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    A Child’s Government-Funded Day

    September 6, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    Reading books about early America is extremely helpful for the purpose of comparison. {It’s also a highly enjoyable activity.} We are all born with a certain level of chronological snobbery; we think the world really got going once we arrived on the scene. We also tend to think that the way things are in our life is the way things have always been. As children, we quickly learn that old people are prone to talking about the “good old days,” and we train ourselves to be dismissive of this, to a certain extent.

    But reading history, even in realistic story books like the works of Ralph Moody or Laura Ingalls Wilder, gets us outside of our own time. Because these particular books take place right here in the U.S.A., they have been helpful to me in understanding how dependent our culture has become.

    When I said in my last post that public schools are like socialist training camps because of what the model itself teaches the children, I knew that this was controversial. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make this concept as palatable as possible because I know that it is a difficult medicine to take. When I think about these things out loud on the blog, I want to make it clear that I never mean this as a personal attack. Sometimes, we have to talk about ideals, knowing that all of us will fall short. The fact that ideals are unattainable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all aim to conform to them as best we can.

    Defining our Terms

    It always helps to begin with correct definitions. Socialism, for instance, is an economic system in which the State maintains control. The State will own the land, the means of production {like factories}, the products themselves, the stores in which products are sold, and so on. It is important to fix this idea in our minds for the sake of the discussion: socialism involves government ownership and control. Marx considered socialism to be the in-between step between capitalism and communism.

    Contrasting with socialism is capitalism, an economic system in which the various economic activites are under the control of either private individuals or privately-owned corporations. The American dream of owning your own land is a distinctively capitalistic dream.

    It is also a distributist dream. But I digress.

    Now, these definitions are being set up here for the sake of antithesis. I know that we have a mixed economy. The government already excercises a lot of control here in the States; it is only the making of strides toward outright government which is new. But we need to be able to talk about this clearly, and we need the definitions in their pure forms to do this.

    School in a Free Country

    Before we talk about school today, let’s talk about school in the old days, as experienced by the authors I previously mentioned. In the late 1800s, Laura Ingalls Wilder tells us that school was not compulsory. Frontier families would establish a town school when they were able. These schools were funded by the families in the town. This meant hiring a teacher, which was anyone who could pass the required test {no degrees required}. Ingalls herself began teaching at the age of 16.

    Wilder says that the children walked to school, sometimes many miles. The chidren brought their lunches, unless they lived close enough to walk home for lunch. Schools did not have playgrounds, but the children occasionally brought simple toys with them from home. Families purchased books for their children, meaning that siblings often sat together in order to share the family’s one copy of, for instance, a reader. The families of the school children would take turns boarding the teacher in their homes.

    Music lessons were sometimes organized by the town on a Friday night. They were not a part of the school curriculum, and the townspeople paid for the necessary supplies.

    In the early 1900s, Ralph Moody tells us that school as not really required, but the children could get in trouble for missing or being tardy as far as their teachers were concerned. Boys were allowed out any time they had found a job. Children, again, brought their lunches unless their homes were nearby. Children, again, walked to and from school, or rode their horses if they had a spare. Moody does not really explain how schools were funded, but I am guessing that in his day they were seeing the very beginning of government funding through compulsory taxation, but at the local {city or county} level rather than what we see today, which is mostly state and federal {though our family is lucky enough to pay extra city taxes for the school in our district}.

    Sports for Mr. Moody involved riding in the rodeo. His saddle was given to him by a friend. He worked hard to finance the keeping of his own horse at the age of 10.

    Somewhere Along the Way

    When we look back, we see schools that were underpinned by freedom rather than compulsion. Parents chose to send their children. {Or, they chose not to. In a free country, folks have to be comfortable with other people making bad decisions, with the chance of failure.} Families paid for the schools. Some sources I have read say that the wealthier families and churches paid for poor children when necessary, but I do not know that this was widespread. Families took responsibility for the children getting to school, for the children eating during school, for the children getting home from school. Parents decided if a child was “missing too much school.” And so on.

    These are indications of a free and independent people.

