big one. What it doesn’t cause directly it causes indirectly.

      The road back or away from this is not as simple as taking education out of the hands of the state, though that is part of it. The damage that has been done will probably take generations to repair.

      It has to be done one family at a time, one church at a time, one group of like-minded people at a time. It is already happening. How far it will go will probably depend on how many people are willing to plant the idea in others’ heads then help them act on it.

      Thanks so much for writing. Hope to hear from you again.


    • Frances says:

      My brother is a substitute teacher. He says there are 7 steps before you can even send a kid to the principal. I homeschool 2 kids and can’t imagine what it would be like to take seven steps before disciplining them let alone a room full of 25 kids.

      I think that you are right about kids being a reflection of the society they are raised in. It is a sad statement about the state of our country.

  27. Frances says:

    I just started reading a book called Your Child’s Strengths by Jenifer Fox. I thought you would enjoy this quote from page 11.

    “As parents, you should know which subjects the schools are teaching your children, but more important, you should ask why. . . . Why do we teach trigonometry, a subject few peole will use in their lives instead of statistics, a topic that is valuable in many professions?. . . Why don’t we learn how we govern our local communitites or where the food in our grocery stores comes from? Who determines what is important, and is the same thing important for everyone? Is what was important ten years ago still important today?

    • tdbwd says:


      Very good quote. Thank you for sharing it. People would do well to ask themselves the question in the quote: Why is this or that taught and not that or this? Most people assume some expert decided it was best. The real answer has to do with politics, salesmanship, special interests and/or sheer ignorance. Not that some things taught are not valuable — they are, though many of them would be far more valuable taught a different way (and they’re taught the way they are for all the same reasons listed above).

      Anyone who thinks public schools can be significantly reformed, as a whole, is living in a dream world. Sometimes individual schools can be reformed for a time, but widespread or lasting significant change isn’t going to happen — really can’t happen.

      In the meantime, everyone is being sold a bill of goods at the local level with news stories about the “progress” their hometown schools are making. It simply isn’t true.

      Many people would be surprised to find out that public schools hire PR firms. I wonder how many people would ask the important question: Why?

      Fortunately, there are options for many determined to get out, but more are needed.

      Thanks much, Frances.


  28. Brad says:

    Well yes, the other view recognizes that chilren are usually bad, but says it’s normal and should just be accepted; it’s simply their stage and nothing can or should be done about it.

    But here’s something to think about. When a teacher or administrator tries to intervene and decisively stop a child from acting out or disrespecting their peers or authority, a strangely pitiful and vocal person comes forward and sides with the problem child. They probably have the law on their side too! Of course they never think of anyone else who is REALLY being hurt in the process. (There are dynamics involved in why a person would be that way and I don’t want to go into it.) Now that pitiful person may be the child’s parent, guardian, a lawyer, a mediator or some type of advocate and so on. But they get in the way of ACTUAL justice. Children are not being held accountable for behaviors during school time. Now I guarantee you a lot of their behaviors would get them into legal trouble if done in the middle of a supermarket. But as bad as some kids are, almost none are dumb (when it comes to that). Most know what they can and can’t get away with. And what they can do, they will. They can disrespect schoolteachers, their peers, and to some degree adminstrators because the law says we have to keep them there – they must have an education – even if they make life a living hell for those around them. Kids pick up on how much wiggle room they have – they test the waters to see how far they can go, and the sky has become the limit. These are your bullies that drive other students to suicide, and these are the oens that make the teacher want to quit their job. Again and again I’m amazed at the resourcefulness of these clever kids. We forget as adults that when we were their age we were pretty smart in certain ways. They really do pull the wool over some adults’ eyes. Others ‘dont’ go there’ so to speak, because no one will be around to back them up discipline-wise. Still others just go along with it because they have that misplaced pity that many Americans now do. My grandparents didn’t have too much of that kind of guilt. They grew up during a depression and got slapped on the hand with a ruler for minor offenses. These days, kids may just walk out of the classroom if they don’t like a rule. I’ve known many people who were subs for a short time and threw in the towel – they simply couldn’t do it. And they were responsible adults, some of whom had raised kids of their own.

    I’m pretty good at what I do. But let’s be real; a sub job doesn’t pay much and it shouldn’t be that hard. It has become so. I work my backside off to be and do what the regular teacher would, and it’s hard, particularly when I go into urban districts. As a daily sub, three things still bother me. They are the following:
    1. Openly and repeatedly defiant chilren.
    2. Bleeding hearts.
    3. A society and legal system that undergirds and perpetuates numbers 1 and 2!

    • tdbwd says:


      People need to hear this. John Taylor Gatto would argue that this is the natural consequence of school by the state, at least in America. I tend to agree, though I think the reasons are complex. At any rate, the parents who know and care about it have little choice but to opt out. A fight is not worth the cost — financially, emotionally or any other way — and for what results? Usually something so trivial as to be laughable.

      Here’s an idea for an education revolution: A bunch of teachers all over the country starting a bunch of little alternatives in neighborhoods, joined, helped and supported by parents who want their kids to grow up intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually healthy. That’s not as farfetched as it sounds.

      Thanks Brad.


  29. Brad says:


    I agree that seeking alternatives at this point is a good idea. As Rome declined, Christians began alternative cultural practices and actually cared for fellow humans. They helped to transmit learning through the dark ages, and softened the oncoming barbarism.

    It is true that the schools have more authority then they should in a curricular sense. They can teach what they want and parents can’t contest it. That’s deplorable.

    But when it comes to disciplining the children, the public school really has very little if any authority. Some parents use this to their advantage when little Johnny is a brat and they can’t control him or won’t admit there’s a problem.

    What people don’t realize is that yes, the school can teach what they want, but no, they don’t have power to discipline, usually. The courts took that away long ago. There was a time also when the teacher was considered legally in place of the parent during school hours. This just isn’t the case anymore. The schools have less authority, not more, and the teachers and adminstrators are suffering. Can the schools wrongly teach atheism, evolution, etc.? Of course. They can and they do. But they can’t adequately or decisevely discipline someone else’s kid. It’s either not practical in terms of risk because of gray areas, or it’s just not legally possible.

    • tdbwd says:


      I see your point and you are, of course, absulutely right — schools do have less authority when it comes to discipline, which provokes another thought in me. In my area, schools exert extreme discipline in minor cases. I get calls from parents about this all the time and have asked myself over and over why the schools let big things go and run kids into the ground for little things. Maybe it’s because they long to exercise the authoritarianism that they feel is their right, so they take it out on who they can — the kids with parents who will quake with fear when they’re called before a tribunal to account for an extra day of absence or a kid who brought an aspirin to school.

      But there’s another kind of authoritarianism — something more subtle that I think children succumb to subconsciously — and that is the power of the “expert.” Schools teach, both directly and indirectly, that they hold some special power over the ability to learn and even knowledge itself, and people imbibe this one way or another. They no longer trust themselves to be fit for life without the approval (diploma) of a school.

