Chapter: 28


“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”—Mark Twain

“School should provide a structure which will allow the school to fit the child, not the other way round.”—Alexander Sutherland Neill

“Education is learning to use the tools which the race has found indispensable.”—Ernest Carroll Moore 1

This chapter examines individual pursuit of knowledge through self education, the only means of becoming educated. The chapter does not deal with efforts to reform compulsory public schooling. It cannot be reformed precisely because it is compulsory. People learn only what they want to learn, when they want to learn it. While the principles of education are universal, the focus here is primarily America and the United States. Throughout this book there is a distinction made between America as a culture that originated in a quest for greater freedom, and the United States of America, a coercive political institution that has always been and continues to be an impediment to the human quest for freedom.

Homer Hickam seemed destined for a life of labor in a coal mine until the night he saw an orbiting satellite in the sky over his West Virginia home. Inspired by that sight, fourteen-year old Homer decided to build a rocket of his own. He later became a rocket engineer in the U.S. space program. 2

Steven Spielberg, the world famous creator of motion pictures, produced his first movie when he was twelve years old, writing the script, getting siblings and friends to act in it, and filming it himself. Steven continued making movies throughout his years in school.

Sarah Chang at age six

Sarah Chang at age six

Sarah Chang first picked up a violin on her fourth birthday. At age five she was accepted into the Music Division of the renowned Juilliard School. At age eight, she appeared as violin soloist with the New York Philharmonic, on one day’s notice due to illness of the soloist scheduled for that performance. On that occasion, Sarah performed the exceedingly difficult Paganini Violin Concerto number one. When Sarah was ten, EMI issued her Debut recording, to great acclaim. She has become one of the world’s leading concert violinists.

When Laura Deming was eight years old she dreamed of finding ways to alleviate and mitigate the aging process. Laura was home schooled. She never set foot inside a classroom until she was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at age fourteen. Laura won a Thiel Fellowship at age sixteen and left MIT to become an entrepreneur financing biotechnology companies that work on the aging process. Since age nineteen, Laura has participated in financing or founding five such companies. 3

Laura Dekker and her boat

Laura Dekker and her boat

Laura Dekker of New Zealand lived the first five years of her life on a sailboat as her parents sailed the South Pacific. At age eight, Laura dreamed about sailing alone around the world. She achieved her dream at age sixteen, when she became the youngest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe. Laura is earning her way in life with speaking engagements about her trip and other ocean-related activities.

The five young persons mentioned above became successful in life by working at the very thing that interested them the most when they were young. Pursuing one’s own, individual interests is the path to achieving happiness through rewarding work.

* * *


In this chapter the term “young people” refers generally to young human beings of school age. The word children is used to describe the relationship between parents and their children, as in the phrase, “the responsibility of parents to care for their young children.”

* * *

The Schoolboy, by William Blake

I love to rise in a summer morn,

When the birds sing on every tree;

The distant huntsman winds his horn,

And the skylark sings with me:

O what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer morn,

O it drives all joy away!

Under a cruel eye outworn,

The little ones spend the day

In sighing and dismay.

Ah then at times I drooping sit,

And spend many an anxious hour;

Nor in my book can I take delight,

Nor sit in learning’s bower,

Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy

Sit in a cage and sing?

How can a child, when fears annoy,

But droop his tender wing,

And forget his youthful spring!

O father and mother if buds are nipped,

And blossoms blown away;

And if the tender plants are stripped

Of their joy in the springing day,

By sorrow and care’s dismay,

How shall the summer arise in joy,

Or the summer fruits appear?

Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,

Or bless the mellowing year,

When the blasts of winter appear?

[Note: William Blake (1757-1827) is one of England’s most highly regarded artists and poets. He was a good friend of Thomas Paine. The Schoolboy was published in 1794 in a collection of poems entitled Songs of Innocence and Experience.]


The path of a newborn child towards learning and education or oppression and ignorance starts in the minds of parents—before the act of conception. Being mindful of all that it will take to be a responsible parent would be a good first step to success in parenting. However, it seems that many prospective parents are not mindful of the responsibility they will have once a child arrives, at least until they have some experience with a first child’s needs and wishes. Yes, the child’s wishes, because children know from birth what they want.

Parents give up some of their own freedom by becoming parents. That is why some people choose not to be parents. That is a wise decision for those people because only unhappiness for parent and child can result from a parental attitude begrudging the loss of freedom entailed in being a parent.

In addition to nurture, the greatest good parents can do for a child is to avoid discouraging or frustrating a child’s natural curiosity. Humans learn what they want to learn, when they want to learn. Curiosity, exploration, and learning are the essence of education.


In Germany, Martin Luther (1483-1564) advocated compulsory schooling so that all people would be able to read the Bible, a religious innovation that was a centerpiece of Luther’s Protestant Reformation. That policy was made feasible by the new technology of printing from movable type, innovated in Germany by Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468). Printing enabled the production of relatively large quantities of Bibles, and other books. 4

Compulsory, state-supported schooling was introduced in the militaristic German Kingdom of Prussia. The army of Prussia grew very large under Prussian King Frederick the Great (1712-1786) who waged wars of conquest against Prussia’s neighbors. Under King Frederick the Great, the Prussian state spent most of its revenues on its army. It was then said that “Prussia was not a country that possessed an army, but rather an army that possessed a country.” 5

Compulsory schooling in Prussia and in Germany was intended to inculcate absolute obedience to authority. 6 It was in obedience to the authority of Germany’s dictator Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) that German generals ordered troops to wage a war of annihilation against other countries during World War II. After the war some of the German generals were charged with organizing and carrying out the intentional slaughter of millions of noncombatant civilians. Their defense was that they were not guilty of a crime under the laws of Germany because they were only obeying Hitler’s orders.

Horace Mann (1796-1859) went to Germany in 1843, to study public education. He came home impressed by Prussian compulsory schooling. He advocated it in his home state of Massachusetts, which adopted the Prussian system in 1852. From there it spread to every state in the United States.

Teaching literacy was not the purpose of establishing compulsory schooling in the United States. Evidence from nineteenth century America shows that schooling was nearly universal before attendance was required starting in the second half of the century.  By 1840 the literacy rate was 97% in Massachusetts and other northern states of the United States. 7 Rather, Horace Mann said that compulsory schooling was necessary to instill the values of obedience to authority, promptness in attendance, and preparation for future employment. 8

The following characteristics of Prussian schooling became the basis of public schooling in the United States and other countries.

  • It is compulsory and paid for by taxes
  • There is a predetermined curriculum
  • Students sit at desks listening to teachers
  • The school day is divided into several periods for different subjects
  • The periods are punctuated by the ringing of bells


Before compulsory schooling in the U.S. there were schools operated by individual teachers and by churches. There are still, in the second decade of the 21st century, but approximately 76% of young people enrolled in school in the U.S. attend schools operated by cities and towns.

The ostensible purpose of compulsory public schools is teaching young people. However, young people are compelled to go to school even if they are not learning anything there. That many young people learn little or nothing in school is not subject to dispute. 9 That this widespread lack of learning has been going on for a long time appears to be incontestable evidence that teaching is not the paramount purpose of public schools in the United States.

This state of affairs ought not to be blamed on young people. Rather, it should be blamed on the system of compulsory schooling. CTLR posits that the fact that young people in the U.S. generally perform worse on standardized tests than young people in other countries’ compulsory schools is no proof that most young people in those countries have learned anything more than how better to regurgitate on tests what they have been force fed by teachers.

It is apparent that in operation there are two other purposes of compulsory public schools that are paramount. One is to enforce the mandatory attendance laws. That purpose is carried out rigorously by schools, police, courts, and jails that are euphemistically termed juvenile detention facilities. Another real purpose is to provide a custodial service for parents who want to be free of responsibility for their children during the time they are in school.

Mandatory schooling is so deficient in attracting and holding the attention of young people that classroom management is a necessary skill for teachers in elementary and secondary school—a skill that many teachers say is vital to doing their job. This is so because many, if not most of the young people are bored with what goes on in the classroom and don’t want to be there. If young people were free to do what they want, they would be in a classroom only if they believed they were benefiting from the experience. They would not be a captive audience. They would get up and leave if they didn’t like the class or the teacher and were not restrained by force from leaving. That should be obvious to any parent whose child has been unreceptive to lengthy parental admonitions about behavior.

However, young people are not free to get up and leave. If they try, public authority will zealously force them into staying in school or going to school in what amounts to a jail. 10

Andrew Galambos observed that the highest form of education is setting a good example. 11 What kind of example do grownups set for young people by forcing them year after year to sit in  schoolrooms and listen to teachers tell them things they are not interested in? By forcing them to do homework that is valueless? 12 By threatening them with even greater loss of freedom if they do not submit to compulsory schooling?

Why is it that parents who prize their own freedom, send their five-year old children off to begin serving the functional equivalent of a prison sentence of thirteen years, including kindergarten? It is because virtually everybody has come to believe that without compulsory schooling, at age eighteen most young people in the United States would be ignorant, illiterate and incompetent to earn a living. Nothing could be further from the truth, as is shown with example after example in this chapter.

Who is there who would be willing at age eighteen to submit to a similar regimen? To be required under penalty of punishment to go to a specified building five days a week, seven hours a day, thirty-six weeks a year for a term of twelve or thirteen years, there to sit and listen to someone telling them about things that do not interest them?

A highly regarded young professor at Columbia University taught physics and the history of science. He observed that students taking his classes seemed motivated to get the highest grades they could while learning the least possible amount of the subject matter. He attributed that to their schooling before college. He resigned his professorship. He and his wife started a very unusual school for young people, a school with the goal of nurturing and encouraging curiosity. It is Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. The professor and his wife are Daniel and Hannah Greenberg.

School can be a good thing—if attendance is voluntary. Schools and good teachers can facilitate learning, but only the individual can learn. People will learn what they want to learn. Learning cannot be compelled. It is a voluntary, individual activity.

Compulsory schooling has an adverse impact on the curiosity of young people by demanding that they give up their own interests in order to learn what schools and parents want and require them to learn. No lasting learning can occur under such coercion.

For two of the young people mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, Steven Spielberg and Laura Dekker, school and school authorities were an impediment to their achievements.

Steven Spielberg hated school, partly because it took away precious time from his film making.

School authorities and Child Protection authorities tried to stop 14-year old Laura Dekker from carrying out her dream of sailing around the world alone. They caused her nearly a year of misery and delay. 13

NOTE: This chapter takes a critical view of compulsory public schooling. However, it is the institution of compulsory schooling that is the principal subject of criticism herein, not teachers. Many public school teachers do an heroic job every day in creating a positive classroom environment where young people learn because their teacher inspires them. A teacher’s class room may be a haven of safety for a young person from a dysfunctional home or neighborhood. It is not unusual for public school teachers to spend their own money to supply classroom materials that the school itself fails to provide. Some teachers arrive in school early and stay late to provide additional tutoring for students or to move an entire class along in a demanding subject. Some public school principals are effective in making a safe place out of a formerly dangerous school. Some fine teachers move to charter schools in order to be free of the restrictions, negativity and corruption of public school district politics and bureaucracy.


Education is the transference and acquisition of knowledge in the form of rational conclusions together with understanding how those rational conclusions have been established. To be educated in a subject requires understanding its fundamental structure and logical basis.

Learning to read and write is not education; rather reading and writing are skills, like learning to drive a car. The skills of reading and writing facilitate pursuit of education.

Skills are acquired by training. Education cannot be acquired by training. Education is the acquisition of knowledge, of understanding.

NOTE: This chapter distinguishes between schooling and education by positing that schooling means operating or attending a school, while education means acquisition of knowledge. Acquisition of knowledge may occur in a school but is most likely to occur outside of school. That is because education is an individual activity while school is a group activity.

The distinction between education and schooling is significant to human affairs. Galambos observed that there can be no such thing as mass education or universal education, only the attempt to achieve mass schooling and universal schooling by political means. Experience has shown that attempts to get everybody to learn what schools teach is always futile because some people will resist the efforts of others to require them to learn. It is of no use to tell them that it is for their own good.


Andrew Galambos commented that “. . . in a free society education is a market process . . . [that] is handled in the market as a business.” 14 The context of that remark indicates that he meant schooling is a business, because he emphasized that education does not take place in schools. Rather, it is an individual process that occurs in an individual’s quest for knowledge.

Schools offer knowledge and skills training—and can do so as a business. Therefore, school may be defined as the business of selling knowledge and training in the market place.

In the schooling establishment throughout the world there are people who argue that private schools teaching for profit should not be allowed, because that would contaminate the noble ideal of public schooling for all at no charge to those who send their children to school. After all, there are young people who do not want schooling and parents who will not send their children to school if it were strictly voluntary. That is true. Parents can be forced to send their children to compulsory schooling and young people can be forced to go there. However, people cannot be made to learn anything if they do not want to learn. People, younger and older alike, learn only what they want to learn, when they want to.

Without compulsion, young people will decide to go to school when they are ready to do so. When motivated by a desire to learn, a young person could learn in two years or less everything that conventional compulsory schools now offer. Proof of this statement will be offered below.

Parent-funded private schools serving the poor

Galambos’ comment that schooling is a business is illustrated by developments in poor countries in Asia and Africa since he lectured on the subject of education in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 2000, James Tooley discovered the existence of low cost private schools in the slums of Hyderabad, India. Tooley’s further investigations, travels, and study of the literature on such schools revealed the existence of private schools for the poor throughout India, and in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, China, Pakistan, and Nepal, to the extent that it became apparent that such schools for the poor have become a near universal phenomenon in poor countries in Asia and Africa. 15

Author Matt Ridley describes James Tooley’s finding that “in the cramped and sewage-infested slums of Hyderabad [India, there is] an association of five hundred private schools catering to the poor. [In one high school] children of rickshaw-pullers and day laborers paid sixty to a hundred rupees a month [about US$ 1.35 to $2.25], depending on age, for their education. [That school] gave concessions, or even free tuition, to the children of extremely poor and illiterate people.” 16

Tooley found that in and around slums and shanty towns in India and the African countries the majority of schoolchildren were in low cost private schools. In the slums of cities in India up to 80% of children in school were in private, parent-funded schools; in rural areas of India 30% of schoolchildren were in parent-funded schools. These schools were patronized by low income families. The tuitions were affordable to the poor, running less than $2 a month on average, with schools teaching without charge the children of the poorest of the poor whose parents could not afford even to pay so little as $1 a month.

Children at private school in Africa

Children at private school in Africa

NOTE: Professor Tooley comments that the phenomenon of widespread parent-funded schools in poor places in poor countries undercuts a principal argument for compulsory public schooling—that without it children of the poor would grow up ignorant and illiterate.

In poor countries, low cost private schools compete with state schools. Poor parents in large numbers choose to pay for schooling because they are making a rational choice. Over and over again they explained that they preferred to send their children to private schools rather than to the state schools, which provided uniforms, books and even some free food—because in the state schools teachers did not show up, or taught badly when they did.

Even those in the education establishment who oppose private schooling adamantly, concede that state schools in poor countries are characterized by teachers’ chronic absenteeism and woefully deficient academic performance.

Across the developing world, in poor countries the state schooling establishments denigrate private schools that serve the poor. People in the schooling establishments say that private schools serve only the privileged; everyone else needs government schools, especially the poor. Private education for the poor must be of lower quality they say than government schools because teachers in private school that serve the poor generally are low paid and not state certified; parents who patronize private schools are ignoramuses because they don’t know any better.

Testing 24,000 students in such countries showed that the young people in parent-funded schools in poor communities significantly outperformed children in state schools, after controlling for background variables and the school choice process. 17

Officials of non-government organizations say that directing massive international aid to state operated public schools will alleviate all the problems with them that have motivated poor people to abandon them. Extensive and intensive research and experience falsify these ideas, according to Professor Pauline Dixon of Newcastle University in England. She posits that private schools in poor countries are serving the poor quite well as evidenced by testing for academic achievement and noticing parent satisfaction with private schools. Parents who patronize such schools are not stupid; rather, they are making a rational decision in choosing low cost private schools in preference to state schools. 18

Tooley’s research is reported in his book The Beautiful Tree: a personal journey into how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves (2009). The book reads almost like a combination novel and detective story. The very first sentence is “My first real job was as a mathematics teacher in Africa.” It was a two-year stint in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. Tooley went on to become a university professor, specializing in education. Later it was his persistent investigation that led Tooley to the discovery of low-cost, parent-funded private schools in developing countries. That phenomenon has become the focus of his work. 19

Schooling of girls, emancipation of women, and human progress

In Hyderabad, India, Tooley found a profusion of parent-funded, entrepreneur-operated schools. Hyderabad is a city of nearly seven million people in central India with an early 21st century population that is 55% Hindu and 41% Muslim. In Hindu and Muslim neighborhoods alike, girls were being schooled along with boys, without discrimination against them because of being female. One school that Tooley visited was operated by a young Muslim man who was continuing the enterprise at the request of his mother, who was the founder of the school.

