The Great Escape From Government Schools

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Apr 04, 2024 - 03:40 AM

Authored by Jim Bovard via The Libertarian Institute,

After enduring bullshit school shutdowns during the COVID pandemic, many students concluded that school itself must be bullshit and have skipped attending classes. Government bureaucrats are panicking since subsidies are tied to the number of students’ butts in chairs each day. Duke University Professor Katie Rosanbalm lamented that, thanks to the pandemic, "Our relationship with school became optional."

School absences have "exploded" almost everywhere, according to a New York Times report last week. Chronic absenteeism has almost doubled amongst public school students, rising from 15% pre-pandemic to 26% currently. Compulsory attendance laws are getting trampled far and wide.

The New York Times suggested that “something fundamental has shifted in American childhood and the culture of school, in ways that may be long lasting.” Connecticut Education Commissioner Charlene M. Russell-Tucker commented, “There is a sense of: ‘If I don’t show up, would people even miss the fact that I’m not there?'” The arbitrary, counterproductive school shutdowns destroyed the trust that many families had in the government education system.

The New York Times reflected the tizzy afflicting education bureaucrats across the land: “Students can’t learn if they aren’t in school.”

Like hell.

So kids are not enduring daily indoctrination to doubt their own genders? So kids’ heads are not being dunked into the latest social justice buckets of fear, loathing, and guilt? So kids are not being drilled with faulty methods of learning mathematics to satisfy the latest Common Core catechism and vainly try to close the “achievement gap”? A shortage of indoctrination is not the same as a shortfall of education.

More than seventy years ago, University of Chicago President Robert Hutchins aptly observed, “The tremendous waste of time in the American education system must result from the fact that there is so much time to waste.” John Taylor Gatto, New York’s Teacher of the Year of 1991 (according to the New York State Education Department), observed, “Government schooling…kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents.”

My view on school absenteeism is shaped by my dissident tendencies. Government schooling was the most brain deadening experience in my life. Early in elementary school, I relished reading even more than peanut butter. But I was obliged to put down books and listen to teachers, slowing my mental intake by 80% or 90%. By the time I reached fourth grade, my curiosity was fading.

Between my junior and senior years in high school, I lazed away a summer on the payroll of the Virginia Highway Department. I came to recognize that public schools were permeated by the same “Highway Department ethos.” Teachers leaned on badly-written textbooks instead of shovels. Going through the motions and staying awake until quitting time was all that mattered. Learning became equated with drudgery and submission to bored taskmasters with chalk and erasers.

And then came the wooden stakes hammered home in English classes. Devoting two months to dissecting Hamlet made me damn all Danes, courtiers, and psychoanalysts. The week spent on Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” story made me lust to cast all frogs and folksy nineteenth century authors into hell. The six weeks blighted by Paradise Lost convinced me Samuel Johnson was right: “None ever wished it longer than it is.” Old books, rather than sources of wisdom and inspiration, were mental castor oil—something to forcibly imbibe solely to emit the right answers on the exams.

I spent years mentally idling while teachers droned. As long as the government provided a seat in a classroom, it had fulfilled its obligations. There was never any inkling that later in life, I would need to mobilize every iota of talent I might possess. My brain was like the mythical village of Brigadoon. It showed up once every year or two to take a scholastic aptitude test and then vanished into the mists. Teachers chronically noted on my permanent record “not performing up to potential.” Mysteries never cease. As long as I didn’t fail a grade, I slipped under the radar.

I was never a chronic truant until my family moved to a college town just before the start of my senior year in high school. I missed practically as many classes as I attended that year, scampering over to the nearby Virginia Tech campus. I scrupulously avoided going to a notorious bar—only two blocks away—during school hours. Actually, this was more expediency than principle, since the happy hour with 10-cent beer didn’t commence until after the last class finished.

After my class absences reached a certain threshold, I was sent to the school counselor—a  perfectly coifed 30ish guy with an air of rectitude thick enough to cut with a knife.

He asked why I was skipping out, and I said school was mostly bunk. If I could pass classes without enduring Chinese-water-torture monotony, why stick around?

The counselor declared my attitude unacceptable and urged me to “get involved with the student government to try to fix things.” So I should fizzle away my time propping up the equivalent of the Vichy regime in Nazi-occupied France?!? Paul McCartney’s “Band on the Run” line, “Stuck inside these four walls, sent inside forever,” echoed in my head. When misbehaving kids were compelled to stay after school, it was called “detention.” But the entire system was detention, especially for the final year or two.

Boredom vanished from my life almost completely on the day I graduated from high school. My mental vitality surged after I no longer lost the bulk of my days fulfilling “seat time” requirements. Week by week, I began to regain the love of reading that I had lost years earlier.  That made all the difference for my life and writing.

I recognize that many (if not most) of the new chronically absent students are probably putting their free time to good use. But at least teenagers have the chance to discover new books and to awaken their minds in a way that would never occur locked in classrooms. One epiphany is worth a dozen regurgitated exams.

Maybe if politicians ceased treating kids’ minds like disposable resources, more young folks would voluntarily show up for school. But generations of young kids have been sacrificed for whatever fad sweeps political and education activists. The best solution is to enable as many children as possible to exit government schools as soon as possible.