What Is the "New Right"?

by Roger E. Bissell

[This essay is revised from a presentation made at a panel discussion of the New Right held in June 1980 in Nashville, Tennessee.]

Government-run schools in the United States are coming under increasing attack these days by many different groups. Some of these groups lie on the "conservative" side of the political spectrum and are frequently referred to as the "New Right."

In his article, "Entanglement by the New Right" (Tennessee Teacher, April 1980), Gene Bryant seeks to identify what the "New Right" stands for and how this conflicts with the goals of his fellow members of the "United Teaching Profession." He makes so many misleading and unjust statements, however, that his article actually amounts to a gross oversimplification and smear job.

Let us begin by seeing exactly where Mr. Bryant goes off the track. In so doing, we can gain a clearer understanding of the issues and parties involved in the controversies over government education.

Smearing the Opposition

Mr. Bryant does not offer one, simple, clear definition of what he means by the term "New Right." If you look through his article carefully, however, you can piece one together as follows: a well-financed coalition of groups, organized in the mid-1970s by Richard Viguerie, aided by computer mailing lists, and espousing an "extreme right-wing" philosophy (ranging from "ultraconservative" to "reactionary").

Mr. Bryant also provides a list of organizations which, he says, belong to the "New Right." Included in this list are some groups which are not "ultra-conservative" or "reactionary" or "right-wing" at all (e.g., the National Taxpayers Union), as well as another group which has been the most fanatically ardent champion of the so-called "liberal," "progressive," "democratic" government schools--namely, the Ku Klux Klan!

Thus, it becomes clear that Mr. Bryant is using the term "New Right," not as an aid to understanding, but as a convenient catch-all for all the opponents of the "United Teaching Profession." This is a very misleading tactic on his part, a tactic which also unjustly smears his opposition as being in cahoots with the Klan--and "extreme right-wing," to boot.

First of all, this suggests that the opposition to the UTP is monolithic--i.e., that they all have more in common with one another than with the UTP. Nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, the opposition is split into at least two, radically different groups: (1) those who want to reform the government schools (Reformists), and (2) people who want to abolish them entirely (Abolitionists).

The Reformists are merely the other side of the same coin as the UTP. Both groups want the power to run the government schools. Both groups believe that it is right and just for government to be involved in education. They only quarrel over which policies are to be put into effect, and by whom.

The Abolitionists, on the other hand, want no one to use government power to interfere with education at all. They want complete separation of education and state--total abolition of the government schools.

It is certainly understandable that Mr. Bryant wants to lump the Reformists together with the Abolitionists. After all, both groups represent a real threat to the power and control of the UTP, who are the current ruling elite in the government schools.

This, however, is a very superficial reason for pigeonholing them together. It is also a convenient way to avoid the basic issue of education: should the government actively promote education, or should it keep "hands off" and stay out of the way entirely? (More on this later.)

Secondly, it is clear that Mr. Bryant regards "right-wing extremism" as a philosophy of intolerance, hatred, racism, bigotry, etc.; for he sprinkles these epithets "liberally" (!) throughout his article. Yet, most people associate most of the groups he lumps in with the "New Right" as being simply "conservative"--which they loosely understand as meaning: trying to hold the line against America's becoming a socialist welfare state, or even trying to reduce and eliminate the interference of government in (some areas of) our lives.

This is how the smear works. You hear the description of the "New Right" as being "right-wing extremist," then you are offered the relatively harmless figures of the John Birch Society, the Eagle Forum, or the National Association of Manufacturers, as examples. Next, you observe that their best-known characteristic is "conservatism"--i.e., opposition to big government--and you are encouraged to conclude that "conservatism" is evil, as evil as the Ku Klux Klan.

By this maneuver, Mr. Bryant unwittingly reveals that his real enemy is not bigotry, intolerance, racism, etc., but those trying to reduce government control over our lives, particularly in the area of education. His fear or hatred of his opponents is apparently so great that he seems compelled to call them all bigoted, intolerant, and racist, in total disregard of the facts.