The desire to school girls in Muslim communities was observed also by Greg Mortensen, an American mountain climber who became lost in the Himalayas. Mortensen was rescued by villagers in a remote region of Pakistan. In grateful thanks, Mortensen came back to construct a school building for the village, something the people of the villager very badly wanted. Mortensen went on to organize the financing and construction of many more school buildings in Pakistan and Afghanistan, always for people who wanted their girls schooled alongside boys. 20

The equal schooling of girls and boys in poor countries is a development of momentous global consequence. Experience has shown that in backward, densely populated countries, the advent of schooling for girls and women is accompanied by a significant reduction in the birth rate and by eventual higher standards of living. As people in poor countries emancipate and school women, gradually those peoples begin to prosper and escape from poverty. 21

Parent-funded low cost schools in America

Andrew Coulson examined the question whether privately operated schools could improve schooling available to low-income people in the United States. He concluded that it could, basing his findings on a global survey of private school operations and outcomes. 22

Absent interference by the state, via licensing and regulation, such schooling would be financially viable in America, as shown by home school experience. In America, the typical homeschooling household spends only $500 to $600 a year for the schooling of their children. Imagine a totally unregulated environment. That will come about after the inevitable demise of political states.

A teacher could set up in business in America in a modest facility, even the teacher’s home. Teaching materials might cost a few hundred dollars. It seems that in those circumstances the cost per pupil, adjusted for the higher standard of living in America, could be equivalent to third world parent-funded schools.  That would be $25 a week, instead of $2 a week, as median household income in America is about 12x higher than in the third world. For two or more children there could be a typical, businesslike discount per pupil, say 20%. A family with three children could pay $65 or so a week.

As in the cases Tooley found in Hyderabad, the school proprietor could carry at lower cost, or no cost, students from the poorest families.

Private school costs in America run an average of $9,000 per pupil annually. Some are less costly. Some are 3x or 4x as costly. Those prices are a function of the political rule that stifles entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. Everything is more costly here than need be.

Comparing developments in the hotel industry and the taxi industry shows an example of the economies that can be found absent some of the state controls. Airbnb can help one find a place to stay in any expensive city for a significant reduction from hotel costs. Using Uber, one can get a ride for a fraction of the cost of a taxi. Absent all political controls the cost of everything would fall a great deal. Whatever desirable services the state provides could be replaced at far lower cost by private enterprise.


Tax-supported public schools in the United States are not considered to be businesses. However, actually they are, but they are a very peculiar business because they have a virtual legal monopoly. This monopoly exists because most parents do not believe that they can afford an alternative and have believed their whole lives that a no-cost-to-them, state-operated school is a benefit to them and their children.

As in the United States, in poor countries teachers’ unions and governments dislike the competition of parent-funded, entrepreneurially operated schools. That is because compulsory public schooling is itself a business. The Economist magazine observed that “powerful teachers’ unions . . . often see jobs as hereditary sinecures, the state education budget as a revenue stream to be milked and any attempt to monitor the quality of education as an intrusion.” Echoing that attitude, a United Nations official was quoted as saying, “for-profit education should not be allowed in order to safeguard the noble cause of education.” 23

In common with any business, state public schooling is operated for a profit. The profit consists in monies flowing to the compulsory public schooling establishment. Revenues received by the public school establishment in the United States come to over $600 billion a year. 24 On an individual household basis, spending on compulsory public schooling in America each year amounts to around 12% of median annual household income. Most of that money goes to the individuals who operate the schooling establishment: members of boards of education, school administrators, teachers, and teachers’ union officials and staff. Teachers’ union revenues are paid indirectly by the public, via withholding from teachers’ pay. 25

Teachers pay union dues amounting to as much as $1,000 per year. 26 With 3.6 million teachers in the U.S., the revenues from the business of operating teachers’ unions may amount to as much as $3.6 billion a year.

Salaries for people other than teachers take two out of every three dollars of spending on public elementary and secondary schooling. That is over $400 billion a year, nationwide, on all aspects of school administration and operation other than teaching.

Much of this $400 billion is consumed by waste, inefficiency, and corruption. Public school corruption consists of stealing in one form or another, such as nepotism, bribery, graft, and embezzlement. 27

Due to concern about affordability of privately organized schooling, many people may be skeptical, even fearful of the idea of schools as businesses, rather than a function of government. This chapter addresses that concern elsewhere. Suffice it to say here that it appears incontestable that schooling as a business would be far less costly than compulsory public schooling, and that a segment of a school businesses industry could and would find it profitable to provide low-cost schooling affordable to families of modest means.

Compulsory, unionized schooling as it exists in the United States is a uniquely peculiar business. It is peculiar in that teachers cannot be released for incompetence, because of what is called tenure. A teacher can fail to teach, sleep or read a newspaper at his or her desk during class, hand out homework and not examine it once it is turned in. Most of the students may test below grade level on standardized tests—meaning they have learned little or nothing from their teachers. Still, such teachers cannot be released except at prohibitive cost.

The board of education of a school district may control schools that fail for decades to teach anybody much of anything, and not be turned out of office for maladministration. That has been the case in the Washington, DC public schools. It has been happening elsewhere, too. 28 This could happen only because for most parents the business of tax-supported public schooling is a virtual monopoly.

There is a combination of legislators, school boards, administrator and administrative staff, teachers and teachers’ unions, police and the courts that monopolize the teaching of young people and exclude competitors. In any other setting such a combination of suppliers would be considered a cartel. 29

The compulsory schooling cartel wastes a considerable portion of the $400 billion spent on administration, through excessive administration spending, inefficiency, incompetence, and corruption. Some participants in the cartel steal—literally—part of the inflow of tax money and are seldom caught or held accountable if caught.

No commercial cartel could for long get away with what the schooling cartel does.


Private elementary and secondary schools in the United States

In the 2011-2012 academic year, elementary and secondary schools included 76% that were state-run public schools and 24% that were private schools. Of the private schools, 68% were affiliated with organized religions and 32% were non-sectarian. 30

Public Charter schools

Charter schools are public schools authorized by state law and funded by the state, but operated independently of state administration. They have a charter from a state, hence the name charter school.

Charter schools constitute a unique category in being funded by taxes, like public schools, but being operated independently of the state schooling establishment.  Charter schools may not charge tuition, nor may they turn away any applicants for enrollment except by reason of lack of capacity to take in more  students. Charter schools may not require parents to assist in operation of the school, although voluntary parent involvement is permitted.

Charter schools are usually organized by teachers who have left the state-supported public schools. Examples of entrepreneurs among the thousands of charter schools operators are Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin of KIPP, Geoffrey Canada of Harlem’s Promise Academy, Eva Moskowitz of the Success Academies in New York City, and Diane Tavenner of Summit Preparatory Charter High School in Redwood City, California.

Charter schools are almost invariably operated on a not-for-profit basis in order to provide a tax benefit for charitable donors.  Otherwise, the founders and operators of such charter schools have undertaken to operate academic ventures that are entrepreneurial in every way except that the entrepreneurs do not withdraw monies from the venture in the explicit form of profits from operations, do not possess legal ownership of the schools, and could not sell their interest in the schools.

Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, graduates of Ivy League universities, 31 were 25 and 24 years of age, respectively,  in 1994-1995 when they started two KIPP schools in low-income, predominantly racial minority neighborhoods, one in Houston, Texas and another in New York City’s Bronx borough. Their objective was to raise the academic performance of children from low income and minority homes and neighborhoods to a level as high as or higher than that of students from more privileged and affluent homes and neighborhoods. As of 2015 KIPP had 70,000 students in 183 schools nationwide. Nationally, more than 87 percent of KIPP students are from low-income households; 96 percent are African-American or Latino. 32

Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg

Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg

KIPP is organized as a not for profit organization. Its rapid expansion has been enabled by funding from charitable foundations established by wealthy individuals. 33

KIPP schools provide intensive study to bring the young people up to and beyond grade level proficiency, in school days lasting ten hours. KIPP operates in the usual 36-week school year, but in addition students attend three weeks in summer, and one Saturday each month.

The story of KIPP, Feinberg, and Levin is told in the documentary video Waiting for Superman (2010) and a book by journalist Jay Matthews entitled Work Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America (2009).

Geoffrey Canada grew up in the Harlem district of New York City, earned a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and a Master’s degree in education from Harvard University. He returned to Harlem to teach and, eventually, to establish Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) that, inter alia, established three charter schools in a 97-square block area of Harlem, in one of New York City’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

Geoffrey Canada

Geoffrey Canada

HCZ received important funding from a foundation established by a a college friend who admired Geoffrey’s work. 34 The story of HCZ and its schools is told in the documentary video Waiting for Superman (2010) and in the book Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America (2008) by journalist Paul Tough.

Eva Moskowitz taught in New York City’s public schools, was born and raised in Harlem, and was still living there when she was profiled in a documentary video issued in 2009. Ms. Moskowitz opened the first Success Academy school in 2006. As of 2015, Success Academy operated 34 schools serving 11,000 students in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx; 76% of its students were from low-income households; 8.5% were English Language Learners, and 12% were special needs students. About 93% of students were children of color. 35

Diane Tavenner was a teacher for ten years in California public schools. In 2003 she founded Summit Preparatory Charter High School in Redwood City, California. As of 2015 Summit had expanded and was operating eight schools in relatively upscale neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California. 36

Owner-operated private schools in the United States

In the United States, the image of private schools is that they are too expensive for most parents to afford. That need not be so. Examples to the contrary appear below.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy offers teaching on the internet, at no cost to students. It is a not for profit organization founded in California in 2006 by education entrepreneur Salman Khan. 37   The Kahn Academy offers instructional videos, practice exercises and a personalized method that allows learners to study at their own pace. As of 2015, courses include mathematics, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics and more. Khan Academy partners with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, the California Academy of Science, and MIT to offer specialized content. 38

TED Conferences

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a remarkable educational product. It is not a school, but one can learn a great deal from TED Talks, where accomplished people in various fields present short explanations of what they do. TED Talks are almost invariably eighteen minutes or less. TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design.” 39


Psychology professor Peter Gray has observed that children “are naturally curious, naturally playful . . .  Within their first four years or so they learn to walk, run, jump, and climb. They learn to understand and speak the language of the culture into which they are born, and with that they learn to assert their will, argue, amuse, annoy, befriend, and ask questions. They acquire an incredible amount of knowledge about the world around them.” 40

Professor Gray posits that learning by play is the highest form of learning for children and young people from their earliest years right on up to their transition to physical maturity in their teenage years. The natural curiosity and playfulness of children are accompanied by an inborn instinct to learn—an instinct that would continue to operate throughout life, if curiosity were not discouraged and frustrated by the requirements of grownups—sometimes parents, and always by coercive schooling.


Children at play.

The term “compulsory schooling” is a paradoxical oxymoron.

 No one can be compelled to learn. People learn what they want to learn, when they want to. Every attempt to force learning will fail. Certainly, some people will learn how to memorize what they are forced to be tested on. However, information acquired in that way will be soon forgotten. The learning that stays is the learning that an individual is interested in.

No one can be educated about any particular subject if he or she lacks interest in it. If a person is lacking in curiosity about everything, there is nothing that person will learn.

Curiosity is the first step in the acquisition of knowledge. Curiosity leads one to seek knowledge. Therefore, curiosity is a prerequisite for education.

Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) was curious about flying. He and his brother Orville are generally perceived to be co-inventors of the airplane. That is not quite right. Orville helped Wilbur, but Wilbur was the brother with the curiosity that drove a quest to learn about flying.

Wilbur and Orville Wright

Wilbur and Orville Wright

Wilbur was the brother who had the dream of making the first aircraft heavier than air. He and Orville were the first aircraft designers, the first aeronautical engineers and the first to pilot an airplane. They did this because of Wilbur’s curiosity. There was no school to study anything about aviation. Wilbur pursued the knowledge to do it by reading, by observation of the flight of birds soaring effortlessly on the wind, and by the imagination and ingenuity to create a wing that could lift a heavy object into the air and keep it airborne. The Wright Brothers designed the first airplane propellers to move the plane fast enough to generate liftoff into flight. They invented the wind tunnel to test the operation of wings in flight. The Wright’s wings and propeller were innovations. There was never previously anything like them. There were wings and propellers before, but they did not do the job, so the Wrights imagined and created what would. 41


Wright Brothers first flight — lift off.

The Wright Brothers invention of the airplane epitomizes a principal point of this chapter: that education is the product of an individual’s quest for knowledge. No one can educate anyone else. Teachers and role models can inspire and explain, but cannot teach anyone to do anything. People teach themselves. However, what people teach themselves, in a deep way they learn from others, from living in the culture into which they are born.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) seems to have been born with a unique talent for music, needing scarcely any teaching. However, imagine a human with Mozart’s innate abilities born into a family native to the Amazon jungle in the time of Mozart. Humanity would never have heard any music created by such a child of the rain forest. Mozart was innately fitted to absorb the musical culture of his family—his father and talented older sister Marianne being capable musicians—and of his time in Europe.

Most of what is called education in school is really training—to read, to use numbers in basic arithmetic and teaching the methods of solving problems in mathematics. Those are skills useful in pursuing knowledge, but learning them is training, not education, like learning to drive a car rather than inventing the automobile.

Education includes the process of making knowledge available to a new generation of people, without having to replicate existing knowledge and previous discoveries and inventions. Transmitting to successive generations the accumulated knowledge of humanity is an extremely important and vital function of human society.

Humans do not have to rediscover or reinvent everything that has already been discovered and invented. Humanity does not have to reinvent the wheel or writing, reading and numbers in every succeeding generation or rediscover the laws of nature known already.

Knowledge is cumulative. As humans develop knowledge, each new generation has a larger existing knowledge base from which to search for new knowledge. Therefore, the rate of growth and expansion of knowledge has become exponential, which means that it grows in proportion to the amount that is already available. The more that is available, the more it will grow. History corroborates this.

Andrew Galambos claimed that there is no limit to the expansion of knowledge because the more humans discover, the more is revealed about the universe and about life that opens new vistas for knowledge expansion. 42

As Isaac Newton (1642-1727) said after he had made amazing breakthroughs in knowledge and understanding of the physical universe,

“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then by finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” 43

If children are allowed to be children, and encouraged to follow their interests, they will grow up with the qualities and characteristics that compulsory schooling is supposed to inculcate and does not—independence of thought and joy in learning.

That is how Albert Einstein learned, by following his interests. He attended school but his learning was an individual voyage of self-education.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was unique, and gifted with an extraordinary mind. However, other young people can flourish intellectually and spiritually, as did Einstein, by the individual pursuit of knowledge. That is something they are allowed seldom, if ever, to do in compulsory schools.

Albert Einstein commented on schooling in general and his own school experiences, that

“It is nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.” 44 

A physicist writing about the amazing achievements of Albert Einstein as a young man, said about Einstein’s school experience, that

“Einstein was bored by much of the work [in school] . . . He was often unwilling to complete the dull tasks that his teachers assigned. He was particularly offended by . .  . teachers who required their students to learn through exercises and drills. Einstein was often rebellious in [such an] environment . . . He did not attend his classes, choosing instead to study those things that interested him. When he applied to the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, he failed the entrance exams. A year later he applied again, and this time he passed the exams.” 45

Einstein himself wrote about his experience in the Swiss Technical University that

One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind, whether one liked it or not. The coercion had such a deterring effect that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.46

Albert Einstein was speaking about schooling in Germany and Switzerland of his time where, in Germany if not in Switzerland, the overt purpose of schooling was to inculcate absolute obedience to authority, and the mode of teaching was to require rote learning and memorization of information dispensed by teachers. Although the Swiss university that Einstein attended followed the German model of teaching, the Swiss as a people prized independence and had no militaristic ambitions for their nation other than military defense of Swiss independence.

People learn what they want to learn, when they want to

How can young people learn mathematics if they do not study it in school? Very easily and quickly—when they are ready to and want to. The following is from the Frequently Asked Questions page of Sudbury Valley School—a school for young people from pre-school through high school age, where there are no required classes in mathematics or any other subject.

Q         How does this freedom from a prescribed curriculum prepare a young person to go on to college when they will need to achieve a satisfactory score in the SAT? 47

A         If one wants to apply to a college for which SAT scores are required, and not all colleges do, that would be motivation to learn math. A guest came to the school, and he said, “Oh, I knew someone from this school once,” – this person was a teacher – “I tutored him in math. He had graduated from your school and yet he knew very little math and he wanted to take the SATs. But within six weeks, he had learned everything I had to teach him.” 48

Laura Deming 49 had completed first year university level calculus about three months before her twelfth birthday. She did it all by herself with the Saxon series of math books designed for homeschoolers by an unusual math teacher from Oklahoma named Saxon. Laura would read each chapter, do most of the problem series and then do the tests that Saxon provided for homeschooling. At the beginning her father would check her tests, which she self-administered. They were always perfect. He quit after a while when he realized she had worked out a methodology that worked consistently for her.

Laura’s father once asked her why she got up at 5:00 a.m., practiced piano for 90 minutes, then ran upstairs to do math for several hours until breakfast and then read for several hours until an early afternoon lunch. She explained, “if I get all my practicing and studying done early enough, I have the whole afternoon to do anything I want!” 50

Young people cannot be forced to learn in school

Compulsory public schooling does not educate precisely because it is compulsory. The law requires young people to go to a school. The school requires them to attend class every school day. There will be no education in this way. Many of the young people will try to learn what they need to learn in order to pass tests, and many will succeed in that. It is just as likely that after the test is over and done with, those who took the tests will forget much of what they learned, because it was not meaningful to them.

