Try This One Weird Trick to Get Politics Out of Education

Empty classroom. Photo by Onderwijsgek. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Netherlands license.
Empty classroom. Photo by Onderwijsgek. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Netherlands license.

Over the last two years — since the New York Times introduced its 1619 Project  to “reframe the country’s history” around the consequences of slavery — something called “Critical Race Theory” has become the new football in the never-ending political struggle to control the content of K-12 education in America.

“Conservative” opponents of CRT claim that it’s bad history, that those behind it want to build a totalitarian, race-based America, and that it’s infiltrated virtually every educational institution (they support that last claim by putting the CRT label on anything and everything they dislike).

“Progressives” level similar accusations at state-level bills to ban CRT, as well as efforts like former President Donald Trump’s “1776 Commission,” which aimed to promote “patriotic education” (President Joe Biden dissolved the Commission).

What’s important here isn’t so much whether Critical Race Theory or “patriotic education” constitutes an historically accurate curriculum (I vote “neither”). This isn’t actually a struggle over the facts. It’s a struggle to determine who gets to indoctrinate America’s future voters in a particular political ideology.

It’s far from the first such struggle. We’ve been having these fights ever since “public” education became a thing in America, and over everything from sex education (whether to have it at all, and if so whether to acknowledge LGBTQ orientations and whether to discuss contraception or preach “abstinence only”) to evolution versus creationism. Those past fights, too, were far more about pushing partisan political propaganda than about the facts or, for that matter, what was best for the kids.

It’s actually a simple problem with a simple solution.

No, I’m not thinking of “school choice” proposals like taxpayer-financed “charter” schools or voucher/tax credit programs which distribute taxpayer money to supposedly “private” schools. Those proposals simply create new government schools and/or turn “private” INTO government schools with attached strings, as we’ve seen in higher education with the GI Bill, Pell Grants, and government-guaranteed student loans. As long as tax funding is involved, education will remain political.

If we want politics out of education, we have to separate school and state. Entirely. No government involvement whatsoever. Parents can homeschool their kids, or join with other parents to teach small groups, or hire private tutors, or pay tuition at private schools — without one thin dime of taxpayer aid or one crumb of government permission or bureaucratic control.

I said the solution is simple, and it is. “Simple” doesn’t mean the same thing as “easy,” or for that matter “equal” — yes, I’m aware that some parents have more money and/or time and/or teaching skill than others to invest in their kids’ education.

Quality education is certainly a desirable service, and one government schools continue to get worse and worse at providing. Universal access is a laudable goal, but only if it’s access to something worthwhile.

Getting politics out of education would go a long way toward solving quality problems as well, but there’s only one way to get politics out of education, and that’s to get government out of education.

The sooner the better.

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


Help Wanted: The Labor Shoe is on the Other Foot

Iroquois-china 1919-0925 male

“I’m a small business owner,” someone identified as “Andy” writes to syndicated advice columnists J.T. and Dale, “and I can’t believe how many people just don’t want to work anymore. … my business is suffering, because I can’t get employees.”

My social media feeds are full of photographs — who knows if they’re real or not? I haven’t seen any in my town, but friends say they’ve seen them elsewhere — of signs at businesses apologizing for being “short-staffed,” with “people just don’t want to work” complaints appended.

The country seems adrift in a sea of whiny employers. What’s really going on here?

The standard explanation for a little while was that  “enhanced” unemployment benefits that continued even after pandemic-related (but politically created) economic shutdowns ended made it more lucrative to sit at home and play video games than, say, flip burgers. And who could be blamed for taking that deal?

That explanation’s not making much sense anymore as extra unemployment benefits, “stimulus” checks, and eviction moratoria fade into memory.

US unemployment is low  (5.2% in August; economists consider 5% or lower to effectively constitute “full employment”). Those who “want to work” are working. Why do so many seemingly not “want” to?

Put simply, they’re not being offered as much for their time and effort as they consider it to be worth.

The pandemic shutdowns and benefits affected that in two big ways.

First, some people who were able to retire decided to do so, when otherwise they might have stuck out a few more years in the work force. The available supply of labor was thus reduced.

Second, some people learned to be thriftier and make do on less over the last 18 months. You’ll bust your hump, whatever it takes, to keep a roof overhead and ramen in the pantry. Once that’s covered, though, you’re in a position to ask yourself how many hours a week you’re willing to trade for Netflix, craft beer, and expensive sneakers. The answer, right now, would appear to be “fewer.”

Labor is a commodity. It’s something the worker sells for money. And as with any other commodity, supply versus demand tells the story.

When there’s plenty of supply versus demand  — that is, high unemployment — employers can drive a hard bargain. “Don’t want to clean toilets for $7.50 an hour? No problem. There are ten other people who will.”

But when demand exceeds supply, as now, the shoe is suddenly on the other foot. “Don’t want to pay $20 an hour to get your toilets cleaned? No problem. There are ten other employers who will.”

Yes, workers and employers complain whenever they find themselves on the less profitable side of that equation. But in the end, money talks and complaints walk.

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


Libertarianism: No Infantile Disorder

The faces of horror comics in 1954 were as alarming to authority figures as Facebook is in 2021. Public domain.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat could use a refresher on Freudo-Marxist psychiatrists.

Douthat chides libertarians — or at least “the kind of libertarian who identifies forever with his 13-year-old self” — for taking a laissez-faire attitude to “a novel, obviously addictive technology that might well be associated with depression and self-harm” (“Instagram Is Adult Entertainment,” September 30). Douthat refers to social media websites, but he should take a closer look at “the people who panicked over the moral effects of comic books” before dismissing a parallel.

Seduction of the Innocent author Fredric Wertham was sure that the shift of comics from the funny pages to funnybooks was causing psychological harm to young readers, a diagnosis drawn not from old-fashioned prudery but the Frankfurt School’s suspicion of commercial culture. Wertham cited the Progressive Era’s forays against reckless robber barons in his efforts to clean up crime comics. Ironically, such regulation allowed cartelized industries to get away with lower safety standards (and higher profits) than possible under the pressure of market competition.

By the 1960s, Mad magazine was spreading as a primer for rebellious adolescents after the Comics Code Authority forced its publisher to discontinue horror comics like Tales from the Crypt and The Haunt of Fear. Meanwhile, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm introduced American audiences to a British import that became an icon of the youth counterculture. While the Beatles were proving that rock and roll would outlast Elvis Presley leaving for the Army, Fromm highlighted how “the idea of education without force” was being put into practice at the alternative school Summerhill.

Fromm insisted to those who saw an excess of permissiveness in pedagogy that, just as in the realm of politics, “it is not that authority has disappeared, nor even that it has lost in strength, but that it has been transformed from the overt authority of force to the anonymous authority of persuasion and suggestion.” Freedom did not fail when it was genuine.

Douthat’s inistence that the state save social life from social media likewise ignores Fromm’s insight, drawn from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, that social organization can only be a social benefit if its “associations are free and spontaneous, and not state imposed.” What Fromm called Proudhon’s “drastic condemnation of the principle of authority and hierarchy” as “the prime cause of all disorders and ills of society” should serve as a warning to those who see it as the cure.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Libertarianism – No Infantile Disorder” by Joel Schlosberg, The Glasgow, Montana Courier, October 6, 2021
  2. “Libertarianism: No Infantile Disorder” by Joel Schlosberg, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, October 6, 2021