      As far as practical discipline goes, there’s probably no answer to it. If I ran a private school, my personal answer would be this: misbehaving students could stay as long as mom or dad attends class with them.

      Today’s school discipline problems are a reflection of society and society is a reflection of all the forces that make it up, and one of those big forces is state schooling. The solution is not reform — poison can’t be reformed into something good for you. That sounds strong, and at one time I would have felt it was too strong a comparison, but after many years of conversations with literally thousands of parents and dozens of teachers, I think I may actually be understating the fact.

      On the plus side, starting alternatives is actually easier — not harder — than reform. It’s just that we have a hard time letting go of the reform idea so we can throw our energies into something else.

      Thanks very much for keeping this conversation important and progressing, Brad.


  30. Brad says:


    Also, I forgot to mention that all of the special ed. kids are fully integrated. So it is possible to have kids acting in even more unusual ways which of course affects the whole climate. Kids have permission to run out of the room if they need to “cool off” and the teacher is not allowed to reprimand them because it might set them off. Believe me – schools do not feel authoritarian. They are fully aware of the power of the law above them to put that child right back in the room after he’s humiliated the teacher and wreaked havoc. Most teachers and principals agree this shouldn’t be happening. They are not the ones in control. Policy makers are. And they are not school workers. It is not the schools that decide these thigns. They are shaped by policy and law.

  31. Brad says:

    I can understand both sides. Growing up in a Christian family, I remember how my parents felt about the curriculum. But as a teacher within the system, I see now that when it comes to general behavior and character issues wiht kids, the schools are at the mercy of the children, their parents, and the lawyers their parents can get or threaten to get.

    As far as the minor issues that receive huge attention, I don’t think it’s authoritarianism. It’s probably the redtape that comes from bureaucracy, and may have been drawn up in large part to cover themselves legally. Parents sue often, or at least attempt to. That’s another thing. Relations have broken down. Even when I was growing up, we had a fellow student who was extremely mischievous and violent. He could not be removed from school. His mother marched up there with a lawyer and he was back the next day.

    Believe me when I tell you this, as a teacher you feel yourself to be at teh mercy of the kids and their parents. As an administrastor, you have the advantage of being somewhat above that. But you are at the mercy of policy and law. The school is not a powerful entity (except when it comes to the philosophy of what gets taught). This is where parents rightly see unnessessary power. But trust me, if the school had real power, the discipline problems would be gone, because a few would get expelled, and the rest would get OUT OF SCHOOL suspensions – the real kind, and others would stand in the middle of the room with gum on their nose. Their self-esteem would be hurt and their behavior would get better! But really, those days are long gone.

    • tdbwd says:


      Hmm, I’m thinking about all you’ve said. You have inside experience. I do know that teachers feel — and often are — helpless in the face of student misbehavior. I know that policy comes largely from above. What I hear from parents is not that teachers are authoritarin as much as that people above them are — those are the people dragging kids before tribunals (in my state) and dishing out extreme punishments, threatening parents with jail, and expelling kids.

      Maybe in other states, expulsion from school is not an option, but I get dozens of calls a year from parents whose kids have been kicked out of school and who have been told they would have to homeschool. The theory is that the schools can’t kick out students; the reality is that it’s being done a lot.

      As far as the discipline problems and their source — that’s a complex issue. Yes, parents are responsible and not doing their job. Yes, there are lawsuits. Yes, society contributes. But why? Why is it this way?

      My contention is that a big part of it goes back to the mid 1800s when schools started taking on the role of parents — by force. By the early 1900s, schools were taking over social and domestic type instruction. Did parents cave in too easily? Yes. For many reasons — relief of some responsibility, lack of foresight and insight, fear.

      When I and my siblings were in school, my mother resented the way the schools acted as if they owned the children and parents were poor ignorant peasants. You feel this is no longer the atmosphere, but did the former attitude lead, at least in part, to what we have today?

      There is no question in my mind that governmental, institutional schooling has done more damage to the family unit than any other force. The family is the foundation of society — damage it and everything else begins to deterioriate. So really, in many ways schools(and the schools are not mere victims of policy makers — those policy makers are heavily influenced by the people who run the schools) are sowing what they reaped. Sadly, many people who work in them also suffer the consequences.

      Now everyone thinks they can somehow turn the sour grapes they’re reaping — the ones they sowed — into some sweet wine or juice.

      It’s time to plant afresh. Fortunately, people are not grapes. They’re redeemable, so there is hope, even for all the dysfunctional kids and families, all the behavior problems. But the institution that fostered much of this and is suffering the consequences, even as they foster bad results in new ways, cannot be redeemed. Even a cursory reading of the history of school reform lays that argument to rest (or should, but then there’s Diane Ravitch who hasn’t given up hope, though she had the sense not to send her kids to public school).

      So it’s time to plow new fields and reevaluate the soil and nutrients we use to grow our crops. Because the crops are people, they will have a positive effect on the foundering students and graduates of the current majority system.

      As always, a caveat: I don’t want anyone thinking I’m lumping everyone into one pile –there are good and effective teachers, decent schools, and students who emerge fairly whole — just not nearly as many as most think (including themselves). But that’s another missive. There are also endless people perpetuating the problem with the sincerest belief that they are actually combatting it. I’m not condemning people. I’m just trying to get past the symptoms and to the root of the disease.

      Thanks very much, Brad.


  32. Brad says:


    I speak, admittedly, as a Christian person. That is my standpoint. I believe the family is essential, foundational to society. I believe a father and mother should fulfill their responsiblities to their children. I believe the community is also important. And I am not libertarian. I believe the government too should enforce a certain amount of morality and instruction. The movement beginning around the mid-nineteenth century was based on all of this. What happened historically, and here is where my historical viewpoint comes in, is that America itself changed, not government per se. The country is not as faith-oriented and will not maintain public positions on right and wrong anymore. Government is just made up of people. And we are not the people we used to be. We may have a lot of faith in ourselves, but quite honestly, true Christianity never taught self-reliance, and it never taught that people were born basically good. It is a very realistic faith that acknowledges the depths of human depravity. It pulls no punches. St. Paul was a realist about the human heart.

    Now, to take it to another level: when we recite our faith confession, we recall the role of original sin and recognize that people are ‘fallen’ in the biblical sense. It is not just government. It exists in the heart of each one of us. We are all a part of it. We all play a complicit role in it. Many students are behaving badly because parents are behaving badly. Now, having said that, someone in your capacity doesn’t usually deal with all of those parents. You probably deal with the more responsible ones. But remember, objectivity is hard to come by, even among them. They are angry, and sometimes rightly so. But I also know very well that parents can be entirely subjective. Also, I don’t know where you live, but in the three states I’ve subbed in, the laws are arranged so that the teacher can’t really do anything. The kids are running the classes. The deans are afraid of the parents. So the kids come marching back into the room and tyrranize the adults.