According to the 2009 Indiana University High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), a nationwide survey of high school students in the U.S. found that 49% are bored every day in school, 17% are bored in every class, and only 2% said that they had never been bored in high school. Just 41% said they went to school because of what they learn in class. Of the students who said they had considered dropping out, 50% said it was because they did not like school, 39% said they considered it because they didn’t like the teachers, 42% said they thought of dropping out because they did not see the value in the work they were asked to do. The survey covered responses of 42,000 high school students in 103 schools in 27 states. 51


Compulsory public schooling in the United States requires twelve years of attendance by young people. During those twelve years the young people are supposed to learn what actually they could learn in far, far less time. This is contrary to what teaching should be. According to a successful Russian teacher, “every teacher must try as soon as possible to become unnecessary to the pupil.52

This prolonged  sentence to compulsory attendance at school is a profound and tragic waste of the time and the energy of the young.

It ought to take not much more than two years’ time, in aggregate, to teach everything useful that conventional schools have been taking twelve or thirteen years to do. It is reasonable to posit that in about two years’ time young people could learn basic mathematics, reading and writing, use of dictionaries and libraries, geography, and an introduction to science. In this chapter there is set forth the example of a motivated student who was able to learn in six weeks everything a high school math teacher had to teach him. 53

Young people teach themselves how to read by listening and watching while someone reads to them. It takes very little time, when they are ready. They become ready at different ages, ranging from early childhood to their teens.

Children teach themselves to write as they learn to read, sometimes beginning to practice writing even before they start reading.

The teaching of basic geography could include what a map is for, and the distinction between different kinds of maps, such as political maps, physical maps, street maps, climate maps, resource maps, and star maps of the night sky.

An introduction to science could start with astronomy, looking at the night sky, where human science started. Science teaching would introduce the scientific method, what science has helped humans to accomplish, and furnish examples of using the scientific method. Science is well defined as the search for better explanations. A compelling example of the method of science in action is the explanation of movements of the moon and the planets: what was known already by educated people in ancient Greece about the size and shape of planet earth, the insight of Nicholas Copernicus that the sun, not the earth, was the center around which the planets revolve, and how the explanation of Copernicus was proven gradually by others over a period of 144 years.

All of this could be learned in about two years’ time, more or less, spread out of course over more than two years so children would not have to suffer long school days. Any time more than this is an imposition and burden on children rather than the joy that learning can be. Needless hours, days, and years in school steal the precious time of young people. As Albert Einstein observed, “it is nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.”

Years of compulsory schooling cause a great loss to the society that requires it. The young people of a nation are its greatest resource. It is tragic to waste their time on forced teaching that is not geared to and appropriate to their interests, teaching that will not sink in and be absorbed because children were not yet ready for it.

With time liberated from the waste of compulsory school attendance, young people would be free to explore their interests and expand their capabilities.  The range of possibilities for achievement by the young is touched upon at the very outset of this chapter, and at the end in the Appendix entitled “Youthful Achievement.”


Critical analysis based on the scientific method is one of the few things that formal schooling could teach that most young people are not likely to discover on their own. Schools and colleges generally are not teaching critical analysis, much less emphasizing it.

The ability to do critical analysis rests in a firm grasp of one’s own knowledge of the world, an interest in new knowledge, and an ability to recast it in a form applicable to seemingly unrelated facts, events, and problems.

Elementary and secondary schools have control of much of the time of young people for twelve or thirteen years. Colleges and universities have many young people for an additional four or five years.

Despite all this time that young people are in school, they generally have not been taught the methods of rational and logical thought that are the foundation of human cultural and material progress. Why not? It is because teaching critical thinking skills is not the aim of the schooling and college establishments.

Colleges are not teaching critical analysis, according to many observers. Rather, it appears that over the decades since the Vietnam War era, many college professors and students espouse an orthodoxy of politically correct views that tolerates no dissent.  54

Even some individuals claiming the noble title of scientist appear in their professional activities to have forsaken critical analysis and the scientific method. This phenomenon is addressed in the Appendix to this chapter entitled Critical Thinking and the Scientific Method.


Special talent

Gillian Lynne was eight years old and doing poorly in school. She was disturbing her class; her homework was always late. The school wrote to her parents and said, “We think Gillian has a learning disorder.”

Gillian’s mother took her to a specialist. Gillian waited while the man talked to her mother. After 20 minutes the doctor came to sit next to Gillian, and said, “I’ve listened to all these things your mother’s told me, I need to speak to her privately. Wait here. We’ll be back; we won’t be very long.”

As they went out of the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. Outside his office he said to her mother, “Just stand and watch her.” The minute they left the room, she was on her feet, moving to music from the radio. After they watched for a few minutes he said, “Gillian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.”

Edgar Degas, Prima Ballerina

Edgar Degas, Prima Ballerina

Music Selection:
Tchaikovsky : The Sleeping Beauty Waltz – Kurt Masur and New York Philharmonic

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Gillian remarked years later that the dance school was marvelous; it was full of people like her, people who couldn’t sit still, people who had to move to think. They did ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance. She eventually entered the Royal Ballet School in London. She became a soloist at the Royal Ballet. Later she founded the Gillian Lynne Dance Company, met Andrew Lloyd Webber and choreographed some of the most successful musical theater productions in history. 55

Learning disabilities

In a completely free market for schooling, there would be a demand for schools that help young people with learning disabilities or regularly refer learning disabled students to specialists for help. The compulsory public schools are supposed to do that, but often they do not.

Most learning disability is language related, such as dyslexia. Dyslexic people have trouble reading. That does not mean they lack intelligence. To understand their difficulty, imagine going to school in a foreign country with only the limited ability to read the language slowly, and with difficulty. It would be difficult to understand written assignments and to fulfill them.

With the help of a skilled educational therapist, most language-based learning disabilities can be ameliorated. Digital technology has augmented the ability of language therapy to help a dyslexic, by means of speech-to-text and text-to-speech computer applications. 56

David Boies is dyslexic. His mother would read to him when he was young. He memorized what she said because he could not follow what was on the printed page. He did not begin to read until the third grade and then only with great difficulty. Eventually he was able to go to college and then on to law school, navigating around his reading disability.

In law school, instead of reading the assignments he read summaries of the major cases that would boil down the key points to a page or so. In class at law school he did not take notes. Instead he committed to memory what he heard.

David Boies became an outstanding trial lawyer. He had long since developed the capacity to listen closely and carefully to what other people said, and to remember it. In the courtroom this proved to be a valuable skill. Boies said that learning by listening and asking questions meant that he had to simplify issues to their basics, which turned out to be a powerful tool in the courtroom. 57


Image of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday

Young people can learn to read and write and to use numbers and arithmetic on their own, spontaneously, without much, if any formal schooling. Some of the world’s most well-educated individuals have done that, for example Benjamin Franklin (1707-1790), Thomas Paine (1737-1809), and Michael Faraday (1791-1867). Paine had virtually no schooling. Franklin and Faraday left school after two years.

An obvious objection will appear immediately to some readers—that most young people are not brilliant, like Franklin, Paine, and Faraday. Therefore, without compulsory schooling most people would not learn to read, to write, and to use numbers intelligently. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Reading and writing

Psychology professor Peter Gray and his 3 ½ year old son Scott were looking at a Civil War monument. Scott looked at the words engraved on the monument and then asked his father, “Why would men fight and die to save an onion?” 58

On their own, in the absence of schooling, if children are free of compulsion, if they are free to learn by the experience of play, virtually all of them will learn to read between ages three through fourteen. Learning to read may happen earlier for children in a home where reading is an important part of family culture and where a parent or older sibling reads stories to a child.

Professor Gray states several principles of learning to read without schooling. They are 

  • There is no critical period or best age for learning to read.
  • Motivated children can go from apparent non-reading to fluent reading very quickly.
  • Attempts to push reading can backfire.
  • Children learn to read when reading becomes, to them, a means to some valued end.
  • Reading, like many other skills, is learned socially through shared participation.
  • There is no predictable “course” through which children learn to read.
  • There is no relationship between the age at which young people first learn to read and their involvement with reading later in life.

With the advent of digital communication young people are learning to read earlier, and with even less conscious effort than before, because they are immersed in a culture in which people are communicating regularly with the written word—in computer games, email, social media, cell-phone texting, etc. 59

Some children become interested in writing before reading, and they learn to read as they learn to write. Children start learning to write as early as age one, and generally will be able to do it well by age ten. They do not need school to learn. They can learn at home. 60

Young readers

The reading experiences of Bill Gates and Galen Rowell illustrate that it is a passion to learn, not schooling, that stimulates attainment of good reading skill. 

Computer entrepreneur Bill Gates read the entire 22-volume World Book Encyclopedia set at age eight. 61

Galen Rowell (1941-2002) was a world famous landscape photographer and mountain and rock climber. He learned to read on his own,  was fascinated by geology by age ten, and by age twelve had read the Harvard Book of Geology and knew it front to back. 62

Numbers and arithmetic

Young people don’t have to reinvent math, just like humanity does not have to reinvent the wheel or reinvent handwriting. They are part of our culture. There are numbers involved in daily living, even for little children. Numbers are all around.

It is natural to think in numbers. Children hear and see other children and grownups expressing themselves in numbers. They learn that way. They learn to write numbers like they learn to write letters.

Mathematics is not a path to learning to be curious. It is the other way around. Children are curious about what they are interested in, as are older people. You cannot teach people to be curious about anything that does not interest them. Teaching mathematics beyond basic arithmetic is useless to most people. If a person is not curious about mathematics he or she will not learn it. If they are, they will go as far in learning mathematics as their curiosity takes them. 63

Learning basic arithmetic is like learning reading. Children will take the lead, by asking for help when they want it. Sooner or later they will get curious and ask. Some youngsters like basic arithmetic but lose interest at long division. That is not surprising. Long division is largely useless. 64

Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus are not necessary for most jobs. In life, including the world of work, people do not need mathematics the way it is taught in school, which is abstract and lacking the context of real life problems. Mathematics becomes interesting to individuals when it is useful in their personal lives, such as in their work, in financial decisions or in considering statistical information of interest. 65

Algebra is a huge stumbling block for many people, even though they have talent and skill in other areas. Inability to do algebra causes a significant percentage of the dropouts from high school, and prevents many people from being admitted to college even if they make it through high school. That is a shame because many of those math dropouts could enjoy other subjects in college and university. 66

Inability to do algebra seems to have been a cause of  a thirteen-year old girl taking her own life, discussed below under the heading Homework and the race to nowhere.

Calculus is of no use to most people in their daily lives according to mathematics Professor Arthur Benjamin, in his TED Talk, “Teach statistics not calculus.” 67 In this three minute talk Professor Benjamin says “very few people actually use calculus in their day-to-day lives. However, statistics is a subject that you could use on a daily basis. It is about risk, reward, randomness, understanding data, analyzing trends and predicting the future.”

Schools where young people are free to learn from play and at their own pace

Summerhill School

Summerhill School in England is a democratic community of children and adults in which issues are discussed at school meetings where children are able to listen, think, and contribute to decision making about their own lives. Decisions are made democratically with each student and staff member alike having one vote.

Conflicts and disputes are resolved by the young people themselves, among themselves using procedures adopted in school meetings.

There are many models of democratic schools around the world, from Israel to Japan, from New Zealand and Thailand to the United States. Summerhill School was the first such school.

The school was established in 1921 by Alexander Sutherland (A.S.) Neill (1883-1973). Mr. Neill said that “no one is wise enough or good enough to mold the character of any child.” Therefore, a fundamental principle of Summerhill is that children should not be compelled or pressured to learn or expected to meet standards of any sort.

There is a wide choice of academic subjects available at Summerhill School including those tested on the U.K. General Certificate of Secondary Education examination (GCSE). Passing the GCSE exam is usually necessary to qualify for admission to institutions of higher learning. Summerhill students may take exams early if they wish. Most students take some certification exams before they leave, but they have the option to take none at all.

Experience has shown that Summerhill students have no particular difficulty either in gaining admission to university if that is what they desire, or finding rewarding work after they leave the school or university.

Students decide each day how they will use their time. It may be in play, socializing, solitary reading or daydreaming, self-directed group projects, sports and games, or formal classes. All classes are optional. There is no pressure to conform to adult ideas of growing up. One-to-one lessons can be offered if a child is nervous in the classroom, and for slow or fast learners.

Students have a schedule of classes offered. The schedule of classes is changed from term to term depending on the choices of the students. Students are not required to sign up for any classes or to attend if they signed up. Since children are not captive in the classroom, when they go to class they want to learn. Experience has shown that students sign up for classes when they are ready.

Adults at Summerhill do not create things for the children to do. The young people create things for themselves to do. Sports, games and other amusements are all generated by the pupils and adults.

There is free access to art, woodwork and computers. There are open areas where pupils not in classes can hang out, amuse themselves, socialize, play games, be creative and do anything they wish, subject to the principle that members of the community are free to do as they please, so long as their actions do no harm to others.

A. S. Neill wrote a book about Summerhill entitled Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing (1960). From time of first publication in 1960 until 1973 the book sold three million copies in the United States. In 1992 a revised edition was published by Neil’s daughter and a collaborator under the title Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood. A 1969 translation for West Germany sold over one million copies in three years. It was entitled The Theory and Practice of Anti-Authoritarian Education. 68 

Considering the prevalence and characteristics of compulsory public schooling around the world, Neill’s book may be the most widely read and disregarded book in the history of schooling. 69 However, it seems likely that the book influenced the creators of a remarkable school in America, the Sudbury Valley School.

Sudbury Valley School

In the 1960s, Daniel Greenberg was a highly regarded young professor at Columbia University in New York City where he taught both physics and history, specializing in the history of science. Greenberg left Columbia because he saw many students there who were interested in getting the highest grade possible while learning the least possible. He believed they were that way because that is how they learned to be in school in order to get high grades to qualify themselves for admission to an elite university.

In 1968 Daniel Greenberg and his wife Hannah opened Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. The Greenbergs wanted to create a school environment where learning was important to the students because they were pursuing their own interests. The school operates much like Summerhill School. Students are free to play as often and as long as they like because the philosophy of the school is that young people learn through play.

The school is a democratic community, governed in School Meetings in which each person, students and staff alike has one vote. The school has no traditional classes. There are academics at the school, but they are on a strictly voluntary basis.

As with Summerhill School, Sudbury Valley School’s students have no particular difficulty either in gaining admission to university if that is what they desire, or finding rewarding work after they leave the school or university. 70

As of the second decade of the 21st century there were 22 versions of Sudbury Valley School in America and twelve in other countries. 

Homeschooling: the Colfax family

David and Micki Colfax were both teachers, David a university professor and Micki a high school English teacher. In the late 1960s David became persona non grata in academia due to his outspoken opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Therefore, in 1973, David and Micki gave up teaching and moved to the remote, sparsely populated Anderson Valley of northwestern California. At the time they had three sons, Grant, Drew, and Reed who were ages 8, 5, and 3. Reed was an adopted child. In 1975 they adopted another son, Garth.

Public school in the nearest town, a hamlet of 750 persons, appeared woefully deficient, so David and Micki decided to home school their boys. Other than Grant, none had ever been to school. After the move to California, Grant was never in school again until he was admitted to Harvard University at age eighteen. Drew and Reed never went to school until they, too, entered Harvard. Grant, Drew, and Reed all graduated Harvard. Grant and Drew became physicians and Reed became a lawyer. Garth had interests that drew him to non-academic activities when he became college age.

9780446389860_lNews of the three homeschooled Harvard brothers attracted the attention of the news media. When a reporter asked David and Micki if the boys’ genetic heritage could be a factor in their academic success, they replied that was doubtful given that one of the three, Reed, was adopted and was half African-American.

Because of growing interest in home schooling David and Micki Colfax wrote a book about the home school experience of their family: Homeschooling for Excellence. It became widely read and inspired more families to try home schooling.  71

All four sons helped their parents build a home on a 47-acre, mountain-side parcel of land that lacked water, electricity, or telephone lines. The undertaking was difficult because of the rough terrain, the lack of utilities and the family’s need to do all the construction themselves due to a shortage of assets or income to hire help.

The boys raised sheep, goats, and chickens, and studied about two hours a day. Grant’s sheep were livestock quality show animals that Grant raised to sell. It was his idea to do this, and he persuaded his dubious parents to cooperate with his enterprise. In his early teen years he took care of all aspects of choosing and caring for the breeding animals and marketing their offspring.

The boys each pursued their own interests, learning where their curiosity took them. For example, Drew built his own telescope to pursue his interest in astronomy.

The study curriculum was devised by parents and children, with the boys taking the predominant role in choosing what to study and when to study it. When the younger brothers needed help with their studies, it was usually their older brothers who helped.

Homeschooling: the Robinson family

Arthur B. Robinson earned a B.S. degree in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Robinson was on the faculty of U.C. San Diego as a young man. Art’s wife Laurelee was a scientist herself. They moved with their children to rural Oregon, where they acquired a farm. The Robinsons had six children.

Laurelee Robinson designed a complete home school curriculum for their children, but died suddenly and unexpectedly before she could implement it. Art was in a quandary whether he could find the time to home school the children by himself. He need not have worried. They schooled themselves, using their mother’s curriculum as a guide. 72

All six of the Robinson children were completely home schooled. Each one earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry or mathematics. Among them are four who have earned Ph.D. degrees (chemistry, nuclear physics, and two in veterinary medicine).