    But somewhere along the way, parents decided they didn’t want to be responsible to get the child to school. I am sure the invention of cars influenced this, but the fact remained that government-funded schools now have their own government-funded transportation system.

    Somewhere along the way, parents decided they didn’t want to be responsible to feed the children during school hours. It was easier to have the school hire a cook and prepare the lunches. Then we decided to discriminate between students and say that wealthy children had to pay one price for the meal, middle class a reduced price, and the poor children would get the meal for free. This, by the way, causes children to be comfortable with a graduated income tax from the outset.

    Somewhere along the way, schools began to provide after-school activities, and then after-school care.

    A Child’s Government-Funded Day

    In our area, a child can have a day that is almost entirely government-funded. This is, of course, an extreme example, but let’s consider it anyhow.

    The child can rise early in the morning, and get on a government-funded bus. He can arrive at his school for before-school care {which is not offered at every single school, but is offered at some schools}. He will be fed a breakfast prepared by a government employee for which he may or may not have to pay a fee. Then, he will head to his government-funded classroom. At recess, he will play on a government-owned playground, or perhaps with a ball paid for with tax dollars. At lunch, he will eat a meal which is, again, prepared by a government employee and for which he may or may not have to pay a fee.

    Depending on the school and its resources, he may be given government-funded music lessons. The school may provide him with an instrument.

    After school, the child does not have to go home to his family. He can be trained in a sport on the government-owned field. His coach may be a government employee, but in all fairness he might also be a volunteer. Other options for this child might be some sort of afternoon government-funded enrichment program {if he is bright} or, alternately, tutoring {if he is not}.

    At the end of his day, he can head home on the government-funded bus. A lot of schools offer a “late bus” for his circumstance.

    All of this will cover ten to twelve hours each weekday, not counting government-assigned homework.

    From a Child’s Perspective

    Because we adults tend to be out in the world and in contact with elements of capitalism, I think we fail to think of this from the child’s perspective. From the child’s point of view, having the government take care of him is not just normal, it is normative. We cannot think that the two-odd hours that the child spends at home distracted by some sort of electronic media or interacting with family will necessarily contradict this lesson he is learning from the model of society in which he is immersed. The school experience is the bulk of the child’s life experience {he spends much more time there than anywhere else}, and that experience is overwhelmingly what teaches the child about culture. Deliberate parents will sometimes be able to contradict these lessons, but it is an uphill battle at best.

    Do we really think it is coincidental that so many Americans are dependent on the government when, as children, that sort of existence is completely normal? This sort of life is not the mark of a culture of freedom and liberty.

    This is Socialism

    When we say that the President wants to “socialize” healthcare, what we are really saying is that he wants the government to be in charge of it. Healthcare is an industry, an industry that the government wants to exercise control over. Likewise, education is an industry {arguing over whether it should be is another post for another day}, an industry over which the government has lots of control over. Carter began the Department of Education and even Ronald Reagan didn’t eliminate it. Bush II was kind enough, through No Child Left Behind, to extend federal power over education in ways never before seen in our country. Obama’s education advisors would love to cut out the local governments or school boards and take over education completely, from preschool to college. Socialism tends to grow, as we can all see.

    What I was trying to point out in my last post is that a person saying they don’t want government-run healthcare on the one hand, and then sending their own child to public school on the other, is a contradiction. Either a person believes the government should run social programs, or they don’t.

    Socialism and capitalism are quite easy to understand. The former involves government control and ownership, the latter private control and ownership. Public education in American is a form of socialism in a textbook-definition sort of way. I believe each family should make their own decisions concerning what their relationship with public education is going to be, but in order to make those decisions well, they need to begin by thinking about the subject rightly. The socialistic qualities of the model need to be acknowledged when making those decisions.

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  • Reply Brandy September 9, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Rachel, Thanks. 😉

    Mrs. Enneking, Welcome to Afterthoughts! We found Withhold Not Correction to be a very helpful book for our family…I hope you like it. 🙂

  • Reply Brandy September 9, 2009 at 11:08 pm


    Yes, what to do about the truly poor is a question I certainly don’t claim to have a complete answer for. However, it sounds like the Catholic church is doing what it can to take care of its own, and I wonder what would happen if every single church did that (offered it free to those in its membership who were in need).