    Once again I have to go back to the problem as I really see it. Are schools doing something wrong? Yes, rather than teaching morality they teach immorality rooted in atheism. But do they have authority to decisively deal with children as disciplinarians? Not in the three states I’ve taught. Now admittedly, I haven’t subbed in a state like Texas or some place that’s more conservative. But in the states I have taught, what I hear and more importantly see, is that children and parents are ‘pulling the strings’ and working the system.

    This leads me to one more thing. I appreciate what you’re doing, and I believe it is worthwhile to take the time to explain this to you so that you can assess and deal with things in a more head-on and effective way. Relations have greatly broken down. The real dynamic has become the following: Parents are angry and they are sometimes very subjective. Now they just want to get back at the school at times. So what happens? People in the front lines suffer. We take the heat, but we also work the hardest and often to no avail. So the entire thing is pathetic and absurd. Everyone is a victim of the system.

    • tdbwd says:


      Hmm, I’d like to understand your views better. What morality and instruction, specifically, do you think the government should enforce? Who within government should make the decisions? How should it be enforced? And what should be the penalty for dissenters? I’m especially interested in your view about what instruction the government should enforce and how that instruction should be chosen.

      I fully understand and sympathize with your frustration over the discipline issues in schools. Do you feel they are a result, partly or largely, of the breakdown of family? If so, what do you feel the contributing factors, aside from flawed human nature, to family breakdown have been?

      You mention that government is just made up of people. This is an important point that I also make a lot. There is no such thing as an independent entity called government that is somehow wiser or better than citizens. But backed by police power, people joined together as government are scary. Maybe this is why so many of the founders considered government a necessary evil — something that the citizens need for a basic level of security (e.g., property rights, enforcing contracts) but that must be constantly kept under surveillance lest it become a monster (an inevitability under almost all circumstances).

      This is also why so many wise men and women, including many of the founders, have warned us about putting too much of our personal responsibility into the hands of the state (good examples would include rearing and educating children and the fostering of morality). The natural consequences of turning personal responsibility over to government is moral and civil breakdown.

      This is what we’ve done with the education of our children — those within government have acted on behalf of special interests and social activists to take from parents the responsibility of rearing decent and educated children. Parents being flawed human beings have all too often happily complied. The natural consequence has been the dysfunction of the family unit. Parents, unrequired to be fully parents and losing touch with the realities of turning out decent kids, become their kids’ “advocates.” They have no experience in shaping the character of their children and no idea what it takes to do so or why they should. That is, they’ve been led to believe (read the studies) it’s the schools’ job. That’s what the schools have told them (and still do, both explicitly and implicitly).

      But it all backfires, naturally, and now the schools/reformers/special interests/governments are reaping what they’ve sowed and they don’t like it and aren’t about to take responisibility for it. They’re suffering, to be sure, but they’re trying to avoid all blame for what is, now and historically, a lot their fault.

      Enter the innocents — many teachers (not all) and other school workers — who just want to do a good job or help kids. They suffer, too. The innocent and guilty suffer alike. The farther away we get from the origination of the problem the harder it gets to see where the fault lies and make some correction of course.

      The only correction of course that seems the least bit feasible to me at this point is for parents, churches and other non-government individuals and groups to act on the liberty we still have and remove the rearing and education (academic, moral, social) from the state. It’s in the wrong hands and we’re suffering the inevitable consequences of that.

      Your point about innocent and suffering teachers is a good one and well-taken. They are often victims of an ill-advised course of action as much as families and children are.

      I know it can be hard to see families and children as the victims from your vantage point, but their responsibility has been robbed from them, and there is nothing more prone to misguided living or sin than a human being stripped of his or her rightful and dutiful responsibilities.

      Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


  33. Brad says:

    Well yes, certainly all you’ve said makes sense on some level. My standpoint is largely based on what I experience as a sub for the 30 kids per room I have each day – and I’ve worked in three different states – I’ve probably been through over 100 school buildings in many diverse districts – and it’s also based on what I see, and I do watch. As I said, I don’t know what states your’e thinking of, but I’ve always lived in the North and the West.

    I’m a fully licensed teacher who will not take on my own classroom because I see what everyone else is going through. It’s a nightmare and a living hell. I also speak from a Christian viewpoint that has no romantic view of children. I’m not one to imagine too many excuses for them.

    What I see is that children are running the buildings. I’ve seen principals tiptoe around angry children like little mice – it’s pathetic to see a grown man in a bowtie with a walkie-talkie who can’t control a 13-year-old. I’ve watched kids talk back to hall monitors, security, and police officers on school campuses, and as they’re walking away they’re saying, “I’m going to tell my mother how you’re talking to me!” and somehow everyone is afraid to act. Why? Because the parents may get offended, shut down, and possibly cause issues for the school. Or, they may not do anything at all, which is just as bad. Perhaps they even threaten to sue if the principal used force to break up a fight or something. They say their child is being badgered. And of course, the kids know they can count on their parents to take that view and they take full advantage of it.

    Then there is a typical dynamic and it goes something like this: A teacher acts to stop behaviors in the classroom. The parent marches up to school and asks why the teacher is picking on Johnny. Then the teacher doesn’t act and a different parent comes up and asks why the kids are being allowed to fool around. It’s easier for the teacher to jsut bang their head against the wall. THen there’s the high school teachers who are probably afraid of the kids as well as their parents. Trust me. You have no idea. Neither do some of the parents who call you. Their whole sense of reality is different. Typcial cases involve teachers who have 30 students and have to maintain order versus parents who deal with their OWN kids in the HOUSE and are emotionally invested in children for whom no flaw can exist in their minds – it’s too painful for the parent. I’ve talked with these parents. I know the mindset. I’ve seen it at a Christian school where I helped out also. It’s very, very, very, hard. I just don’t know how else to get it across that the parents are not that objective. They want you to allow their child to run you! They have an idea that you should shake hands with Johhnny and that if the teacher has to scold JOhnny it’s because the teacher can’t get along with Johnny. Remeber too, we’re talking about a VERY different generation when it comes to views of authority. Two generations have already arisen that see the world very differently. They don’t honestly believe children should be answerable to adults except maybe them. There was a time when a neighbor could speak to someone elses kid and take charge in public. Nowadays, either the parent will get offended, or if the kid is big enough they’ll probably curse them and challenge them to a fight.

    We all feel incredibly disappointed when it comes to government and schools, their size and ineffectiveness. I’ve already told you I grew up in a Christian houselhold. I’ve been in Christian circles all my life. But one of the movements in Protestantism now is to get away from the older Evangelicalism which was very democratic and anti-authoritarian. It has it’s roots in American culture and it’s past, but it’s not authentically Christian. Children need to respond positively to their elders. And if their elders give them a directive that’s within reason, they should respond accordingly. Most otehr cultures and time periods seem to have known that. Only quite recently have we had a different attitude, probably just within the last two generations. My parents drilled it into my head that I was only to answer to them. They said I did not have to answer to my grandparents, teachers, or elders in the community. They were wrong. As a society, we do not have control over our young. They take over our schools, our streets, and our neighborhoods. Again, I don’t know what state you’re in. It may be different with certain state laws, but the school adminstrators where I’ve been have been powerless to act.