Mr. Bryant's use of the term "New Right" is thus a double package-deal. It lumps in Abolitionists with Reformists, and it lumps in all the UTP opposition with the KKK. A more blatant smear job has not been perpetrated in recent memory.

If you really want to understand what the "New Right" of the 1970s and 80s is, you must begin by identifying the basic policies they advocate in the areas of social relationships, economic activity, and foreign affairs. You must compare this with the previous "New Right" of the 1950s and 60s (i.e., that of William F. Buckley et al), to see what (if any) significant differences exist. You must then compare both of these with the "Old Right" of the 1930s and 40s (i.e., that of Robert Taft et al) for further differences.

Finally, you must compare all of these to the original, 19th-century concept of the political "right-wing," of what it meant to be a "conservative." Then you must also do the same thing with the terms "left-wing" and "liberal," in order to see what changes those concepts have undergone during the past two centuries, to see to what extent they have diverged from their original meanings.

In other words, you must do your historical homework, if you want to avoid falling prey to the same errors that Mr. Bryant has made in his article. Let us proceed to do that homework now.

Placing the "New Right" in Historical Context

Let us begin at the beginning by noting that the basic political issue of any age of Liberty vs. Power, or the individual against the state. Let us then see how the liberals and conservatives line up on this issue.

As Mr. Bryant points out, the terms "right" and "left" originated with the French Revolution, those of noble rank sitting on the king's right, while the "common people" sat on his left. Thus, the term "Right" originally represented anyone who advocated the power of the king and the Roman Catholic church and the continuation of traditional social patterns. The term "Left," then, originally applied to anyone who opposed the church and the king and favored parliament, progress, and the Rights of Man.

This is somewhat of an oversimplification, however. Actually, the "Left" in 19th- century France was composed of two distinct elements: the true "Left" (socialists, anarchists, syndicalists, and communists) and the liberals. The 19th-century French liberals were advocates of minimal government, individualism, and laissez-faire, and they occupied the middle of the political spectrum.

Conservatism, then, is the doctrine which opposes radical social change, especially when that change is enacted by government force wielded by others. As such, it means different specific things, depending upon what conservatives wish to "conserve" at a given point in time. In the 19th century, conservatives thus aligned themselves with the "Right"--i.e., with the state's authority, tradition, the established political order, and the status quo, and in opposition to individual rights.

Liberalism, by its original definition, is the doctrine which seeks to promote liberty. This term, like conservatism, is ambiguous, because different people at different times have meant different things by the term "liberty." In the 19th century, liberals favored individual rights (to life, liberty, and property), political freedom (via a Bill of Rights, against the constraints of the state), and laissez-faire capitalism (with no government interference in the economy. They opposed the authoritarian state, wanting instead a minimal government, one limited strictly to defending individual rights.

By the early 20th century, however, the terms "liberal" and "conservative" had reversed their meanings. Those calling themselves "liberals" were now pushing a different notion of liberty, one which called for the enlargement of the state's power and control in order to "liberate" the poor from the oppressive burdens of poverty and ignorance. As Maurice Cranston points out

There can be no doubt that the word "liberal" has come to be associated in the American public's mind with statist and left-wing ideologies, rather than with the Lockean notions of laissez-faire and mistrust of organized power. ("Liberalism," Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. IV, New York: Macmillan, 1967.)

Having thus been dispossessed of the mantle of liberalism, the advocates of laissez-faire and individualism began referring to themselves as "conservatives." (The old Right-wing conservatives, favoring the power of the absolute monarchy, had long since died out as a viable political force in America.) Russell Kirk has identified the fact that, according to popular usage, an American political conservative is one who stresses the individual over the collective, is "uneasy" over increasing taxation and welfare statism, defends private property, dislikes big government and big labor, and opposes the tendency toward a stronger central government. ("Conservatism," Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 6, 1971 edition.)

