Montreal, April 27, 2002  /  No 103  
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Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario. He can be reached at
by Harry Valentine
          State policies often achieve the opposite of what was intended. The long-term impact such state policies have on segments of the population often manifests itself on children attending state schools. These schools become repository for the societal ills caused by misguided state policies. The news media from Eastern and Western Canada recently carried stories about teenagers committing suicide, revealing in their suicide notes that they had taken their lives to escape the bullying they had endured in and around school.
We don't need no education... 
          Research undertaken into bullying by psychologists from Queens' and Carleton Universities have shown that most bullying occurs on school premises: in hallways and washrooms, on the playground, on the school bus and on the way to and from school. This phenomena is not only occurring across Canada, it is also occurring in several other countries. The webpage carries stories from school children from several nations about the bullying phenomena. 
          Children who engage in bullying behaviour often originate from problem family backgrounds and usually have low levels of self-esteem, or high levels of pseudo high self-esteem. This latter group is reported to experience a sense of exhilaration and achievement for having terrorised another child. 
          State welfare programs not only resulted in a boom in teenaged motherhood across Canada and the USA, welfare became a major factor in creating new  problem family backgrounds and a new generation of children who grew up having little or no contact with their fathers. Fellow QL columnist David MacRae has published an article (see THE ROOT CAUSES OF CRIME, le QL, no 63) on the adverse emotional impacts of fatherless children. 
          The first generation of single, teenaged welfare mothers could neither learn to read under the "look-say" reading method nor acquire any level of numerical competency in classes on "the new math." Compulsory school attendance laws now force their present day offspring and descendants to be present on school premises, perhaps to be socialized into some semblance of conformity. Some of them may have little or no real interest in school, or what is happening or being taught in the classroom. They may disrupt the classroom, use or traffic in drugs or engage in bullying behaviours toward peers. 
          The epidemic of student misbehaviour, the bullying problems, drug trafficking, drug use, teacher burn-out levels and teachers taking stress leave are among the problems now in evidence in the school environment, yet had their origins in policies and action initiated and enforced by the state. Some state educational policies are now even denying children from functional, healthy family backgrounds from spending quality time with their parents during after-school and evening hours, by overloading children with homework. 
Zero tolerance policies 
          Across Canada and the USA, education officials have responded to the increase in school violence by introducing zero-tolerance policies. The zero tolerance policy is ultimately aimed at dealing with the shortcomings compulsory school attendance laws have visited in the schools, as well as the after-effects of earlier state polices which went wrong. Unfortunately, the zero-tolerance policy snares a large number of innocent victims. 
     « The epidemic of student misbehaviour, the bullying problems, drug trafficking, drug use, teacher burn-out levels and teachers taking stress leave are among the problems now in evidence in the school environment, yet had their origins in policies and action initiated and enforced by the state. »
          The webpage gives several examples of the shortcomings of the zero tolerance policy. Here are some examples: a 5-year old boy was charged with sexual assault in California, for having kissed a 5-year old girl on the cheek, in their kindergarten class. An honour final year high school student was expelled from school for having a dangerous weapon on school property. A plastic butter knife was seen in the back of his little pick-up truck. After some news media coverage, the student received a 2-day suspension. A young girl was suspended for having a "dangerous weapon" on school premises, a 3-1/2-inch chain bracelet on that connected her purse to a Mickey Mouse watch. Educational bureaucrats and officials seem to be trying to solve present day state school problems by taking leave of their senses (if not their minds). 
          School officials themselves have undermined the credibility of their zero tolerance policies. The actions undertaken under the zero tolerance policy regime seem to be an attempt to prepare children to live in a totalitarian state in which authority is supreme and is not questioned, where there is no presumption of innocence prior to proof of guilt and where the concepts of rights and justice become irrelevant. Modern state educational policy seems aimed at realising the central themes of Plato's Republic and of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, that is, obedience to authority, the supremacy of the state and conformity in behaviour as the duty of each citizen. 
Brains "wired" differently 
          Over a century ago the famous author, Leo Tolstoy, was quoted in a letter as stating that "the power and strength of the state ultimately lies in the ignorance and stupidity of its citizens!" State educational bureaucrats and their custodians of knowledge, whose presence graces the classrooms, have the noble task of fertilizing the minds of the younger generation in such a way that very few would ever actually dare to engage in independent and critical thinking. 
          In the United States, there are citizens who have revolted against the state imposing itself on their children's minds by homeschooling their children. The State of California asserted its authority and tried to prosecute homeschooling parents through the courts, a decade ago. A group of lawyers, including University of Chicago professor of law, Richard Epstein, volunteered their services and represented the parents in court, winning their case and affirming the parent's right to homeschool their offspring. Over one-million children are now believed to be homeschooled in the USA, with nearly 100,000 in Canada. 
          The Fraser Institute undertook a study on the academic performance of homeschooled children and released their findings in 2001. Despite not being taught by trained professionals, the Institute revealed that homeschooled children outscored their publically schooled counterparts in academic testing. The homeschoolers even showed equal or higher levels of interpersonal social skills. A worthwhile book which explains why homeschooled children are more likely to out-perform their public school counterparts is A Mind at a Time, by University of North Carolina professor of pediatrics, Dr. Mel Levine, who explains that different children learn and think differently, because their brains are "wired" differently. In a homeschool environment, parents can balance learning time with quality family time, for the benefit of their children. Much information about homeschooling can be found on the internet, by typing "homeschool" into any search engine. 
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