    • tdbwd says:


      I am in full sympathy with what you’ve experienced. I have no doubt that you are representing it as it really is and that the situation is as you say. I’ve heard it from others and have read it many places.

      But I really want to understand better some of your deeper thinking, which is why I listed all those questions for you. I know it could take a little time to write answers, but I would love to hear what you think. The questions are in my response to your last post. If you have time, I want to go deeper with this conversation.

      Looking forward to your answers and deeper understanding. Thanks much!


  34. Brad says:


    My degree is in history, not political science. I’ll have a stab at it, but I want to reiterate that my perspective is as an historian and a Christian layperson (orthodox Protestant), and of course as a teacher.

    To answer your first question, what’s led to the disciploine problems? Was it the breakdown of the family? Yes, certainly that was central. And all else too. I often ask myself the question, what does it mean to be an American today? And then the answer I think is, to be able to do whatever you want and to hopefully not have to face real-life consequences. After all, isn’t that the degree to which many of us have broadened the term freedom?

    What morality should be enforced through government? Well, it’s often said that you can’t legislate morality. I say that all civilizations have ever DONE was to legislate morality, beginning with something like THOU SHALT NOT KILL. All laws are based on morality, which is one bit of evidence suggesting morality is inescapable. Now, I do not believe that government should get too specific because people have their perticular beliefs and unbeliefs. But government should legally enforce basic morality, law and order. The same goes for instruction. Simply basic manners, honesty, respect, generosity, maybe a belief in a God that’s not too much defined, etc. People are not wild animals. We should be taught in a social context. As I said before, I’m not a libertarian. I don’t want a cabin in the woods. Now, can we perfectly draw a separation between public and private morality and belief? No. In real life things are messy. You can’t work out nice, neat categories like that. So I think we should do the best we can. I wasn’t alive in the 50’s and 60’s, but I’ve been told that children actually prayed and received a Bible verse or too. I just can’t picture it. My teachers were either afraid to mention God or simply didn’t believe in him. Also, I’ve been told that they received corporal punishment and were sometimes even embarrassed by the teacher. I’ve never seen this. I’ve only witnessed teacher after teacher getting humiliated by the students. They’re spent, disgusted, and mostly middle-aged; they don’t have the energy for that sort of thing.

    Who is government? Well I guess you know that’s very complicated. We all should be. But we elect people that represent us, and once laws are in place we need to obey them. We weren’t given a democracy. We were handed a republic. Christianity taught civil obedience, not disobedience, except of course when asked by government to do something clearly and directly anti-Christian, such as worshiping an emporer or harming your neighbor, e.g. Rome and Germany around WWII.

    How should government be enforced? Well, if laws are broken, I guess the courts then decide what penalty is meted out.

    What about dissenters? Again, Christianity has always taught that the powers that exist are ordained of God and that he is a God of order. Now, is this radically counter-cultural? Yes.

    Once again, I’m not a libertarian. But I do know, and I know for certain, that schools should not possess the right to teach that there is no God and then go on to teach immorality. That’s highly illogical and deeply wrong, and they ought to be called on it. That is definately anti-Christian. Children should not have to be subjected to that. Parents have every right to question that, to try to change it, and if impossible, then to find alternative ways to educate, either through homeschooling, or a private school, or perhaps something more creative as you suggested.

    But to be real about all of this, I do think we have to each recognize our complicit role in things. It’s all interactive. We each play our parts within the broader world. Yes, a particular system here or there may be more problematic. Perhaps the public shcool system is now a sinking ship. But I still don’t necessarily believe that that’s what began all that is wrong with America. As an historian, I know of too many other ‘forces.’ And as a Christian believer, I have to also acknowledge the fact that we are deeply and radically flawed in ways that are unknown to us individually; others see what we can’t.


    • tdbwd says:


      I agree — all laws are based on morality, though some might argue that many (Thou shalt not kill) are based on what it takes to guarantee survival. Morality — or the consequences of the lack thereof — is inescapable. Life is messy and not easily boxed and filed.

      But now we get back to why we think the government, with a proven poor track record in all things moral — that is every government that has ever existed — should be entrusted with enforcing morality.

      To keep people from harming one another, to enforce contracts, to do a handful of other similar things makes sense. Government is the best we can do in these areas. It is not the best we can do in other areas of morality — the teaching of civility, religion, or even math or science. It is not the most logical or desirable vehicle for these things. Instead, it’s what we do as a civilization when we get tired of the hard job of civilizing one another — we turn to someone with power to make other people live as we wish.

      Continuing… I went to school in the 60s and 70s. By the time I started school, Bible reading had already been outlawed in schools, but some teachers read it anyway. We had a moment of silence in the morning. Teachers still paddled kids. Kids were more often humiliated by teachers than the other way around (I could tell some nightmarish tales – could today’s parental attitudes be partly backlash?). Parents rarely sued schools.

      But something else was going on that was interesting. On the reform end of education, schools were intruding more and more into the role of family. They were taking on a more police-type mentality, a more defiant attitude about their “right” to other people’s children.

      When I was in school, parents taking their children out for a family vacation was smiled upon. Children were told to write a report about it when they got back. A few years after my departure from school, that attitude did a 180. When I was in school you could pass a grade just by getting good grades; attendance was not a major factor (I skipped 3 days a week for all of 8th grade and passed). No more — and it started before NCLB.

      When Horace Mann lobbied for mandatory state schooling in Boston he was claiming a problem that did not exist. In fact, well over 90% of children already attended school. Schools (and by that I mean reformers and activists within and without the schools who support compulsory public education) have always seen problems where they don’t exist and moved to “solve” them and thus created the problems or worse ones.

      To be sure, the forces that have brought us to the point we are today — an uncivil and highly immoral society — are complex. I stand by my conviction that state schooling is one of the major players. The surrender of the church to pop culture is another. There are many more and they all work together, but public school is a biggie. It is the main vehicle by which every negative in society easily reaches and grips children. It’s the place where children are unprotected by parents and easily exploited by special interests. It’s the place where children are most likely to be exposed to every ill known to mankind. It’s the place where children are removed from the influence of their elders and left to socialize themselves under the almost exclusive tutelage of exact age-mates. It’s the place where children are taught how not to control themselves, not to think for themselves, not to do for themselves. It’s the place where children are forced to defend their tender selves by making other people victims. It’s the place where children are kept away from parents and parents are left to become what their flawed natures dictate when robbed of the most important maturity-inducement in the world — the full responsibility of rearing children.

