Modern Education Failed Us

A blog for stories, research, and activism for educational choices. One-size-fits-all mass education is harmful for many children. There are many educational models - homeschooling, secular private schools, one-room schoolhouse, charter schools, virtual schools, specialty schools, religious schools, and many more. All deserve respect and equal protection under the law. The government should not discriminate nor dominate! Centralized monopolistic public education should be a thing of the past.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Hobbesian Choice?

Thomas Hobbes was a 17th century English philosopher and political theorist writing about the balance between a secure civil society and democracy. He argued that the only way to have a secure civil society and avoid chaos is through universal submission to the absolute authority of a sovereign. The term 'Hobbesian Choice' is often used in modern parlance to indicate a choice between two extremes, usually equally unacceptable.

Public school vs. Homeschool. A Hobbesian Choice?

Hobbes had a very deterministic view of human nature. He felt that human beings were driven by "a restless desire of power after power." He felt that if man was not subjected to a dominant authority, the world would be in a constant state of "every man against every man." This, according to Hobbes, put every person in "continual fear and danger of violent death" and makes every person's life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." The answer, according to Hobbes, was an authoritarian social contract in which the state imposed peace and order. Hobbes felt that individual obedience and surrender of rights was necessary to avoid the greater evil of a chaotic, warring society.

Public school vs. Homeschool. A Hobbesian Choice?

Hobbes felt it was the duty of the Soveriegn to educate the population to their duty. This call for education has many in the modern education community cheering Hobbes. More and more educational theorists in academia are pointing to Hobbes' writings to show the need for education in maintaining social order and political stability. Ph.D. dissertations ask for a "kinder, gentler" interpretation of Hobbes' views, pointing out that Hobbes also advocates "that a prudent sovereign will choose good counselors, rule justly, see to it that citizens are contented and materially well off, and educate them in their duties." But one Australian professor recognizes a paradox in Hobbes' views:

On obedience to the Sovereign and education Hobbes appears to generate a paradox. On the one hand he argues for absolute power, absolute obedience, censorship, and the suppression of opposed beliefs and teachers thereof, and on the other hand he states explicitly that it is the duty of the Sovereign to educate the people on political matters. Education, it might be thought, might be incompatible with absolute obedience, censorship and the suppression of opposed beliefs and persons holding or teaching such beliefs. If education could lead to such beliefs then instead of obeying the sovereign subjects might revolt. Hence education could lead to a state of war. Yet peace is the over-riding concern of Hobbes' political theory. There is something of a paradox then as what is said about the duty of the citizen, namely obligation, seems to be inconsistent with the duty of the Sovereign, namely education; if the Sovereign desires peace then one cannot educate, whereas if one desires education then one cannot ensure peace.

Public school vs. Homeschool. A Hobbesian Choice?

A paper from The University of Manchester points out that Hobbes felt that the parental right to "institute their children as they see fit" (i.e. educate) was not absolute but "in some places more, in some places less, according as they that have the sovereignty shall think most convenient." Fields v. Palmdale, a recent 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision, said "We also hold that parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students."

Public school vs. Homeschool. A Hobbesian Choice?

No. The choice to send your kids to public school or to homeschool them is not a Hobbesian Choice for you to make. The Hobbesian Choice has already been made - by the modern educational establishment. They have concluded that Hobbes was right and are consciously or subconsciously following his dictates.

No, homeschooling is not a Hobbesian Choice. But it might be a Hobson's Choice. Hobson was an innkeeper in 17th-century Cambridge, England, who gained lasting fame for requiring those who wanted to rent a horse from his stable to take whichever horse they wanted as long as it was in the stall next to the stable door. The phrase has come to mean a "choice" in name only. With public education having made the Hobbesian Choice, choosing to homeschool became a Hobson's Choice for me. I had no real alternative but to homeschool.

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