Ideological indoctrination by K-12 schools
doughr at udallas.edu
Tue Mar 30 22:17:05 PST 2004
Anecdotal evidence to support Eugene's point: last year I had four children take standardized exams. At every level, from high school to middle school to primary school, one or more questions were asked about rain forests, recycling, and Martin Luther King. They all realized that if recycling, for instance, was an option, it was the expected answer. Similar examples abound.
"Volokh, Eugene" wrote:
> I appreciate Walter's thoughtful observations on this, but I wonder why his point 2 -- which as I understand it, is intentionally focused not just on "under God" but on the pledge generally -- doesn't condemn government-run schools generally. Government-run schools have long sought to inculcate certain broadly shared values. This has long included patriotism and compliance with the law. In recent decades, it has also included racial tolerance, environmentalism, and a range of other matters. That's the nature of American government-run schools.
> Now it's true that the other matter isn't inculcated quite the same way as the Pledge. But it's still inculcated, and quite effectively. I suspect that many schools both lecture to captive audiences of students about how racism is bad, and ask students questions to which the clearly expected answer is "racism is bad." And I suspect that students feel as psychologically coerced to express support for this orthodoxy, or at least not express opposition, as they are as to saying the Pledge. What's more, the very reasons that people have given for why the Pledge isn't really that effective -- it's rote and routine, and thus not taken very seriously -- may make the other methods of ideological indoctrination even more effective (and thus, to a libertarian conservative, threatening) than the Pledge.
> All this may actually be quite proper. Perhaps schools should try to indoctrinate kids in ideologies, such as racial tolerance, love of country, and the like that seem useful to making society function more effectively, and that seem morally worthy. But in any event, it's the reality of any system of government-run schools that's likely to exist. (I realize that some people have argued in favor of an educational system in which kids are constantly encouraged to challenge and question what they're taught; but I highly doubt that this is indeed so as to many matters in U.S. government-run schools, and I'm also not sure that such a totally open-minded educational approach will work well for most students.)
> Many libertarian conservatives would, I think, prefer that the government stop running schools, for this very reason, and leave the matter to private schools chosen by parents (perhaps with a voucher system under which the government provides the funding but not the message). But once the schools exist, I suspect that for many libertarian conservatives the second-best solution is to let the curriculum, including the values inculcation decisions, be decided by the majoritarian political process. First-best: Let parents decide. Second-best: Let the voters decide. Worst: Let judges, or the educational establishment freed of democratic control, decide.
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