      Forgive me if you feel I’m going too far, but what is the positive of state schooling? Our nation was demonstrably more educated pre-state schooling, so not even that can be logged on the pro side. I fail to see the so-claimed good public school has done. The bad I see daily, daily, daily.

      I read just yesterday about a law professor who required his students to read The Federalist Papers. The students complained about how hard the reading was. Academically, morally, socially, psychologically state schooling has been a major contributor to decay. I wish it weren’t so. I wish schools were wonderful places for the millions of kids in them. I’m sorry for the teachers who don’t like working in places that are reaping what they’ve sown. But I’m sorrier for the kids and I’m sorriest of all for the society perpetrated and perpetuated by this unnatural approach to rearing children, because it’s the society my sons are inheriting.

      My job in all of this mess is to figure out what I can do to try to salvage the hope of our founders. Many people think the answer is to try to make schools after their own image. I don’t believe it can happen. We’ve been through hundreds of large and small reforms — all to no end. Reformed one day is unreformed the next when the new guys come to power. Further, since I don’t see any good in the concept of public schooling, even though I know there are many good people who work within the system, I see no point in trying to change it then spend the rest of my life making sure no one undoes my changes.

      Freedom works. I’m also not a libertarian, though I probably lean that way more than you do. But it’s hard to get away from the fact that freedom works. Not perfectly — just better than anything else. What I hope is that more people will decide how to improve society within the context of freedom. The other way has been tried thousands of times by at least hundreds of governments — it hasn’t worked. Freedom has a proven, if short, track record. We had freedom for a little while in our early days in America. It was such a strong heritage that we still hearken back to it in our emotions, but not so often in our actions. But the spirit is not dead — there is still hope. Once the spirit of our founding liberty is lost, all hope is lost.

      Thank you for sticking with this conversation, Brad. I want to assure you I’ve given what you’ve said careful thought. I’ve even discussed it with my grown sons at some length. I welcome all challenges to my thinking. If I’m wrong I want to see it and correct my course. If you still disagree, please argue your case — it will not fall on deaf ears. But please also carefully consider mine.


  35. Brad says:


    You may very well be right in pretty much everything you’ve stated. Again, I speak of what I know and only that.

    By the time I was in school, which was the 80’s, and in the state in which I grew up which was New Jersey, the teachers I had were very cautious, very prudent, and very much hands-off. The oldest ones were like that too. It’s as if they were told to tread lightly and carefully. I spoke back to my teachers occasionally. I shouldn’t have gotten away with it. But I did. Also, part of growing up, which my parents should have sat me down and told me, is realizing that life is not fair. It really isn’t. There is no perfect justice, and someitmes you may need to take the blame for a peer as a student. You may be asked to pick up a paper ball that someone else threw. The class must go on and so does life. Do parents say this? Yeah! Really! Sorry for this – I don’t know how to communicate effectively when you can’t judge my tone. My mother grew up in New York CIty. She and my father seemed to have grown up with a lot of discipoline. Neither complained of it being overbearing. Perhaps at times it was for certain kids, like your class clown. I know that by the 1980’s in New Jersey, however, already the parents were very mcuh in control. By the 1990’s, the children seemed to have gotten the upper hand. They are the locus of control in the room now in the three states I have experience in. From the teaher’s perspective, (and to be honest, if you have 30 in a room no other can really be entertained) they should be the next authority after the parent. Why? Because there are 30 of them simultaneously, you’re responsible for deadlines, and if someone gets hurt or order breaks down, your head will be on a platter. Also, they are children, not adults. Are adults perfect? No. But I’ll place my bets wiht them if given the choice between the two. Again, I don’t think you realize just how soft we’ve become. Even some Christian parents have imbibed this American notion that no one should be allowed to discipline their own child. Well then, I say, don’t leave them with someone else for more than an hour. I had a friend who was a deacon in a Baptist church. Some inner-city kids found their way into the youth group, which was very nice. Except for one thing. They wre very disorderly and their parents did not belong to the church. They probably didn’t belong to anything. So the church took the kids out, I’m sure with permission slips. They were at a McDonald’s. One boy started raising hell. My deacon friend spanked him on the behind. Everyone at the restaurant swore the boy was seriously out of control. They sided with the deacon, fortunately. I’m very sure the boy was not really hit that hard. The boy went to a phone and knew how to call the police. They got there. Fortunately, the parents never pressed charges. If they had, my friend may have wound up in jail. Was my deacon friend acting like he was part of a police state? No, just part of a Baptist church trying to take some kids out for the day, time that could have been spent far more peacfully.

    So, again, does the school have too much power? And here, I knnow, is where I start to sound like a broken record. Yes, when it comes to teaching atheism and immorality. But no, not when it comes to discipline. You have no idea how careful we are in terms of how we word everything we say to these kids. (There are the many nice ones, but really the othes are what you wind up having to focus on to deal with) They curse us. They insult us. They say things that would make a truckdriver blush. And we act very retiscent and try our best to hold our temper until the bell rings. Believe me, if they were saying the things to you they say to us, you would want to paddle them. They will embarass you, they will talk raunchy, and they will move endlessly around the room, defying your every directive. They will chew you up and spit you out because you asked them to pick up a pencil and get to work. All kids? No. But in more and more schools, there are more and morekids like that. You need more and more skill as fewer and fewer tactics prove effective anymore. You become anxious, worried, sick. They leave the room and don’t come back. You don’t know where they go or what they do. Sometimes its OK, becaue you just couldn’t take them in it anymore. And you can’t escort them by the arm eitehr. It’s too much of a gray area.

    Now, why are they like that? Is it because the schools took over the parents responsiblity? Yes. But it’s more than that. As a people, we really don’t like taking orders. We don’t like being controlled. And frankly, we don’t like each other anymore. We live in a different world. Anyone who is seventy, eighty or ninety will tell you, and when they accuse the schools, it’s for a lack of discipline, not too much control. Too much control is something we figure because we’re in the middle of the problem and we read our own interests into it. Actaully, if you grew up in the midwest or an urban tenement in the early half of the last century, you didn’t have any freedom. Early American freedom was big time control – but you got it at a more local level. Your dad took you to the woodshed. Your teacher paddled you. Your preacher didn’t allow you to dance. And you respected the elders down the street. If you didn’t, they spanked you, and your parents spanked you when you got home too. Were they too strict back then? Yes, obviously, but now we’ve swung in the opposite direction.

    During earlier times in America, there was less government. But there were fewer people and most of them were spread out. Also, many of them were self–controlled and subject to local controls- the preacher, the extended familyt, neighbors, the community and THESE ALL controlled the children. It does take a village, but not exactly within the context of the worldview Hillary had in mind. Anyway, they were govenment free because they were controlled and controllling at the local level. Now we are government controlled becuase we insist on doing what we want and having all this freedom locally. Your thoguhts?