This changeover in terminology was accomplished by the 1930s. The 20th-century "liberal" was typified by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who in 1941 advocated "The Four Freedoms" (including "freedom from want"), and who expanded government power to give the collective interests of the nation as a whole precedence over private, individual interests. The "conservatives" were in disrepute, because they opposed the very popular New Deal, welfare-statist measures, as well as our being maneuvered by the Roosevelt administration into World War II (which also had the popular support of the American people).

Thus, we see that in the 20th century, the conservatives--at least, at first--were individualists, while the liberals were the statists. The conservatives, during the 1930s and 40s, supported liberty, freedom from coercion by the state, while the liberals supported the power and authority of the state. By this point, those calling themselves "liberals" had clearly become Leftists (in the original, statist sense of the term). It would be misleading and anachronistic, however, to say that the conservatives of the 1930s and 40s were Rightists. They were more like the original liberals than those who used the term in the 20th century. Instead, since they mainly played an oppositional role to the Roosevelt administration, it would be most appropriate simply to call them anti-Leftists.

The 1930s definition of "liberal" still applies today. The 20th-century statist liberals still occupy the same position on the issue of Liberty vs. Power that the 19th-century statist conservatives did, and they have consistently done so throughout the past 50 years.

If the reversal in the definition of "conservative" had also remained consistent, the switch in the meanings of the terms from the 19th to the 20th century would have been, at worst, an inconvenience and an annoyance. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

Since the 1940s, certain groups--including the Buckleyites and, currently, the allies of Richard Viguerie--have attempted to switch the term "conservative" back to its 19th-century meaning. They have tried to palm it off on the public in bits and pieces, never bringing the issue fully into the open. Gradually, people have been conditioned to believe that a "conservative" is an advocate of authority--specifically, of traditional authority (rather than "progressive" or "liberal" authority).

In the 1950s, the pro-freedom, laissez-faire/isolationist position of the "Old Right" conservatives was considerably modified. "Conservatism," according to the earlier "New Right" of Buckley and Company, was revised to mean: (some) economic freedom, social conservatism (victimless crimes laws, anti-abortion, anti-busing, pro-prayer in public schools, pro-gun ownership, etc.), and foreign interventionism to fight Communism.

In the 1970s, Viguerie and the new "New Right" decided that in order to politically exploit what they saw as the overwhelming "conservatism" to mean: social conservatism plus foreign interventionism (minus economic freedom). The New Right hopes to elect its candidates on platforms of opposition to abortion, pornography, and busing, etc., while not threatening whatever benefits people may be getting from the ever-growing welfare state.

What the New Right wishes to do is jettison precisely those attitudes and policies that placed the Old Right on the side of liberty and against the state. The New Right is thus galloping all the way back to the 19th-century statist conservative position. (Next, they will no doubt want to crown someone "king.")

If this is all the choice we have--20th-century statist "liberals" and 19th-century statist "conservatives"--what political system will be silently obliterated in the process? What political system is being destroyed by stealth, without letting people discovered that it is being destroyed? A non-coercive, libertarian society, which consistently recognizes the individual rights to life, liberty, and property, and which limits the government strictly to the defense of those rights. In other words, a truly liberal society, in the original, 18th-century meaning of the term.

 Left Minus Right = Zero

As Mr. Bryant points out in his article, both the liberals and conservatives of today "claim to be libertarians, but their concepts of freedom differ greatly." What he did not point out is that there is much hypocrisy and inconsistency on both sides.

Many liberals say they are for freedom of association--but only if that association does not involve monetary transactions for goods and services. Many conservatives say they are for free enterprise, but they only mean free from regulation and taxation and foreign competition--they certainly do not wish to be free from special privileges bestowed by government, such as subsidies or tariffs (provided by taxing everyone else!) or import quotas (provided by regulating their foreign competitors!). And neither the liberals nor the conservatives are willing to extend either freedom of association or freedom of enterprise to such areas as prostitution, gambling, or drugs.

