John Singleton with Bob HowardRip Van Australia (Stanmore: Cassell Australia, 1977), pp. 83-87, under the heading “Education”.

Education is the modern cure-all. It is thought of as the barrier that has to be smashed through before poor or underprivileged kids can make good. Because of this too much emphasis is placed on qualifications and education in our society today. We are so concerned with force feeding education to our kids that we’ve forgotten something. We’ve forgotten that our children aren’t mindless robots, but real, living, flesh-and-blood human beings. They have minds, needs, and wills of their own. But we, in our wisdom, have managed to construct an education system that mounts a brutal attack on all three. We then have the hide to turn around and resent the fact that our children don’t don’t appear to appreciate what it is we are doing for them. It’s probably because they are so painfully aware of what we are doing to them, that children are a little confused about what it is we are supposed to be doing for them.

That our educational system is not producing the goods is by now common knowledge. Business people are increasingly concerned about the lack of skills — such as the abilities to read, write and effectively communicate — demonstrated by many schools and university graduates. The dissatisfaction of large numbers of young people with the education system is also obvious. How many would attend if they didn’t have to? Schools are being burnt down and vandalized. (The same does not happen to libraries, which are voluntary places of learning.)

Educationalist John Holt has for many years been a trenchant critic of modern educationist systems:

When you turn education into a race, which is essentially what we do, you have to have more losers than winners. That’s how races work. We really have to award 100 loser labels in our schools for every winner label we put on. The trouble with putting loser labels on people is that they begin to feel like losers, and think like losers, and act like losers, and human growth stops.1

Modern education has led to a complete breakdown of the old educational networks that used to exist in culture and communities. The standard response to children’s questions to parents is likely to be “ask your teachers”.

In Australia, as elsewhere, [so-called] mental illness is becoming enormously more prevalent. There is an epidemic of unhappiness, of people not knowing what they want to do, what occupation they want. Eventually, they drift into some job or other, but because of a basic lack of interest, don’t do it well. All this and more is happening. We see it, have experienced it, know it, and naturally do nothing about it.

Learning is the most natural function known to us. We start learning the moment we are born (if not before). We have to learn to survive.

Young children are the most inquisitive beings imaginable. “Why?” is the most constant word tossed at parents. Babies learn with all their senses — touching, tasting, listening, seeing, feeling emotionally (as distinct from touching), and talking (or attempting to).

Why is it that after a few years in school, this all changes, and children have to be forced to “learn”? Is this inherent in children, or is it the educational system that is at fault? Why does it take a Japanese baby only eighteen months to learn the Japanese language and an excellent student in Australia at least four times that long to learn next to nothing about the same language from “experts”?

The fault lies in the system. Our present educational system performs three functions (or is supposed to). They are: (1) growth and learning; (2) a jail function; (3) a sorting and grading function (keeping the children off the streets and out of their parent’s way). The reason this sort of system gets into trouble is that (1) is incompatible with (2) and (3). The jailed children merely learn the game.

The following lengthy but important quote from Thomas Johnson, illustrates this perfectly:

Any system which is based on force must have the implements necessary to apply this force to keep the victims subdued. In the educational system these implements are the grades and degrees.

The grade is the scholastic gun which is placed in the hands of the instructor, thus giving him full control over his charges. Having this powerful weapon, the instructor can demand that the students follow his every command, for the students know if they choose to do otherwise, if they should choose not to waste their time with nonsensical busy work, if they choose to challenge a pronouncement of the teacher, if they should desire to write a composition in a manner to their own liking, that is, if they should decide to express their individuality through independent thought and action, they can be shot down.

Students also realise that if they do not go along with the system, if they do not completely submit their wills to others, that they will be denied that certificate of graduation, which in present day society is most essential in obtaining a desired position.

Thus, we can see today millions of youths being forced into, or “voluntarily” entering, scholastic prisons which we euphemistically call schools, where they are exposed to a constant environment of force and fear, where they quickly learn that hypocrisy is the name of the game, that what really counts is not what one knows or wishes to know but how to figure out and please the master of the class. Where they readily come to realise that every other student is a natural enemy who may jeopardise a student’s academic standing and that the student who gains the greatest success in the system is the one who is the most subservient, the one who becomes the docile follower of rules, who jumps at every command and sacrifices his will to that of instructors and administrators.

As John Holt (in The Underachieving School) has unmistakably clarified: “School is a long lesson in How to Turn Yourself Off.” He correctly asserts that in the schools “What children learn is Practical Slavery”:

Drawn on top of a student’s desk, which is, in reality, the prison cell of the captive inmate of the education institution, was the sketch of a tombstone on the face of which a student had written “In memory of all those who have died waiting for the bell”. This anguished expression of despair, silently drawn, during one of the long and seemingly never-ending periods of boredom that all students are subjected to, vividly reveals the nature of the educational system, a system which suffocates, numbs, and in some instances, brings about the death of the mind. It is these innumerable periods of torturous boredom that turns students into somnambulant robots ready to be led by any assertive individual who grabs a position of power.

