Report Cards for Unschooled Students

Children who are unschooled to not receive the standard American “Report Card” because they are not tested or graded on any specific subject, unless they choose to be. This can cause challenges for unschool families as they attempt to gain recognition and understanding from the community regarding their children’s academic journey.

Today, Dayna Martin, author of Radical Unschooling, posted an example of how parents can build their children’s esteem while gaining support for their lifestyle in the community. She gave her children report cards that were “graded” on Happiness, Contentment, Self Love, Fulfillment, Passion, and Freedom. They took those report cards to Chuck E Cheese to participate in a Tokens for Report Cards program, and they accepted them!

I feel like this is something I want to periodically grade myself on and a really fun way to play off the “mainstream” way of doing things.

Here the photo and caption she posted on FaceBook:

“THIS is how Report Cards SHOULD look!
I brought this in to Chuck E Cheese’s (one for each of my children) to see if they would honor the “tokens for A’s” deal that they were running. THEY DID!! I was so happy that they were open-minded enough to respect how we choose to “grade” our children in life. If you are an Unschooler – try this! It was an awesome experience and my children felt so respected as Radical Unschoolers.”

The Unschooled Toddler, Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafts are a big part of unschooling our children. We try to do a creative project daily for our daughter who loves to draw, paint, glue and be crafty. Sometimes our son joins in, but he frequently find more active things to engage in while she doodles or paints.


We have found that stimulating her desire for creativity has brought her confidence and joy. She loves showing off her work and giving gifts that she has made to others.

The frequent craft projects have not only stimulated her creativity, but her mind. She has learned about texture, color, temperature, time, numbers, and more. The crafts have helped her to develop her fine motor skills amd progress her ability to communicate.

Tip of the Week #2 – "Water Storage"

This week’s tip is one EVERYONE can do. No farm or abundant supplies needed. Crap happens, your water company has issues, there’s been no rain, either way, water shortages are real and can be dangerous. To save yourself from the effects of a water shortage just follow these simple tips in this video!

Every week we will be sharing a new “Tip” to continue sharing our experience at the Blush Family Farm and helping our followers build their own self-sufficient future. Thanks for watching! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to get updates first!

[Video] Peaceful Parenting Event at PorcFest 2013

Check out the latest upload from Sovereign Living and see John Bush discuss his personal journey through peaceful parenting. This event took place at the PorcFest in Lancaster, NH…a summer hub for liberty! A big thanks to Red Pill Recording for recording the event. We had quite the inquisitive crowd! Let the message of peaceful parenting spread far and wide!

Professor from University of Oregon warns of flouride's toxicity

Senate Bill 99 is up for debate as environmentalists question if the cavity fighting action of fluoride outweighs the potential affects on the habitats and ecosystem.

Read more thoughts from other Oregon scientists, fishers, sponsors of the bill in a recently released article. AND don’t forget that The Center for Natural Living will be educating the Central Texas region of the effects of fluoride this year in their 2013 philanthropy program. Learn how you can help provide a fluoride filter to an expecting mother in Texas.


Rethinking Everything – A Conference That Changed My Life!

This past weekend I was introduced to the most joyful, free-living and centered people I have ever met.  In fact, I am still coming down from the high I felt at the Rethinking Everything Conference in Irving, Texas.  This event took place for the 17th time and brought together entire families dedicated to raising free, creative, and curious children.Some of the adult attendees have come every year since early childhood and now attend with their parents and their own children! The history and community ran deep with these people, and I couldn’t help but simply sit back and watch in awe as they introduced me to revolutionary ideas about raising children and becoming better people.

I have worked the libertarian/liberty speaking circuits for years, while that movement seemed huge to me once I found myself emmersed, I have now been made aware of another movement of like-minded people who are kinder, gentler, and more happy than most of the people I meet at liberty events.

Our family was invited to speak on anarchy and unschooling, entrepreneurship and alternative currencies, and Sovereign Living, our efforts to get off centralized institutions such as government and corporate food chains. We were also able to screen the first three episodes of the reality show about our efforts, also called Sovereign Living (

Our talks were well attended with about 40 people in each session.  The conversations we had after each speech were powerful and dynamic and full of curiosity.  Not everyone agreed with our philosophy, especially on self defense/gun ownership, but the conversations were incredibly positive despite the differing views.

I have jumped across the country to camping festivals, hotel conferences,  and rallies to talk about the philosophy of freedom.  This was the first time I truly felt I was surrounded by people LIVING this philosophy. Watching hundreds of children interact with each other through their various interests was absolutely fascinating to me.At most liberty events, children are few and far between.   Its very hard on me as a new mother practicing attachment parenting because events are held at non-child friendly places and I have to exert massive amount of energy to ensure the safety of my kids while still participating in the meeting while not disturbing those also attending.This event was designed around entire families.  No one even noticed kids interrupting lectures or discussions or workshops, they were simply part of the event and something everyone seemed to expect and enjoy.  The event was designed around fun and learning for EVERYONE, not just the kids.

