End the Education Fights: Time for a Divorce

School -- girl reading (RGBStock)

Students at Mount Horeb Primary Center in Wisconsin were scheduled to read the book I Am Jazz, by teen transgender celebrity Jazz Jennings, in late November, the idea being to acquaint the student body — which includes a trans girl — with the basics of gender identity.

The reading was canceled when school administrators received a nastygram from a group calling itself “Liberty Counsel.” Since the book’s content doesn’t conform to the views of some evangelical Christian parents, exposing their children to it would, Liberty Counsel claims, violate those parents’ civil rights.

Any three people reading this column will probably come up with three different opinions on the specific issue at hand: When should kids learn about gender, where should they learn it, and what should they learn about it? In that area, I can’t say I’m a big fan of Liberty Counsel’s positions (their letter is a poisonous piece of trash that treats gender identities diverging from from their tendentious misreadings of scripture as “confusion” and “mental disorder”).

On the other hand, the incident does bring up a more fundamental point. This past year, brawls over the content of “public education” seem to have centered around gender identity issues — who uses what bathroom, locker room, etc. But the brawls themselves are nothing new. They’ve occurred with regularity ever since government’s hostile takeover of American education began in the mid-19th century. Sex education in general has been a recurring topic, as has evolution vs. creationism in science curricula. Even the state’s cultish loyalty oath, the “pledge of allegiance,” has occasioned multiple 12-round heavyweight extravaganzas.

The solution to all this constant conflict is simple: If we want to end the political struggles over education, we need to end the involvement of politics itself in education. And the only way to do that is to separate school and state entirely.

I said it would be simple. Simple isn’t the same thing as easy. “Public education” in the US, up through the high school level, is an industry with more than $600 billion in annual tax-extorted revenues and millions of employees. They’re one of the most powerful ready-made political lobbies imaginable. They will not go gently into that good night.

But there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Why not start by separating YOUR kids from the government education con game? Private schools may be more expensive and homeschooling may require more effort, but both alternatives produce better results than the combination prisons/daycare centers the state falsely advertises as “schools” these days.

Or I suppose you could just let Liberty Counsel and the local NEA chapter continue to duke it out every other week over what your kids should learn.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


  • “End the Education Fights: Time for a Divorce,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, 11/29/15
  • “End the Education Fights: Time for a Divorce,” by Thomas L. Knapp, FPP News [New Hampshire, print edition], December 2015