By Dr. Gary North.
For anybody who is on the fringes of American life in any area, and who is serious about what he believes in, the present public school educational system is a threat to him and his children.
Let me give you an example. If a child is enrolled in a tax-funded high school, he will have to take a course in United States history. This course has been basic to the American indoctrination system for over a century. I have talked about this in the past. Beginning in 1911, the most important textbook in American history was released in its first edition. This was by David Saville Muzzey. That textbook dominated American high schools for the next half century. It was nationalistic. It was anti-Christian. It was pro-federal government. It was written by a political liberal who was also a theologically liberal Protestant. He was not a professor in any university. But in some years, his textbook outsold all other American history textbooks combined. I read that textbook in 1958.
THE TEXTBOOK AS A RECRUITING TOOL
As the testing system has become more comprehensive, especially the testing system for getting into a university, the examination systems have been based on textbooks. Whatever is taught in a textbook in a lower division course in the university is supposed to be used as a guideline for writing a high school level textbook. The examination system is tied to the college level textbook. So, the high school level textbook is supposed to enable the better students to pass an Advanced Placement exam or a CLEP exam, thereby gaining college credit.
The college level textbook has two purposes, but one of them is primary. The primary purpose of the college level textbook in any field is to prepare potential candidates who will go into the field as upper division students. The professors need to fill lots of slots of upper division students, because that enables a few of those students to go to graduate school. The higher the level that a student ascends, the more his presence in a classroom counts for meeting the university’s FTE requirement, which is the full-time employment requirement. A graduate student counts for about three times what a lower division student counts for. So, the more graduate students in the department, the more likely the department is going to get its funding for the next year, or even increase it.
The second purpose of a college-level textbook is to gain public support for whatever the field is. The professors want voters to continue to fund state education. They want voters to have an appreciation for the particular department, because they want tax money to fund the department. There is constant competition for the voters’ money, and university professors want to make certain that they are not excluded for the sake of some other special-interest group’s income.
The two goals are somewhat related, because they focus on a particular department. On the other hand, the two goals are in conflict, because the specialized training necessary to enter the next rung on the ladder of academic specialization is in conflict with presenting the best case to the general public, meaning lower division students who will not major in the field, so that they will continue to have respect for the particular academic field. The specialized training that is necessary to move up the ladder of specialization is in conflict with the broad training necessary to gain political support for more educational funding.
The two goals should be balanced. They should be balanced in the lower division classes in college. They should be balanced in the textbooks. But they really aren’t balanced. In most cases, the textbooks and the courses lean in the direction of specialized academic training, which is a form of recruiting into the departments. This is why college-level textbooks are so excruciatingly dull. This affects education all the way down to primary education. It is dull. It is education based on committees of tenured professors.
This system is all about money. More specifically, it is about tax funding. It is bureaucratic to the core, because it is not entrepreneurial. It is based on compulsory tax funding. It is not based on a free market, where parents’ standards and parents’ desires for their children are at the top of the list of goals to be met by the producers. The parents are not in charge. The politicians are in charge, but they delegate almost all of the decision-making to bureaucrats, and the bureaucrats who make the decisions are tenured bureaucrats in the universities. Education is inherently bureaucratic, because the funding is political.
Parents know nothing about this system. PTA members know nothing about it. Voters know nothing about it. This is all part of the massive educational ripoff, which is geared to two things: influencing the way people will vote as adults, and greasing the skids for senior-level bureaucrats in state universities.
Now, let’s get to the famous bottom line. I am designing an American history course for the Ron Paul Curriculum. I will teach this course. Do I want to use a textbook? No. But students do need some kind of textbook-type education, in the sense that they need to know about chronology and key events. I can do this through extracts from Wikipedia, which is a lot better than to doing it by means of a textbook. I can take a Wikipedia article, and then I strip out whatever I think is irrelevant. I add things I think are relevant, but which are not covered in the Wikipedia article. In a summary form, which a student can read in about 30 minutes, a Wikipedia article is better than a textbook. I have some control over the content.
