This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Boston school busing crisis that was caused by the local central planners’ attempts to desegregate the Boston public school system. Kids from mostly white South Boston were bused to schools in Roxbury while kids in mostly black Roxbury were bused to South Boston schools. People were complaining that they felt their kids weren’t getting as good an education as they should be. Bruce Gellerman of WBUR has this report that summarizes the major events of the Boston school desegregation crisis. That report includes some interviews and some clips from the School Committee hearings on that matter. (The “n-word” is also spoken, so sorry about that.)
While it isn’t really mentioned in that report, the whole mess was a result of centralization. The government planners made things worse, not only in causing even further racial tensions in a city but in further reducing the quality of education.
In his 1973 book For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, Murray Rothbard wrote:
The public school bureaucrat, for his part, is faced with a host of crucial and controversial decisions in deciding on the pattern of formal schooling in his area. He must decide: Should schooling be — traditional or progressive? free enterprise or socialistic? competitive or egalitarian? liberal arts or vocational? segregated or integrated? sex education or not? religious or secular? or various shades between these poles. The point is that whatever he decides, and even if he decides according to the wishes of the majority of the public, there will always be a substantial number of parents and children who will be totally deprived of the kind of education they desire . . . The more that education becomes public, the more will parents and children be deprived of the education they feel they need. The more that education becomes public, the more will heavy-handed uniformity stamp out the needs and desires of individuals and minorities.
Consequently, the greater the sphere of public as opposed to private education, the greater the scope and intensity of conflict in social life . . . Hence, in education as well as in all other activities, the more that government decisions replace private decision-making, the more various groups will be at each others’ throats in a desperate race to see to it that the one and only decision in each vital area goes its own way.
Contrast the deprivation and intense social conflict inherent in government decision-making with the state of affairs on the free market. If . . . education were strictly private, then each and every group of parents could and would patronize its own kind of school.
. . .
Moreover, if the residential areas are racially segregated, as they often tend to be, the result of a compulsory geographical monopoly is the compulsory racial segregation of the public schools. Those parents who prefer integrated schooling have to come up against the geographical monopoly system. Furthermore, just as some wag has said that nowadays “Whatever isn’t prohibited is compulsory,” the recent tendency of the public school bureaucrats has not been to institute voluntary busing of children to widen parental discretion, but to swing in the opposite direction and institute compulsory busing and compulsory racial integration [p. 132] of the schools — often resulting in a grotesque transfer of children far from their homes. Once again, the typical government pattern: either compulsory segregation or compulsory integration. The voluntary way — leaving the decisions up to the individual parents involved — cuts across the grain of any State bureaucracy.
It is curious that recent movements for local parental control of public education have sometimes been called “extreme right-wing” and at other times “extreme left-wing,” when the libertarian motivation has been precisely the same in either case. Thus, when parents have opposed the compulsory busing of their children to distant schools, the educational Establishment has condemned these movements as “bigoted” and “right-wing.” But when, similarly, Negro parents — as in the case of Ocean Hill-Brownsville in New York City — have demanded local parental control of the school system, this drive in its turn has been condemned as “extreme left-wing” and “nihilistic.” The most curious part of the affair is that the parents in both cases have failed to recognize their common desire for local parental control, and have themselves condemned the “bigots” or “militants” in the other group. Tragically, neither the local white nor black groups have recognized their common cause against the educational Establishment: against dictatorial control of their children’s education by an educational bureaucracy which is trying to ram down their throats a form of schooling which it believes must be imposed upon the recalcitrant masses.
And Rothbard wrote in his book Education: Free and Compulsory:
The compulsory state system already developed was grist for the totalitarian mill. At the base of totalitarianism and compulsory education is the idea that children belong to the State rather than to their parents. One of the leading promoters of that idea in Europe was the famous Marquis de Sade, who insisted that children are the property of the State.
There is no need to dwell on education in Communist countries. Communist countries impose compulsory state schooling, and enforce rigid indoctrination of obedience to the rulers. The compulsory schooling is supplemented by State monopolies on other propaganda and educational fields.
Rothbard wrote that book in 1972, and foresaw how progressive educational usurpers in America would reduce the quality of government education and its results.
Individuality is suppressed by teaching all to adjust to the “group.” All emphasis is on the “group,” and the group votes, runs its affairs by majority rule, etc. As a result, the children are taught to look for truth in the opinion of the majority, rather than in their own independent inquiry, or in the intelligence of the best in the field. Children are prepared for democracy by being led to discuss current events without first learning the systematic subjects (politics, economics, history) which are necessary in order to discuss them. The Mole effect is to substitute slogans and superficial opinion for considered individual thought. And the opinion is that of the lowest common denominator of the group.
It is clear that one of the major problems comes from the dullest group. The progressive educationists saw that the dullest could not be taught difficult subjects, or, indeed, simple subjects. Instead of drawing the logical conclusion of abandoning compulsory education for the uneducable, they decided to bring education down to the lowest level so that the dullest could absorb it — in fact, to move toward the elimination of subjects or grading altogether.
We now have Common Core, which is mainly a political tool being inflicted on the young to even further discourage their critical thinking abilities and individuality.
Finally, here is Thomas Sowell in 1981 arguing in favor of parental choices in the education of their kids: