By Oscar B. Johannsen
Each individual is responsible for his own well-being. He feeds and clothes himself. Some do it better than others, but with the exception of the physically and mentally handicapped, there is no question of the individual’s obligation. Even in the case of the handicapped, he must care for himself to the extent he is able. Failure to allow him to do so to the limit of his capacity leads very often to a frustrated, sick man, ill in ways more serious than the infirmity itself.
Just as the individual is responsible for his own and his children’s physical well-being, he is likewise responsible for his own and his children’s education. The parent must pay to feed the child’s stomach. He must also pay to feed the child’s mind.
Had someone a hundred odd years ago persuaded people that the feeding and clothing of children was a duty of Government and this function was thereupon assumed by it, and if somebody today were to suggest that it actually devolved to the parents, objections would be raised. It would be claimed that the parents could not possibly bear the cost alone; that such action constituted an attempt to feed and clothe the children of the rich better than the rest; that this was not democratic; that this was striking the very foundations of society.
Fortunately, since no one did arise who could sell that idea to the people, the parents today do care for their children and do it reasonably well. Far from hurting society, this responsibility is necessary from the viewpoint of the children as well as the parents. It enhances the love and affection of the children and the parents; it brings happiness to the parents in the knowledge that by their efforts their children are fed and clothed; it increases the respect and love of the children, who are thereby made aware of their dependence on their parents – all of which makes for a better society.
Unfortunately, about 1830 some educators did arise who convinced many that education was a governmental responsibility, with the result that today, for all practical purposes, primary and secondary schools are a function of local government, the cost of which is borne by taxes. That being the case, whenever the proposition arises that parents should pay for the education as well as the physical care of their children, the objection is raised that they could not possibly afford to do so.
In large measure, however, they are paying for it now because the major portion of all taxes comes from the mass of the people and not from the few with large incomes. While any one person may only pay a portion of his children’s public school training, he does not stop when they graduate since his taxes continue. If the parents live the normal life span of years, no doubt they easily pay in taxes as much, if not more, as they would have paid for sending their children to private schools if public schools did not exist.
Just as no one wishes to pay for the care of someone else’s children, no one really wishes to pay for their education. Instinctively, it is felt that those who brought them into the world should bear their cost. If there is validity to the argument that society should pay for children’s education since well-educated children will bring about a better society, then since well-fed children will mean a healthier society, the cost of feeding them should also be society’s. For that matter, if this argument holds water, since health comes first, society should pay for their physical care and only after that has been attended to, pay for their education.
Putting education back into the hands of the people concerned will force them to be sure that their children are receiving the best of that which they are capable; will require the parents to take an active interest in choosing the proper school; will help engender mutual respect and love as parents and children work at solving this problem.
Actually, when all schools are private the cost of education is the least possible. Competition forces them to be highly efficient in order to keep the costs down, so that tuition fees will be low enough to attract customers – the pupils.
There will, of course, always be orphans and children of parents who cannot afford to defray the expenses of education. They will be aided by charitable organizations and private individuals, just as they are now helped in obtaining the proper physical necessities of life. Thus, no child need be denied the benefits of private school.
[Editor’s Note: These excerpts were taken from PRIVATE SCHOOLS FOR ALL, published by the Committee of One, Roselle Park, NJ. No date given, Section IV, pages 7-9.]