    Again, as a Christian, I dont’ believe we can do without authority and I don’t believe authority can do without power. And I think this is borne out in history, in sacred history and in secular. We learn the lesson of rise and decline, of one power yielding to another, on all levels. You can’t eliminate power. You can onloy transfer it. That is why, if we do not exercise it, government will have to. It is not the antichrist as some assume in bizarre eschatological thinking. No. This is reality. The Christian God is one of order. He is one of law. And the less we do, the more government will do. I do not think it was robbed. It could not be. It could only have been given over wih complicit consent. This is the kind of peopel we’ve become. A few people feel righteious indignation now. It’s not enough. Most don’t care.

    • tdbwd says:


      Hi. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. Life has been crazy.

      Let me add breifly to this conversation that I have seen no evidence that authoritarinaism works. All the paddling that went on in my school days didn’t curb the bad behavior of the bad kids one bit, and it caused many a good kid to live in mortal fear that they could slip up and end up humiliated before the class.

      Corporal punishment made no difference whatsoever in the behavior of my seven brothers growing up. My mother tells the story of staying at a camp ground and forbidding my brothers to go to a particular spot. They wetn anyway — every day — and got belted for it every day and kept going.

      On the other hand, I almost never spanked my own sons and never raised my voice to them, and I rarely had a discipline issue with them. I had a friend who called one day, at a loss for how to deal with her “behaviorally-challenged” son. She had been taking the advice of people at her church and spanking him regularly. I suggested she stop spanking and start teaching him how to control himself and also that she do little things on a daily basis to make sure he knew he was loved. For years afterward, this friend would occassionally call to thank me for that advice.

      What does make a difference in behavior and attitudes is strong, healthy families, which have been largely destroyed. The answer lies not in exerting more authority but in fixing the crumbling foundation.

      Thanks much, Brad. You bring important points to this conversation — things we must not hide from, realities of modern life. Teachers are in a frustrating situation, but there are no quick fixes for what has taken generations to produce — a society of broken families and out of control children. The fix, as much as a fix is possible, will happen as more parents embrace parenthood.

      Right now the state is involved in a tug-of-war with parents and it’s winning. We need to inspire parents to rediscover parenthood. It’s not as hopeless as it seems, but it is an uphill struggle. If we all do our small part, progress will be made.

      Again, thanks much.


  36. Brad says:

    People in Christian circles I’ve known have seemed quite certain that children occassioanlly requrie spanking. I think of public figures too, like James Dobson and John MacArthur. So I don’t know if it’s a denominational thing, or if it goes back to how “flawed” you believe human nature is, or what your theological viewpoint is. I have to think about this… I’ve heard from people who said they were spanked as children which thankfully set them on the right path enabling them to become functioning and resonsible. So I don’t know. I have to think about this. And, of course, there may not be a right or wrong answer. Again, I have to think about it.

    • tdbwd says:


      I’m not against spanking, though I did not choose it as a method of rearing my own children, except in specific instances. Psychologist John Rosemond once made what I thought was a good point about a swat on the tailend — it’s purpose is to get the attention of an out-of-control child so you can then teach him something more important.

      Mainly, I wanted to use spanking as an example of how I’ve seen authroitarianism used again and again — in schools & homes — to no avail, because the problem is not unpunished kids but dysfunctional families from which come undisciplined kids. There’s a big difference between discipline and punishment.

      I would love to get into a much deeper conversation about all this, because I think it’s important, but I try to be strict about keeping to my blog’s topic in the comment sections, lest I alienate people by getting too off-topic.

      Let me add one thing, though — people often attribute their adult behavior to things that are not in reality the cause of it, e.g., spanking or the lack thereof, overindulgent parents, underindulgent parents, being poor, being rich… Life is complicated and all those things certainly come into play to one degree or another, but it’s really probably impossible for a decent adult who had a wayward childhood to go back and say that somehow all the spanking finally kicked in when he reached maturity or “enlightenment.”

      Thanks much! This conversation has been good for me — I’ve had my mind on other things for so long and it’s good to be thinking and writing about something that has been important to me for a very long time. Feel free to keep adding to it.


  37. Brad says:

    Right, well, I think they usually know what to do; the problem more often relates to the will. So they pretend they’re sick or stupid – and we’ve medicalized behavior to eliminate the moral dimension completely; we don’t really believe in sin anymore. There are always social workers and psychologists to come forward and “help out.” And that’s always a real treat when you have to finish a lesson plan within a deadline and control the room.

    I think fundamental assumptions are most important. Concerning human nature, as I’ve said before, St. Paul was no optimist. He would not have advocated Lockean ideas or political revolt. For him there was no state of nature or contract to come together. As for rebellion, it was only an option if otherwise forced to act in an anti-Christian way. He did not advocate the kind of individual rights people have come to expect today. It was always known, of course, that people are born into a social context and must submit to laws already established to remain orderly — not to perfect themselves or even merely to protect themselves and maintain basic rights– but to prevent breakdown and lawlessness.

    The ‘enlightenment model’ may have worked for a while on this continent — but that’s only because some very unique and happy factors united for a time. I’m sure God had his hand in it — it no doubt played some very vital role in God’s plan.

    St. Paul had far better news for us. A transcendent kingdom radically opposed to human ones had come. But he also claimed the world as it is now understood is in some sense passing away.

    Humans oscillate between order and chaos. In the midst of that we seek freedom. God grants us freedom in Christ, but this freedom has nothing to do with human justice. It’s part of a profoundly different order. I do not seek a return to American origins. It simply doesn’t make sense to me. As the saying goes, it is what it is, and I think we’re in decline. America still has a large number of Christian people, but I don’t know that that number is as high as it used to be or that their influence is all that far-reaching. So I just think we are going to be seeing a lot more control in the future at higher levels. I think we have to accept that in light of our beliefs, and that is why I indicated that my standpoint is ‘orthodox’ Protestant, as opposed to liberal Protestant or some variant of the old-time, ‘common-sense’ evangelicalism. I understand human nature in a much more calvinist way. (I don’t refer to total depravity, but I think that gets at it somewhat better than the arminian view, and certainly better than Lock or Rousseau.) I don’t know what Hobbes’ view of human nature was, but he seemed to have sensed it’s capacity for evil when he penned Leviathan.

    History has been known to take some interesting twists and turns. In the midst of decline one can find renewal. So I am of course very cautious in speaking about the future.

    • tdbwd says:


      I agree with you on many points, to one degree or another. There is good cause to hold a pessimistic view of human nature. WWII alone is enough lesson along those lines.

      Here’s the thing, though. I can argue up and down about various views of human nature, the progress or regression of mankind, the impact of particular religious views (Calvinist vs. this or that), but I personally am not going to get far this way. My knowledge in these areas is too limited. I’ve listened to entire courses taught by respected historians and professors on these topics and know mostly that these educated people disagree with one another.

      What I can do is this: I can look at life starting from my own experience, then branch out from there and look as far and wide as I can see, on through history. Instead of looking at philosophy and particular theological stances, I must look at reality and spend time contemplating the implications of what I see and read.