Art turned Laurelee’s homeschool curriculum into a business. The curriculum has been used by several hundred thousand families. As of the year 2015 there were 60,000 home school families using it. 73

NOTE: The Colfax and Robinson children had the advantage of educated parents providing an environment for learning. Therefore, one might think that surely they are not examples showing the way to education for young people from impoverished circumstances. Yet they are—because the children were freed of the restrictions and impediments of formal schooling permeated by coercion and compulsion.

Hole-in-the-wall: lighting the spark of learning in India

 Sugata Mitra conceived and performed an experiment in learning by poor and mostly illiterate children. He is a physicist then serving as the science director of NIIT, an educational technology firm in India.  74

Professor Sugata Mitra

Professor Sugata Mitra

Mitra observed that “For every country on Earth, you could draw little circles to say, ‘These are places where good teachers won’t go.’ On top of that, those are the places from where trouble comes. So we have an ironic problem — good teachers don’t want to go to just those places where they’re needed the most.”  75

In 1999, Mitra installed a computer on an outside wall of the building where he worked, facing one of the poorest slums in New Delhi—in a community where most children were unschooled, illiterate, and had never previously seen a computer. Mitra turned the computer on, left it on, and told the children who crowded around that they could play with it. He installed a video camera to record activity around the computer.

Children, mostly between the ages of seven and thirteen, immediately began to explore the computer. Within days, without any instruction from adults, dozens of children were using the computer to play music and games, to draw with Microsoft Paint, and to do many of the other things that children everywhere do when they have access to a computer.

Subsequently, Mitra and his colleagues repeated the experiment in other places in India, rural and urban, and in countries around the world, including Cambodia, England, Italy, South Africa, and elsewhere, always with similar results. Where the computers had Internet connections, children learned how to search the Web. Children who could not read began to learn to do so through their interactions with the computer.

Mitra estimates that for every computer he and his colleagues set up, three hundred children became computer literate within three months of the computer becoming available. He concluded from his experiments “children [in every setting] will learn to do what they want to learn to do.”  76

Children in New Delhi learning and playing on the computer

Children in New Delhi learning and playing on the computer

Famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke viewed videos of Mitra’s experiment and commented, “A teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be . . . [and] if children have interest, then education happens.” 77

Professor Peter Gray observed that Mitra’s experiment illustrates how natural human curiosity, playfulness, and sociability combine in the education of children and young people left free to pursue what interests them. 78


Children learn best through play. If left to their own devices, children will learn on their own all the skills necessary for self education: reading, writing, and using numbers to measure and compare. According to their innate, individual abilities they can learn to dance, to sing, and to play musical instruments at an early age.

Teenagers have mastered computer programming, chess, and all sorts of athletics. Teenagers have flown and designed airplanes. They have created and organized businesses. They have learned to sail a small boat around the world alone. Boys of twelve and eighteen have commanded ships in the U.S. and British navies.

Youthful mathematicians display their mathematical ability at an early age. Some young people have mastered calculus before age twelve.

Not every teenager can do such things. However, all normal teenagers, if left free to be themselves, can attain great skill in that which interests them—in everything from working with their hands in crafts and trades to strictly mental endeavors like playing chess.

By age fourteen, people generally demonstrate a level of competence and judgment about their own welfare equivalent to that of adults. Like all other human characteristics, development of maturity in judgment varies. A teenager may be more mature in judgment than most adults, and some adults may be less mature in judgment than many teenagers. 79

At the end of this chapter there is an Appendix entitled “Youthful Achievement,” providing a selective description of accomplishments by young people from age eight to nineteen.


Parents dissatisfied with the compulsory public school system have alternative choices. One is homeschooling. Many parents believe that homeschooling is impractical for their family due to factors mentioned below. Another alternative is charter schools. However, the availability of charter schools has been restricted due to opposition within the public schooling establishment.

Home schooling

As of 2011 the number of young people being home schooled in the U.S. was 4% of all young people of school age, or about two million compared to the fifty million in public or private schools.

Many parents are dubious about home schooling their children. Such parents may think that they lack the ability to organize and supervise home schooling, or are reluctant to spend the time to do it, or both.

It appears that homeschoolers generally do not need much parental involvement in their studies. They manage quite well on their own to learn what they want to learn, and to perform well academically.

Standardized test data show that those who are homeschooled typically score between the 65th and 89th percentile. Traditionally schooled young people, on average score in the 50th percentile. Among homeschoolers there are no differences in academic achievement between sexes, income levels, or race and ethnicity.

Compared to students who have been schooled traditionally, homeschoolers score significantly higher on tests for college readiness 80 and have higher grade point averages as college students.

Home schooling is inexpensive financially; the average annual schooling expenditure for a homeschooler is $500 to $600, compared to an average expenditure of $12,000 per student, per year, for public schools.

Homeschoolers do not miss out on socialization. They actually tend to be more socially engaged than public school peers.

Homeschoolers generally have no problem getting admitted to college and university. They are actively recruited by prestigious schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University, and Duke University. 81

Charter schools

The term “charter school” originates in the authorization, i.e., the charter, such schools are granted under state law. By 2015, 43 states and the District of Columbia had approved the formation of charter schools and 6,700 public charter schools served about 2.9 million students throughout the United States. 82

Charter schools are providing a positive and alternative experience for the young people they serve. The term “charter school” refers to a school that is paid for out of taxes but is organized and operated by individuals who are not employees of the state or of the school district in which the charter school is located.

Charter schools offer schooling at no cost to students’ parents. There are no requirements or qualifications for admission other than residence in or near the neighborhood where the schools are located.

Almost invariably charter schools hold a lottery to choose among applicants for admission because there are more applicants than facilities available for additional students. The demand for charter schooling exceeds the supply because so many parents want to get their children out of compulsory public schools, and because the number of charter schools has been restricted by political action of state schooling establishments.

Charter schools function differently than state schools in several important ways. Attendance is voluntary, although it satisfies state mandatory schooling laws.

Teachers at charter schools, with rare exceptions, are not represented by a teachers’ union. Therefore, they do not have tenure. They serve at the pleasure of the administrators of the charter school.

The school day and the school year may be longer at charter schools than at state schools. This is because charter schools have undertaken to bring their students’ academic proficiency to a level significantly higher than is generally achieved by young people in state schools.

Charter schools are accountable to parents, because parents can withdraw their young people and take them elsewhere. State schools are accountable to nobody except the governing bureaucracy, which in practice means they are accountable to nobody. Parents of young people in state schools rarely can afford any alternative, except a charter school.

Charter schools are an embarrassment to the state schooling establishment because many of them produce significantly better academic testing results of students, typically at one-third less cost than state schools.

The schooling establishment has opposed charter schools by campaigning against proposed legislation to authorize charter schools, political lobbying with municipalities and boards of education, campaigning for and against school board candidates in elections on the basis of their opposition to or support of charter schools, and litigation to prevent establishment or operation of charter schools. 83 In the state of Washington the state teachers’ union sued to have declared unconstitutional a charter school authorization law that had been adopted by referendum. 84

In three documentary videos, charter school students and their parents say that their teachers care about them; and that the instruction is geared toward teaching rather than handing out work sheets and assignments and expecting the student to shift for himself; and that in charter schools they are safe from the danger of violence by other young people that is common to many inner city public schools. 85

Charter school enrollment

As of the 2013-2014 academic year there were 6,400 public charter schools with a total enrollment of 2.5 million students. The number of public charter schools grew by 226% in the ten years ended 2013-2014. 86 Over the decade charter school enrollment grew faster than any category of elementary and secondary schooling. In comparison, enrollment in public school districts fell by 1% over that decade. 87

Wealthy individuals and charitable foundations have taken an interest in supporting the charter schools mentioned herein, and others as well.

The growth in the number of charter schools has been restricted severely by the political power of the schooling establishment. Of that there cannot be the slightest doubt.

Several charter schools described below typify charter schools generally.

Harlem Children’s zone: Promise Academy charter schools 

Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) operates three Promise Academy charter schools in a 97-square block of Harlem, in one of New York City’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Enrollment in the schools is open to any school age person living in the area. Promise Academy schools are popular with parents. HCZ is a not for profit organization. Its expansion has received significant financing from wealthy individuals and foundations.

New York City: Success Academy Charter Schools

As of 2015, Success Academy operated 34 schools serving 11,000 students in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Across the network, 76% of students are from low-income households; 8.5% are English Language Learners, and 12% are special needs students. About 93% of students are children of color. 88


KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program. In fall 2014, 96% of KIPP students were African-American or Latino. As of 2015 KIPP had 70,000 students in 183 schools nationwide. More than 87 percent of KIPP students are from low-income households.  89

Summit Preparatory Charter High Schools

Established by a former school teacher in 2003, as of 2015 Summit Prep operated eight schools in the San Francisco Bay area of northern California, serving high school age students. 90 Summit schools are public and tuition-free. There are no admission requirements. Summit Prep operates schools in neighborhoods with significantly higher income than that served by most charter schools. Summit Prep, too, must hold lotteries for admission, as it has more applicants than space to accommodate them all, signifying dissatisfaction with the compulsory public schools in the neighborhoods served by Summit Prep. 91


“There is, on the whole, nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school. To begin with, it is a prison. But in some respects more cruel than a prison. In a prison, for instance, you are not forced to read books written by the warders and the governor. . .  In the prison you are not forced to sit listening to turnkeys discoursing without charm or interest on subjects that they don’t understand and don’t care about, and are therefore incapable of making you understand or care about. In a prison they may torture your body; but they do not torture your brains.”—George Bernard Shaw, Misalliance (1910).

Daniel Greenberg, founder of Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts observed that “Children constitute the last remaining class in our society to be the objects of legally sanctioned oppression by others.” 92

Compulsory public schools (CPS) are financed by the proceeds of taxation, which amounts to legalized theft enforced by the explicit threat of violence. Compulsory public schools are populated by young people who are forced to be there and have no choice in the matter unless their parents rescue them in legally accepted ways, that is private school or home schooling.

Standardized tests show that on average the young people in CPS do not perform well in English and mathematics, with average scores well below a minimum level of proficiency.

Why is it that the public and those in the schooling establishment ask what is the matter with young people rather than asking what is wrong with the compulsory public schools?

This chapter posits that if an institution such as CPS is established and administered by coercion, generally it cannot produce good results; that if some young people emerge psychologically undamaged and proficient academically after twelve years of coercive schooling, it is in spite of the schooling, not because of it.

Compulsory school attendance

In every state of the United States, young people are compelled by law to go to school. However, state laws allow attendance at private schools or home schooling by parents as an alternative means of complying with mandatory schooling law.

Young people and their parents have no choice but to comply with compulsory school attendance law or be subject to punishment. School attendance is generally required from age six through age seventeen. Absence from school without excuse is called truancy. A young person who has unexcused absences from school is designated a truant.

Parents are required to assist the state in the enforcement of school attendance by their children.  Under California law, and elsewhere, parental failure to help the state enforce school attendance upon their children is deemed tantamount to child neglect. In at least one state, and probably others, legal custody of a child may be taken from the parents and placed in a state institution if the child is judged a habitual or chronic truant.

The law provides for coercive enforcement of compulsory school attendance—by school authorities, police, judges, and in some states jail (euphemistically called detention). Parents’ failure to compel their children to attend school is made a crime by law. This requirement, too, is enforced by police, judges, and also by jail in many, if not all states.

According to an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Unified School District instituted a program of “ticketing students for truancy. City and school police issued tickets with fines of up to $250 to students who were out on the streets during school hours—including students who were on their way to school. The price was steep for families. Court fees and state fines could push the cost of a ticket up to $1,000, and mandated court appearances meant lost work time for parents and more lost school time for students.” 93

Age requirements, penalties and enforcement methods vary from state to state, but the foregoing is generally true. 94

Schools that resemble prisons

Entering many urban schools is somewhat like entering a prison. The perimeter of the premises is guarded by high fences and locking gates. To enter the school one must pass through metal detectors and the surveillance of a security officer. More than a few schools have a police officer permanently on the premises. The Los Angeles schools employ five hundred school police officers. The young people in school are not allowed to leave the premises during school hours without permission of school authorities. Some of the young people in CPS are a threat to the safety of their schoolmates.

High School Security

High School Security

This has been the condition of many inner city schools in the U.S. for a long time. The situation was dramatized by the motion picture Lean on Me (1989), the true story of how Principal Joe Clark took extreme measures to restore order in a school suffering from violence on campus, broken windows, graffiti, disorder and chaos in the hallways, bathrooms and classrooms. The motion picture was credible because it portrayed conditions much like those well known to exist at many inner city high schools.

Young people at Anacostia high school in Washington, D.C. asked Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia schools, to “make our school look less like a prison. Make our school safe.” 95

School discipline

School discipline is similar to the discipline of prisons and of the military. That school is like prison is proven by the discipline employed against young people in and outside of classrooms.

Discipline is imposed on young people in CPS classrooms to assure that the classroom is free of disruptive behavior of class members. Classroom discipline is necessary to maintain order because otherwise some of the young people would rebel continually against the compulsion and coercion of being in a place they do not want to be and being part of a process they do not want to be involved in.

Teachers practice classroom management techniques. Without adept classroom management a teacher may lose, and never regain control of the classroom. Due to the challenge of classroom management, many teachers say they would not go into teaching if they had to decide again. 96

Detention, suspension from school, and expulsion from school are the methods used in CPS to control the young people who object to being in school or are unruly and recalcitrant. 

The ultimate discipline is expulsion from school. However, an expelled student is nevertheless required to attend school at another location. 


Monopoly and irresponsibility

Compulsory, unionized public schooling as it exists in the United States is a uniquely peculiar business. It is a legally created and legally protected monopoly in which politically powerful teachers’ unions consider their members’ jobs as hereditary sinecures and public schooling taxes as a revenue stream to be milked. This is a universal phenomenon of state-created schooling monopolies around the world. 97 Compulsory state schooling is paid for by theft, euphemistically called taxes, by robbing people of money they have earned. Almost everybody seems to approve of this. A prominent, self-described libertarian, Charles Murray 98 wrote that “K-12 education [is] a public good. . . Everyone who lives in a democracy benefits from . . . education. Therefore, it is appropriate that education be publicly funded, with people contributing to its cost whether or not they have children in school.” 99

People in the schooling establishment are spending other people’s money. They did not earn it. There is a continual inflow of this unearned money. It is an incontestable fact of human behavior that people are far less careful about spending other people’s money than their own.

Because the lawfully appropriated money for compulsory schools provides a never ending source of revenue, those who administer and spend the tax money have very little, if any, incentive to be economical. Actually, their incentive is the opposite—to spend without limit and to ask for more as the size of their enterprise grows.

When the results of all the spending are not good, in terms of performance of students, the establishment says that there must be more money to improve the service they provide.

What private business could demand more money of its customers, and get more, when its performance is not good? Therein lies an essential flaw of tax-supported schooling. It is inherently injurious to young people and their parents, not only providing deficient services, but expensive and wasteful besides.

The compulsory schooling establishment is totally irresponsible to those it is supposed to be serving. Throughout the schooling establishment no one is rewarded for superior performance. There are never consequences for inferior performance.

The schooling cartel prevents the release of incompetent teachers, except at prohibitive cost. Therefore, incompetent school teachers are almost never released.

It is a dishonest establishment—dishonest in that the ostensible basic purpose of public schools is to teach literacy and numeracy. However, in virtually every school district there are students who learn little or nothing. In some school districts most of the students drop out of school by age fifteen having learned nothing; and many are awarded high school diplomas who have completed high school functionally illiterate and innumerate.

The dishonesty starts with elected officials—state legislators, city councils and members of boards of education. These elected officials are beholden to officials of teachers’ unions, yet they are supposed to negotiate terms of employment for teachers.

Gloria Romero is a former majority leader of the California State Senate. Ms. Romero said  of the state capitol in Sacramento that “it is owned” by the California teachers’ union (CTA); that CTA officials “walk around like they’re God.” When she asked Democratic legislators for votes on legislation, “They always wanted to know where’s CTA, because that’s ‘their sugar daddy.’” She says that the CTA has killed or hijacked nearly every school reform bill that has come up in the legislature. 100

According to Steven Malanga 101 an official of a public employees’ union was inadvertently recorded on a TV camera telling a California state legislator, “We helped to get you into office, and we got a good memory. Come November, if you don’t back our program, we’ll get you out of office.” Malanga writes of New Jersey that, “A powerful public education cartel has driven school spending skyward, making Jersey among the nation’s biggest education spenders, even as student achievement lags.” 102

TV journalist Bob Bowdon, a resident of New Jersey, created a remarkable documentary video entitled The Cartel (2009) that analyzes how the compulsory public schooling establishment in New Jersey operates for its own benefit, not for the benefit of young people in the schools. The consequence is mediocre to failing academic outcomes for many New Jersey public school students.

What is true of New Jersey is true by and large across the United States, from New York City to Washington, DC, to Milwaukee, to Los Angeles and nationwide.

Washington Post education reporter Jay Matthews said of the Washington, DC school system, “it’s the worst possible example of public schooling in the United States. Lots of districts have certain things wrong with them. DC has everything wrong with it.” 103

In 2007 the D.C. Board of Education was stripped of its decision-making powers and turned into an advisory body, and the new office of Chancellor was created—so that changes in the public school system could be made without waiting for the approval of the board. Newly elected Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Michelle Rhee as Chancellor.

In her first year on the job, Rhee closed 23 schools, fired 36 principals and cut approximately 121 office jobs. Eventually, she fired 241 teachers who had poor evaluations and put 737 additional school employees on notice. She offered teachers a virtual doubling in salary if they would agree to eliminate tenure from their contracts. The teachers’ union rejected that proposal.

