Reversing the Mass Exploitation of Children

December 15, 2007

by Tammy Drennan

Do we ask public schools to do too much — educate children in academics, social mores, values & morality, family life, job-hunting, the list goes on and on?

In my opinion, the answer is an easy yes. Public schools have proven themselves ill-suited for every one of these tasks.

On the other hand…

Do the schools not demand the right to cover each of these spheres? Do they not insist that they, and not parents, are better equipped to teach children how to read, write, cipher — and live? Aren’t the public schools the ones clamoring for more of our children’s time, more of their years, more of their lives?

Aren’t the public schools not only demanding but employing the compulsion of law to take our children away and shape them according to their worldview?

So, when they whine that we ask too much of them, that their failure is our fault, not theirs, it’s hard to feel sorry for them. They steal our children by force and stealth, commandeer ever more areas of their lives, then cry foul when we complain about what they’ve wrought.

And what have they wrought? What has the all-powerful, self-important public school system done with the children it knows best how to rear?

When Horace Mann maneuvered the takeover of education in Boston in the mid 1800s, issuing in the era of nearly full state education, he envisioned a society free of crime and prisons; citizens passive and cooperative, hard-working and unquestioning; a utopia fashioned by the state and for the state.

The decline began almost immediately. In the end, Mr. Mann’s vision has resulted in only one of his objectives – citizens who increasingly do not question the right of the state to interfere in their lives. According to the 39th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/ Gallup Poll Of the Public’s Attitudes Toward The Public Schools (2007), 68% of public school parents believe schools should be responsible not only for academic achievement, but also for students’ behavioral, social and emotional needs.

So, where has Mr. Mann’s vision failed?

According to the fifth annual Junior Achievement/Deloitte Teen Ethics Survey, 71% of teens feel prepared to make ethical decisions in life. Of those, 38% feel it’s okay to cheat, plagiarize, lie or use violence to achieve an end.

According to

In 2006, 11% of 8th graders, nearly one-fourth of 10th graders, and over one-fourth of 12th graders reported heavy drinking.

8% of 8th graders, nearly one-fifth of 10th graders and nearly one-fourth of 12th graders reported using illicit drugs within the past 30 days.

In 2005, 47% of high school students reported having had sexual intercourse.

In 2005, 37 percent of all births were to unmarried women.

In 2005, 24 percent of all serious violent victimizations involved a juvenile offender.

In 2005, reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress Test showed that 69% of 4th and 8th graders and 65% of 12th graders were reading at below proficiency.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 2,258,983 people incarcerated in our prisons at the end of 2006, a 2.9% increase from the previous year. There were another 5 million men and women on probation or parole, an increase of 1.8% over the previous year.

Some might point out that there have been small improvements in some of these statistics over the past decade or two, but we should remember that what’s being improved is a situation that has been deteriorating for 160 years under the auspices of the institution that claimed, and still claims, that it is the answer to producing a society we’ll all want to live in.

Further, private enterprises, especially pro-family groups, have been working overtime to right many of the wrongs foisted on society by the state institutionalization and exploitation of children (and yes, many of those organizations are the culprits, too, all too willing to sell out children in exchange for the approval and donations of adults – so multiple culprits are backpedaling trying to fix what they’ve broken).

Besides all the statistics, we ourselves can observe whether our country seems healthier and wholer than it did before the takeover of education by the state. What do you see around you morally, socially, academically?

The psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries are thriving, profanity and crudity are social norms, few people now leave their doors unlocked at night or even during the day, we’re inundated with articles and advice about how to protect ourselves from predators of every variety, children dare not walk to school alone anymore, school reading lists are riddled with books that would receive R ratings from the film industry, schools boast metal detectors, police in the halls, drug searches and tests, health clinics that hand out birth control, and daycare for students’ children.

Clearly, the state is not doing a very good job of rearing our children. Yet there’s no doubt that after 160 years of a society largely formed by state schools families are in crisis. Parents no longer know how to be parents or whether they should be or are even allowed to be.

Nevertheless, the family unit is still the only reasonable answer to our national crises of education, morality and socialization, not to mention freedom. It is the natural, and thus effective, means of rearing whole, healthy, independent children.

There’s no doubt that many families need to be shored up. They’re broken and crumbling. The damage has been done; now it’s time to begin the repair. It’s a big job, even a daunting job, but it’s also a doable job.

Reforming the schools that have contributed so much to the bad situation we’re in – the schools that continue to wreak havoc on society, families and freedom – is not doable. It’s a futile endeavor. Worse, it’s the equivalent of digging a deeper grave, because while we waste time throwing resources and effort into reform, the answer that will work becomes weaker and more vulnerable.

There is an important message parents need to hear, and we can spread it: Their children belong to them. Period. Not to the state or society or any special interest. Not to the NEA or AFT or Congress or the president. Not to the neighbors or the village or the global economy. Not to the psychiatrists or medical associations or social services. Children are not guinea pigs or lab rats. They are not resources.

Children are human beings who belong to parents and families. Parents and families are the only ones who can repair the terrible, heartbreaking damage that’s been done by the mass exploitation of children for political, ideological and commercial purposes.

Parents can be strengthened only by taking back their responsibility. That will require a lot of hard work, some personal reordering of priorities, some sacrifice (it will seem like that at first), and the unflagging support of as much of society as possible.

It won’t happen all at once. But it can happen. Begin a small strain of family redemption in your own circle of friends, in your own neighborhood or town. Get some literature into the hands of some parents, write some letters, talk to a mom or dad you know. Help wherever you can.

Light a fire for freedom. A little spark can go a long way.


Please feel free to print and share anything on this blog

The web site of the Alliance for the Separation of School & State is rich in resources that can be shared. Take a look at The Case for Separation, Education Resources, & How Can You Help? Or refer people to the site where they can sign up to receive the e-series, Road to Freedom:

Sometimes a story is best for communicating an idea. The stories and essays at may be copied and shared.

A good fit for many parents is John Taylor Gatto’s writings (seek permission to print).