      I can ask myself some important questions:

      1. Do I have enough input, from reliable sources, to come to conclusions?

      2. What has worked? What has clearly not worked?

      3. Why do we keep doing things that have clearly not worked and aren’t working now?

      4. What can we do to return to or embark on a corrective path?

      I don’t know which theologians are right or which philosophers have the best ideas. I do know some things, though, from some pretty solid evidence, both mine and others’.

      Maybe other people feel they can do better than this. I hope that’s true. But this is the best I can do. And my experience and reading, which have both been pretty extensive and have included listening to the theologians and philosphers, tell me that our founders had the right idea as far as a political system goes, that liberty works, that the reason the founders tried to limit governmental authority so much is because they saw its potential for abuse, that authoritarian systems bring out the worst in human nature rather than the best — rather than even being able to control people’s evil inclinations. In fact, authoritarian systems feed and foster evil, as history clearly demonstrates.

      I agree that mankind without God ends up in the sorriest state of affairs, but I’ve never seen a political or social system that has been able to remedy this. That is the job of individuals and institutions that use persuasion, not force.

      The founders knew that the only legitimate use of governmental force is to compel people to honor agreements they have made voluntarily and to prevent them from robbing others of life, property or liberty.

      The things that God committed to people to help them do right — the responsibilities of livelihood and childrearing among the greatest — are the very things that have been robbed from people by government (welfare programs and schools). The responsibility of charity might be another.

      Salvation is not a silver bullet that turns man good; God has created man so he must embrace certain responsibilities to help him stay on the straight and narrow. When government or some other police-backed authority (schools) take this away, the result is familial and thus societal breakdown.

      I’m willing to see it another way, but so far that’s how it looks to me, from close up and from the distance of history.

      Thanks much, Brad.


  38. Brad says:

    The public school system in America is a sinking ship, and I don’t wish to go down with it. That is why I do not seek permanent work as a regular teacher there.

    I think we’re pretty much in agreement. As I’ve indicated though, I just don’t see the authority of the schools that you speak of. I see only administrators and teachers who are very much dependent upon student cooperation. I can’t respect the adults in these buildings. Can you respect highly educated, very professional people who are controlled by 10-year-olds? Even when I like them, and I like most I come in contact with, it’s very hard for me to take them seriously. They have no control over the buildings or the classrooms. They fully and professionally respect the kids and the kids don’t respect them. But again, I speak of the three states in which I’ve lived. Right now I’m in one of the traditionally most educated states in the country. In the three states I’ve been in, the adults give the students a great deal of choices and provide them with resources we didn’t have, and the students just get worse and worse. I suggest they are treated too much like adults, and that they have too much power. It is a common saying that ‘they have all the power.’ This is especially true for students labeled special ed. Once the sped students were integrated there was just no way to maintain an atmosphere of learning. By the 90’s it all changed. Now you just have students moving about the room and telling YOU what to do. You can work hard to create a nice atmosphere if you have the guts, and you better not be soft, but if a new student comes in half way through the year, it will all be upset, and if he’s special ed., remember, there’s nothing you can do with him. He has permission to run screaming out of the room at whim if he gets frustrated. And they do! And a social worker will unfortunately bring him back a half hour later, tell you that he’s feeling upset and needs support, and pretend she doesn’t realize you’re pulling your hair out as a regular teacher already. And your thinking, right, with this schedule? And the other 25 students? Yeah, OK, like…it’s time to look for anotehr job. And the social worker has the job that works — except, wait a minute. Isn’t this a school? And aren’t I a teacher? Hmmnn…… So here’s what I suggest. If you want a manageable job in the school system, become a social worker. Then you just cover for Johnny when he makes a fool of himself, and you get paid to understand him and be his friend, something you can do since, well, you don’t have a REAL job!

    • tdbwd says:


      Here’s the irony of public schools. You see a situation where there’s no control inside, lack of authority on the part of teachers. Yet let a kid decide he no longer wants to go to school and see what happens. Authority sets in in earnest.

      I personally feel that institutional schooling of the government variety (and some of the private variety) makes animals of kids. It sets them up to feel the need to protect themselves from being victims by situating them with primarily age-mates. It’s eat or get eaten, quite frankly.

      Some kids manage to keep out of the fray, but many attack, in various ways, one another and teachers in an effort to stay on top, to keep from being humiliated themselves. Maybe it wouldn’t happen, but kids think it will. They see it happen to others and they fear it happening to themselves, so they act preemtively to protect themselves.

      Kids have many ways of dealing with this. Some become class clowns, some withdraw, some try to stay out of view, and increasingly many act out.

      School is a cruel place for kids. It was when I was a kid, too, but kids dealt with it in more subdued ways. We may not like how kids today deal with it, but we need to recognize what the underlying problem is — school stinks and it always has.

      I’ve had three calls today from parents pulling their kids out of school — ages 5, 13 and 15. The parents of the two oldest are pulling their kids out because school is making animals of them. I hear the same story over and over.

      The majority of parents are not suing schools, not storming into the schools making a scene or demanding Johnnie’s rights. Most are clueless and many are heartbroken and desperate. I think the ones making all the fuss are making it seem like they’re in the majority.

      There are lots of good people working in schools, but school is still a bad place for kids — and getting worse — and that makes it bad for families. It brings out the worst in everyone.

      It’s not only schools. Institutionalizing people is not good for their souls — not in schools or prisons or mental health facitilies or nursing homes. There aren’t easy answers to any of this, but I think there are answers for those willing to take the harder path. The answers aren’t always perfect, but sometimes change is incremental. The more people who choose the challenging road, the smoother the road will become for those who follow.

      I have to wonder, Brad, if there’s something you could do that wouldn’t be so frustrating and soul-searing for you. I have many friends who have given up on the public school system over the years and chosen other work, and they are much the happier for it. If, on the other hand, you feel you have a mission in the schools, I wish you success and feel certain there are many children who will have a difference made in their lives because of you. What I think is so sad is that our schools have become mission fields. Of course, that’s what the founders of them always viewed them as. They just never imagined they’d make things worse.

      Thanks very much, Brad.


  39. Brad says:


    I know mostly two things: The schools don’t teach morals and they can’t discipline.

    I wish sincerely that they would do both.


    • tdbwd says:


      Another way of considering it is that the schools don’t teach what you consider morals and can’t do what you would consider effective disciplining. And now we’re back to the fundamental problem with government education — someone else won the ideology battle. Next time around, maybe a view closer to your own will win. And after that another will win. It’s how the game works in the hands of the state. That’s why education should be protected from the government, which means out of its hands altogether.

      So, what are you going to do now?

      Thanks much, Brad.


