Now, that doesn't make public education a good thing. It doesn't make the system great. But it does mean that the idea was not anathema to some big time Founders. And it suggests that to some here at FR, James Madison was a socialist. Interesting stuff, eh?
FWIW, I agree with Mr. Madison that there is a public interest in having an educated populace. I also agree with him that if poor people cannot afford one, the "haves" should provide it, for the good of all. I strongly support a voucher system, because I believe it combines the best elements of a free market system with the best elements of the public interest, and minimizes the pitfalls of each. Freegards,
Anyway, I don't agree with Madison on this. There is no difference in principle between a government-funded school and any other form of welfare. The fact that "education" is Good Thing and welfare-funded booze is a Bad Thing doesn't change the fact that providing schooling or booze at public expense is NOT providing something for the Common Good, but is the use of state power to bestow a private good on some citizens. That is wrong in principle.
And of course, if Madison could have foreseen the infantilization of parents, the destruction of the father-son bond, the militant atheism, the rampant illiteracy, and condoms in the classroom, he wouldn't have uttered a word in support of "public education."
What Madison did not advocate, and what no self-respecting American would have accepted from a publicly financed education, would have been indoctrination with the alien values of the NEA, or any of the intrusive "life adjustment" type of courses, now forced upon the innocents. If public education were to shape up, it would be acceptable--nay, it would put a valuable floor under public competence. In its present direction, it does more harm than good.
William Flax Return Of The Gods Web Site
Voter approved, locally controlled, no federal strings, voluntary, Basic (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, History, Geography) Education may be a good idea. It is not however what we currently have. And it is not a Right!
A system of public Education must start and end with parental control with Voter approval. If parents are impeded in any way in the upbringing of their children by the state or Feds, I believe it is a violation of Life, Liberty and Property.
If land owners are to foot the bill, then land owners should vote on the issue, not the general public as they pay nothing (which is not the case now as the federal dollars paid into the state are from other sources).
"And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps."
- H.L. Mencken
Of course, it would break his heart that a student recieves a much better education in a religious school today than in a public one.
Popular government was considered risky (Hamilton believed it was bound to fail) and educating the masses was seen by Madison and Jefferson as the best remedy to losing liberty to the tyranny of the majority. They wanted a method of assuring that poor people would have the ability to become educated as well as a wealthy elite. Jefferson even came up with a plan to identify promising scholars from the masses and provide them funding for university education.
But Madison also understood and wrote in the federalist papers that time will be the ultimate test of policies and the great advantage of constututional and popular government is that it allows for correcting mistakes that will inevitably be made and which will be revealed as time passes. A policy that worked in the early 1900's may be rendered harmful in changed circumstances and there is no reason we have to follow the same state monopoly model of education just because that is what teachers unions want for their own selfish reasons.
The public school system today in no way educates citizens to be responsible participants in self-government. The harm it has done has been immense but it is not irreversible. Vouchers to stimulate the private education market, home schooling and removing government as much as possible from the lives of families and children is what is needed today to begin to reverse this harm. Madison would be the first to admit the need to back away from the one size fits all system of indoctrination that masquerades as public education today.
(The student) must be taught to amass wealth, but it must be only to increase his power of contribution to the wants and needs of the state. . .Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property. Let him be taught to love his family, but let him be taught at the same time that he must forsake and even forget them when the welfare of his country requires it."
IOW, what would be fair is that the public should pay for an education in proportion to the benefit it receives and the individual should also. I don't see why this couldn't be turned into practical policy applicable at all levels of education - except for the politics of course.