Roger Scruton at Right Reason has one of the best discussions of home and private schooling that I've ever come across. In his post he explains the position that I've had but couldn't put into words.

I think it would help the conservative cause to recognize the enduring validity of Hegel’s tri-partite distinction (put forward in the Philosophy of Right), between family, civil society and state, and the contrasting and mutually dependent forms of obligation to which those three spheres give rise. For it is the false dichotomy between family and state that has led to so much of the conflict over education. The third and crucial term has been missing from the debate.

The family is a sphere of affection and duty, governed by obligations that have never been chosen. The state is a structure of command, organised by law, and directed from the centre by legislators and bureaucrats. Between the two lies civil society, which is a system of voluntary association, organised by good will, and directed by local initiatives in which those who have an interest in some outcome are also involved in producing it. Home schooling is an attempt to rescue children from the state and to return them to the family. But it would be sufficient to return them to civil society, in the form of the locally organised private school, where parents play a role and contribute directly to maintaining the teachers who run the operation. ...

Nietzsche pointed out long ago that, in a democracy, state institutions will quickly be colonised by resentment. (He used the French word, ressentiment, in order to emphasize the deep and pre-rational sources of the emotion.) Not able to win people by the normal means of cooperation, concession and mutual respect, the resentful will seek to co-opt the power of the state in order to break down resistance to their punitive goals. In the sphere of education the power of the state is enormous. Legal measures compel parents to educate their children, deprive them of any choice among the schools offered by the state, and impose a curriculum and timetable that transmit the secular and libertine morality best suited to inducing dependency on the state. I don’t say that there is an intention to produce dependency on the state: dependency arises by ‘an invisible hand’, once the egalitarians have succeeded in taking control of the educational network.

Civil society, which flourishes through cooperation, emulation and a forgiving acceptance of talent greater than your own, does not make room for the resentful. Hence, since education is dedicated to achievement, knowledge and the growth of human potential, it should be entrusted to civil society and not to the state. This means that we should encourage the growth of private schools, which will rescue not only the children of the wealthy and the highly educated, but the children of everyone. Home schooling aims to recapture for the family children who had been confiscated by the state. It is, it seems to me, only an interim measure, which must make way, in due course, for the private school. In a flourishing private school children will be protected from state control while gaining valuable social resources from outside the family.

Read the whole thing. I hate public education, but I've never been comfortable with "pure" home schooling; however, I really like the idea of locally controlled private schools that pool the resources of the community for the good of the students -- that's what public schools are supposed to be, and maybe were until Nietzsche's predictions ran their course. I'm not a fan of Nietzsche, but he's got modern bureaucracy nailed.

In the future, when I refer to eliminating the public school system, this is the post I'm going to link to to explain the alternative to my critics. Schools must be taken from the state and returned to the sphere of civil society.

(HT: Max Goss.)

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Michael Williams points to an excellent article on home schooling, government schooling and the State. I'll have more on this tomorrow.... Read More

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