Government and education

A while back I came across this infuriating story (via A Little Lower than The Angels) of a man who did not send his children to a public school against the law of his state and so was shot dead by the agents of the state. Since I have written a bit lately on the moral and political implications of public education, this is a good time to relate this story to that debate. The legal murder of John Singer is the logical conclusion to any arguement that advocates public education. Here’s how.

a) The state has the power to tax me to provide public education.

b) Therefore I have a legal responsibility to the state for the welfare of others.

c) Therefore the state may decide that my children’s education is essential to the welfare of others (free and compulsory education)

d) Therefore  the state may decide what this education must consist of.

e) Therefore the state may punish me (ultimately by death if I resist) if I refuse to accept the state’s requirements.

Do you agree with (a) but not with (e)? Examine your premises. Logic has a way of catching up with people even if they do not choose to be logical.

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8 Responses

  1. How does (b) imply (c) ? Free and compulsory education does not obtain in India.

  2. I wrote Therefore the state may decide…. I am not claiming that (e) necessarily derives from (a), merely that (e) is consistent with (a) and in an unlimited democracy (e) cannot be legally prevented if the majority so decides.
    By the way, free and compulsory education is a fundamental right in India. A quick google search revealed this source and this one.

    From the second source
    The universal free and compulsory education should have become a reality in India by 1960. Article 45 of the Indian Constitution said: The State shall endeavour to provide within a period of ten years from the commencement of this constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years. But that Constitutional obligation was time and again deferred- first to 1970 and then to 1980,1990 and 2000. The 10th Five-year Plan visualizes that India would achieve the Universal Elementary Education by 2007.However, the Union Human Resource Development Minister recently announced that India would achieve this target by 2010.

    That free and compulsory education does not obtain in reality and if it ever does, it will not be worth calling education is merely the nature of reality which voters and politicians cannot change. Perhaps it obtains in some developed countries, but it is important to note that even in those countries it is only after they developed (thanks to economic and political freedom) that such measures were implemented.

  3. …it is only after they developed (thanks to economic and political freedom) that such measures were implemented.
    according to this article in Wikipedia (In the U.S.)
    “The school system remained largely private and unorganized until the 1840s. In fact, the first national census conducted in 1840 indicated that near-universal (about 97%) literacy among the white population had been achieved.”

  4. So it is possible and not illogical to believe in (a) but not in (e). We need more assumptions/premises to extract (e) out of (a). That’s fine.

  5. My understanding of the legal murder of John Singer case.
    The Guy resisted his arrest by firing a cop (and killing him). The cops had no option but to fire back. He could have given in and fought a legal battle in court. I think the state officials wanted to monitor him educating his children. Why didnt he allow him to monitor? He pulled his children out of schooling because, “we saw pictures of black and white people together in the text books” says John’s. They are racist in the first place. Here I would like to raise a question.

    1) Do parents have ‘complete’ rights over their children?
    (am not answering his now)

    Your logical conclusion from a to e happens only if the guy resists authorities from monitoring what is being taught and shoots at the cop. Both steps are extreme.

    T.R.

  6. T.R.
    Where did you find that John Singer killed a cop? I did not find it either in the text or the video. Do you have some other source?
    Regardless, if a man does not have the right to educate his children as he sees fit, it means that man has rights not by his nature but as a privilege from society (which in practice means the strongest gang), to be taken away at will. Such a society cannot call itself civilized.
    By what right were the state’s agents “monitoring” anything at all without a warrant, disguised as reporters?
    What gives the state the right to judge ideas (as opposed to actions)? In older times the state used to punish people for believing that the earth rotates about the sun (Galileo) or for corrupting youth with ideas (Socrates). Now it punishes them for racism or for claiming that the Quran has verses that incite violence (some case in Canada). A state that punishes ideas is a state that outlaws the free mind. Man’s existence depends on having the right ideas and the validity of ideas cannot be determined by a majority vote. A state that does not recognize this basic fact has no moral authority whatsoever.

  7. My apology, John Singer did not shoot a cop but only reached for gun when he was being arrest.

    KM, I read through the complete article (previously heard this case from my friend). I think there too many controversies in facts. So, instead commenting on what happened in the case I shall comment on the general ideas you have expressed here.
    if a man does not have the right to educate his children…

    I agree every man is entitled to his own opinion rather than state’s opinion. There is nothing wrong in home schooling but in case of suspicion (like parent is harassing the child) the state can conduct a inquiry.

    A state that punishes ideas is a state that outlaws the free mind.”
    An individual can have his own ideas. State cannot punish him. But one should not provoke others with his ideas. Like what Varun Gandhi has done recently. In his case, the state had to take him into custody as he broke law.

  8. T.R,
    I agree more or less although I would be more specific on your last point. I do not know what exactly Varun Gandhi said since the newspapers did not publish it and I did not have any desire to hunt for his comments on the internet. If he actually made a specific threat, then the state would be justified in arresting him. But if he merely criticized someone or some community (even if it was in harsh terms), the state has no business arresting him. Bad ideas should be defeated by exposing them, not by suppressing them.

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