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The Politicization of Education

A controversy in California involving a public-school English teacher who wore a T-shirt to class with “I can’t breathe” on it demonstrates one of the reasons that the politicization of education has been such a disastrous experiment.

The T-shirt threw some people into a rage. One parent says he wants his child to learn English and nothing else. He isn’t interested in having his child subjected to social commentary. His reaction was mild compared to others the teacher received. According to the Los Angeles Times, the teacher received such a torrent of angry messages that she had to flee her home with her daughter after her address was advertised on social media.

What’s the solution to this controversy? Should a teacher be free to wear whatever commentary she wants on clothing she wears to class? Are her free-speech rights violated if she is prohibited from doing so? Should parents be required to submit their children to political statements or commentaries in English or math classes?

Who should decide the matter? The principal? The school board? Voters at the next election? The state department of education? Voters in a state-wide election? Or maybe the federal Department of Education?

Whatever decision is made, there are going to be unhappy people, on one side or the other. There will continue to be seething anger. That’s the way it is when a peaceful activity is politicized.

Now, let’s assume that there is instead a total separation of school and state, just as we have done with the separation of church and state. No more public (i.e., government) school boards, departments of education, buildings, principals, teachers, and textbooks, and taxes. All education is now in the hands of the private sector.

What happens now if a teacher wears an “I can’t breathe” T-shirt to class? Now, the matter depends entirely on the school. As a private institution, it can set any rules it wants for how teachers can dress. If a teacher doesn’t like it, he or she can resign and go work elsewhere.

By the same token, if parents don’t like the school’s policy, they are free to take their children elsewhere, No one is forced to do anything. Everything is by consent.

By depoliticizing education, the conflicts and discords that arise with the administration of public schooling diminish or disappear. At the very least, they are depoliticized.

That’s the way it works with religious liberty. If people don’t like a particular church’s policies or principles, they are free to lobby for change or simply go elsewhere. That’s why we don’t see big politicized battles in religion like we do in education.

Separate school and state. End all governmental involvement in education. The fee market is the only real solution to California’s T-shirt crisis and to all the other crises that besiege America’s public schools.

The post The Politicization of Education appeared first on The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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About The Author

Jacob G. Hornberger

The Future of Freedom Foundation was founded in 1989 by FFF president Jacob Hornberger with the aim of establishing an educational foundation that would advance an uncompromising case for libertarianism in the context of both foreign and domestic policy. The mission of The Future of Freedom Foundation is to advance freedom by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government. Visit

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