Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families

I actually managed to read a book I received for Christmas.  Okay, I have read two of them, but I don't think Patrick O'Brian's H.M.S. Surprise requires a review on this voyage.  It is a great book, though, if you like 19th century seafaring adventures and the Aubrey/Maturin series.

Here's my attempt at getting all the elements of this book down in a nice reference format.  Richman, Sheldon.  Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families.  Fairfax, VA: The Future of Freedom Foundation, 1994.

Richman's book is a brief diatribe against publicly funded education.  In his six chapters he discusses where publich schools came from, what is wrong with them, why they exist, who some of the primary opponents are, what life might be like without public schools, and some concluding idea.  I asked for the book because it frankly looked interesting.  However, Richman quickly spirals into a diatribe against any organization other than the family which may attempt to bring order to society.  While he makes some good observations and has some conclusions which are probably valid, he does not build an orderly argument for his point of view.  The book strikes me as being more a book of conclusions than a book of evidence leading to a conclusion.

This is unfortunate.  The place for conclusions without much evidence is not in a book like this.  That kind of rhetoric belongs somewhere like the blogosphere, where I am writing.  Of course, Richman was writing before people used the Internet.  

I found that many of the citations of sources Richman used in the book were secondary citations, a big no-no for an informed and fair writer.  He also seemed to pick and choose only what fit his argument, blithely leaving out the greater societal context.  For instance, he suggested that Luther was responsible for forming totalitarian government schools which would oppress citizens and make them be automatons for the state.  He suggested this because Luther went on record telling princes that they should care for their subjects by making sure they can learn to read and write and that they should be adequately catechized.  It is not clear what Richman's religious leanings are, but he seems hostile to the whole idea of a Church that trains up believers.  He also seems hostile to the idea of submitting to the authority God has placed over you.  This is a fatal flaw in his work.

One good note about the book.  My daughter got it for me on Paperback Swap, so it cost only a book in exchange.  I think that book may even have been one of my books.  Maybe I'll put this book back on Paperback Swap.  I wonder what I'll get next?

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

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