There were yoga classes, belly dancing, nerf gun wars, a room full of legos, a room full of dress up clothes, gaming rooms, a visit from the zoo, a talent show, a hypnotist, q&as daily about unschooling and more. I know my attendance at this event is just the tip of the iceberg and I am so excited to create my life around unshooling.
The most powerful lesson I learned was letting kids work out conflict on their own.  The first few days I was there I would get in the middle of my daughter and other kids interacting, especially if someone was toy hogging or being a bully.  After watching the other attendees’ let the children work it out and look on at me with a knowing smile, I decided to back off.
It was AMAZING watching my daughter remove herself from situations that weren’t going well, or seeing other kids decide to play with something else after Aliana took their toy.  No parental intervention, no tears.  They may only be a few years old, but they are capable of working out these situations on their own.  How empowering!!!!  It took only a few days and Aliana quit turning to me for help, and simply interacted at her own pace with the other kids.  This simple idea has profoundly changed the way I see my role as a parent.
Are you an unschooling family?    I have questions as a mother of young children I’d like to get answered as I walk further down this path:
Is alone time a possibility for mothers who unschool?
Do most unschooled toddlers go through the “terrible twos” or extreme mood swings that you traditionally hear about?
How do radical unschool families deal with food freedom?  I am a strong believer in eating fabulous food (organic, nongmo, etc….) and right now I have toddler who only has access to the food I provide.  Soon enough she may go to a friends, or another place that has food I don’t “approve” of, how do I deal with this?Thanks for reading!

Truth Be Told: Radical Unschooling vs. Permissive Parenting

By dayna Over the years, Radical Unschooling has been mistaken for “permissive parenting,” and many judgments have been made about it based on this misbelief. The truth is, Radical Unschooling is an extension of Attachment Parenting philosophy and is a very hands-on, involved approach based on connection, rather than control. The philosophy is about being a child’s […]

Via: Dayna Martin – Radical Unschooling


Dayna Martin on the Rise Up Radio Show – Unschooling and Partnership Parenting

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On the April 17th, 2013 edition of Rise Up Radio, John Bush delivers the Sovereign Living Podcast and is joined by Dayna Martin, activist, advocate, doula, and author of Radical Unschooling and Sexy Birth.

We chat about partnership parenting, alternatives to corporal punishment, and Dayna’s recent appearance on Wife Swap!

Listen LIVE every weekday morning from 7 – 8 AM CST on LRN.FM

Announcing the Ron Paul Homeschool Curriculum by Tom Woods

Sovereign Living is excited about this amazing new cirruculum for home school families.   We are strong supporters of taking your education into your own hands!

Here is an excerpt from Tom Woods about the new courses:

Announcing the Ron Paul Homeschool Curriculum

Over the past several weeks I have mentioned that I’ve been at work on a K-12 homeschool curriculum. That wasn’t the whole story. Today I can tell you the whole story: it is the Ron Paul Homeschool Curriculum.

There is nothing like this curriculum anywhere. Here are just a few of the factors that set it apart.

(1) Grades K-5 will be available for free. You have six years to try out the program without having to spend a dime.

(2) Students will learn the origins and travails of liberty in the Western world and in the United States in particular.

(3) Students will learn the economics of the Austrian School.

(4) Students can learn at their own pace. If they’re advanced and move more quickly, they can quiz out of the first two years of college and enter college as juniors.

(5) The emphasis in this program is not simply on teaching from a different point of view, or teaching material that no other school or curriculum offers, although the Ron Paul Curriculum does both of these things. But it also emphasizes oral and written communication, so that students will be able to spread and defend their ideas effectively. Students will have their own blogs, start YouTube channels, and even learn the basics of video production, website design, and Internet marketing.

(6) It’s cheap. For access to the forums, it’s $250 per year, per family. (If you have ten children, it’s still just $250 for you.) Each course is just $50. No textbooks — they’re awful, and we use pdfs and primary documents to teach students — so you’ll save hundreds of dollars that way as well.

(7) Parents who wish they’d had the chance for this kind of education can listen to the lectures their children are hearing. We’ve made them of a length that works well with the average commute.

By September 2, we expect to have the material for grades 6-10 available. We’ll continue to add grades until December 2015 — our target date — when we expect to have the entire K-12 curriculum finished.

My own role will be to teach high school courses in Western civilization, the U.S. Constitution, government, and the history of American wars. All the courses on the site are available as part of the overall curriculum or a la carte, for those who would like individual courses.

These courses are centered around a 36-week schedule, five lessons (25 minutes each) per week per course. This means that for each course I will need to record 180 lessons. If you are wondering why I have not found the time to answer your email lately, I hope you will understand now. I have dropped not quite everything, but quite a bit in order to focus on this.

