04 November 2009

Schools and liberty

Porch Dog offered me a great complement the other day by saying that he appreciates me criticizing overreach of power on both the Left and Right since that's something I really do try for, but I wanted to highlight this bit from that post:
Porch Dog | Obama’s Insidious Propaganda Machine:

Typing that above paragraph I’m reminded a time from 2oo2—back when I had “an office” (sort of)—and a co-worker a couple of years older than me stormed in in a frenzy saying “It’s gotten to the point you can’t trust your government anymore.” I looked at him in amazed disbelief. Not because he was wrong, but because your late twenties or early thirties seems about 15 years late to be developing a cynical outlook on the truthfulness of men and women in power.
So true.

I must have been about 12 when I realized many teachers — as authority figures if not necessarily as educators — were inept, and about a year after that I realized the same of principals, and two years later I realized it of school board members, and then very shortly of county executives, and pretty soon I had figured out it was foolishness all the way to the top. Few things influenced my classical liberalism as much as my experiences with Montgomery County Public Schools.

In fact, after one particularly egregious run-in with an especially incompetent school administrator in high school, a neighbor counseled me not to "let this make you cynical." Bullshit. It did make me cynical about men and women in power, and I'm damn glad it did. We are not lead by the wise and benevolent. Everything is not going to be alright if we get the right people in charge and let them do as they will. We can not rely on Authority to kiss our wounds and make everything better. They will screw up as much as they fix, because they are human, just like us. Presidents, Congressmen, Bishops, CEOs — all human.

I think schools (and teachers unions) are some of the most pro-authoritarian institutions in the country. I think the pro-freedom elements in America need to take that and turn it to their advantage. That is the perfect environment to make people appreciate freedom and despise control. We ought to teach adolescents that if they hate being treated like children, if they hate being controlled by an uncaring, illogical bureaucracy, if they hate being led by people who can't find their nose with two hands and a mirror, then they're not going to get to grow out of it. That isn't something you age out of and no longer have to deal with when you're an adult. That's the lot of a 21st century American. There is no better chance to convince people to abhor nannyism and paternalism and overbearing control than then when they are in school.

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