ARLINGTON, VA - The Separation of School and State Alliance, headed by founder Marshall Fritz, held its third major conference in November entitled, "Is Public Schooling Beyond Repair?" The conference featured a wide variety of conservative speakers, including John Taylor Gatto, 1991 New York State Teacher of theYear and author of Dumbing Us Down and The Exhausted School; Sam Blumenfeld, author of The Whole Language/OBE Fraud; Steve Kossor, school psychologist and editor of The Kossor Education Newsletter; Dean Clancy, Education Policy Analyst for House Majority Leader Dick Armey; Joseph Sobran, syndicated newspaper columnist; plus many others. The well-attended, two-day forum covered topics supporting the Separation Alliance's basic premise -- that in order for real education reform to take place, the state must be removed from education altogether.
In promoting the conference, Fritz posed the rhetorical question, "Are you tired of shoveling goose feathers against the tide of edu-nonsense? . . . . Join me in the only organization that works for the real solution—to get government completely out of education."
The Fresno, CA-based organization began as Fritz's concept in 1994, and has grown into a "full-fledged, non-profit, grassroots organization." The group has attracted supporters nationwide in its goal to build consensus for "the original public education system, privately operated, open to the public."
Before the state took over the job of educating its citizens, effective schooling had already been in place for over 200 years. Literacy rates were higher before the start of public schools in the 1840s than they are today.
Well-intended reforms have not improved the situation; many have actually made matters worse. No reform, says Fritz, will fix the system because it is inherently flawed. As with state-established churches, state-backed slavery, and state-run farms, "there is no way to 'reform' state-run schooling.”
Fritz gives three reasons why reform will not work. First, the wide diversity of Americans' beliefs and values often results in a "school war."
Second, public education reduces parental responsibility. Parents wishing to assert their rightful authority to determine their children's education must pay for it themselves and forgo using tax dollars. Public education has become an entitlement among American parents.
Third, government schools by nature employ socialism (government ownership and administration of the means of production of goods and services). Socialism is not subject to the preferences of consumers, so it produces low quality, high costs, and shortages or surpluses of goods and services. "Socialism," says Fritz, "cannot be improved. It must be replaced."
"Today's educators are not our opponents. When good people are in a bad system, the system wins," says Fritz. "Our opponent is an idea, held in the minds of the great majority, that state force is a necessary part of a good education."
"Separation" means "the elimination of local, state, national, and international governments from all aspects of education, including financing, determining curriculum, specifying outcomes, compelling attendance, accrediting teachers, and accrediting and operating schools." Ultimate success will be measured by "the removal of all children from tax-funded schools and the refusal of families to accept government subsidies [including tax-funded vouchers] for their children's education."
Fritz says that separation will especially benefit poor children. He predicts that private scholarships will expand to $20 billion per year to make sure that children in low-income families have access to better schools. Such charities already exist through organizations like the Washington, D.C.-based National Scholarship Center.
Separation supporters believe that declining values and increasing federal control over curriculum will motivate parents to flee tax-run schools. Advances in technology are increasingly lowering the cost of home and independent schooling, making the transition to separation easier and more affordable.
The "Separation Alliance" boasts a long list of supporters, a number of whom spoke at the conference in November. Many opinion leaders, clergy members, educators, political leaders, authors, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists agree with the Alliance's position. Members come from a wide range of political, economic, theological, social, pedagogical, and ethnic backgrounds.
The Separation Alliance bills itself as strictly educational, and does not have any political or religious affiliations. Its newsletter, The Education Liberator, is published monthly. Literature, including "No More 'Public School Reform': A Practical Plan for the Separation of School and State," may be obtained for $10 by writing or calling The Separation of School and State Alliance, 4578 N. First #310, Fresno, CA 93726, 209/292-1776, web site - www.sepcon.org.