Randi Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers’ union. In a TV interview she said, “this scorched earth debate may actually make some people’s career, may make somebody popular in terms of ‘I’m the change agent,’ but it’s not going to change the schools.” 104

In 2010, Mayor Adrian Fenty was defeated in a reelection bid. After Fenty’s defeat, Michelle Rhee resigned. 105 

A school district’s board of education may control schools that fail for decades to teach anybody much of anything, and yet not be turned out of office for maladministration. 106 This could happen only because for most parents the business of tax-supported public schooling is a virtual monopoly from which they see no recourse.

There is a practical reason for the continuing political power of the schooling monopoly. It is low voter turnout for election of municipal officials and boards of education. With low voter turnout, public employee unions can control an election by spending teachers’ union dues on political campaigns and by reliable block voting of union members.

Teachers’ unions oppose school vouchers and charter schools that give parents a choice to place their children in private schools receiving money from the state. Tax-supported private schools that have no teachers’ union are a direct threat to the unions’ collection of dues from teachers as well as a threat to the state schooling monopoly.

In 1991, Howard Fuller became Superintendent of Public Schools in Milwaukee. That city had just adopted school voucher and charter school programs to provide a choice of schools for young people from impoverished neighborhoods. The teachers’ union opposed vouchers and charter schools. Fuller worked to implement vouchers and charter school authorization.

Fuller was shown a video taken by a student in classrooms of a Milwaukee high school. The video showed crap games being played in the back of one classroom and in another, a teacher reading a newspaper with his feet up on his desk, paying no attention to the students in his classroom. Fuller was told that one teacher put a student’s head in a soiled toilet. Fuller vowed to fire the worst teachers shown in the video. He was told by colleagues that he could not do that. He found out why. Because of the tenure provisions in the teachers’ union contract with the school district, Fuller was forced to rehire those teachers, with a year’s back pay. 107

“‘This whole thing to me is about power,’ said Fuller, who resigned as superintendent in 1995 after an election resulted in a school board with four of the five members backed by the union. ‘And our children are not the primary basis for many decisions.’” 108

The compulsory schooling monopoly is a public cartel operating with the coercive power of the state. The schooling establishment is as much a cartel as any that ever operated in a commercial business to monopolize that business and exclude competitors.

The schooling cartel may be the most successful cartel that ever existed because it is created and operated under political laws that are enforced ultimately by the threat of legalized violence.

The state compels people to pay taxes to finance schools, compels young people to attend  school and requires parents to enforce attendance by their children, all under penalty of punishment for  noncompliance with the law.

The schooling cartel includes state and municipal legislators, school boards, administrators and administrative staff, teachers and teachers’ unions, police and the courts. The cartel monopolizes the teaching of young people. It excludes competitors. In any other setting such a combination of suppliers would be considered a monopolistic cartel.

The cartel wastes a considerable portion of the $400 billion spent annually on school administration, through excessive spending, inefficiency and incompetence. Where competing public charter schools are allowed, they operate at one-third less cost than the cartel’s schools.

There is also widespread corruption whereby some participants in the cartel steal or  misappropriate part of the inflow of tax money and are seldom caught or held accountable if caught.

No commercial cartel could for long get away with what the compulsory schooling cartel does. Competition would see to that.

Teacher tenure and compensation

Teachers’ unions across the United States invariably have negotiated teacher tenure provisions in collective bargaining agreements. An experienced teacher and charter school operator characterized teacher tenure as follows:

Due to tenure . . . if you continue to breathe for two years you’ll get it. Whether or not you can help children is irrelevant. Once you get tenure we cannot get rid of you no matter what you do; you are there for life even it’s proven you’re a lousy teacher.” 109

Education Professor Eric Hanushek has studied public school teacher performance relative to student outcomes. He says that “. . . ineffective teachers are hurting students [and if the U.S.] . . . could eliminate  the bottom 5 to 10 percent of teachers and replace them with average teachers . . . [it] would push the United States near the top of the international rankings in math and science performance.” 110

Throughout the United States, unionized school teachers are paid with no distinction as to the quality of their teaching. The worst teachers are paid the same amount as the best teachers, as required by collective bargaining agreements between schools and teachers’ unions.

Ineffective teachers stay on permanently in unionized, bureaucratically controlled public schools. However, ineffective teachers would not last long in a school completely dependent for existence upon the satisfaction of parents and students.

Any ineffective teacher would be identified promptly and released from the school. At the KIPP charter schools a new teacher whose class is not performing up to KIPP standards could be replaced within a matter of three months if the teacher is unable to perform adequately after counseling and mentoring with experienced KIPP staff. 111

Failure to teach

 According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) , “high school students across California are being assigned to so-called classes, where they are given meaningless credits for sitting at home, in the office, or taking a course they’ve already passed. The schools where this occurs serve almost exclusively low-income students of color.  Although this is not the norm across California, it is all-too common in communities where students can least afford to lose learning time.

“Last year [in 2014], for example, countless students at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles didn’t have a complete schedule more than six weeks into the school year. Others had not been assigned classes that they needed for graduation and were instead assigned to bogus classes with no educational content. Other students were simply sent home early.

“Schools give these so-called classes different names: home, service, work experience. But these are euphemisms that mask an ugly reality: They are fake classes that rob our children of learning time and the opportunity for a real education.”

Following the ACLU involvement in this problem, the California legislature passed and the Governor signed into law a requirement that schools stop the practice described by the ACLU. 112

In Milwaukee, in 1991, a student surreptitiously filmed a teacher sitting at his desk reading a newspaper while students had nothing to do; and in another classroom students were playing the dice game craps at the back of the room while the teacher did nothing about it. 113

Some CPS teachers do their utmost to teach well and to make their classes interesting. Some do not. They do not have to. They have a captive audience and a guaranteed job for life. Consequently, some of the teaching in CPS is boring to students. They would walk out of a boring class or skip the class entirely but for the discipline and punishment that would befall them, as truants, under compulsory schooling laws.

Sometimes students do walk out on boring teachers. The former Chancellor of the Washington, DC school district wrote that

“Students are very serious about wanting to learn from the best. During an unannounced visit to one high school, I noticed that many classrooms were nearly empty. I saw only one that was full, an English class in which the students were actively engaged in discussion. As I left the school an hour later, I noticed that three young men who had been in the English class were leaving as well.

“‘Where are you going?’ I asked one.

“‘We came to school because the first period teacher is a good one, he said. ‘The second one isn’t, so we’re rollin.’” 114

The foregoing anecdotes illustrate a widespread phenomenon in CPS—that teaching badly is tantamount to not teaching at all. Being bored in class is the most common reason given by young people for dropping out of high school. A survey of high school dropouts reports the following as a typical explanation for their dropping out. “High school was boring, nothing I was interested in, the teacher just stood in front of the room and talked and didn’t really involve you; there wasn’t any learning going on; they make you take classes in school that you’re never going to use in life; teachers were not engaged and only care about getting through their day too.” 115

Only the political institution of tenure allows such failure to teach. In schools operating without teacher tenure, such as public charter schools, or private schools, there are no teachers who do not teach.

When anything bizarre is going on in society, one is certain to find politics as the root cause. Teachers who do not teach illustrate this principle. It is a principle observed and confirmed by observation of human societies. Without political action by teachers’ unions and their vassals, boards of education and city councils, there  would be no teachers’ contracts with a job for life guaranteed by tenure, regardless of a teacher’s performance.

Failed schools

Education Professor Robert Balfanz and his colleagues have identified 2,000 “dropout factories”—high schools responsible for half of the students who fail to complete high school in America. 116

According to Armand Fusco, a former public school superintendent and college professor of education, there have been many takeovers of school districts by states and mayors because the school districts were dysfunctional and mismanaged academically, fiscally, or administratively. 117 Dr. Fusco identifies 27 states in which such school takeovers have occurred.

In schools operated in competition with other schools, there would be no dropout factories. Any such school would go out of business were parents to have a choice in schools. 

Dirty and dangerous restrooms

CNN reported in 2011 that one-third of more than 900,000 public school bathrooms in the United States are dirty, unhealthy or unsafe. 118

According to the Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania] Post-Gazette, “In a 1993 poll by USA Weekend, 43 percent of 65,000 public school students surveyed said they avoided restrooms for fear of being bullied, robbed, extorted or attacked.” 119

The New York Times published a report about bathrooms in the largest school district in the United States, leading off with the headline, “Dirty and Broken Bathrooms Make for a Long School Day.” 120

According to the Los Angeles Times, “bathroom safety and hygiene have long been a major issue in the Los Angeles Unified School District,” the second largest in the United States. 121

In Coppell, Texas, a prosperous town of 40,000, the local high school newspaper said, “Walking into one of the school restrooms is similar to walking onto a crime scene: the smell is overwhelming and you always fear what is lingering behind closed doors.” 122

In 2015, the Los Angeles Times published a letter by a high school student about bathrooms at her high school, Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, California. Mira Costa High School is the only public high school in Manhattan Beach, an affluent Los Angeles County town of 35,000 inhabitants and expensive homes. The student’s comments include the following.

“Here at Mira Costa High School, if you even dare to explore the depths of the women’s restrooms you will find a lovely array of clogged toilets, soap-less-soap-dispensers, rusted, hardly-working sinks, forever-out-of-order toilets, walls with the writings of my school’s poets and stalls that are so broken down that they can’t lock, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to find a stall with a door still attached.

“Why is the line in the girls’ bathroom always so long you may ask? HELLO, it’s because in a school of over 1,200 girls, there are only maybe five working toilets. Ever wonder why we always ask to go to the bathroom during class and get so worked up when teachers respond that ‘we should’ve gone at snack?’ It’s because we know that during class is the only time, if we’re lucky, one of the five stalls will be vacant.” 123

Certainly the dirty bathrooms in U.S. public schools are caused by students as well as by inadequate daily maintenance. However, no private school could stay in business if it had dangerous and dirty bathrooms.


Bullying is a problem in public schools where attendance is compulsory. Absent the legal coercion of laws on truancy, a young person who is tormented by bullies could escape them by leaving the school.

Developmental psychologist Peter Gray observed that “most of the hundreds of thousands of [young people who are bullied each year] suffer [bullying] every day and survive. Some may think about killing [themselves] . . . or even fantasize some violent revenge against the whole school. . . Every once in a while, however, in a particularly vulnerable person, the despair or rage or both erupt into violence, either against the self or against the whole school.” 124

Bullying is not a legally acceptable excuse for staying away from school, in the view of school authorities. Yet the bullying can be so painful emotionally that the target of the bullying becomes distraught. That is what happened in the case of thirteen year old April Michelle Himes of Richland, Washington. Due to bullying, April had missed 53 days of school. She had attempted suicide. April’s parents had found her counseling. The bullying did not stop.

April Michelle Himes

April Michelle Himes

School officials were told that bullying was the reason for April’s absences, that kids called her fat, said she stuffed tissues in her bra, threw things at her and pushed her around. Nevertheless, on February 14, 2000, school authorities telephoned April and told her that she would have to return to school or appear before a truancy board, which could send her to a juvenile detention center, i.e., a jail. An hour after that phone call, April hung herself in her bedroom. 125

What private school could stay in business if bullying was prevalent? 

Violence in U.S. Public Schools

Just as some prisoners in a jail or prison constitute a threat to the safety of other prisoners and prison staff, some young people in a compulsory school are a danger to their schoolmates and school staff.  Consequently, there are about 14,000 police officers in public schools in the United States.

In 1988 Time magazine said about Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, that it “. . . was crawling with [drug] pushers, muggers and just about every other species of juvenile thug. Pot smoke blew out of broken windows. Graffiti marred the walls. Doors were damaged. Teachers were afraid to come to work.” 126

The 1989 motion picture Lean on Me, about Eastside High School, begins with a legend stating that it is based on a true story. The opening credits are accompanied by scenes of doors and walls covered with graffiti, vicious fighting in the hallway, students breaking windows, female students assaulting another female student in a bathroom, drug dealing, and a teacher nearly beaten to death when he attempts to break up a fight in the cafeteria.

Another true to life motion picture, The George McKenna Story (1986) portrays the success of Principal George McKenna in combating violence at George Washington High School in Los Angeles, a school that had been one of the most notorious and violent in Los Angeles, replete with gangs, drug dealing and gun fights. 127

These movies mirrored real life in many of the inner city public schools of the United States. Consequently, by the second decade of the 21st century 14,000 police officers, many armed, were deployed on school campuses, sometimes in suburban areas as well as in cities. 128

A national survey reported that in the year 2000, 71% of schools reported at least one incident of violence, and 92% of secondary schools reported at least one incident. There were 1,466,000 reported incidents including rape, sexual battery other than rape, physical attacks or fights with or without weapons, threats of physical attack with or without weapons, and robbery with or without weapons. 129

Absent compulsory attendance, who would go regularly to a school where there was an inevitable and continuing risk of violence? The question answers itself. No one would go. Violence occurs at compulsory schools because victims and perpetrators are confined in close proximity throughout each school day, and because the compulsory schools do not expel dangerous people precisely because they are required by law to be in school.

Corruption: stealing, cheating, deceit, waste and mismanagement

Corruption, waste, and mismanagement plague public school systems throughout the United States, and have since the inception of compulsory schooling in the mid-nineteenth century. The source of corruption, waste, and mismanagement is the large sums of money flowing into school administrations, the control they exercise over spending, and the lack of accountability and financial controls characteristic of bureaucratic administration.

By the early 21st century, $600 billion in yearly revenues was being directed to school administrators. A significant part of the money never gets to teachers and classrooms. Rather, it is consumed by every kind of corrupt practice imaginable including but not limited to stealing, fraud, cheating, deceit, waste, and mismanagement. A few examples must suffice here to illustrate the nature of the pervasive corruption that is rampant throughout public schools in the United States, not in every school district, of course, but in many. For a graphic demonstration, the video documentary The Cartel (2009) provides an insight into the scope and variety of corruption in public school administration.

The New York City school system was long known to be plagued by theft of public money, extortion, political patronage, nepotism, bribery, fraud, and even corruption-related murders and suicides. 130 In 1990 the city established an agency to investigate school corruption, the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) for the New York City Schools (SCI).

The SCI found, inter alia, that selling school jobs for sex or cash was commonplace. One individual paid $10,000 in cash to be appointed Principal of a school. 131 A young lawyer, Lydia G. Segal, later a college Professor, 132 who worked three years for SCI, later wrote a book that in page after page lays out many examples of documented and endemic corrupt practices not only in New York City but in other large city school districts across the United States, including Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Jersey City, and Newark in New Jersey. 133

School-related stealing and waste is seldom discovered because it is almost invariably hidden from public view by a lack of accounting and accountability, lack of financial controls, lack of competition for public schools, and willful disregard of the problem among school administrators, politicians, and academia. Since it is the public’s money that is being stolen, it is really nobody’s money. Therefore, nobody is watching to see that it is spent honestly and wisely.

Ms. Segal states that “most education experts gloss over school corruption records as if they were irrelevant or at best incidental to education reform [despite] evidence [that] suggests that corruption and the education that is delivered are interwoven in many ways.” 134 Segal explains that the most academically beleaguered school districts are among those with the most well documented and serious problems of fraud, waste, and mismanagement. 135

One diligent researcher, Armand A. Fusco, found that out of many tens of thousands of publications—research papers, books, articles, and dissertations pertaining to educational issues over a period of twenty years, only a few dealt with corruption. Fusco attributed this lack of scrutiny to the reluctance of members of the establishment and professors of education to criticize the corrupt institutions that are the source of their salaries, consulting fees and research grants. 136 As master investor Warren Buffett remarked, “He whose bread I eat, his song I sing.”

Dr. Fusco found that corrupt practices exist in school districts large and small throughout the length and breadth of the United States. He classified corruption into three main categories:

  • Fraud and stealing
  • Cheating and deceit
  • Waste and mismanagement

Fusco found examples of fraud and stealing in 39 states, cheating and deceit in 22 states, and waste and mismanagement in 37 states.

In Newport Beach, California, a school finance officer embezzled $3.5 million from his school district before accidental discovery of the theft. In Bessemer, Alabama, a town of 27,000 inhabitants, according to Dr. Fusco “three employees stole thousands of dollars from the [school] system. [Among them was] an employee who wrote checks to herself totaling $130,000, waited for them to clear, and then altered the payee’s name.” 137

According to Dr. Fusco, in order to conceal academic deficiencies, school officials change students’ grades, alter transcripts, arrange to exclude poor performing students from standardized tests, and engage in social promotion—advancing a failing student to the next grade rather than having the student repeat the grade.

