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Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families Hardcover – November, 1994
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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
"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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Top Customer Reviews
One of the author's main points is that the public school system is failing because it is based on a socialist model. The author points out that most everyone agrees that the public school system is not performing well and it is very, very broken. Sheldon Richman argues that people who try to fix the public school system by keeping it as a government school system are doomed to fail.
For me one of the most fascinating parts of the book was when the author took a step back in time and reviewed the bloody history of the middle ages when government and religion were intertwined, and war after war was fought "to save souls." A fundamental problem was that by having a state religion, people felt justified in trying to force other people to believe a certain way. Naturally the minority groups opposed supporting the state religion and being forced to support repugnant beliefs. Sheldon Richman says one of the great breakthroughs in civilization was the separation of church and state. As long as people behaved in a reasonable way, they could believe whatever they wanted to believe. The author makes the analogy that one of the main problems with public (government) schools is that once again the state is forcing people (children) to believe certain beliefs. And sometimes these beliefs are repugnant to the students and the parents.
The author reviewed a number of other problems with the public school system. For example he pointed out that school bureaucracies are not flexible and have little incentive to improve. Another point was public school systems are a one size fits all, which is not good for most children.
The author briefly covers the history of education in America. He provides some of the main arguments other people have put forth against government supported schools. He explores some ideas of how people could get an education without government schools, and how competition might provide some interesting options.
This is a very thoughtful book. There are a number of good insights about the problems of public education. If you are interested in the fundamental question of should government be involved in education, this is a good book to read.
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.
Finally, it's not surprising that Richman doesn't have any original thoughts on education. He's not an educator, he's a writer for a Libertarian think-tank. As such, I should not find it surprising that this book is a rehashing of familiar Libertarian ideas. If you're really interested in the problems of this country's education system, read Gatto, he was a public school teacher for thirty years, and he has very good, credible insights.
PS. The only reason I'm giving this book a second star is for its 20 page appendix that discusses some studies on standardized testing and the relationship between school performance and work performance. It's a good discussion. If the whole book were like it, I might not be so mad I spent fifteen dollars. As it is though, I must recommend emphatically, DON'T BUY THIS.