Mr. Bryant suggests that liberals are for "human rights," while conservatives are for "property rights." This is only superficially true.

Nowhere is thus superficiality more obvious than in the issue of the military draft, which is currently raising its ugly head again. The most immoral contradiction is that of "conservatives," who claim to be defenders of property rights, but uphold and advocate the draft. By what twisted logic can they hope to justify the notion that someone who has no right to life, still has the right to a bank account?

Almost as bad are those "liberals" who claim that people have the "human right" to economic security, public housing, medical care, education, or recreation, but still approve of the draft. Whether you hold that people have a right to property or the right to a livelihood, if you deny them the right to life--which the draft does--you are cutting the logical ground out from under your position.

Another issue, seldom discussed, is that of voting--of participation in the decision-making process of government. Liberals want everyone to be able to vote on candidates and propositions, even those which would forcibly deprive some people of their property for the unearned benefit of others (to provide food, education, etc.)

This simply means, however, that liberals believe that some human beings have the right to make property (slaves) out of others--that property owners exist not for their own sake, but are born in bondage to live as indentured servants who must keep buying their lives by serving the tribe, but can never acquire it free and clear. This is neither human nor right.

Understandably, conservatives are leery of allowing everyone access to the vote, if property owners are going to have the fruits of their labors subject to being voted away by the envious, unpropertied masses. However, conservatives are still willing to allow some property owners to dispose of the property of others by a majority vote at the ballot box--not to mention disposing of the civil liberties of those they would like to exclude from the franchise.

Thus, conservatives are not really for property rights, any more than liberals are for human rights. Conservatives merely want a more select, elite group deciding what to do with (and to) everyone's property and liberty.

Neither the mainstream liberals nor conservatives of today accept the original American concept of government as a "policeman" and "arbiter," confined to the task of protecting the individual citizen's rights and property. Instead, they have both accepted the Marxist view of the nature of government--the view that a government is necessarily the agent of the economic interests of some class or another, and that the sole political issue is: which class will seize control of the government to force its interests on all other groups or classes?

Neither the mainstream liberals nor conservatives question whether it is right or just to use government coercion for the special interest of some individual or group. Instead, they merely squabble over whether that coercion is to be used for the benefit of the businessmen, the employers, or the rich in general--or for the benefit of the consumers, the employees, or the poor in general.

Neither the mainstream liberals nor conservatives question whether it is right or just to forcibly take money or property away from some people in order to give it to others who have not earned it--nor whether it is right or just to forcibly interfere with peaceable actions between consenting individuals. Instead, they merely quibble over whether government force should be used to provide welfare for the poor and to harass businessmen--or to provide welfare for the rich and to harass people with alternative lifestyles.

Ambrose Bierce, author of The Devil's Dictionary, hit the nail on the head when he said that a conservative is "a statesman enamored of old evils, as contrasted with the liberal, who would replace them with others."

Thus, we see that, in principle, there is no basic difference between today's liberals and conservatives. Both hold contradictory notions about individual rights and both uphold the use of government force to carry out their social policies. The main difference between them is the superficial matter of which groups fits one's own personal style, taste, sensibilities, etc. Allowing for inflation, and paraphrasing George Wallace, we might say that there's not a quarter's worth of difference between liberals and conservatives!

Unfortunately, we have not reached the end--the bottom--of the hypocrisy and inconsistency involved in the terms "liberal" and "conservative." I'm referring, of course, to Mr. Bryant's smear of his "New Right" opponents as "reactionary."

Who Are the "Reactionaries"?

The "New Right," and conservatives in general, are referred to by Mr. Bryant and his liberal colleagues as reactionary. This they define as: wanting to "go back" to a social system run by an elite or an aristocracy, which sets the terms by which the common people must live and relate to each other--reacting against the progress toward a more democratic society.