  40. Brad says:

    I have to think about this. Like I said, the public school ssytem is a sinking ship. I have various degrees and can do several different things. I jsut thoguht it would have been nice to settle down and teach history for highschoolers. I have taught it on the college level and could have offered a very deep and broad historical education to high schoolers. In better times I would have taken a classroom. But the kids are just too crazy now. Unless you luck out with a really good group, it’s too precarious. Too often I’ve seen strong personalities with great skill remain unable to govern a classroom. I sure would like to find out who those policymakers were that decided to integrate all of the sped kids. If they only knew what it translated to in practice—boy do I have a few words for them! We’ve got kids running out of the room screaming and vegetables dribbling over geomotry handouts they couldn’t understand if their life depended on it. And someone is paid to stand there and accompany them. Some of these students aren’t even reasonably aware of their surroudnings. It’s beyond absurd. It’s as if certain people WANTED teachers to burn out and quit. It’s so bizarre. Thirty kids and five are sped. That makes six lesson plans. Probably around ten potentially promlematic kids too. If it’s middle school in an urban area, make that all thirty. No. The policymakers are up to no good. SOmething’s very wrong. No one is THAT stupid! I fully sympathize with your feelings. Something’s very wrong.

    • tdbwd says:


      I think you’ve hit on the right word to describe the whole concept of state schooling: bizarre.

      From a Christian perspective, let me excerpt a section from my post “Is this a sane way to rear children?”… but let me also add that what we’re doing is insane from any perspective except that of those looking for a captive audience for their cause or product.


      Now look at the typical Christian interaction with public schools. The kids are in state schools and the parents and their churches and endless Christian organizations and activists are working their fingers to the bone trying to counteract the effects of their children’s schooling. For twelve+ years of their children’s lives, public school parents do battle with the people they’ve chosen to help shape those children’s intellects, emotions, social and moral practices, and worldviews. The battle rages on year after year, the children pulled one way then another. Legislators and unions and courts and social activists and psychologists and the medical profession and thousands of other organizations and individuals weigh in on the conflict.

      Does this sound like a sane way to rear children? It seems we’ve drifted so far from sanity that when we see it – when we see a situation where school and parents respect one another and have identical goals – we view that as odd, even as unnatural.

      And in the meantime, we continue to run our children through the gamut of state schooling where grasping hands claw from every doorway and try to dig their nails into innocent minds and souls and drag them into their camps to devour them.

      Have you read John Taylor Gatto? If not, I highly reccommend him. You can find his essays on-line and even find his entire book, The Underground History of American Education,” on his web site.

      Keep us posted on where you go from here and what you’re thinking. You might end up with quite an interesting journey to share.

      Thanks very much, Brad.


  41. Brad says:


    One purpose of the public school system was to equalize things. Being a democracy, we believed people should have the same thing regardless of their parents’ background. In the South only the rich had money and leisure, and hired tutors for their children. The more democratic and egalitarian North saw that as aristocratic, too reminiscent of the old world. And then of coure the progressives of the early twentieth century figured public school would Americanize the immigrants. It would clean them up.

    You’re right about the kids. When they are together they have to protect themselves. So they get tough with one another and with the adults. It makes them impossible to work with. School collectivizes them. Their individuality gets squashed. As you’ve said, all institutions do that. I’ve known churches to do it too. We in the modern West have come to acutely feel that human systems are power-driven and oppressive. I’m just not sure how to rectify this. We are born into society and unless you live in an imaginary Roussean world, the self/society conflict is inevitably experienced, since a complex society such as ours assumes a high level of organization. Your thoughts?


    • tdbwd says:


      I think you’ve opened a very important line of discussion here — about society and institutions and how to fit in/work together without, as Kipling put it, being, “overwhelmed by the crowd.” It’s something I have recent and intense experience with from several angles and want very much to think about and respond to. Give me a couple of days. I’m up against two deadlines for the next few days, but I’ll be thinking during that time. Until then…


  42. Brad says:

    I look forward to your thoughts on what I admittedly fear may be an inescapable conflict. We can opt out of course, and we do, but I think that’s by and large impractical. Even if we homeschool children, upon adulthood we face institutionalization in the modern West. Then there are simply all kinds of social situations which must be navigated: family dynamics, impossible co-workers and crazy bosses, mean and petty individuals throughout life and so on. Life is hard and these days, and people are often so too.

  43. I used to be recommended this blog through my cousin. I am no longer certain whether this submit is written by him as nobody else understand such detailed approximately my difficulty. You are incredible! Thanks!

  44. tdbwd says:

    Thank you, Marquita!!

  45. Awesome blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any suggestions? Appreciate it!

    • tdbwd says:

      Thanks. A free platform is good for lots of things but has limitations when it comes to layout and navigation. It just depends on what you want to do — the more complex, the more likely you may want a paid platform. I have several free blogs and several web sites via paid platforms (because I want more control over them). On writing — do lots of it, fine-tune, be hard on yourself, find others who will be hard on you… and write some more. I’m still trying to get as good as my oldest son. :-)

  46. Alex anderson says:

    This is all bullshit
    im a student going to a private school in australia
    too be true school is the best thing that has ever happend!
    Homeschooling is a waste of time, we get tired of not exploring outside. I belive school makes you confident
    and makes who you are

    too be true i have changed alot
    my marks changed from 60% to 100%
    i have earnt my goldstar badge for my exellence in studies

    all it depends on is what school u go to!

    • tdbwd says:


      I’m glad you love your private school (something we’re enthusiastic about here at Education Conversation). Your parents found the right fit for you. On the homeschool front, let me share a personal story from this past week. My sons have been long grown and I haven’t been involved with homeschoolers for quite a few years now, but I recently started tutoring two homeschooled girls who are both 14 years old. I had forgotten what a delight homeschooled young people can be — they’re smart, excellent conversationalists, interested in everything, driven to know and understand, comfortable around people of all ages and backgrounds. There are exceptions, of course, but this has been my general experience. A reporter for the Atlanta Constitution who was once against homeschooling attended a big curriculum fair one year and became an avid supporter of homeschooling because he was so impressed with the kids he met. It sounds as if you had a less than stellar homeschool experience yourself and your parents adjusted course by finding a good private school for you and you’re doing great now — good for all of you! I wish you a successful and happy future.

  47. Ulrich says:

    Thanks for a marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you can be a
    great author.I will always bookmark your blog and may come back later in life.

    I want to encourage continue your great work, have a nice holiday weekend!

    • tdbwd says:

      As you can see, I’m a little behind on my work. Thank you so much for your encouragement. I visited your blog and it looks great — very thorough and sophisticated!! Thank you!!

  48. rafi says:


  49. Mumtaz Dashti says:

    Education is as necessary as our basic needs, such like food,shelter,clothes.
    Education is the third eye of human.
    Education tells us, how to lead a comfortable, education tells us, how to get rid of difficulties, education tells us to distinguish between wrong and right.

    • tdbwd says:

      This reminds me of a quote I heard recently — that trying to navigate the future without knowledge of the past is like planting cut flowers. Education gives us roots. Without roots we get no nutrition, so we wither and die.

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