Tuesday, March 14, 2017

R.L. Dabney on State-Provided Education

We begin by reasserting the familiar objection, so often contemptuously dismissed, that the principle upon which the State intrudes into the parental obligation and function of educating all children, is dangerous and agrarian. It is the teaching of the Bible and of sound political ethics that the education of children belongs to the sphere of the family and is the duty of the parents. The theory that the children of the Commonwealth are the charge of the Commonwealth is a pagan one, derived from heathen Sparta and Plato's heathen republic, and connected by regular, logical sequence with legalized prostitution and the dissolution of the conjugal tie. The dispensation of Divine Providence determines the social grade and the culture of children on their reaching adult age by the diligence and faithfulness of their parents, just as the pecuniary condition of children at that epoch is determined. The desire of procuring for their children a desirable condition in all these respects is the grand stimulus which Providence has provided for the efforts of parents. It is His ordination that youth shall inherit the status provided for them by their parents, and improved it by their own exertions as aided by the Christian philanthropy of their fellow-men. Now, by what apology does the State (not an evangelical, nor an eleemosynary institute by its nature) justify itself in stepping in to revolutionize that order? By the plea that it (the State) is so vitally interested in the intelligence of the citizens that this entitles her to take effectual means for preventing their ignorance. See, now, whither this assumption leads. The morality of the citizens is far more essential to the welfare of the State; and the only effectual basis for morals is the Christian religion. Therefore the State would ibe yet more bound to take order that all youth be taught Christianity. And this is just the argument by which Dr. Chalmers and Mr. Gladstone (before his political somersaults began) strenuously defended church establishments. Again, physical destitution of the citizens is as dangerous to the State as ignorance; therefore the State would be entitled to interfere for her own protection and repair that calamitous condition of destitution which their own and their parents' vices and laziness have entailed on a part of the people, by confiscating, for their relief, the honestly earned property of the virtuous and thrifty and their children. The last two inferences are precisely as fair as the first. Principles always bear their fruits; and the friends of this principle will in due time become consistent, and claim at least the last inference, along with the first. They are not likely to adopt the second, because the culture and ethics of the 'common school' will leave them, after a time, too corrupt and atheistic to recognize the value of morality or its source—the Christian religion.

We often hear this apology for the State's wholesale intrusion into education advanced with the exactness of a commercial transaction. They say: 'It costs less money to build school-houses than jails.' But what if it turns out that the State's expenditure in school-house is one of the things which necessitates the expenditure in jails? The fruits of the system show that such is the result, and hence the plea for the State's intrusion is utterly delusive. The regular result of the kind of education which alone it can give is to propagate crime. Allison's History of Europe states that forty years ago two-thirds of the inhabitants of France could neither read nor write. In Prussia, at the same time, the government had made secular education almost universal, by compelling parents to send their children to school from seven to fourteen years of age. Statistics of the two countries show that serious crime was at that time fourteen times as prevalent in intelligent Prussia as in ignorant France—volume V., page 15. Again it has been found from the official records of the 86 departments of France that the amount of crime has, without a single exception, been in proportion to the amount of scholastic instruction given in each. Again, we are told that much the largest number of the lewd women of Paris come from those departments where there is most instruction. In Scotland the educated criminals are to the uneducated as four and a half to one. M. De Tooueville remarked of the United States that crime increased most rapidly where there was most instruction. The ancients testify that the moral condition of the 'Barbarians' was comparatively pure beside that of the Greeks and Romans, and that the most refined cities were the most corrupt. But let us bring the comparison nearer home. The Northern States of the Union had previously to the war all adopted the system of universal State schools, and the Southern States had not. In 1850 the former had thirteen and a half millions of people, and twenty-three thousand six hundred and sixty-four criminal convictions. The South (without State schools) had nine and a half millions, and two thousand nine hundred and twenty-one criminal convictions— that is to say, after allowing for the difference of population, the 'educated' masses were something more than six times as criminal as the 'uneducated.'” - R.L. Daney, The State Free School System, Discussions Volume 4

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