Also, anyone who wants to "return" to a system of totally free enterprise, which we never had in the first place, is also labeled "reactionary." Such a person, it is said, wants to return to the 19th century, and is blindly reacting against the fact that time, and "social progress," march on.

Liberals such as Mr. Bryant, on the other hand, often refer to themselves as progressive. This they take to mean: wanting to "move forward" to a more open, democratically-run society, where everyone has a chance to express themselves, determine their goals and values, and not have their lives dictated to and controlled by any privileged elite. (This, they say, is what conservatives are "reacting" against, after all.)

Applying this to the issue of government schools, the liberals argue that if you are truly a progressive, you must join the liberals in favoring government schools as a vital factor in implementing your progressive social philosophy. On the other hand, if you join the conservatives in opposing the "progressive" way the liberals have run the government schools over the past 50 or more years, then you are a "reactionary." (And if you want to totally abolish the government schools, then you are an extreme reactionary!)

Historically, however, these labels applied in exactly the opposite way. When you look at America in the early 1800s, you see that the privileged elite who were setting the terms and trying to squash out diversity among their fellow Americans were the very people in charge of the government schools systems!

During the early and middle 1800s, there was a broad, growing movement away from the government schools toward private alternative education. The response of the government bureaucrats and teachers was to push for and win legislation which crippled or wiped out most of these unwanted competitors. The last thing they wanted was for Catholics, immigrants, taxpayers, etc., to be free to choose how to educate their children. Thus, in order to protect their jobs and power and sensibilities, they took very drastic, reactionary steps to stifle this progressive movement into the educational free market.

The government education pushers reached their peak of power and accomplishment when, in 1922, they got the State of Oregon to pass a law (later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court) outlawing all private schools. And guess who were the most fanatical supporters of this law, and of the government schools in general? The Ku Klux Klan! The KKK was strong in the northern states at that time, and they were eager to crush the Catholic parochial school system, and to force all Catholic and immigrant children into the government schools, in order to Protestantize and Americanize them.

Yet, how much more bigoted is the KKK's desire to stamp out diversity and variety in America, than that of those advocates of government schools, who seek to standardize education for everyone? More blatant, perhaps, but not more bigoted.

Today, the government education establishment is more of an entrenched elite than ever, and is facing another challenge to its power and authority. This time, however, the challenge comes from two very different directions, which Mr. Bryant wishes to pigeonhole together as the "New Right."

One group represents the same movement that was aborted in the 1800s: the free-market-in-education movement. Today, it consists of disillusioned liberals and blacks, individualist conservatives, and libertarians, none of whom are "reactionary" any more than their counterparts in the 1800s were. Some of them advocate tax relief in the form of vouchers or tax credits for those who pay for non-government education or schooling. Others simply want to "throw the switch," abolishing government schools immediately and let the market take over. In either case, these people--including their compatriots from a faction of the "New Right"--are the only true progressives on the scene.

The other group which makes up the "New Right" is actually the old government education elite, whose views on religious values, economic education, teaching methods, etc., were gradually displaced from the government schools by the present, more liberal, government education elite. These people grant the basic premise that tax-supported government schools are desirable. They merely argue that those schools should be run differently: that God should be put back in the schools, with required prayer and religiously-oriented history, science, sociology (and other) texts--that a free-market economics course be a requirement of graduation--that the "3 Rs" be taught in the time-honored ways, rather than by "look-say" or "New Math."

This latter group, the Reformists, merely want to seize power over the government schools and impose their standards and values on everyone else. They are no more interested in protecting or fostering individual freedom and diversity than the present government school establishment. (Recall the example of the Ku Klux Klan support for the Oregon law banning private schools mentioned above.)

Let me hasten to add that the Reformists do have many legitimate complaints. The deck has been stacked against any religion which does not agree with scientific orthodoxy about the origin of the earth, of life, or of man--against the free enterprise system of economics--and against our children's minds, which work best when taught using the phonetics method, the "Old Math" system, etc.