The silent majority that if often referred to does exist, and it is silent because it consists of humans who have been dehumanised, whose minds have either been turned down (in which case the individuals choose to restrict their thinking to a few areas — their work, hobbies or other areas of special interest) or turned off and who quietly recede into their own frightened corner of our world — and almost beg for some authority to tell them what they can and cannot do. It is only natural that individuals who were subjected to twelve to sixteen years of a completely controlled, dictatorial environment, as they were in school (as students, they were most assuredly the silenced majority), would continue to remain silent as adults.

The only reason that the entire world today is not a complete dictatorship is the saving fact that students are only in school five or six hours a day, and thus in their free time (when they are released from the scholastic cages) a number of them are capable of developing some degree of independence and self-esteem, which means, some degree of mental maturity. And it is these few individuals that are responsible for maintaining those vestiges of freedom that remain in the world

… a classroom is one of the most immoral, the most inhuman, environment in existence, for it ignores the chosen, the understood, and the rational, and simply demands the compliance of the students to the master and his commandments. The proceedings of a dogmatic classroom are mystic rituals devoted to the slaughter of man’s mind.2

Our modern schools kill imagination, kill initiative, kill the ability to make decisions and judgements, and most of all kill the desire to learn and the love of learning. We should not be surprised to find this. If the government makes a mess of running the postal services, the railways, the buses, welfare systems and the economy, it is very unlikely that it would do any better with education.

The reasons for this failure are fundamentally the same as for government failures in other areas. Government has made effective, open competition impossible, has prevented the market from operating, and has substituted instead the use of coercion. Private schools are very difficult to open. There are numerous government requirements that they must satisfy for example, (idiocies like window area must be a “certain percentage” of floor area, toilet and playground facilities must be “adequate”, and so on). Taxation and inflation make the accumulation of capital difficult. And schools are not immune from economic factors such as rates, land and building costs, material costs, wage costs, maintenance costs, book costs, and all the other economic aspects of life. All of these have effectively prevented the opening of an enormous number of alternative private schools, and have thus discouraged diversity, experimentation, innovation and development.

The government has effectively created for itself a coercive monopoly on education, which it holds onto in complete defiance of market demands. The elimination of all restrictions on the opening and operating of private educational alternatives is a must. It would at least give us some outs, and some real choice.

By far the greatest lesson we have to learn though, is the fundamental truth of the old saying, “You can lead a child to school, but you can’t make him learn.” All today’s education system has done is to make children hate learning and knowledge, and to justifiably lose respect for their parents and social institutions. If you owned a store, and the government guaranteed that a certain number of people would, every day, spend a certain amount of money in your store, what would happen? (Assuming that the amount you would receive was enough to satisfy you.) What would happen to your store, your service and your attitude? Nothing is what.

And that is the situation in our schools. The teachers are guaranteed classes. The schools are guaranteed customers by the zoning regulations and compulsory attendance laws. As a result, there is no market function relating what is offered by way of facilities, teachers and syllabuses to the demands of the market. We are forced to accept what we get. This is why compulsory schooling has to go.

Without compulsory education, bad teachers would be left without classes, bad schools without pupils. In order to attract good teachers and pupils, schools would at long last have to look at their product. They would have to develop relevant syllabuses, the most attractive teaching methods, and supply good facilities. Because the compulsion was no longer there, the disruptive students would leave school and the students that were there would be there because they wanted to be there. The psychological benefits alone to the students (and teachers) would be enormous.

Of course, it will be argued that there are parents who don’t care about their children. We agree, but question whether or not the wholesale slaughter going on in our schools today can be justified on the grounds that it provides an education of dubious value to a few who otherwise might not get one. There are plenty of concerned people and organisations about, who would attempt to help such neglected children. Let’s not compound the problem by ruining the rest of the children as well.

Our governments will spend over $4,000 million this year on education. It’s time we asked what we are getting for it. Let’s start treating our children as having the same rights as other people. There is a market need for education. Modern industry cannot survive without a constant supply of engineers, scientists, accountants, solicitors, etc. There is every incentive for industry to support schools. A privately owned and operated free market educational system would supply whatever type and quality of education there was a need for. That’s how the open, competitive market works.

Companies would inevitably supply scholarships, loans, apprenticeships and cadetships that would allow even the poorest person a chance. It is also highly probable that some companies would own and operate their own schools, especially for the children of their employees. Learning should be an enjoyable process. It can be if we build the system to suit people instead of the other way round.