Public school administration is characterized by a lack of transparency and accountability that would never be tolerated in free enterprise. In Los Angeles, a new high school, the Belmont Learning Center was being constructed in the 1990s. The project had to be abandoned because the construction site was partly atop an old oil field that emitted methane and gasoline fumes in hazardous concentrations. Mid-level administrators concealed the hazards from the school superintendent and outside consultants hired to oversee the work of construction. $160 million was spent fruitlessly on the project before it was abandoned. 138

A civil grand jury was convened in Los Angeles to investigate fraud, waste and mismanagement in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). An accounting firm hired by the grand jury reported that the LAUSD budget system was almost impenetrable. 139

School districts spend large sums of money buying goods and services from outside contractors. Some, perhaps much of this spending is characterized by collusion, fraud, rigged bidding and bribery. In New Jersey, $30 million was spent on construction of a football field at a Newark inner city high school known for woeful academic performance. The Schools Construction Corporation, a New Jersey state agency, spent billions of dollars that could not be accounted for. Its operation was so scandal-plagued that the state changed the name of the agency to Schools Development Authority. 140

In New York City, a powerful union official was shot dead by professional killers in the course of collective bargaining with the board of education in which private contractors stood to gain or lose millions of dollars. 141

Grading, testing and cheating

In the United States, public and most private schools utilize grading and testing to motivate students to do their schoolwork. Grades do not measure knowledge that will persist through a lifetime; they measure the ability of students to tell teachers and schools what they want to hear, at the time of the test.

A student can achieve a record of perfect grades without having learned much of anything. That is because such students are not studying what interests them; they are studying what is required. To get good grades students must learn to provide the correct answers to questions they did not ask and do not interest them. Lacking personal interest in such studies, students tend to forget quickly whatever they learned in order to pass a test.

Of what good is it for a student to learn a little bit about each of the subjects taught in school? It is of no use. It is pointless to force students to acquire the limited information and shallow understanding to do well on tests. If students study history the way it is taught by most teachers it is unlikely that they will be able to relate historical events to each other in a comprehensible and unified whole that can inform their attitudes about the world throughout their lives.

If students learn mathematics as abstract ideas and problem solving skills unrelated to their lives, they will forget most of what they learned after being tested.

If students learn the grammar and vocabulary of a foreign language without conversing with others in that language, they will find that after all their schooling they are unable to communicate face to face with native speakers of that language.

Human knowledge has become so vast that even specialists in a particular field cannot know everything about it. Rather than learning a little of this and that and then forgetting it, it would be far preferable for young people to become familiar with the way they can use the skills of learning—reading, writing, and the use of numbers and arithmetic—to pursue their own interests. That sort of schooling should take very little time out of the lives of young people, leaving them free actually to pursue their interests.

Grades are not necessarily an indicator of achievement. For example, Laura Deming had no grades at all when she was admitted to MIT at age fourteen. She had been entirely home and self-schooled. 142

Steven Spielberg did poorly in school. His personal interest was in making motion pictures, which he started doing when he was twelve years old. Steven’s mother wrote phony excuses for Steven’s absence from compulsory school, in order to facilitate his movie making. When it was time to go to college Steven was rejected by the UCLA Film School due to his poor high school grades. He did not bother to apply to the USC film school because of its expense. 143

Steven went on to become one of the most highly respected and successful film makers in the history of the motion picture industry in America. Judging from the subject matter of some Spielberg motion pictures he is interested in and well informed about the history of his country and recent world history.

According to developmental psychologist Peter Gray, the U.S. “system of grading and ranking to motivate students seems almost perfectly designed to promote cynicism and cheating. . . Students understandably become convinced that high grades are the be-all and end-all of their schoolwork. . . . [They become] realistically cynical about the idea that school is fundamentally a place for learning. They realize that much of what they are required to do is senseless and that they forget most of what they are tested on shortly after the test . . . [Therefore] it should be no surprise . . . that cheating in schools is rampant. On anonymous questionnaires, approximately 95 percent of students admit to some degree of cheating and roughly 70 percent admit to repeated acts of the most blatant forms of cheating, such as . . . plagiarizing whole papers . . .

“[T]he highest incidences of reported cheating are among the ‘best students,’ the ones aiming for the top colleges . . . who experience the greatest pressure to excel. . . [One former student commented] . . .  ‘I [cheated but] never got caught. Even the valedictorian of my high school was a chronic cheater’ . . .

“Teachers generally don’t look hard to see cheating and often ignore it when they do see it,  because the higher grades, especially on standardized tests, make them look good, too . . . [There are] more and more cases where teachers and principals artificially raise students’ scores as a way of protecting their jobs.” 144

Consequently, professors at even the most elite colleges and universities see that many, if not most of their students, even in the sciences, seem little interested in learning about the highest achievements of human civilization. Rather, they seem motivated to get the highest grades they can while learning the least possible amount of the subject matter. All too many college students appear to be going to college to make money after college, not for the sake of learning itself. 145

Homework and the race to nowhere

The increasing pressure of achieving high grades and high test scores has become injurious to the health and well being of many young people. Risks to health come from rising rates of depression and anxiety, lack of adequate sleep and rest and use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Homework is being assigned in kindergarten. Children as young as six or seven may be burdened with several hours of homework each night. Teachers are under pressure to cover a long list of state-required content. The amount of homework increases as young people move along in school.

In middle school and high school a student may have six different classes per day. Each teacher may assign homework unaware of what other teachers are requiring. By middle school, starting usually around age twelve or thirteen, homework assignments often become so extensive that students find it difficult to get it all done during the week and may end up finishing their homework on weekends or even school holidays.

Homework assignments have nothing to do with students’ individual abilities and aptitudes. Every student in a class will get the same homework assignment. Most students see no value to them in homework. Much of it is busy work in the form of rote learning and filling in worksheets.

The burden and apparent practical uselessness of homework is a factor in some students dropping out of high school.

According to the most definitive, long-term study of homework, there is no evidence at all to justify it, as homework does nothing to improve academic performance. 146

In order to maximize the chance of admission to more prestigious colleges and universities, some young people take demanding advance placement (AP) classes and engage in extracurricular activities such as sports and music lessons—and do enormous amounts of homework. This is the “race to nowhere,” in the words of author and mother Vicki Abeles. It is a race to nowhere because all this pressure and activity leads to more pressure in college while academic success in college may not lead anywhere that is at all satisfying to young people in comparison to their hopes and expectations for life after college.

The insightful title “Race to Nowhere, ” originated by Vicki Abeles, epitomizes the entire tragedy it describes—a tragic waste of the most valuable resource a nation has—its young people.

The pressures on young people to succeed academically interfere with family life. After a day at school they are off to extracurricular activities undertaken not out of love for the activity but to burnish a future college application. From middle school onwards, students go to school seven hours a day, from school to extracurricular activities until dinner time; and then after a scant few minutes of time at dinner with their family, then go their rooms to do homework, often until late at night or even into the early morning hours. 147

Because the pressures to get into a prestigious college are so intense in the early 21st century, many such colleges recommend that young people take a year off from studies between high school and college.

 The pressures of the race to nowhere can cause ill health, nervous breakdowns, and even suicide. Devon Marvin was pursuing the race to nowhere, and successfully, until she was thirteen years of age. Devon was a star student, a talented musician who played classical music, jazz, and popular music on the piano, and violin in the school orchestra. Then, after previously getting straight As in her school grades, she failed a math test, in algebra, getting an “F.”

Devon Marvin

A few days later Devon took her own life. Nobody had ever suspected that this star student and budding musician was so unhappy. Nobody, not teachers or friends or her family had spotted any warning signs. She had been  one of the success stories–one of the young people who seemed to have it all. She had shown no sign previously of unhappiness or depression. The only clue was the failed algebra exam. Previously, Devon had been an ace in math. Devon’s mother said Devon was torn up by the failing grade on the algebra exam. Devon’s death was one of the motivations for creation of the documentary video Race to Nowhere (2009) by Vicki Abeles, a mother of three school age children. 148

Constant homework, grading and testing are damnable—taking away the opportunity of young people to educate themselves by pursuing their own, unique interests,  preempting family time together, stealing precious time from the lives of young people and injuring some of them beyond repair.

Young people are threatened, punished and shamed by bad grades, for not doing homework, for avoiding school when it becomes insufferable to them.

How can all this be explained and understood as anything more than requiring obedience to authority, no matter how utterly irrational?


Many professors at elite universities avoid teaching in favor of research, much of it of little value to anyone but themselves in the publish-or-perish environment of academia. 149 Apparently, the aim of many colleges and universities is to expand administrative, non-teaching staff with much of the money they get from charging the higher and higher tuitions facilitated by federal student loan programs. That is apparent from the way elite colleges and universities have been operating since the United States started to funnel money to them via loans to their students.

Colleges are not teaching critical analysis and the methods of science, according to many observers. Rather, it appears that over the decades since the Vietnam War era, many college professors and students as well espouse an orthodoxy of politically correct views that tolerates no dissent. 150 

Even some individuals claiming the noble title of scientist appear in their professional activities to have forsaken critical analysis and the scientific method. This phenomenon is addressed in the Appendix to this chapter entitled Critical Thinking and the Scientific Method.

There is concern among some professors at colleges and universities that most students are interested only in getting high grades, not the acquisition of knowledge. Former Yale professor William Deresiewicz expressed such concerns about students at elite universities—those that many young people strive to attend. 151 That is not an unusual opinion; it is shared by other professors. 152

In 2006 the U.S. Department of Education published a report that included the following statement: “As other nations rapidly improve their higher education systems, we are disturbed by evidence that the quality of student learning at U.S. colleges and universities is inadequate, and in some cases declining.153 The report was signed by a special commission of 18 members that included seven university professors and three university presidents.

A former President of Harvard University lamented that “colleges and universities accomplish far less for their students than they should; [and  that many students graduate] “without being able to write well enough to satisfy their employers . . . reason clearly or perform competently in analyzing complex, nontechnical problems.” 154

Since the 1950s the cost of attending college and university has risen considerably faster than the consumer price index and the growth in family incomes. This is true for two-year community colleges, four-year state colleges and universities, the most elite private institutions of higher learning, and post-graduate studies. 155

Economics Professor Richard Vedder posited that a dominant factor in the rising demand for what a college or university degree appears to offer is lending assistance largely provided by the federal government; and that this allowed colleges and universities to raise tuition levels in order to take advantage of these new resources. 156

As of the year 2014, loans taken out by students to pay for college expenses amounted to $1.2 trillion. 157  The average college loan debt per borrower was $28,400 in 2014. 158 That was in addition to sizable credit card debt many college students incur. 159

To what purpose, to what end do young people strive so hard for high scholastic grades and accumulate debt into the bargain? To seek a high-paying job? Will working for a living be the consequence of school and college, rather than engaging in an occupation that brings satisfaction and happiness?

Will life after college consist only of getting a job and a car, getting married, getting a house, having children and continual work to pay off college loan debt and a mortgage?

This is likely to be the consequence of years of schooling that prevented and discouraged young people from pursuing their interests—interests that could lead them into work that satisfies them, that helps to make life worth living.

If entry into a licensed profession, such as medicine, is the purpose of striving for high grades in school, the outcome may prove worthwhile. The practice of medicine is a noble profession. However, the price of entry into the medical profession is higher than it ever was in generations gone by. Furthermore, a career in medicine in 21st century America may be so hemmed in by bureaucratic and financial controls as to make it a mockery of the ideals that once inspired young people to enter the profession.

For medical school graduates, student loan debt could be a multiple of a physician’s probable annual income in medical practice. Medical School tuitions may be nearly double that for undergraduate studies.

Medical School goes on for another four years after college graduation. Newly graduated physicians go on to internship, and usually to residency. During that time, another one to four years, a new physician’s expenses exceed income so that debt rather than decreasing, continues to increase, causing total debt that could be a significant multiple of a physician’s earnings after all schooling is done. Physicians are now told by insurance companies or the federal government what services will be paid for, and how much will be paid, making it not worthwhile for new medical school graduates to take up general practice or several specialties that are poorly compensated by third party payment rules. Due to these constraints on the freedom of physicians, they are ever more likely to forego independent practice and choose to work as an employee of a large organization—a hospital or the federal or state and loal government.

The size of college loan debt has become so large that commentators express concern that it will depress the U.S. economy as heavily indebted graduates will have no choice but to defer home buying and curtail spending on consumer goods.  160


In the second decade of the 21st century, the job market for many college graduates is less promising than at any time since the Great Depression. 161

Political coercion is the sole factor accounting for the poor job market for many college graduates. Superficially, the cause is the disparity between the supply of new graduates produced by colleges and universities compared to the supply of new jobs created by American society.

Professor Richard Vedder and his colleague Professor Lowell Gallaway posited a deeper explanation of the phenomenon of high unemployment. Vedder and Galloway observed that high unemployment is a relatively new phenomenon in world history, caused by presumably well-intentioned but counterproductive political laws adopted since the 1920s. These laws force wages and salaries above the level that entrepreneurs can afford to pay while keeping their enterprises afloat amidst the storms of constant economic c and political change. A legislature can enact laws telling employers how much to pay employees and in what form, but no law can force an employer to pay people that way if the employer’s business will incur continual losses doing it. 162

It takes entrepreneurs to create a business. Historically, almost all the growth in new jobs has been from small businesses created by a single entrepreneur or a few entrepreneurs in collaboration. As successful new businesses grow, they need additional people to work in them.

The largest companies in America, taken as a group, are not increasing the number of people working for them. To the contrary, the number of people employed by large companies tends to diminish over time. This is due to several factors, including the difficulty of maintaining growth of a business as it gets larger, competition among large businesses, and the burden of taxation and regulation that drains away profits that could be reinvested in the business to grow it.

The factors of taxation and regulation also impede the formation and growth of new businesses that could provide more employment for college graduates. Without adducing detail for a proposition that could be expanded to book length, suffice it to say here that political regulation of business alone stops many a would be entrepreneur from establishing a new business. Taxation alone drains away so much of the profit of a successful new business that its rate of growth is diminished significantly.

Furthermore, as noted above, college loan debt has become a factor depressing economic activity in the United States, and thereby depressing the rate of job creation by businesses old and new.


Noted investor Charles T. (Charlie) Munger once said, “All I want to know is where I am going to die, and I won’t go there.” As of January 2016 he had succeeded, celebrating his 92nd birthday on January 1, 2016.

Parents who are frustrated and repelled by the compulsory, coercive school their children attend could follow Charlie Munger’s plan. Take them out. Better still for parents of very young children, don’t put them in coercive school in the first place.

This chapter explores alternatives to coercive schooling, including a private, non-coercive school whose proprietors eschew the race to nowhere. There are a few such schools in existence in America, prominently Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts and another twenty or so modeled on it.

If there are no such schools available in a convenient location, start one. That is what Daniel and Hannah Greenberg did. Daniel left academia to start the Sudbury Valley School with the help of his wife Hannah.

Home schooling is an alternative. Organizing home schooling for one’s children is not as difficult as it sounds. There are home schooling curricula available. Art Robinson has sold his wife’s home school curriculum to several hundred thousand families. See the discussion of the Robinson Family home school experience above in this chapter.

With the input of their children, David and Micki Colfax developed a home school curriculum that enabled their four sons to learn the skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic/mathematics and then to use those skills and their innate curiosity to pursue education.

The stories of the Colfax and Robinson families show that home schooled children actually educate themselves. Parents can lend a hand, but generally should stay out of the way, letting their children explore where their curiosity and interest take them. That self-education by children themselves will occur is the message of that most excellent book by Professor Peter Gray, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (2013).

For a family with two working parents home schooling will present a choice of reduced household income vs. increased freedom and happiness for their children and for themselves. Life is full of choices for everybody. All that CTLR can say that may be helpful in considering the choice of home school vs. lower household income is to repeat two maxims. The first is by Yogi Berra: when you come to a fork in the road, take it. The second is time honored: where there is the will there is a way.

There is also a way out of burdensome college expenses and heavy debts to pay those expenses. There are choices about college. One is not to go at all. That is the choice made by noted entrepreneur Steve Jobs. His adoptive parents had promised his birth parents they would send him to college. After almost less time than it takes to tell, Steve Jobs decided that he did not want to burden his adoptive parents with college expense. One can read about it in the biography of Jobs by Walter Isaacson, or hear Jobs tell about it himself in a commencement address at Stanford University available on YouTube.

If young people decide that college is for them, and parents are willing to help, to avoid college expense debt, they can choose the least expensive college available. Although that may sound like a choice to sacrifice quality for the sake of low price, just the contrary is true. The lowest cost state colleges and universities may provide a better learning environment than more prestigious institutions, for the following reasons. Professors in such places actually want to teach rather than do research. Often, they are more available and responsive to students than faculty at more prestigious institutions. The quality of the course material available may be just as extensive as most students will ever want or need.

For example, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, themselves college professors, report that as of the year 2010, in Florida’s state colleges and universities a four-year bachelor’s degree program was available for a total of around $15,000 in tuition expense–for the entire four years. 163 In California in 2012, the total price of four years of college tuition was around twenty thousand dollars. In both Florida and California the first and second years would be at a community college; the third and fourth years would be at a four-year state college or university. In Florida, Hacker and Dreifus specified Florida Atlantic University as a place for the final two years. In California it could be any one of the twenty institutions in the California State University system. 164

Hacker and Dreifus assert that one “. . . can get a very good liberal arts degree on [such] campuses . . . [T]he students are as bright and academically committed as any . . . and the regional professors are among the most dedicated we’ve met.” 165

Young people can work part time to help pay their way through college. It will take longer that way to complete the credits for graduation, and the prestige of a lower cost college will also be lower than others. That is just another example of the tradeoffs that occur throughout life.

The benefit of such choices is to avoid college loan debt and to avoid draining parents’ savings that they will need for their retirement years.


Critical analysis rests in an individual’s own knowledge of the world, an interest in new knowledge, and an ability to recast it in a form applicable to seemingly unrelated phenomena or problems.

The claim that there is human-caused global warming is an appropriate subject for use of critical analysis. The hypothesis of human-caused global warming can be called, also, anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the term used herein.