    With that said, I would like to someday study education in early America. My understanding is that the literacy rate was in the high 90s, percentage-wise, and this included slaves. I know a lot of homeschooling advocates will point out that most of the founding fathers were homeschooled (or self-schooled, more like it), but I do think those men were exceptional rather than average. My question is how did the average person end up so well educated in those days? How come slaves back then could read better than a lot of high school grads today? I think there might be a sort of answer, or at least an idea to try, in learning about this.

    I do think that if churches are going to decry socialism because of the religious implications (allegiance to the State and dependence on the State), we must also (1) train our people accordingly and (2) be prepared to take care of the poor in our own areas.

    As far as health care is concerned…I wonder what it would look like if churches hired a staff doctor? Or groups of families? And then anytime he wasn’t needed by the membership he could be assigned to spend his hours continuing his education and helping the local poor. This might be huge as far as inexpensive health care provided at the local level, and in a way that it might rightly called charity.

    Hmmm…you definitely have me thinking.

  • Reply Brandy September 9, 2009 at 4:19 pm


    We have similar setups here in California, most of them classified as charter schools (which is in contrast to the public-school-at-home you mentioned, called Independent Study here). We have a dear friend who is a mentor teacher at one of these charter schools, and to be honest, I think his work is pretty amazing, though I am also guessing that teachers like him are few and far between.

    With that said, my take on such schools is that it depends on which direction the families are moving. For instance, a family moving from a traditional public school into a charter school is moving in the direction of greater freedom and responsibility. A family moving from the complete independence of homeschooling (in which they are buying the books themselves and deciding upon curriculum in autonomy) into the charter schools is moving away from freedom and responsibility. So, hypothetically, two families could be in the same school but be moving in two totally different directions.

    With that said, I also feel the need to extend grace to families who feel driven to charter schools for some reason (like job loss resulting in extreme financial difficulty).

    Christians are to long for freedom, and seek it whenever possible. I think the passage also implies that sometimes, it just isn’t possible, and that is where folks might be trying to make the best of a bad situation.

    I remember when the courts were trying to outlaw homeschooling here. The charter school was where we were going to go until we could sort out a better solution, such as leaving the state.

  • Reply Mrs. Enneking September 9, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Wow! I stumbled upon your blog bc I was doing a little research on Bruce Ray’s book (W/hold Not Correction, a friend recommended it to me), and found your thoughts very insightful. Then I skipped around and read some of your most recent posts. This is probably one of the most thought-provoking blogs I have stumbled upon thus far. Thank you!

  • Reply Kansas Mom September 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Interesting post. I wish there was a way to provide a basic level of education and health care to those children whose parents cannot afford it, especially the working poor, without running the risk of losing control to the federal government. Perhaps seeing what’s happened to the schools is one of the things that makes the thought of government health care turn my stomach.

    In other news, as a Catholic homeschooling family, we have the privilege to fund the public school through our involuntary taxes and the local Catholic schools through our voluntary tithes. (In our diocese, the Catholic schools are free to any Catholic family in the diocese, as long as there’s room at the school.)

  • Reply Rachel R. September 9, 2009 at 1:42 am

    Very clearly articulated, as always. Thank you for this post!

  • Reply Mystie September 8, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    And in Washington State we have a growing number of programs allowing homeschooling families access to government education funds (from $350-$1500 a year) in exchange for a “very little” amount of government employee (teacher) oversight. And homeschoolers here are lining up in droves to make the exchange. I get the feeling from email lists and conversations that this year or very soon, there will be more homeschoolers on the public dole than not. 😐

    These programs are still partially “homeschool,” too (and many won’t even admit the “partial”), and not “public school at home” programs, which we also have available.

    They all claim to just want a little of their own money back. But, it’s not their money anymore; now it’s public money, so they have to be careful how to spend it.

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