Far from justifying the transfer of power (back) to the Reformists, however, it instead points out the basic flaw in government education--and in all government services and institutions in general. Basically, the problem is this: no matter how "democratically" or "neutrally" a given government institution or service is run, there will always be a sizable group of people who are forced to pay to support methods and policies of which they disapprove, and who are not free to withdraw that support to place it with those whose methods and policies they find more compatible with their religion, philosophy, or whatever.

The simplest way of seeing this flaw is to consider the example of the fluoride controversy. Everybody pays taxes or fees for government water, but while many want fluoridation (or don't care one way or the other), many others do not want it. Yet, these latter people are forced to pay for it anyway, even if they buy and use bottled water instead.

On a more complicated scale, this is also the case with the government schools, in regard to a multitude of issues. Should schooling be traditional or progressive? Free enterprise or socialistic? Competitive or egalitarian? Liberal arts or vocational? Segregated or integrated? Religious or secular? Sex education or not? Or various shades between these extremes?

No matter what a government school administrator decides, even if the majority of parents go along with the decision, there will always be a substantial number of parents and children who will be totally deprived of the kind of education they desire.

There are only two basic options for handling this problem. One is to continue with the status quo. This will guarantee that there will always be periodic power struggles between various groups, who will be at each other's throats in a desperate race to see to it that the one-and-only decision in each vital area goes its own way.

The only other alternative--and the only real solution to our worsening crisis in education--is to abolish the compulsory attendance and tax support laws, destroying the reins of authority and power over how parents educate their children. This would allow the free market to take over the job, which it was doing very well in the 1800s (before the reactionary backlash of government school legislation), and which it is doing better and better today (despite the considerable competitive disadvantage caused by the impact of taxes on the patrons of non-government schools, who must pay twice to educate their children).

Conclusion: the Smear Comes Home to Roost

It can now be seen even more clearly that the current "liberal-progressive" elite and the "New Right" conservative Reformist movement are but two sides of the same coin. They are both groups of reactionaries, struggling to put their elite back into power or to keep it in power. (They both also exhibit traits which Mr. Bryant says are characteristic of conservatism: limited tolerance for nonconformity, desire to impose dominant values on all society, etc.)

If the Abolitionist movement ever begins to make real headway in offering true alternatives for those whose diverse values, lifestyles, religious beliefs, etc., are not being served by the government schools, it is safe to predict that the Reformist "New Right" and the current "liberal-progressive" establishment will quickly set aside their superficial differences and unite to ward off their common enemy: the freedom of parents to choose how and when they will educate their children, and the freedom of all of us to choose how and whether we will spend any of our money to educate anyone's children.

This indicates another answer--perhaps more relevant to Mr. Bryant and his colleagues--to the question, "What is the New Right?" The "New Right" is a great reservoir of potential recruits for the coming fight to save the government school monopoly from the growing number of people from all walks of life, who want to tear it down and go with the free market in education.

An alliance between the Tennessee Educators Association and Tennessee Association of Teacher Educators, on the one hand, and the Reformist New Right, on the other, may be distasteful to many liberal-progressives. Yet, such an alliance is certainly no more unthinkable than the fact that their hero, Horace Mann--the father of American educational statism--is a kindred spirit of the Ku Klux Klan!

Appendix: "Social Engineering" in the Government Schools

In his column, "What Happened to Schooling" (May 31, 1980), Jenkin Lloyd Jones criticizes the idea (held by many professional educators and federal judges) that public education is chiefly for the purpose of "social engineering" rather than "imparting information." Most of what Jones says in his column about forced busing and school assignment for racial balance (and "homogenization") is true, but his claim that social engineering of this sort is a recent development (i.e., once that arose within the past 30 years) is way off base.