AGW is referred to herein as a hypothesis, rather than a theory. A hypothesis sets out an idea that is not yet proven. In science, every new idea begins as an unproven hypothesis. When the hypothesis is proven it is called a theory.

An example of an idea that was originally a hypothesis and later became a corroborated theory is the idea advanced by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), in his famous book, The Revolution of the Heavenly Orbs (1543).  The idea of Copernicus was that the sun, not the earth, is at the center of a system consisting of the sun and the planets, including earth, that revolve around the sun. That system is known now as the solar system because of the idea of Copernicus placing the sun at the center of the aggregation of sun and the planets.

Copernicus’ idea was based on observations of his own and of predecessors known to him, going back to ancient Greece. Those observations were the first of four steps in the method of science. The second step was the hypothesis of Copernicus that the sun, not the earth, is at the center of the paths traveled by planets. That was not an easy step. It took years of pondering and mathematical calculation by Copernicus. The idea of Copernicus overthrew the previous understanding that earth was at the center of a system consisting of the sun, the moon, and the planets that were all thought to revolve around the earth. The third step was extrapolation—that is prediction—of the movements of the planets. The fourth step was observation to test for the accuracy of the prediction.

The fourth step, the observational and mathematical corroboration of Copernicus took place over a period of 144 years, from the publication of the ideas of Copernicus in 1543 until the publication of the ideas of Isaac Newton in 1687. Each step in the proof was based on prior steps. Those prior steps included the excellent astronomical observations of Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), the laws of planetary motion propounded by Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), astronomical observations of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), and then the complete mathematical proof by Isaac Newton (1642-1727) in work culminating in publication of his Principia Mathematica (1687).

It was an exceedingly difficult task for Newton to prove that Copernicus was right. Newton had understood that in a deep way, as a young man in 1665-1666, his year of wondrous scientific discoveries. However, Newton did not then publish a proof. When asked to do so by Edmund Halley in 1684, Newton commenced three years of incessant labor to develop mathematical proof of the Copernican theory. He published his proof in 1687 in the most celebrated book in the history of human science, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, or Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in the original Latin, commonly referred to as Principia. 166

The Copernican hypothesis met with fierce opposition. Because it seemed inconsistent with human experience on earth, it was not widely believed for a long time, as time is measured in the short-term outlook of most humans. Only after nearly five centuries of advances in science and technology could humans see a photograph of earth taken from so far away that its roundness was incontestable. Yet in the early 21st century the idea of a flat earth  persists among a small group of people calling themselves The Flat Earth Society.


Planet Earth seen from space

Long before Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, the most educated humans understood that the earth was spherical and not flat, knew the approximate size of planet earth, and that the earth, its moon and other planets were all moving in relation to each other. The etymology of the word planet is from ancient Greek and Latin words for wandering, referring to the apparent movement of the planets in contrast to the stars that were thought to be fixed and immovable.

The hypothesis of Copernicus did not prove itself. As observed by Jacob Bronowski in his television series and book, The Ascent of Man (1973), at page 211, the Copernican hypothesis in and of itself, “. . . does not explain how the earth can fly around the sun once a year, or spin on its own axis once a day, and we not fly off.”

Only with the knowledge accumulated from the time of Copernicus onward did humans come to have satisfactory explanations for the seemingly erratic travels of planets visible at night, the phases of the moon, and humans living on the opposite side of earth without falling off into space.

Scientific investigation is the search for better explanations, a useful insight developed by physicist David Deutsch in his brilliant book The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World (2011).

The ideas of Kepler and Newton were better explanations of planetary motion than the original theory of Copernicus. The better explanations did not falsify the ideas of Copernicus; rather they deepened and improved them.

These better explanations were the product of critical analysis using the scientific method.

Critical analysis can test the idea that humans are causing the warming of planet earth, known as anthropogenic global warming (AGW). The scientific method is the tool of that critical analysis.

Advocates of the AGW hypothesis should be able to explain why the hypothesis is consistent with observational experience that appears to invalidate it.

The AGW hypothesis is that human burning of fossil fuels is increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere of earth; that the increased atmospheric concentration of CO2 traps heat from the sun in earth’s atmosphere by impeding radiation of heat out of the atmosphere; and that increasing atmospheric COis the cause of warmer average global temperature observed since humans started large-scale burning of fossil fuel in the nineteenth century.

For AGW to be a correct explanation of global temperature since humans started burning fossil fuels in the nineteenth century, the AGW hypothesis should be able to provide an explanation that is in accord with factual phenomena already identified by the sciences of geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, climatology, and by history, including but not limited to the following.

NOTE: The discussion that follows is based upon a most excellent book by an outstanding scientist, Heaven + Earth–Global Warming: The Missing Science (2009) by Australian geologist Ian Plimer. The author of this website is not a scientist, much less a geologist, but one interested in the subject who read twice, page by page, through Professor Plimer’s book and found it entirely credible and comprehensible.  Professor Plimer’s book is an example of critical analysis using the scientific method that is accessible to and readily comprehensible by a literate person not previously familiar with the methods of science.  Any errors in what follows are due to the author of this website, not to Dr. Plimer.

Geology, physics, chemistry, paleontology and history have established that:

  • Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 were many times higher than at present during the ice ages, the coldest times in geological history.
  • The current atmospheric concentration of CO2 is near the low end of the range known to geological history.
  • Average global temperature was significantly higher than at present during several periods over the past 11,700 years, since the end of the last period of glaciation in the Pleistocene ice age.
  • During those earlier and warmer periods humans were not burning fossil fuels.

Geology, climatology, and history show that

  • A period of colder temperatures lasted from 1300 to 1850, which is known as The Little Ice Age.
  • The rise in global temperatures since the end of the Little Ice Age is not inconsistent with the many observed rises and falls of global temperature since the advent of the human species Homo Sapiens on earth around 100,000 to 150,000 years ago.
  • The fluctuations in global temperature since 1850 include a colder period from 1940 to 1976, and a period without rising temperature from 1998 to date.
  • During the periods 1940-1976 and 1998 to present, humans were burning increasing amounts of fossil fuel while temperatures were cooling or not rising.

Astronomy and physics show that temperatures rose in other parts of the solar system during the time since renewed warming began on earth in 1976. No humans were burning fossil fuels elsewhere in the solar system.

Physics and climatology show that CO2 is only one of the gases in the atmosphere of earth. Water vapor comprises over half of the concentration of atmospheric gases while CO2 amounts to less than 1% of atmospheric gases. Accordingly, an increasing concentration of CO2 would not increase significantly its overall concentration compared to water vapor and other atmospheric gases.

All atmospheric gases together comprise less than 1% of the atmosphere. A concentration of 1% or less is called a trace element. CO2 comprises less than 1% of all atmospheric gases. Thus CO2 is a trace element of a trace element in the atmosphere.

Astronomy and geology show that variations in solar radiation are the probable cause of the temperature variations that occurred during periods of freezing and warming over geological history.

Human burning of fossil fuels has no relation to the amount of heat radiated from the sun to the earth.

The foregoing is a partial listing of the observational data about natural phenomena and human activity relevant to the AGW hypothesis, inconsistent with the AGW hypothesis, not explained by AGW and not accounted for in it.

From the foregoing analysis it appears that the AGW hypothesis is based upon only part of the data relevant to its validity; and that what has been omitted is of essential importance to understanding the warming and cooling of the climate of earth.

The AGW hypothesis is the second step of the scientific method, the step of hypothesis formulation. The next and third step is extrapolation from the hypothesis, that is predictions of what should occur if the hypothesis is correct. Critical analysis can next focus on the accuracy of predictions made pursuant to the AGW hypothesis.

The observations that show dangerous AGW in the distant future are not observations at all. They are computerized projections that advocates rely upon for their concern about future temperatures. One cannot observe a future temperature because it has not occurred. One can observe only the data input into the computer by the humans who are programming the computer. The observations that can be made show only that some human beings have programmed a computer so that it presents a projection of higher temperatures in the future.

The most prominent computer model of future climate change is maintained by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an agency of the United Nations. In 1990 and 1995 the IPCC published reports stating, inter alia, that there would be a significant increase in average global surface temperatures over the years 1998 to 2013. However, average global surface temperature did not increase at all over that time.

Using critical analysis what can one make of the claim that there is a consensus among scientists that AGW is correct? Scientists ought to use the scientific method in evaluating a hypothesis such as AGW.

Using the scientific method it appears that the data adduced in support of AGW is erroneously incomplete in accounting for relevant known data. A hypothesis based on incomplete observational data, when more comprehensive data exists, rests on a faulty basis. That does not mean the hypothesis is incorrect. It does mean, however, that the predictions based on the hypothesis may be logically invalid. The predictions could still be right, but not for the reasons stated.

AGW has two important flaws. First, its predictions of the long distance future cannot be corroborated until that future time comes. The AGW hypothesis has been used to predict global temperatures as far out as 100 years, but far less than 100 years have passed since the predictions were made. In 1990 and 1995 the IPCC published reports stating, inter alia, that there would be a significant increase in average global surface temperatures over the years 1998 to 2013. However, global surface temperature did not increase at all over that time.

Using critical analysis what can one say about the claim that a consensus of scientists endorse AGW? One can say with justification that consensus is a political concept, not a scientific concept. There was no consensus approving the hypothesis of Nicolaus Copernicus, yet he was right. There was then a political consensus that he was wrong.

If people identifying themselves as scientists fail to use the scientific method in forming an opinion about a subject involving natural phenomena, are they really functioning as scientists in forming their opinion?


The earliest historical record of youthful achievement is the story of David and Goliath in the Bible. This story has been authenticated as historically true.

David by Michelangelo (1504)

David by Michelangelo (1504)

David was a shepherd boy, a lad, who saved his people, the Israelites, from a possibly devastating battle with an army of the Philistines by slaying Goliath, a Philistine giant in single combat duel, a customary way of avoiding full-scale war in ancient times. The story is well told and its significance explained by Malcom Gladwell in his book David and Goliath (2013), pages 3-15.

Chronological list of selected youthful achievements

This is a representative chronological list of selected youthful achievements. There have been many others too numerous to include in this brief summary.

Age eight

Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) calculated in his mind almost instantaneously the total product of adding up all the numbers from 1 to 100. He went on to become one of the great mathematicians in history.

Violinist Sarah Chang, born in 1980, appears as soloist at a concert of the New York Philharmonic. She went on to become one of the world’s leading concert violinists.

Minot Drouet wrote a book of poems that was published with phenomenal success when she was ten.

Age nine

Privam Kamble of India wins the United Kingdom (UK) 2015 creativity award.

Age ten

Home-schooled Tanishq Abraham (son of Indian parents) passed a California state exam in 2014 for certification that he had met the academic standards to receive a high school diploma.

Age eleven

Howard Hughes (born in 1905) built the first wireless radio transmitter in his hometown of Houston, Texas.

Age twelve

David Farragut (1801-1870) was commissioned a midshipman in the United States Navy on December 17, 1810, at the age of nine. Farragut was 12 years old when, during the War of 1812, he was given the command of a captured ship.

Famed motion picture director and producer Steven Spielberg creates his first motion picture, writing the script, casting the actors and filming it.

Age thirteen

Kelly Johnson, famed aeronautical innovator and designer of aircraft was 13 years old when he won a prize for his first aircraft design.

Age fourteen

At the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympic Games, Nadia Comaneci wins three gold medals in gymnastics and at age 18, in 1980, is the first gymnast in Olympic Games history to be awarded a perfect score of ten in a gymnastics event.

Future computer software entrepreneur Bill Gates learns computer programming on his own.

Self-educated Laura Deming admitted to the Massachusetts of Technology without any prior formal schooling in science, mathematics, or any other subject.

Bobby Fischer wins the first of his eight U.S. chess championships.

Coal miner’s son Homer Hickam (born in 1943) conceives the idea of building a sub-orbital rocket, and succeeds in doing so while in high school.

On his own, Daniel Boone (1734-1820) explores the forest wilderness of Pennsylvania.

Age fifteen

Évariste Galois

Évariste Galois

Évariste Galois (1811-1832) is one of the foremost mathematicians in the history of his native France. Galois was born near Paris, was home schooled by his mother until he entered school at age 12, was bored in school, became seriously interested in mathematics at age 14, and at age 15 began to develop higher order polynomial solutions to problems that had baffled mathematicians for 350 years.

Age sixteen

BKS Iyengar

BKS Iyengar

BKS Iyengar (1918-2014) was the most influential practitioner and teacher of yoga of his or any other time. Born during the influenza pandemic of 1918, he suffered as a boy from malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever and malnutrition. At age fourteen he was introduced to yoga by a relative, the celebrated and influential yogi Krishnamacharya. From study and practice of yoga Iyengar overcame his illness, achieved good health, and by age sixteen had become an adept yogi. Iyengar lived to the ripe old age of 95. He published several important, widely read books about yoga. From his earnings as an author, Iyengar gave to his native town, Bellur, a hospital, water treatment facilities, primary and secondary schools, and India’s first temple dedicated to Patanjali, ancient compiler of texts and traditions of yoga practice.

Laura Dekker becomes the youngest person to sail solo completely around the world, through all three oceans, crossing the equator twice.  Laura was born on a boat, dreamed of sailing around the world alone when she was eight years old, lived her dream when she began her voyage one month before her fifteenth birthday. When asked why she did it, she replied “I wanted to see if I could do it. If I do it, I know I can.” She completed her voyage four months after her sixteenth birthday.

Tracy Austin

Tracy Austin

Tracy Austin was a star tennis player who turned professional while a sophomore in high school at Palos Verdes, California, near Los Angeles. The next year, at age sixteen, she became the youngest woman ever to win the Ladies singles championship in the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. Tracy won the U.S. Open again two years later at age 18, went on to win many more tournaments and at age 29 became the youngest person, male or female, to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Age seventeen


Bob Mathias

At the 1948 Olympic Games in London, 17-year old Bob Mathias, a high school boy  from the small town of Tulare, California, in only his second try at the decathlon, won the Gold Medal in the Olympic decathlon event, becoming the youngest ever to win the decathlon, the most demanding and difficult of all track and field events. Bob went on to Stanford University. He won the decathlon again four years later at the next Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland.

At age 17 Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1848) created a musical masterpiece, his Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is considered one of the most perfect musical compositions and the greatest music ever composed by one so young. Even the phenomenal and precocious Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did not create anything so inspired at the same age. The overture opens with four unforgettably beautiful chords that immediately transport the listener to Shakespeare’s enchanted, moonlit forest, then continues with one inspired musical idea after another, until it concludes with a return to the magical chords  of the opening.

Age eighteen

Horatio Nelson was appointed Master and Commander of a ship in the British navy.

Future master investor Warren Buffett can learn nothing from his business professors at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania because he already knows more about business than the professors.

Ken Rosewall of Australia wins the singles titles at the Australian Tennis Championships and the French Tennis Championships

Ages eighteen and nineteen

In 1907 Jim Casey age 19 and Claude Ryan age 18 founded a messenger and package delivery service in Seattle, Washington, capitalized with $100 borrowed from a friend. Its first employees were teenage boys. A century later their business had become UPS, Inc. UPS provides worldwide ground and air freight, retail shipping, customs brokerage, finance and international trade services. A subsidiary, UPS Airlines, operates over 500 aircraft.

Franz Schubert

Franz Schubert

At age 19, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) created the first of his many masterpieces, his Symphony number 5. It is a work of youthful joyfulness that has long been a staple of the standard repertoire of symphony orchestras around the world. Schubert had previously written four symphonies and many other compositions. His early death at age 31 took an immortal artist in the prime of  his musical powers. He was beloved by his friends who caused to be inscribed on his tomb “Here lies a great treasure, and still higher hopes.”



