The Great Escape from Government Schools?

The Great Escape from Government Schools?

by James Bovard, April 3, 2024  Reposted on Zero Hedge

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 baronly 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 not 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.


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11 Responses to The Great Escape from Government Schools?

  1. letmepicyou April 3, 2024 at 2:00 pm #

    What I’d like to know, is who thought it’d be a great idea to let the “government” (government, being from 2 Latin words, “governus” (to control) and “mentis” (the mind), in other words, MIND CONTROL) “educate” our children in the first place? And who AGREED with them?

  2. Tom April 3, 2024 at 3:03 pm #

    I have a few good things to say about my experiences in public schools grade 1 through 12 south of Boston starting in 1966.
    Grade 1-3 taught me the basics good enough, reading, writing, arithmetic, phonics. Grade 5 was good because of a great teacher in spelling class. Grade 7 was good because of shop class. Made a rod iron log holder in foundry still being used by my brother today. The rest was a waste of time in my book.

    It was a better time for kids too. Be home by 6 fo supper, kids and dogs ran free and were healthier for it. Church on Sundays.

    Most families were intact with an involved at home mom while the dad worked.

    Mom and Dad put a lot of different things in front of us to see where our interests lay, our aptitude. For me it was that TRS80 from radio shack where I wrote my first program in basic that printed out “Hello World” on an Epson dot matrix.The TRS80 connected to the TV and played “Pong”. I was hooked and have been self taught programmer/engineer on IBM systems for 40 years. Still going strong at 63.

    Companies hired local back then and provided a career path and training, there was a loyalty. You work hard, pound the pavement, apply yourself, things will work out.

    It’s not like that anymore to the detriment of America which in my opinion needs to do an about face.

    • Bob April 3, 2024 at 4:13 pm #

      Very good points. All of them. I’m about the same age, and I keep coming back to the breakup of the nuclear family (women’s lib) as a big factor in the dumbing down of this country. My housewife mother was a farm girl with a high school education, and she knew more about reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary than nearly all of my teachers. Kids were also allowed to be kids back then. I remember kindergarten being fun, learning basic things like colors, letters, numbers. Today, kids have to PASS kindergarten – it’s actually possible to fail it!

  3. Ima Fubar April 3, 2024 at 3:40 pm #

    I’m way ahead of this, I quit a public school in the 50’s and joined a cath school instead. Then I told my mom. She said okay fine. We had both had it with the public school system. It was a world of difference. Made a huge difference in me too. Teachers who cared. Public school teachers catered to the A and B students as they saw them as the leaders of the world and everyone else could always find jobs in factories or where ever.

  4. Steve April 3, 2024 at 4:10 pm #

    Trump can do a great national service by eliminating the Department of Education for starters. (Another Jimmy Carter ‘gift’)

    • Bob April 3, 2024 at 5:17 pm #

      Amen. I’m actually surprised he didn’t during his term. And if he could find a way to eliminate the national teachers unions, that would be even better!

  5. Bob April 3, 2024 at 5:13 pm #

    I taught public school for over 20 years after retiring from the military. In that short time, I used four different textbooks. Each time, the new textbook was dumbed down further than the one it replaced. One was so bad, a few of my fellow teachers refused to throw the old one away, using it instead of the new one. It was written better, was more concise, and the students preferred it far above the one we were supposed to be using. As the years went on, the rigor in the curriculum also declined, demanding less and less of the students. However, I continued to teach material that wasn’t covered in the state testing because I thought the students would benefit from learning it. Even worse, by the time I retired, the purpose of schools shifted more toward providing social services to the kids than actually educating them. Administrators forced all classroom teachers to spend more time on training for mental health, bullying, substance abuse, etc., things that used to be under the purview of parents and reinforced in a health class. The students had to complete computer modules on this training, so teachers couldn’t blow it off and actually teach their subjects. Kids would also be pulled out of classes repeatedly to meet with the school psychologist, and then the parents would complain about low grades. I fought the rot as long as I could, but just couldn’t go any longer and retired as soon as I was eligible.

  6. letmepicyou April 3, 2024 at 6:21 pm #

    The “Department Of Education” became a CABINET POSITION in 1979.
    This allowed our controllers (a certain demographic which, if I mention by name, will automatically reject this comment, despite its truthfulness and irrefutable factuality) to control the curriculum.

    The first act was the removal of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s works such as “200 Years Together” and “The Gulag Archipelago”. The reason for this immediate removal was that the un-namable demographic are the actual wellspring from which communism flows, and Solzhenitsyn’s works made this abundantly clear to the reader.

    What replaced Solzhenitsyn’s works? I’m glad you asked.

    “The Diary of Anne Frank”. A work of discredited fiction.

    I hate to tell you all this…but there is only one way to fix education.
    You must extract a certain demographic from the educational hierarchy.
    This can only be done when you wake up to the fact who you have for a “president” doesn’t matter.
    Who they fill their cabinets with, does.

  7. M Eiford. April 4, 2024 at 1:16 am #

    4 yrs,,,,,never did daily work…..come quarterly test, got an A–F for the daily part,,,plus the A gave me a C—-graduated with a 2.12.
    Graduated in 1961,,,,had we had the internet, I would have learned tons and tons more. Interestingly, in the 3rd grade, my mother taught me to read. Took Abilities test, Fall and Spring in H.S. Each time I scored 99th percentile in Verbal Reasoning, 95th in Math.

  8. Ben Day April 4, 2024 at 9:47 am #

    “I recognize that many (if not most) of the new chronically absent students are probably putting their free time to good use.”

    Is there a “not” missing from this sentence? Either way, excellent column. Disbanding the public schools would represent a tremendous step forward for America.

    • Jim April 4, 2024 at 9:53 am #

      Thanks a lot for catching my glitch. Correcting it now.

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