In the early 1920s a fierce debate erupted and caught education in the centre. Darwinian scientists wished to ingrain their principle theory of evolution within the American public school curriculum – a move the church opposed. In the end, creationism reigned supreme, and numerous states placed an all-encompassing ban on the promotion of material that is ‘improper and subversive to the best interests of the people’.
Education for a long time has been the battle ground of ideologies. No person knew this principle more clear than the mastermind behind the single greatest program of indoctrination humanity has ever seen – Adolf Hitler. The impressionable minds of young people are highly susceptible to any belief system imposed upon them, with Hitler taking this idea as far as quoting, ‘let me control the textbooks, and I will control the state’. It is therefore highly alarming for all individuals interested in the defence of liberty to learn the reality of our current education system, and to understand the values the next generation is being indoctrinated with.
My personal experience is akin to the vast majority of people a similar age. As part of our English Literature course at GCSE, like many others throughout the country, we were taken on a moral pilgrimage to the Ganges River to purify ourselves of gluttony and narcissism. You would expect that teaching children the work of a radical socialist intended to serve as propaganda for the Soviet Union may raise a few eyebrows – yet J.B. Priestley’s tragic tale of working-class Eva Smith at the hands of the bourgeoise Birling family in his ‘An Inspector Calls’ has been acting as hard-left political ammunition for years.
The play opens with an ambiguously named Inspector Goole who informs the Birling family that a young girl has committed suicide, and that they were all named in her diary. As the story unfolds, the audience learns how each family member holds a degree of responsibility in her death through their own selfish actions and failure to think about the wider community.
At 14 years of age, there are few who can see past the veneer of benevolence – and those who are brave enough to question such thinking soon cave in after being labelled within classrooms as inward looking and nasty. The hostility against students who believe in ideas of free-markets through the weaponised term ‘tory’ has become a symbol of social exclusion. This came to the forefront of politics with a video from the Telegraph reporting instances of abuse such students experience, including being told to kill themselves. For many, it is simply better to succumb to the internal pressure and conform than to challenge. This is the reality of our current education system.
To address this issue, I wish to propose a number of solutions:
Broadening the Curriculum
While reading this article you may have developed the opinion that my principal solution is to place an outright ban on extreme material within the classroom. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As classical liberals we strive to ensure open and transparent debate of all ideas – and not simply cancel those we disagree with (we leave that for our ‘modern-liberal’ cousins instead).
Instead of pretending such ideas don’t exist, a far more effective alternative would be to also expose students to the reality of collectivism within the 20th century through the works of Solzhenitsyn or Gorbanevskaya.
While nearly all students have been taught about the atrocities committed by the Nazis, those who fully understand the true extent of the state terrorism that took place within socialist nations are few and far between. Wider teaching of this during History lessons would provide students the sacrosanct opportunity to formulate their own opinions and value-systems regarding this topic.
Break Up the State Monopoly Held Over Education
Currently around 93% of all students within the United Kingdom receive an education provided by the government. Through this, the state holds control over the curriculum and morality being instilled within the next generation. The great Chicago economist Milton Friedman recognised the problem with this, and formulated a solution.
His theory consisted of Charter Schools, state-funded yet privately-owned enterprises driven by the incentive to perform. In this model, the government grants taxpayers vouchers to exchange with schools managed by private firms. This incentivises, schools to maximise the quality of the service through parents holding the power to ‘vote with their feet.’ Schools would be aware that if the standard of education is below adequate – parents and students would simply take their precious voucher elsewhere, along with the state-funding. Consumer choice and compeitition lies at the heart of this free-market model.
The success of this theory can be seen with the widespread adoption of such schools throughout the United States. Since Wisconsin adopted this model in 1989, numerous states have since adopted a similar idea, with the popularity of such a system in North Carolina increasing 71% over the past decade. As Dr Luebke notes, the vast benefit of this is the upgrade from the focus on how much money is spent on education, to how well the money is allocated.
The individual having the power to hold schools accountable would be a significant step in tackling the current issue of the state monopoly. If parents are unhappy with the value-system being forced on their child, they have the power to choose elsewhere. In practice, as the private firms managing the school would be aware of this, they would strive to ensure the impartiality standards already expected.
This would not only be a significant step in addressing the stifling effect of the state syndicate, but also in ensuring high quality education for all students.
Over the past year we have seen a return to the debate between Darwinians and Creationists. The resurgence of Black Lives Matter and questions surrounding our colonial legacy will only continue to transpire over the upcoming years. While both sides wish to impose their beliefs on the other, we should embrace the power to choose and make individual decisions about the value-system we want for our children.
Charles Bromley-Davenport – Co-Founder of Friedmanomics
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect the values of The Liberty Club