J.G. Machen on Public School, Competition, and Abuses of Educational Monopolies

J.G.MachenFrom Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (Kindle version, location 184):

A public-school system, in itself, is indeed of enormous benefit to the race. But it is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools. A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.

It’s important to note that Machen was not opposed outright to the option of public school. While he does highlight the potential harm that can be done by using public education as a tyrannical instrument for implementing a political ideology, Machen does seem to affirm that private schooling and parental schooling are necessary guardrails to assure competition. Machen did oppose the formation of the Department of Education, but it would be misleading to claim him as an outright opponent of public education.

© 2014, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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