In his column, "What Happened to Schooling" (May 31, 1980), Jenkin Lloyd Jones criticizes the idea (held by many professional educators and federal judges) that public education is chiefly for the purpose of "social engineering" rather than "imparting information." Most of what Jones says in his column about forced busing and school assignment for racial balance (and "homogenization") is true, but his claim that social engineering of this sort is a recent development (i.e., once that arose within the past 30 years) is way off base.

Like most conservatives, and most people in general, Jones has not done his history homework. Had he done so, he would know that turning out educated students was never the primary purpose of government schools per se.

If you examine the various debates during the mid-1800s over whether to have statewide government school systems, you will find clear statements by Horace Mann and his cohorts of the reasons why they felt such school systems were a "must." The reasons given were almost never in terms of literacy and cognitive skills.

Why not? Because in the "bad old days" of the 1800s, schooling was nearly universal in the U. S. before attendance was required by law--and in Great Britain before either compulsory attendance or government financing existed. Literacy reached well over 90% in Britain before compulsory education had any effect.

There's a very simple economic explanation for this. As the Industrial Revolution spread, it raised people's standards of living (and disposable income) to the point where they could not only spare their children the necessity of laboring to help support the family, but they could even spare some money to send them to school. Thus, private schools proliferated and flourished in the 1800s.

The South appears to be an exception to this pattern, but that is mainly because of the residual effects of the feudal slave system and the economic depression period following the Civil War, both of which severely crippled the South's participation in the Industrial Revolution. Despite these setbacks, the South, too, was gradually expanding and improving its private elementary and secondary schools and would have eventually drawn even with the more industrial North, had it not been for one thing: the massive tax subsidy of the government schools, starting in the 1880s. In just 20 years, the number of private schools in Tennessee, for example, dropped from over 1400 to under 400! (The power to tax for the purpose of subsidy is the power to destroy competitors.)

So, literacy was much higher in the 1800s than is commonly believed, and it was taken for granted. The subject hardly ever arose as an urgent social issue. Instead, the concerns of Mann et al were with social values, such as "civic virtue," "social goals," and having a "homogeneous population."

In the view of Mann and others, the large influx of immigrants (especially the Catholics and Eastern Europeans) presented a threat to America's "social order." We were faced with "dilution of our national stock" and with "racial indigestion." The concern was with a perceived lack of national unity. Government schools were thus said to be necessary to teach these unruly newcomers to be good little citizens--which meant teaching them to practice "proper" Protestant virtues and to give up their Old World customs and languages.

Another major concern, especially after the Civil War, was national loyalty. It is no coincidence that the majority of states passed compulsory education laws almost overnight, during the period from 1870 to 1890. Sentiment was strong to eliminate disloyalty, to eradicate rebels and traitors--and where better to teach children not to question the state and its demands for self-sacrifice and unquestioning service to the Motherland than in government schools run from the top down?

Thus, the "social engineering" Mr. Jones objects to is not a startling new precedent, but instead is one of the original cornerstones of the various state government school systems. (The other one is the desire of teachers to insulate themselves from the demands and pressures of the public and from private competition, and the desire of the administrators and bureaucrats to preserve their power and vested interests. Again, advocates of government schools were very explicit and consistent about this. They were much more candid than their present-day counterparts.)

Throughout recorded history, the proponents of government education have argued that government schools are necessary for the best interest not of the child--nor even of society--but of the state. They have all assumed that children and adults alike are the property of the state, and that for the "self-preservation" of the state, children must be forced to attend government-approved schools, and adults must be forced to pay taxes to support them.

With a premise like this ruling our lives, it should be no mystery "What Happened to Schooling"! If, on the other hand, we were free to choose how (and whether) to spend our money for education, people could freely support schools which engaged in social engineering or imparting information--or whatever--and no conflict would ever arise. We could resume the peaceful, yet exhilarating, era of educational progress, which we aborted when we abandoned the free market in education. Laissez-faire, laissez-apprehendre! 

Nashville, Tennessee

June 1980