Education: Free and Compulsory By Murray N. Rothbard


What is it about today’s school system that so many find unsatisfactory? Why have so many generations of reformers failed to improve the educational system, and, indeed, caused it to degenerate further and further into an ever declining level of mediocrity?

In this radical and scholarly monograph, out of print for two decades and restored according to the author’s original, Murray N. Rothbard identifies the crucial feature of our educational system that dooms it to fail: at every level, from financing to attendance, the system relies on compulsion instead of voluntary consent.

Certain consequences follow. The curriculum is politicized to reflect the ideological priorities of the regime in power. Standards are continually dumbed down to accommodate the least common denominator. The brightest children are not permitted to achieve their potential, the special- needs of individual children are neglected, and the mid-level learners become little more than cogs in a machine. The teachers themselves are hamstrung by a political apparatus that watches their every move.

Rothbard explores the history of compulsory schooling to show that none of this is accident. The state has long used compulsory schooling, backed by egalitarian ideology, as a means of citizen control. In contrast, a market-based system of schools would adhere to a purely voluntary ethic, financed with private funds, and administered entirely by private enterprise.

An interesting feature of this book is its promotion of individual, or home, schooling, long before the current popularity of the practice.

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  • Jeffrey Tucker

    Education: Free and Compulsory

    Education: Free and Compulsory Murray Rothbard explained the significance of home schooling before it was fashionable. He goes over the history and argues that the ideal educational is private tutorial. I wonder if he is fully right about this, since, after all, one of the main criticisms of home schooling is the reduced opportunities for socialization. I’ve never taken that criticism seriously but it does remain true that there is a strong market demand for group-based schooling, even within the homeschool community. Kick off the discussion! Questions, comments, observations or elaborations? Either reply here or create a new discussion using the tag Library_Education

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