The Public Schools

By Gary North, “The Culture War and the Public Schools,”(, 24/1/2014

With respect to public attitudes, the public schools are our primary problem today. The public schools get control of teenagers, and they do not turn loose until the teenager is close to the voting age of 18. Governments have understood this for a century. The Prussian government, which was notorious for its absolutism and its authoritarianism, discovered this two centuries ago. This is why governments do not favour private schooling and especially homeschooling. They want to indoctrinate students. They want to shape the outlook of the students. They want to promote an attitude favourable to the expansion of the government.

What governments have found is this: they can combine support for authoritarianism with libertinism in sexual matters. The government gains support for its policies of intervention, as long as the policies are combined with a lax attitude towards monogamy. The obvious reason for this is the family. The family is the great opponent of the expansion of the state into family matters. If the government can persuade young adults that the welfare state is morally legitimate, this reduces future resistance to the expansion of the state. Second, if it can persuade young people to take a lax attitude toward sexual morality, it undermines commitment to the family. This in turn undermines resistance to the state.

This is why sex education classes have been at the top of the curriculum reform agenda of the public schools for 60 years. This is why public schools have demanded the right to teach about sexual affairs, because what the public schools want is an increase in sexual affairs. This lowers resistance to the state.

Abortion is an effect of increased sexual activity outside of marriage. So, the public schools have been favourable toward abortion. It is extremely difficult to offset this kind of training, when the campaign to change people’s minds must begin after high school graduation. Four years of college make it even more difficult to change their minds. Colleges are the great laboratories for sex outside of marriage. It is considered normal on campus. This was not true prior to the mid-1960s, but has been true ever since.

This is a culture war. The state has been self-conscious in its dedication to winning this war, which means undermining the moral fabric of society. The two agencies most likely to offer resistance — the family and the church — have surrendered to the state on the issue of training teenagers and young adults at taxpayers’ expense. This has given a free ride to the enemies of society. When you accept the legitimacy of the fundamental indoctrination institution of the state, and you promote this in the name of conservatism, Christianity, common sense, and economic growth, you are in a weak position to enter the debate when the graduates of the system are voting adults, and say that it is a bad idea to have the state interfere with adults’ sexual practices.