Marketplace David vs. State-ed Goliath
Originally published inThe Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 2, March 1996
Note from Marshall Fritz: When Eric Johnson and I discussed the possibility of his moving to Fresno and becoming Executive Vice President of the Alliance, I asked him to write me a letter explaining his thoughts on Separation and the Separation Alliance. His writing and insights are so good I want to share them with you. (PS: External factors have put our interviewing process on hold for a bit. We may have news in an upcoming issue.)
The seeds of liberty were planted in fertile soil in 18th-century America. Since then, the American Experiment has encouraged liberty and prosperity. But it also has been overrun by the vine-like spread of government intervention into fields like education.
The Separation of School & State Alliance has emerged to develop the intellectual framework for education in a free society.
The Separation of School & State Alliance is clear in its objective, principled in its commitment, and willing to challenge the conventional wisdom about a system of government schooling that has wrestled responsibility away from parents, and has insulated itself from accountability to the people it serves.
The Separation of School & State Alliance is willing to stare government education in the face, with the same conviction that David stood before Goliath.
Separating school and state is not a rebellion against failed education initiatives, although that failure has helped to expand the ranks of citizens who oppose Goals-2000-style education reform. The idea is revolutionary. It seeks to disestablish the entire system of government-run education. The goal is not to put in place a new centralized system of formal schooling.
Liberty's price: Responsibility
In a free society, the goal is liberty. Liberty includes the freedom of parents to choose the best means of providing for the education of their children. But liberty comes at a price. George Bernard Shaw said, "Liberty requires responsibility. That is why most men dread it."
The Separation of School & State Alliance has diagnosed the problem within the current system of public education. It has identified state-mandated, state-funded and state-controlled education for what it is — a cancer that feeds on all the healthy and vital organs that contribute to legitimate forms of education in a free society.
The American people must face the reality of what more than one hundred years of state-run schooling has produced. This fight is not about raising test scores or improving literacy rates or even about graduating a higher percentage of America's youth. This is a struggle for the minds of those youth.
I predict the separation of school and state will come about early in the 21st century. Not because there is an organization calling for the separation of school and state. Not because 25 million signatures are gathered in support of the idea. And not because a remnant of freedom fighters around the country know that it's the right thing.
No. The separation of school and state will come about because public education in America is a monopoly, and monopolies are inefficient and ineffective at delivering services.
The current system of government-run education will fall, like the Iron Curtain, overnight. It will not happen today or tomorrow. It will happen when the public-education monopoly implodes under its own weight. The entire system will grind to a halt like an engine that has run out of oil. The market will overthrow the public education monopoly. The market will, and has begun, to provide the range of services that cannot be produced within a monopoly. And once the American people get a taste of freedom, there will be no turning back. The market will spawn new education opportunities, as numerous as the flowers in the spring.
The school-choice movement, touted as a solution to the ills of public education, has only limited prospects for success because it is taking place within the context of government-run education.
Am I optimistic about the prospects of full separation? Not in this century. But a new millennium is dawning and hope for separation lies on the horizon.
The role of the Separation of School & State Alliance is to be prophetic, to develop the intellectual understanding of what is about to take place.
There is an Andrei Sakharov within every state-run enterprise — someone who is willing to stand up for freedom. The Separation of School & State Alliance is that voice for freedom, paving the way for freedom in American education.
Eric Johnson, of Enfield, CT, attended SepCon '95 in Washington, DC, last November. He is a freelance writer and a research associate at the Yankee Institute in Connecticut. The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Yankee Institute.
This article is copyrighted by the Alliance for the Separation of School & State. Permission is granted to freely distribute this article as long as this copyright notice is included in its entirety.
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