As Stephen Arons, the legal scholar from the University of Massachusetts, told an audience at the Hawthorne Valley School a while back: "Centralized control of government schools creates the appearance of a Unity which is refuted by the growing mass of families who have removed their children from public or private schooling and have begun to educate them at home. Requests for homeschooling thus heighten public confusion about which beliefs are really valid expressions of community sentiment. The ideology of public schools is put into sharp relief by homeschooling conflicts."
At least 9 major assumptions describe the perimeter of the public schooling ideology. Together they warrant a general distrust of parents and they arise from a view that there is one system of values that is best for everyone. The State will prescribe this value code for all. Taken together the assumptions form a kind of civil gospel in which significant dissent is pronounced unacceptable to the State, the political system and the national culture as it is presented by the State.
- Government school is the essential force for social cohesion. It cannot happen any other way. A bureaucratized public order is our defense against chaos and anarchy.
- The socialization of children in groups monitored by state agents is essential; without this, children cannot learn to get along with others in a pluralistic society.
- Children from different backgrounds and from families with different beliefs must be mixed together. Robert Frost was wrong when he maintained "good fences make good neighbors."
- The certifiable expertise of official schoolteachers is superior to that of lay people including parents. The protection of children from the uncertified is a compelling public concern.
- Coercion in the name of liberty is a valid use of state power. Compelling children to assemble in mandated groups for mandated intervals with mandated texts and overseers does not interfere with academic learning.
- Children will inevitably grow apart from their parents in beliefs as they grow older and this process must be supported and encouraged. The best way to do this is by diluting parental influence and discouraging the children's attitudes that their own parents are sovereign in either mind or morality.
- The world is full of crazy parents who will ruin their children. An overriding concern of schooling is to protect children from bad parenting.
- It is not appropriate for any family to unduly concern itself with the education of its own children, but it may expend unlimited effort on behalf of the general education of everyone.
- The State has the predominant responsibility for training, morals, and beliefs. Children schooled outside government scrutiny frequently become anti-social and poverty stricken.
John Taylor Gatto, 1991 New York State Teacher of the Year, was the keynote speaker at SepCon'95, the first annual conference of the Alliance. In 1998, he was the recipient of the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for Excellence in the Advancement of Educational Freedom. This essay is reprinted with permission from his book of essays Notes on Education, Schooling and Curriculum.
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