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Education today is reversal of what founders envisioned

To the editor:

Our country’s founders have taken quite a few hits lately,

so the approving reference to them at the recent school board

candidates’ forum is welcome.

“We are fortunate to have multiple strong schools in our

community, but public schools play a unique role in that. Our

country’s founding – our leaders recognized the need for a

free universal education for all its citizens in order to have a

functioning republic and democracy,” one candidate said.

It should be pointed out that what we have in education today,

far from being a continuation of what it was at our founding, is

to a large extent a reversal of it. See the wonderfully informative

article, “Education in Colonial America,” by Robert A. Peterson,

which is available on the internet. I will quote two sentences, and

hope they whet everyone’s appetite for more:

“Yet for 200 years in American history, from the mid-

1600s to the mid-1800s, public schools as we know them

today were virtually non-existent, and the educational needs

of America were met by the free market. … Almost no tax

money was spent on education, yet education was available to

almost anyone who wanted it, including the poor.”

Speaking of what can result when people are not being

throttled in their legitimate pursuits by the state but are free,

this is what Gerard Casey wrote in “Freedom’s Progress?”:

“The existence and mode of operation of mutual aid societies

or friendly societies is one of the best-kept secrets in social history.

These societies originated as early as the 16th century and

continued to operate well into the 20th. By 1801, in Britain, there

were 7,200 societies with around 700,000 adult male members,

in a society of nine million people. By 1872, there were as many

as four million members of such friendly societies, four times

as many members as there were trade unionists. In 1920, some

eighteen million Americans belonged to fraternal societies, approximately

30% of all adults over 20. These societies provided

death benefits (often as much as was equivalent to a year’s salary

at the time) payable to survivors, unemployment assistance, accident

insurance, financial aid to those seeking work, and health

cover by means of contracts entered into between the societies

and physicians. In the late 19th century, some of the larger societies

built orphanages and old-age homes.”

R.E. Wehrwein

New Ulm

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