State Education, an Altruistic


State Education, an Altruistic Oxymoron


This article, written by author and blogger Katie Granju, is a very thoughtful defense of school vouchers from a liberal Democratic vantage point. Opinions like this do not conform to the herd mentality, and tend not to be reported in mainstream newspapers, which like to present home-schoolers and those in favor of vouchers as fundamentalist, Aryan Order types.

Actually, it is worse than that; they want to send a message that those who involve themselves in their children's education are criminals who should be imprisoned. Right in the area where I live, attempts to exercise school choice will get you arrested on felony charges, and sent to prison. All for the "crime" of attempting to get a better quality education for your child.

People who can't get their kids into a better school who then opt for home schooling may also face imprisonment.

Even though I am not a parent, I can certainly understand why parents would be willing to face prison. Their children, consigned as they are to dangerous holding facilities promulgating little more than violence and illiteracy, are essentially imprisoned by the educrats. Katie Granju puts it thusly:

.[T]hese policy makers are fighting tooth and nail to protect a system in which less-affluent families are trapped inside the public schools that happen to be closest to their domiciles, no matter how decrepit or even dangerous they may be.

As revealed by the growing body of research indicating that parents who have a choice in where their children go to school and how they are taught are more involved in all areas of their kids' lives, school choice will prove to be an empowering force in the lives of American families. I myself eagerly await the day when I can use some of the money I pay into the public school system to pay for the schools my children actually attend.


I am not a parent, so I am a bit out of my league here. But it strikes me that this is about control, maintaining oppressive bureaucracies, and keeping people down -- all in the name of altruism and "concern for the children."

In ancient times, citizens were considered responsible for their children's education. (Here's a similar link.)

Harsh by modern standards. But how far do we take altruism? In the name of altruism (so often taking the form of "social justice") we imprison parents for trying to educate their children as they see fit. The Romans, while recognizing that benevolence and charity were basically good, did not consider altruism a virtue, and certainly would have been horrified by the way modern man has transformed it into a morbid machine of genocide in the name of building a better world. Certainly, the modern statist idea of gassing children to make the world a better place is more fiendish than the worst cruelties of the ancients, whose slaughter and torture was largely self-aggrandizing, or "egoistic."

In discussing libertarianism with friends, I frequently encounter resistance from those who have had to raise children -- the latter being the most common form of natural altruism. This can lead people to mistakenly think all altruism is good -- or still worse, that our society is a vast kindergarten -- a flock in need of a good shepherd.

This can create a slippery slope. The "nice" idea of "It Takes a Village" ultimately must be accelerated by force, into "It Takes a Gulag".

The ancient Romans, "egoistical" by today's standards, were more balanced in their thinking, and would have seen the folly of this modern triumph of altruism over egoism. (But does that makes all altruism innately bad?)

Spencer saw both sides of human nature as essential and unavoidable:

If we define altruism as being all action which, in the normal course of things, benefits others instead of benefiting self, then from the dawn of life altruism has been no less essential than egoism; for such defect of altruistic acts as causes death of offspring, or inadequate development of them, involves disappearance from future generations of the nature that is not altruistic enough, so decreasing the average egoism. In short, every species is continually purifying itself from the unduly egoistic individuals; while there are being lost to it the unduly altruistic individuals.


Hedonism can, in my view, be unselfish, although I admit to a preference for pragmatism over theory. For some interesting thoughts on the subject, see this:

The Hedonists saw individual happiness as the only good and tended to shun public life as futile or bothersome. Today we still use the term "hedonist" to describe people whose only concern is to have fun and who do not care about their personal or public responsibilities. The other major school were the Stoics who believed that the highest good was to be found in service to the community or in public office and who believed that individual appetites and desires that did not help the public good should be controlled, disciplined, or suppressed. Today we also still use the term "stoic" to refer to people who appear to remain indifferent to their own pain or personal misfortunes.

It would be simplistic in the extreme to characterize hedonism as egoism, or stoicism as altruism, for hedonism can be as unselfish as stoicism can be selfish. Classical Values include systems which compete with each other, and represent different sides of human nature. Out-of-control altruism (with all its mutations, including Nazism, Communism, and fundamentalist bigotry) has brought far too much misery to the world.

History shows that as a "virtue" (particularly an "assisted" one), altruism sucks!

A Classical Value it is not.

Once again, don't throw the Classical "baby" out with the totalitarian "bathwater."

posted by Eric on 06.08.03 at 04:54 PM











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