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Good intentions, abominable results

Dear Vin,” writes one earnest parent, “I dropped my ‘terrified’ 6-year-old off today at Blank-Blank Elementary, a government-funded school. Wait. Was she terrified? No. She hugged her first grade teacher, Mrs. Y. When we went to the book fair at the school gym two weeks ago, she hugged her four or five times and told her she loved her.

“Mrs. Y? What a do-nothing government bureaucrat. She is there two mornings a week before 8 a.m. to help tutor Annabelle with her reading. And when I picked Annabelle up Wednesday at almost 6 p.m. from the Kid’s Club county government funded ($4 a day) after-school program, Mrs. Y still was in the classroom helping a child. …

“I think we are getting a deal paying her approximate $45,000 a year government salary. Why would I want to end this government school? Is a private school going to do anything more for Annabelle?”

I replied: I regret to learn you’ve decided to commit your child to the indoctrination of a collectivist government monopoly, funded with moneys looted from me and others against our will.

Of course they employ many cheerful and well-intentioned people who enjoy working with children. Of course they start out teaching common and useful things. That’s why they’ve been getting away with this for so long.

I also suspect you vastly underestimate Mrs. Y’s compensation. If the poor dear won’t have to live on and pay her health care costs out of her savings when she retires, can you really compare her $45,000 to that of the 250-day-a-year private-sector taxpayer who funds her salary and all her benefits, and then must save for his own retirement out of what’s left?

Meantime, now that you and Mrs. Y are teaching Annabelle what wonderful things can be accomplished with funds looted from others against their will — and that the government can best determine what she should learn — do you really think those lessons will have no long-term impact?

Have you ever heard the story of the guy who started dumping free corn in the field for the wild pigs, after driving just a single fencepost into the ground? Every day he went out and drove another fencepost into the ground, laying a few cross-beams between the posts. Every day the pigs waited for him to walk off a piece, and then came around for the free food.

They ridiculed the lone holdout pig, who stayed lurking at the edge of the woods as they glutted themselves.

Finally the day came when the pen was finished. The pigs walked in, just as they had become accustomed to doing. And the man closed the gate.

I’m glad you appreciate all the free stuff you’re getting at the expense of those who would find their furniture set out on the sidewalk if they declined to “volunteer” their school taxes. I sincerely hope you don’t wake up some day to wonder why Annabelle is helping them load you in the truck.

At the very least, you might want to visit one of our local high schools, watch the kids with the spiked hair and the body piercings go through the metal detectors and hunker down to sneer, “I’m never gonna read another book as long as I live once I get outta this dump,” and ask yourself how on earth these institutions manage to produce such an end product from such promising raw material as all our bright, lovely, enthusiastic Annabelles.

It’s not as though we weren’t warned. I recently came upon an old copy of Rose Wilder Lane’s “The Discovery of Freedom/ Man’s Struggle Against Authority,” a seminal work of modern libertarian philosophy.

Way back in 1943, Ms. Lane was explaining: “Forty years ago, American children went to school because they wanted to go, or because their parents sent them. Children knew the fact that schooling is a great opportunity which the Revolution had opened here to all children alike.”

But “The American method of education was never fully developed; it was stopped about 40 years ago, by the eager German-minded reformers, who believed that the State can spend an American’s money for his, or his children’s education, much more wisely than he can.

“American schooling is now compulsory, enforced by the police and controlled by the State (that is, by the politicians in office) and paid for by compulsory taxes. The inevitable result is to postpone a child’s growing-up. … His actual situation does not require him to develop self-reliance, self-discipline and responsibility; that is, he has no actual experience of freedom in his youth.”

Trying — and failing — to disguise the underlying compulsory nature of their undertaking, “The teachers try to make learning easy, a game,” Ms. Wilder pointed out. “But real learning is not easy; it requires self-discipline and hard work. The attempt to make learning effortless actually keeps a child from discovering the pleasure of self-discipline and of the mental effort that overcomes difficulties.”

Rose Wilder Lane warned us, 65 years ago. John Taylor Gatto — New York City and New York state (government) teacher of the year — quit in disgust in 1991 and has devoted the remainder of his career to documenting the sociopathologies caused by compulsion schooling.

No one will believe it could be the fault of a system that would hire the charming Mrs. Y. They watch our kids doped up on Luvox and Ritalin to keep them docile in their seats, our fine expensive schools reduced to madhouses where teachers are denied the power to discipline or expel the depraved, where the inmates occasionally march in with stolen guns to mow down everyone in sight — and they merely insist “Annabelle hugged her first grade teacher and told her she loved her.”

I liked my first-grade teacher, too. But India and China now produce many times more qualified engineers than we do; the “high school graduates” down at McDonald’s don’t know how to count change, and they can’t find Iraq on a map.

But they sure have a pantload of self-esteem.

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal and author of the novel “The Black Arrow.” See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.

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