L. Neil Smith's
Number 214, March 10, 2003


Public Schools Have Destroyed America
An Invitation from
L. Neil Smith

Publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise

Special to TLE

If you're like me, even through a fairly hard shell of cynicism about such things -- acquired through years of disappointment in our country and our fellow human beings -- you are shocked and dismayed at the casual way Americans have been stripped of their few remaining rights over the past 17 months and stampeded straight to World War III.

It's relatively easy to see who's immediately responsible for all that, but the Bush Administration is only taking advantage of an existing cicumstance, and it's that circumstance I want to address here.

I've just been reading a very colorful, upbeat, well-written and enjoyable book, The Triumph of Liberty, in which the author, Jim Powell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and an editor for Laissez Faire Books, uses the biographies of illustrious advocates of individual freedom to trace its evolution from classical times to the present.

Or almost to the present.

Unfortunately, the book was published in 2000, just months before September 11, 2001, which the Bush Administration and other enemies of freedom everywhere are trying to use to bring that evolution to a halt. Powell acknowledges that the 21st century will doubtless impose its own set of "politicians, terrorists, and conquerors" on us, but expresses optimism that it will also give us heroes like Cicero, Locke, Jefferson, Spooner, Mencken, Heinlein, Rand, Rothbard, and Hayeck.

It's hard to disagree. Still, the question remains, why are most of our fellow Americans such pushovers? Are they stupid, these people who built and maintain the greatest civilization in history? Are they simply evil? Do they actually relish the prospect of murdering and maiming millions of innocent men, women, and children, and sending their own children off to be maimed and murdered themselves, in the attempt?

Are they bigots who welcome any excuse to wipe out brown-skinned people who speak odd languages, practice odd customs, and cherish odd religions? I think there are a lot of writers -- and politicians -- who'd like us to believe that, but the amazing texture of tantalizing differences that makes up the United States (pizza, bagels, burritos, ravioli, and hot and sour soup were not originally as American as apple pie -- and neither was apple pie) and the way we always seem, eventually, to embrace the alien, shows that up as the vicious lie it is.

I watched a sit-com the other night (waiting for something better to come on) in which high school kids were upset because of a coming history test. It helped add to the humor that not one of them had a clue what history is. The schools had failed utterly to help them understand their place in the great parade, the significance of what came before them, and what role they might someday play in it themselves.

Of course the public schools have a perfectly good reason to make a muddle of history. Otherwise, they might have to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions about the Revolution and why we are oppressed far worse now than the British oppressed us in the 18th century. Given enough information, kids might notice inconvenient similarities between that Revolution and the War Between the States. Or between Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler. They might even start to wonder where the current President obtained the authority to start a war with Iraq.

In my day, the 1950s, public schools taught children about the 1000 year old right and duty of juries to judge the law as well as the case at hand. Of course in those days, schools got no money from the feds. What do you suppose public schools teach children about juries now?

What do you suppose they teach children about US involvement in the Middle East over the past century? What do you suppose they teach about our imposing governments on other people so we could take their oil? What do you suppose they teach about the million kids we've killed in Iraq alone by denying them food and medicine? What do you suppose they teach about the real motives behind the September 11 attacks?

It's true we have crappy politicians, crappy judges and courts, and crappy mass media. But none of them could have created this atmosphere of abject compliance the way -- Take that gum out of your mouth this instant, Melville! Get in line, Gertrude! Sit down in your desk and shut up, Herbert! -- the nation's public schools have for a century.

Accordingly, this is your invitation from me, as publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, and from John Taylor as its editor, to add your voice to this discussion. If you agree with my thesis, that it's the public schools that have basically destroyed everything that was once uniquely American, tell us about it in around a thousand words. You don't have to be a great writer. If we like what you've written, we'll do our best to see that the rest of the world gets to read it, too.

Who knows what could happen? You might help change the course of the history of freedom and wind up one of Jim Powell's 21st century heroes.

Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

L. Neil Smith writes regular columns for The Libertarian Enterprise webleyweb.com/tle, Sierra Times sierratimes.com, and for Rational Review rationalreview.com.


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