Return of a gentle reader

My column about eliminating compulsory public education got more comments than anything I’ve written since the ’90s. Most of them were favorable. The heart-warming part was hearing from a reader—I’ll call her MK—who’d last written more than two years ago. Back then she said that my sick writing had infuriated her and “I assure you that I won’t be reading it again.”

I admired her clarity of purpose, and I’m especially gratified to know that MK was drawn inexorably again to the back of the CN&R in spite of her vow. Her inner struggle must have been epic, her agony excruciating. I imagine a thrill running through her in anticipation of what she might find. I bet she read the horoscope and 15 Minutes to warm up.

I admit that a thrill ran through me, at least, in anticipation of what dear MK had to say this time, and I was not disappointed. She opened with, “Once again I am reminded why your column is on the last page of the CN&R. Abolishing public schools would yield even more nitwits than this country already has.” She seems anti-nitwit.

I don’t much mind public schools. I mind the compulsion. Enforced curricula stifle social progress. That’s about all they’re good for, and that’s enough for politicians.

Good MK suggests that it’s better to work within the system than to create negative energy by criticizing it from without, and she has a point, except that I think the system’s coercion is the source of way more negative energy than I could possibly generate, which is why I’d like to see public education radically changed into a market-based enterprise. No students show up? No class. No class? No money. If you can’t attract young people—who are naturally energetic and inquisitive, after all—you won’t have a school. And no tenure.

Kindly MK says that most parents aren’t prepared to teach their children at home. If that’s so, it’s time they got prepared. That some people will find themselves in over their heads is inevitable. They’ll figure it out when the time comes. Thanks to public schools, they’re probably in over their heads anyway.

Gentle MK suggests that I take positive action and volunteer at a local school, because I “could make a difference … [a]nd I’ll bet you’ll learn a lot more than the kids will from your experience. :)”

I don’t doubt that I’d get more from the experience than the children, and that’s my point. Everybody involved gets more from the experience than the children. The children know that if they don’t toe the line, they get extra school as punishment. Even a nitwit can read that sign. :)