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Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families Paperback – November 1, 1994

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Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families + Education: Free & Compulsory + The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Future of Freedom Foundation (November 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0964044722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0964044722
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,438,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Yes, that's School & State in the title, not Church & State. Richman pulled his oldest child out of public school and has since seen to all his children's home schooling, or, as he prefers to call it, unschooling. Here he sounds with new vigor the alarm for an old cause--divorcing education and political power. That cause maintains that public schools are coercively financed and administered, regard children as property of the state, undermine parental love and authority, and contradict the entrepreneurial spirit most conducive to economic and social freedom. Richman reargues these positions in the light of the present U.S. predicament, in the process providing, in two chapters worth the book's price, historical summaries of both the proponents and the opponents of public schooling from the late eighteenth century to the present. He concludes with criticism of such current proposed reforms as charter schools and vouchers and with envisioning the benefits of a free market in education and education without schools. This is educational polemics at their most bracing. Ray Olson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"A dynamic new book on compulsory education." -- The Tropical Homeschooler

"A truly engaging book." -- The Michigan Review

"Mr. Richman traces the origins of government schools. The modern concept of compulsory, state-financed schooling arose in 18th-century Prussia. The primary goal was not to educate, but to turn children into pliant citizens who would revere the state.... I also think Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility.... I recommend this book." -- Michael Prowse, London Financial Times 3/13/1995

"Mr. Richman's premise will be a troubling one for many, that state schooling doesn't work because it can't work. He is certainly right. Separating School & State makes it clear that even with the best of intentions, force and compulsion set processes in motion which mutilate family life, replace education with indoctrination, and bring the myth of Procrutes to life. The solutions proposed make such good sense, the 'official' reform crowd should hang its head in shame." -- John Taylor Gatto, New York Teacher of the Year, 1991, and author of Dumbing Us Down

If we needed more proof that government schools are in shambles and that privatization and parental choice are the solutions, this book makes a powerful contribution. It offers both insight and compassionate solutions. -- Walter E. Williams, John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, George Mason University, and popular substitute host for Rush Limbaugh

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Customer Reviews

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This books makes the case fairly well.
After reading Separating School & State, it will be hard to look at public education in America the same way ever again.
Thomas Kearney
Sometimes I lament, because I fear that one day I will forget to remember.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen K. Melonakos on November 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Sheldon Richman presents us with a fascinating story here. Why were public schools first founded? Because people were illiterate? No. Records from colonial times show that literacy rates were higher than they are now in some places. There were all kinds of instructors, schools, schoolmasters, tutors, and self-taught leaders like Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton, at the time of the American Revolution. There was tremendous resistance, well into the 20th century against government-owned, operated, and controlled "free schools." And no wonder. We now have an established school system that manifests all the problems the Founders saw inherent in an established church. The arguments the promoters gave are presented here, and some of then are pretty scary. The goals of the public school founders had more to do with the state's interests, than children's or family's interests. The idea was to indoctrinate children with the morality preferred by "politically correct" officials of the time. Compulsory laws came in when labor unions wanted to keep kids from competing for jobs. The opponents give their side here, too. Like a lot of people, I did not know much about the history of public schools before I started reading books like this one. I have come to agree with this author. This is an excellent argument for freedom of education, and giving control back to families and parents.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Kearney on September 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most of the last three generations of Americans grew up attending public schools, therefore it is unsurprising that so few people question the premise behind it. After all, as Sheldon Richman poinst out in this highly charged book, why is it that we trust the free market to provide us with important things like food and clothing, while we think nothing of permitting education to be a government run enterprise? After reading Separating School & State, it will be hard to look at public education in America the same way ever again.
Richman discusses the origins of public schooling in America, how educators like Horace Mann were influenced by the public schools in Prussia, apparently unaware that the schools there served the function of molding children to be dutiful servants of the state.
My only fault with Separating School & State is that I would like to have seen more discussion about possible free market educational models, but that is probably a book to be written some other day.
Richman's book should be read in tandem with Myron Lieberman's Public Education: An Autopsy. Whereas Richman arouses the passions of those like myself with his take no prisoners approach and his libertarian perspective, Lieberman's prose is much drier as he explains that the public school model is inherently faulty because it is a model that is more concerned with protecting the education providers than in serving the real needs of the education consumers.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Paul B. Dunlap on March 9, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, let me say that I'm a staunch Libertarian. I agree with all of Mr. Richman's ideas, I think American education is in drastic need of reform, and I do not believe in government schooling at all. Having said that, this is a horrible book. Most of it has nothing to do with education per se, but is rather a rehash of all of the classic, broad Libertarian arguments. He talks at great length about how privatizing education will give parents greater choice and control over their children's education, the superiority of the market over government control, yada yada. Yes, these arguments apply to education, but they are not specifically about education. Neither is this interesting writing. Anybody familiar with very basic Libertarian ideas will be bored to tears by this book.

Furthermore, Richman's main sources are "Education: Free and Compulsory," by Rothbard, and various works by Gatto. Half of the book is comprised of quotes from these and a few other sources. The other half is Richman's rephrasing of these quotes. I cannot emphasize enough how little Richman adds to the ideas he presents. The reviews below discuss how Richman talks about the history of education, the comparison of church and school, etc. If these reviewers had read "Free and Compulsory," they would have gotten the same discussion at a much deeper level from a much better author. One reviewer mentioned how the format of school, with children in desks being lectured, is a problem. If they'd read "Dumbing us Down," they'd have gotten a better discussion of that from someone with experience. Now, the two aforementioned books are certainly good works, and if you're interested in education, I'd recommend reading them, but you don't need to read Richman's glorified synopsis.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By eunomius on August 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is by far the best book on the subject. Richman brings forth the full weight of both history and libertarian theory to completely dismantle and ultimately destroy any justification for public education. Even if you already advocate the abolition of government systems of education, there is still much knowledge and insight to be gained from this book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Rod J. on January 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
The very title of this book shocks many. The concept of education being free of governmental influence--or more bluntly, the idea that public schools are a harmful farce that should be eliminated--goes against everything most of us have been told, have accepted, and have grown up with. Yet the case is made, and the evidence is overwhelming.
The historical examination of education in this country is almost worth the purchase alone. What, we haven't always had public schools? What, people resisted public schools early on and had to have their children enrolled almost literally at gunpoint? This sets the stage for the examination of why we have public schools now, where the idea came from, how it works, what's wrong with it, and why it should be abolished. The points are ironclad; in fact, once you see how radically government involvement in the provision of education differs from that of other goods and services--such as health care, financial assistance, and even food--you'll begin to see how education in the U.S. has become the tangled, irrepairable mess that it now is.
The thing which secures the fifth star for this book however, is its raising of another, almost revolutionary thought: that the current day model of education (teacher lecturing to seated students, grading papers, and so on) is part of the problem, and less than ideal. The concept actually fits hand-in-hand with his call for free-market education, as unfettered innovation in the educational field should naturally yield new and better methods of teaching children what they and their parents want to learn.
Five stars for bold, clear presentation of a controversial viewpoint, fresh historical revelations, solid defense of the viewpoint (with rebuttals to key objections), and examination of the idea taken to its logical conclusions.
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