  1. Ernest Carroll Moore (1871-1955) was co-founder, with Edward A. Dickson (1879-1956), and first President of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and  
  2. Homer Hickam is the author of Rocket Boys: A Memoir (1998) that was made into the motion picture October Sky (1999)
  3. See “19-year old Laura Deming funds anti-aging research,” by Raluca Beslie, July 2, 2013, Taking on the Giant, and TEDMED “Laura Deming: Making a business out of fighting the ills of aging,”
  4.   Printing had been in use in China for hundreds of years before Gutenberg’s time.
  5. Quotation attributed to French philosophers Voltaire (1694-1778), Mirabeau (1749-1791) and German state official Friedrich von Schrötter (1743-1815)
  6. On German idealization of absolute obedience to authority, see Shirer, William L., The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960), chapter 4, The Mind of Hitler and the Roots of the Third Reich, pages 92-99
  7. Tooley, James, The Beautiful Tree (2009), pages 267-268 citing Friedman, Milton and Rose Friedman (1980), pages 196-197; and Ridley, Matt, The Evolution of Everything (2015), page 176;
  8. Wikipedia, Horace Mann,
  9. Discussed below herein under the heading Pathologies of Compulsory Public Schooling
  10. Discussed below under the heading Twelve Year Prison Sentences for Innocent Young People
  11. In the Articles of Incorporation of his company The Liberal, Inc.
  12. To be discussed below under the heading Homework and the race to nowhere
  13. This was in the Netherlands where Laura’s family was then living. Laura tells her story in her video Maidentrip (2013) and her book One Girl, One Dream (2013).
  14. Quoted from Galambos’ lecture on education in the transcribed book of his lectures, Sic Itur Ad Astra (1999), page 554
  15. Described in Tooley’s book The Beautiful Tree (2009) and in Dixon, Pauline, International Aid and Private Schools for the Poor (2013)
  16. Quoted from Ridley, Matt, The Evolution of Everything (2015), page 181
  17. See Tooley, James, The Beautiful Tree (2009), page 172-182); and Wikipedia, James Tooley, under the heading “Low-cost private education,”
  18. For a short video of Professor Dixon discussing these issues, see Institute of Economic Affairs, 2015 THINK Conference, To like effect see Tooley, James, The Beautiful Tree (2009)
  19. See his page at the University of Newcastle website, at and at the Cato Institute,
  20. As told by Greg Mortensen in his two books, Three Cups of Tea (2007) and Stones into Schools (2009)
  21. See Bailey, Ronald, The End of Doom (2015), chapter one, pages 18-30
  22. Andrew. Coulson is senior fellow of education policy at the Cato Institute Center for Educational Freedom. See Coulson, Andrew J., Comparing Public, Private and Market Schools: The International Evidence (2009), and “Monopolies vs. markets in education: a global review of the evidence,” by Andrew Coulson, Cato Institute, Policy Paper No. 620, September 10, 2008,
  23. See “dollar-a-week School: Private Schools Are Booming in Poor Countries,” The Economist, August 1, 2015,
  24. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the year 2015 total spending was six hundred thirty-four billion dollars for kindergarten through high school.
  25. According to “Paycheck Protection” by Joshua Dunn and Martha Derthick, Education Next, Winter 2014,
  26. According to “Teachers Take Union Dues to Supreme Court,” by Allie Bidwell, US News and World Report, January 26, 2015,
  27. The extent and nature of school corruption is described and documented in the sources given in the text of this chapter under the heading Pathologies of Compulsory Public Schooling
  28. To be discussed below under the heading Pathologies of Compulsory Public Schooling
  29. Thanks to TV journalist Bow Bowdon for making this clear in his documentary video entitled The Cartel (2009)
  30. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2011-2012 academic year, and
  31. Feinberg, University of Pennsylvania; Levin, Yale University
  32. KIPP,
  33. The charitable foundations were established by Stanley Druckenmiller, Donald and Doris Fisher, and Bill and Melinda Gates.
  34. The foundation was established by Stanley Druckenmiller, whom Geoffrey Canada met when they were students together at Bowdoin College.
  35. The story of Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy is told at the schools’ website, and in the documentary video entitled The Lottery (2009)
  36. Summit Public Schools, Our Schools,
  37. Not to be confused with Indian actor Salman Khan
  38.  and  
  39. See Wikipedia, TED (Conference),
  40. Quoted from Gray, Peter, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (2013), page 71
  41. See McCullough, David, The Wright Brothers (2015), pages 28-37, 69-70, 81, and 88-90
  42. The statements herein about the nature of curiosity, knowledge and education were made by astrophysicist Andrew J. Galambos in his lectures on education for freedom, presented under the title “V-50 Lectures.” A transcript of those lectures was published in 1999, by the trustees of Galambos’ estate, under the title Sic Itur Ad Astra, Latin for “this is the way to the stars.”
  43. Quoted in Bronowski, J., The Ascent of Man (1974), page 236
  44. Quoted from Einstein, Albert, Autobiography (1949) in P. Schilpp, Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist
  45. Quoted from Rigden, John S., Einstein 1905: the Standard of Greatness (2005), page 15
  46. Quoted in Gray, Peter, with source, in Free to Learn (2013), pages 71-72
  47. SAT refers to the test formerly referred to as Scholastic Assessment Test, now known universally as SAT
  48. The Question and Answer are condensed from the original text at Sudbury Valley School, Frequently Asked Questions,   
  49. See beginning of this chapter, above
  50. From correspondence with Laura Deming’s father, John W. Deming, Jr.
  51. Indiana University News Room, June 8, 2010, “Latest HSSSE results show familiar theme: bored, disconnected want more from schools, ”
  52. Quotation of Galina Tourchaninova, first teacher of the great Russian concert violinist Maxim Vengerov in the video documentary Playing by Heart (1998)
  53. See text above under the heading CURIOSITY, KNOWLEDGE AND EDUCATION, following the caption People learn what they want to learn when they want to
  54. See Sacks, David O. and Peter A. Thiel, The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus (1995, 1998) and Horowitz, David, Indoctrination U. (2007) 
  55. Excerpted from TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”
  56. See “Busting the Myth of Normal,” by Melinda Pongrey at
  57. Related in Gladwell, Malcolm, David and Goliath (2010), pages 107-112
  58. Quoted from “Children Teach Themselves to Read, by Peter Gray, Psychology Today, February 24, 2010, The anecdote appears in the last paragraph of this article.

  59. See “Children Teach Themselves to Read,” by Peter Gray, Psychology Today, February 10, 2010,; and “You Don’t Need to Teach Reading,” by Penelope Trunk,
  60. Kids Health, Your Child’s handwriting,
  61. “7 Fun Facts About Bill Gates,” by Tim Ott, August 23, 2015,,
  62. See Sierra Son, by Robert Roper in Galen Rowell: A Retrospective (Sierra Club (2006), page 28
  63. See “5 Reasons Why You Don’t Need to Teach Math,” by Penelope Trunk,
  64. See “Division, Not Long Division,” by Sanjoy Mahjan, Freakonomics, August 10, 2012,
  65. See “How to Fix Our Math Education,” by Sol Garfunkel and David Mumford, Op-Ed, The New York Times, August 4, 2011,
  66. See “Is Algebra Necessary?” by Andrew Hacker, New York Times, July 28, 2012,
  67. See TED Talk at
  68. Sources for this description of Summerhill School include the website of Summerhill School, at; Wikipedia, Summerhill School,; Wikipedia, Summerhill (book),; and “Summerhill these days: surprisingly strict,” by Peter Wilby, The Guardian (U.K.), May 27, 2013,
  69. “Most widely read and disregarded” is the term used by America’s great investment thinker, Benjamin Graham, to describe the reaction to his books on investing.
  70. See Sudbury Valley School website at
  71. Sources include Colfax, Micki and David, Homeschooling for Excellence (1988); Colfax, David and Micki, Hard Times in Paradise (1992); “Diamonds in the Rough: The Colfax Boys Had No Formal Schooling—Until Harvard,” by Kim Hubbard, People, September 21, 1992,,,20108659,00.html; “Home School Update: Whatever Became of the Colfax Boys?” by C. E. Clark, HubPages, February 26, 2014,
  72. The story is told at “A Tragedy and a New Beginning,” The Robinson Self-teaching Curriculum,
  73. The Robinson homeschool curriculum is available at The Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum,
  74. See Newcastle University, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, and NIIT,
  75. Quoted from Mitra’s TED Talk entitled “The child-driven education,” July 2010,
  76. Quoted from the TED Talk referenced above. See also the website Hole-in-the-Wall,
  77. Quotations from Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk, “The Child-Driven Education,” July 2010,
  78. Gray, Peter, Learn to Earn (2013) pages 110—112
  79. See Epstein, Robert, Teen 2.0 (2010), pages 185-189. Robert Epstein, Ph. D. is a nationally respected specialist in behavioral science.
  80. Such as the ACT college readiness assessment test
  81. See Education News, Number of Homeschoolers growing Nationwide,
  82. Wikipedia, Charter School,
  83.   See documentary videos The Cartel (2009), Waiting for Superman (2010), and The Lottery (2009).
  84. “State Supreme Court: Charter Schools are Unconstitutional,” by John Higgins, Seattle Times, September 5, 2015,
  85. The documentary videos are The Lottery (2009), The Cartel (2009) and Waiting for Superman (2010)
  86. National Alliance for Public Charter Schools,
  87. According to “Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary With VP Pence’s Tiebreaking Vote,” by Josh Mitchell, Siobhan Hughes, and Tawnell D. Hobbs, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 7, 2017,
  88. Success Academy Charter Schools,
  89. KIPP,
  90. See “Our Schools” at Summit Public Schools,
  91. See coverage of Summit Prep in the documentary video Waiting for Superman (2010)
  92. Quoted from “Fifty Years in Education: A Memoir,” by Daniel Greenberg,
  93. Quoted from “Taking care of truants,” Editorial, The Los Angeles Times, September 6, 2012,,0,1952420.story
  94. See, e.g., California: a truant may be fined, lose driving privileges, ordered to attend school on weekends, and be made a ward of the juvenile court etc. California Department of Education, Truancy,  Washington: for repeated truancy the juvenile court may order school attendance, impose a fine, and order the truant to jail (county detention). The truant’s parents may be ordered to perform community service or pay a fine of $25 per day for each day of a young person’s unexcused absence.  See FindLaw, Washington Compulsory Education Laws,
  95. Quoted from “Putting Kids First,” by Michelle Rhee, in Waiting for “Superman”: How We Can Save America’s Failing Public Schools (ed. Karl Weber), p. 133
  96. Wikipedia, Classroom Management,
  97. See “The -a-week School: Private Schools Are Booming in Poor Countries, The Economist, August 1, 2015,
  98. In his book What It Means to be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation (1997) by Charles Murray
  99. Quoted from Murray, Charles, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, page 131 (2015)
  100. Quotation from “The Trials of a Democratic Reformer,” interview by Allysia Finley, The Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2012,
  101. Senior Fellow of the Manhattan Institute
  102. Quoted from Malanga, Steven, Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer (2010), pages 39 and 43
  103. Statement in an interview in the video documentary Waiting for Superman (2010)
  104. Shown in the video documentary Waiting for Superman (2010)
  105. Sources for Michelle Rhee’s tenure as Chancellor of D.C. schools include the documentary video Waiting for Superman (2010), “Rhee Tackles Classroom Challenge,” by Amanda Ripley, Time, cover story for November 26, 2008,,9171,1862444-2,00.html; and Wikipedia, Michelle Rhee,
  106. Reported in detail in the documentary video Waiting for Superman (2010)
  107. Reported in the documentary video, Waiting for Superman (2010). To the same effect see Wikipedia, Howard Fuller, and Fuller, Howard, No Struggle No Progress: A Warrior’s Life From Black Power to Education Reform (2014)
  108. Quoted from “Howard Fuller: a Civil Rights Warrior or Billionaire’s Tool?” by Lindsay Layton, Washington Post, September 9, 2014,
  109. Quoted from an interview of Geoffrey Canada  in the documentary video Waiting for Superman (2010).
  110. Quoted in the book Waiting for “Superman” (2010 ed. Karl Weber) page 98. Eric Hanushek is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University,
  111. See Matthews, Jay, Work Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America (2009), chapter 51, pages 302-303
  112. Quoted from American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, “Stop Assigning California Students to Fake Classes,” October 9, 2015,
  113. Reported in the documentary video Waiting for “Superman” (2020)
  114. Quoted from “Putting Kids First,” by Michelle Rhee in the book  Waiting for “Superman” (2010, ed. Karl Weber), page 133. Michelle Rhee was Chancellor of the Washington, DC school system from 2007 to 2010
  115. Quoted from The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts (2006), by John M. Bridgeland, John J. KiIulio, Jr.., and Karen Burke Morison Civic Enterprises, Institute of Education Sciences, page 4,
  116. Learning and the Adolescent Mind, Dr. Robert Balfanz, Dr. Balfanz is a Professor at Johns Hopkins University
  117. Fusco, Armand A., School Corruption: Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust (2005), chapter 9 entitled “School Failures: State and City Takeovers”
  118. Reported in “School bathrooms: Would you ‘go’ there?” by Dave Schechter,, October 3, 2011,
  119. Quoted from “Bathrooms a reflection of school’s climate,” by Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 28, 2000,
  120. See report by Elissa Gootman in the New York Times of January 29, 2004, at
  121. Quoted from “Officials address restroom problem at Locke High,” by Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times, May 13, 2014,
  122. Quoted from Dirty Dish on CHS bathrooms, by Kara Adkins, Coppell Student Media, May 11, 2011,
  123. Quoted from “An insider’s view of public school bathrooms,” by Katie Smythe, Los Angeles Times, October 13, 2015,
  124. Quoted from Gray, Peter, Free to Learn (2013), pages 76-78
  125. April’s story is told at and in Gray, Peter, Free to Learn (2013), page 78
  126. Quoted from “Education: Getting Tough,” by Ezra Bowen, February 1, 1988,,33009,966577-1,00.html
  127. The History Makers,
  128. In 1999, a full-time uniformed and armed deputy sheriff was on regular duty at the high school in a town of 25,000 in a suburb of Denver, Colorado when two students shot and killed thirteen people and wounded twenty more. See Wikipedia, Columbine High School Massacre,
  129. U.S. Dept. of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Violence in U.S. Public Schools: 2000 School Survey on Crime and Safety, Statistical Analysis Report, Executive Summary (2004-2014 revised),
  130. Segal, Lydia G., Battling Corruption in America’s Public Schools (2004), pages xx and pages 9-10
  131. Segal, Lydia G., Battling Corruption in America’s Public Schools (2004), page xiii and 36- 37
  132. Professor of Business Law and Ethics, Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University, Boston,
  133. Segal, Lydia G., Battling Corruption in America’s Public Schools (2004)
  134. Segal, Battling Corruption in America’s Public Schools (2004), page xxii
  135. Segal, Lydia G., Battling Corruption in America’s Public Schools (2004), page xxii
  136. Fusco, Armand A., School Corruption: Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust, pagesxvii – xviii
  137. Fusco, Armand A. School Corruption: Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust, pages 140 and 151
  138. Segal Lydia G., Battling Corruption in America’s Public Schools (2004), pages 99-100
  139. Segal, Lydia G., Battling Corruption in America’s Public Schools (2004), page 71
  140. Reported in The Cartel (2009) documentary video
  141. Segal, Lydia G., Battling Corruption in America’s Public Schools (2004), pages 9-10
  142. See text at the beginning of this chapter
  143. See Spielberg: The Man, The Movies, The Mythology (1996, 2002) by Frank Sanello; “Show Business: I Dream for a Living,” by Richard Corliss, Time, July 15, 1985,,33009,959634-1,00.html and Encyclopedia of World Biography: Steven Spielberg,
  144.    Quoted from Gray, Peter, Free to Learn (2013), pages 73-75
  145. According to former Columbia University professor Daniel Greenberg, cited in Gray, Peter, Free to Learn, pages 85-86; and former Yale University professor William Deresiewicz in his essay “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education,” American Scholar, Summer 2008, and his book, Excellent Sheep (2014)
  146. According to The End of Homework (2000) by Etta Kralovec and John Buell, chapter two, “Does homework work?” citing as the first and only major overview of the topic, the book Homework (1989) by Harris Cooper, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.
  147. Abeles, Vicki, Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation (2015). This book is a follow up to Abeles’ highly regarded documentary video, Race to Nowhere (2009). In Beyond Measure, the author cites, inter alia, Kralovec, Etta and John Buell, The End of Homework (2000); Bennett, Sara and Nancy Kalish, The Case Against Homework (2006); and Kohn, Alfie, The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (2007)
  148. Reported in Abeles, Vicki, Beyond Measure (2015), page 9, and in Abeles’ video documentary, Race to Nowhere (2009).
  149. According to Hacker, Andrew and Claudia Dreifus, Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids–And What We Can Do About It (2010, 2011), Chapter 1, and Riley, Naomi Schaefer, The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For (2011), Chapter 3
  150. See, e.g., Sacks, David O. and Peter A. Thiel, The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus (1995,, 1998) and Horowitz, David, Indoctrination U. (2007)
  151. “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education,” by William Deresiewicz, American Scholar, Summer 2008, and Deresiewicz, William, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life (2014)
  152. See, e.g., Arum, Richard and Josipa Roksa, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (2011), chapter 1 entitled “College Cultures and Student Learning; Labaree, David, How to Succeed in School Without Really Learning (1997); and other books and publications cited in the notes to chapter 1 of Academically Adrift
  153. U. S. Department of Education, A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education (2006), page 3, 
  154. Quotation of former Harvard President Derek Bok in Arum, Richard and Josipa Roksa, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (2011), page 1
  155. This statement can be corroborated readily in numerous reports on the internet by typing into an internet search engine the phrase “rising college costs.”
  156. See Vedder, Richard, Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much (2004), chapter 3, and especially page 23.
  157.   “National Student Loan Debt Reaches A Bonkers .2 Trillion,” by Nicholas Rayfield, USA Today, April 8, 2015,
  158. “Not All Student Loan Debt Is Bad,” by Allie Bidwell, U.S. News, June 26, 2015
  159. As of 2009 according to College Parents of America, College Students and Credit Cards—Some Statistics,
  160. “Soaring student loan debt poses risk to nation’s future economic growth,” by Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times, September 6, 2015,
  161. “Job Outlook for College Grads Puzzling,” by Hadley Malcolm, USA Today, May 19, 2014,
  162. See Vedder, Richard K. and Lowell E. Galloway, Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America (1993).
  163. Hacker, Andrew, and Claudia Dreifus, Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids–and What We Can Do About It (2010, 2011), Chapter 7, pages 126-129
  164. To be distinguished from the nine-campus University of California system.
  165. Hacker, Andrew, and Claudia Dreifus, Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids–and What We Can Do About It (2010, 2011), Chapter 7, page 128
  166. On Newton’s labors on Principia from 1684 to 1687, see Berlinski, David, Newton’s Gift (2000)

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