Footnotes

  1. John Holt, “Deschooling Society,” Reason, April-May, 1971.
  2. Thomas Johnson, “The Foundations of Freedom,” Ibid.
(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  2. Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
  3. Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
  4. Singo and Howard on Compromise
  5. Singo and Howard on Monopolies
  6. Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
  7. Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
  8. Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
  9. Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
  10. Singo and Howard on Drugs!
  11. Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
  12. Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
  13. Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
  14. Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
  15. Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
  16. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  17. John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
  18. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  19. Singo and Howard on Aborigines
  20. Singo and Howard on Conservatism
  21. Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
  22. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  23. John Singleton changes his name
  24. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  25. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  26. Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
  27. Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
  28. Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
  29. Singo and Howard on Rights
  30. Singo and Howard on Crime
  31. Singo and Howard on Justice
  32. Singo and Howard on Unemployment
  33. John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
  34. Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
  35. Holed up, hold-up and holdout
  36. The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
  37. Workers Party Platform
  38. Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
  39. Singo and Howard on Business
  40. Singo and Howard on Discrimination
  41. Singo and Howard on the Greens
  42. Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
  43. Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
  44. Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
  45. Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
  46. Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
  47. Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
  48. The last words of Charles Russell
  49. Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
  50. Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
  51. Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
  52. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  53. "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
  54. Introducing the new Workers' Party
  55. Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
  56. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  57. Voices of frustration
  58. Policies of Workers Party
  59. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  60. AAA Tow Truck Co.
  61. Singo and Howard on Context
  62. Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
  63. Singo and Howard on Apathy
  64. Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
  65. Singo and Howard on Decency
  66. John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
  67. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
  68. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  69. The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
  70. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  71. Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
  72. A Farewell to Armchair Critics
  73. Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
  74. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  75. David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
  76. Bludgers need not apply
  77. New party formed "to slash controls"
  78. The Workers Party
  79. Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
  80. The great consumer protection trick
  81. The "Workers" speak out
  82. How the whores pretend to be nuns
  83. The Workers Party is a Political Party
  84. Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
  85. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  86. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  87. Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
  88. Singo and Howard on Young People
  89. Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
  90. Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
  91. Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
  92. Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
  93. Singo and Howard on Consistency
  94. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  95. Political branch formed
  96. Government seen by new party as evil
  97. Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
  98. Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
  99. Singo and Howard on Licences
  100. Singo and Howard on Gun Control
  101. Singo and Howard on Human Nature
  102. Singo and Howard on Voting
  103. Singo and Howard on
    Inherited Wealth
  104. Singo and Howard on Education
  105. Singo and Howard on Qualifications
  106. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  107. Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
  108. Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
  109. A happy story about Aborigines
  110. John Singleton on Political Advertising
  111. Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
  112. Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
  113. How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
  114. The Discipline of Necessity
  115. John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
  116. Libertarians: Radicals on the right
  117. The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
  118. Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
  119. Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
  120. Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
  121. The impossible dream
  122. Why can't I get away with it?
  123. The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
  124. Time for progress
  125. The loonie right implodes
  126. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  127. John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
  128. Censorship should be banned
  129. "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
  130. John Singleton on Advertising
  131. John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
  132. Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
  133. Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
  134. John Singleton defends ockerism
  135. Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
  136. The Census Con
  137. Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
  138. Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
  139. Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
  140. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  141. John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
  142. John Hyde's Progress Party praise
  143. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  144. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  145. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  146. John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
  147. Save Parramatta Road
  148. 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
  149. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  150. Singo and Howard on Unions
  151. Singo and Howard Smash the State
  152. Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
  153. Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
  154. A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
  155. Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
  156. Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
  157. John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
  158. Thoughts on Land Ownership
  159. 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
  160. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  161. The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
  162. The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
  163. Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
  164. The mouse will roar
  165. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  166. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  167. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  168. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  169. Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
  170. Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
  171. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  172. John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
  173. Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
  174. John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
  175. I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
  176. Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
  177. John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
  178. Singo and Howard on Ballet
  179. Product innovation comes first
  180. Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
  181. A party is born
  182. Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
  183. John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
  184. Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
  185. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  186. John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
  187. Counterculture must exclude government handouts
  188. John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
  189. John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
  190. Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
  191. Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
  192. Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
  193. Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
  194. Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
  195. Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
  196. John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
  197. Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
  198. John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
  199. Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
  200. Return Australia Post to Sender
  201. Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
  202. John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
  203. John Singleton on cigarette advertising
  204. Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
  205. John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
  206. John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
  207. Gortlam rides again
  208. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  209. John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
  210. 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
  211. Singo asks two prickly questions
  212. VIOLENCE, TV BAN, DRINK - SINGO SPEAKS HIS MIND
  213. Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
  214. Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
  215. Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
  216. An Ode to Busybodies
  217. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  218. How many tits in a tangle?
  219. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
  220. John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
  221. A speech from the Titanic
  222. A crime must have a victim
  223. John Singleton vs Australia Post
  224. Minimum wages the killer
  225. Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
  226. John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
  227. John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
  228. John Singleton vs Don Lane
  229. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  230. John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
  231. Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
  232. John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
  233. Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
  234. Charity: An Aesop Fable
  235. Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
  236. New improved moon
  237. Announcing people ... YES, people!
  238. Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
  239. John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
  240. Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
  241. John Singleton schools ad course
  242. John Singleton: advertising awards
  243. Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
  244. John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
  245. John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare
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