On the Other Hand...

Time to Take 'em Out

by Jim Davies

The school year is ending, to the relief of most participants, and for a brief interval, children will get educated again the natural way - by learning what they actually want to learn, at each given point in time. For a few valuable weeks, regimentation will end and exploration, begin.

This intermission can become a decision point, for parents. In fact it's always decision point, though unhappily it's not often recognized as such: the question is, shall I return my kid(s) to government school next Fall, or not? Usually, the question is not addressed - but it's decided anyway, even if by default. I'm writing to suggest that this year, it be faced head-on.

Last month I attended a small meeting of pioneers - a group having in mind to form a New Hampshire Chapter of the nationwide "Separation of School and State Alliance". A bit of a mouthful; hereinafter, SepSchool, or the Alliance; visit them on www.sepschool.org on the Net. As its name implies, this 3-year old organization is calling for government to be 100% excluded from the educational process, just as it is supposed to be excluded from all religions.

More: instead of using political means to achieve that end, the Alliance urges that We the People take direct action, at once, individually. The politicians will always be the last to move; "when the people lead, the leaders will follow", says the bumpersticker. I'm not so sure they will, but do think it's high time for the people to lead, regardless.

What kind of action? - simply to take our own children out of the System, immediately, one family at a time. Then as more and more people do that, the system will expire for want of victims and the nightmare that started a century and a half ago will terminate.


The first obvious concern raised to that proposal is the cost. Whatever way we choose to educate our newly-liberated children (by home-schooling or by buying education in the private-school marketplace) the cost appears horribly high: not just the direct costs, but the consequential loss of income.

The direct costs are in fact very modest. Home-schooling can be done for under $1,500 a year per student, which is about one quarter of what the government monopoly charges. Private school fees vary a great deal, but very adequate places can be bought for $2,500 to $3,500 a year per student - again, around half of the monopoly cost. And in every case, home or private school, the education delivered is far better.

The indirect costs are not so modest. First, there's the ugly fact that with its vicious power of taxation, the government monopoly will take your money anyway, whether you use the place in its school system that it pays for, or not. That's the nature of government; it's a monolith, a bully. So, in the short term at least, there's no prop-tax relief. Then second, there's the lost-opportunity cost, in the case of the home-schooling option. Whereas today two parents may earn, one is needed to run the home school so the family income may drop by, say, 40%. Even after taxes, that's a heavy hit. It it worth it?

What It Buys

I asked that question of two sets of parents at the SepSchool gathering mentioned above. Each had educated a large family - six kids and five. They had done it at home, reasoning that even private schools usually run classrooms which necessarily regiment the student into studying at one given moment whatever Teacher directs, instead of what may have caught his actual interest.

Without any hesitation, both parent sets told me it had most certainly been worth every penny. Yes, they had had to take a firm hold on spending. Yes, they had gone without a number of non-essential items; yes, the belt had been tight.

But they were both emphatic that the cost was most certainly worth it. They put it this way: What can possibly be more important than the best available upbringing for your children?

The kids were, of course, consistently a couple of grades ahead of where they would have been had they gone through the government mill. More important, they were taught the values their parents wanted them to have, not those the government wanted them to have.

Interestingly, those values will vary from case to case; and often, they will contradict each other. Some practitioners of SepSchool's advice will teach traditional, moral, religious values. Others present at our meeting were humanist atheists, who would give an opposite emphasis. But all were united that the choice should be 100% that of the individual parent, and 0% that of the government, or of the "majority" it claims to represent.

There are lots of other goodies, benefits that offset the cost of withdrawing kids from GovSchool. Some of those listed in the SepSchool literature: SAFETY. If the private-school option is chosen and the child suffers attack, the parent will have the option of immediate removal and of the choice of a safer school. Then secondly, ATTENTION. That's obvious with the home-school alternative; and in today's private schools, more efficient administration has led to an average school size of 200, in contrast to 530, and with many fewer bureaucrats.

I've mentioned CHOICE already - the style and emphasis of the school chosen will properly return to the paying customer individually - and one of the very interesting other benefits is an indirect one: the POOR WILL DO BETTER. We all benefit from a well-educated society, and under a private, voluntary education system there is no question: the least favored in the community will receive a far better schooling than the government now provides them. Ask Marva Collins!

The time for action is now, and if you parent, the decision is yours.

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 208

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