Then I use the 25-minute videos to explain what I think really happened, and what I think is really important. So, there’s a combination of Wikipedia extracts, edited by me, and the video instruction.
I have two goals. I want the student to be able to pass an Advanced Placement exam or a CLEP exam, so that he doesn’t have to spend a year being indoctrinated in a college classroom. Also, the parents will be able to avoid paying for this course in college.
If I teach to the test, I must teach what the bureaucrats want taught. But in teaching American history, I don’t want to teach what the bureaucrats want taught. I specifically want to teach what the bureaucrats in fact are suppressing, beginning with pre-Columbus America.
The same thing is true in economics. A college level economics text is usually Keynesian. At best, it will reflect the monetarism of the Chicago School, or it will be part of the public choice school of economics. None of these college textbooks, with the exception of Mark Skousen’s, is an Austrian School textbook. That is to say, the students will not be taught what economics is really about. This kind of information will be kept from them, and in some cases it will be actively suppressed.
So, if parents want their student to be able to pass an exam that lets him quiz out of a college course, they want some other form of economics taught.
You see the problem. If I concentrate on teaching what I think is true about history and economics, I cannot spend this time teaching to the test.
The compromise that I have developed for the Ron Paul Curriculum is to have cram courses for the CLEP/AP exams. The students have to cram in this information, probably using a used textbook which can be bought for $25 instead of $150. They cram for the test during the summer or as part of an extra credit course during the school term. These cram courses teach to the test. That’s what they’re designed to do. They’re not designed to teach the truth about history, economics, or anything else. They are designed to let the parents get out of having to pay for a year’s course at a college.
In this program, the parent has to pay twice for a course. The student has to study twice for a course. It means that it costs a little more to go through a program like this at the high school level, but the college savings are tremendous. So, the student has to do extra work at the high school level, but by doing this, he relieves some of the pressures that will be put on him in college. Also, it is going to save his parents a pile of money.
Lower division courses in a college are where the indoctrination takes place. Upper division courses are taught on the assumption that the student has already been screened by the lower division course. The indoctrination that is favorable to the bureaucracy has already taken place in lower division. So, in upper division, there is a lot more attention paid to the specifics of the course rather than full-scale, self-conscious indoctrination. Using AP/CLEP exams, the student gets through the system without having to be exposed to the high-intensity indoctrination that takes place at the lower division. Parents reduce the cost of education by about 90% for the first two years. The parents are happy, and the student is under less ideological pressure.
This problem has faced parents for as long as they have sent their children off to school. The school is probably committed to undermining the worldview of the parents. This goes back to the days of Socrates. This is why Aristophanes wrote the comedy, The Clouds, which ridiculed Socrates.
If you take a non-establishment view of almost anything, you have to learn everything twice. You have to learn the establishment’s view, so that you can interact with it and criticize it. You also have to learn the details of the alternative view.
You have to be able to be better than the typical establishment representative, because you are discriminated against from the outset. This is true of students in every course in college.
The younger they are, the more likely that students will be recruited. This is why parents need to put their kids into an educational program that reflects their views, and do so as early as possible. But most parents don’t see this. They have bought into the mythology that has allowed their enemies to take over the public school systems. This is the myth of neutrality. There is no neutrality in anything, and certainly not education. But the bureaucrats who control the educational system in the United States have persuaded parents to believe in the myth of neutrality, and on the basis of this myth, they also persuaded the voters to let them teach whatever they want to the children, and to do so on the public payroll. Money is coerced from parents who believe one set of principles, and is used to fund bureaucrats who reject these principles. They use the classroom to indoctrinate the children in the views of the bureaucrats, which are almost always in favor of state control. They get their money from the state, so they act as shills for the state. They believe in statist education, they believe in statist everything else, because they owe their income to political coercion.
This is why in my classes, I do not teach to the test. This is why I do not use textbooks. This is why the Ron Paul Curriculum does not use textbooks. It saves money for the parents, but far more important, it removes the ideological slant of the textbooks.
How much money does this educational strategy save a family? Anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000. After taxes. Per student. And it also knocks two years off of college for the student. He gets into the labor force two years early.
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