Here’s my three-minute pitch:

Read More:

If You Have A Tool, You'll Probably Use it: On the Evolution of Tax-Supported Schools in Certain Parts of the United States

If You Have A Tool, You’ll Probably Use it:
On the Evolution of Tax-Supported Schools in Certain Parts of the United States
By Carl Watner


In 2008, I discovered a two-volume set of books entitled UNIVERSAL EDUCATION IN THE SOUTH (1936) by Charles Dabney. The author was the son of Reverend Robert Lewis Dabney (1820- 1898), who had been a professor at the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond and was especially well-known for his attacks on government education in 1876. Volume I, which covered “From the Beginning to 1900,” was so fascinating that I purchased my own used copy and began research on the rise of tax-supported schooling. As the sub-title of this article indicates, it does not relate to the activities of such people as Horace Mann, Calvin Stowe, and others who “imported’ the Prussian model of government schools into other parts of the United States. That has been dealt with elsewhere, such as in Samuel L. Blumenfeld’s IS PUBLIC EDUCATION NECESSARY? (1981). Dabney points out, “the idea of free universal education was practically unknown in the countries from which the early settlers came, and it developed very slowly in America.” [1] Where did this idea that schools should be funded by the government (in the Southern states) originate, and how did local Southern governments overcome their citizenry’s natural reluctance to pay taxes to support them? The purpose of this article is to shed some light on the answers to these questions, and to quote some of the rhetoric used to convince Southerners that taxation was in their best interests, and that they should rely upon governments, rather than voluntaryism, to direct the education of their children.

In early American colonial history, the formal provision of education was primarily a function reserved to the wealthy and upper classes of society. Among the lower classes, it was common for parents and ministers to supply the rudiments of learning. It was not until after the Revolutionary War that a major societal concern surfaced regarding education. Among the constitutions of the original thirteen states, only North Carolina’s and Pennsylvania’s mentioned the subject, authorizing the establishment of at least one school in each county, “with such salaries to the masters, paid by the public.” At that time, education was certainly not considered a function of the national government. There was no mention of the subject in either the Declaration of Independence or the federal Constitution. Here was an opportunity for voluntaryism to have flourished. As Dabney wrote:

A great advance in educational enterprises of a private and ecclesiastical character followed [the Revolution]. The wealthy established private schools. Academies and colleges were started wherever a few pupils could be gathered together and teachers found. A new ideal of education was in the making, but universal education at public cost, as a practical possibility, was still undreamed of. [2]

Perhaps the first well-known personage in this country to broach the idea of “free” government-provided schooling for all students was Thomas Jefferson. In 1779, he presented his “Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” to the Virginia Legislature. The bill provided for three years of elementary school training for all children, rich and poor (though slave children would have been excluded). Although Massachusetts claims to have enacted the first public school law in America in 1647, in New England public education was considered a function of the church, while in Virginia and the rest of the South it was considered a function of the state. [3] Jefferson’s view was that “The state must provide for the education of all its citizens and this it should do through local agencies.” [4]

To show the progression of this idea of “universal education at state expense for all” over the next one hundred years, we need to look no further than John B. Minor’s INSTITUTES OF COMMON AND STATUTE LAW, published in 1876. According to Minor,

There are but four modes of general education possible – namely:

1. Every parent may be left to provide for his children such instruction as he can, without the government concerning itself therewith.

2. The government may undertake to assist the indigent alone, leaving the rest of the community to shift for themselves.

3. The government may give partial aid to all, leaving each some additional expense, much or little, to bear, in the shape of tuition fee, or otherwise.

4. The government may provide, at the common expense, for the complete elementary instruction of all classes, just as it provides for the protection of all. [5]

The two basic assumptions embraced by the idea of universal public schools were: 1) “that education is a function of the State rather than a family or parental obligation;” and 2) “that the Sate has the right and power to raise by taxation” the funds required to adequately support the schools. [6] Some of the principal impediments to the implementation of these ideas were 1) the general public’s dislike of taxation; 2) parental rejection of the idea that the State should be responsible for their offspring; and 3) the humiliation attached to the idea that their children would be attending “free” public schools. (Hitherto, only the poorest of the poor would accept government handouts.) [7]

Minor’s analysis reveals that the opening wedge of government involvement in education was legislation regarding orphans and indigent children. Although in both England and its colonies it was common for wealthy benefactors to endow charity schools for the poor, government legislation required that the overseers of the poor obtain an order from their county court to place those children likely to become a burden to the parish (such as beggars, orphans, paupers, and illegitimate children) into apprenticeships. [8] Masters were not only responsible for teaching their charges a trade, but were obligated to instruct their apprentices in reading, writing, and common arithmetic. [9] The humanitarian movement, which advocated giving poor children an opportunity for education, supported the idea that the State was responsible for the education of those children whose parents were not likely to attend to the matter themselves. [10] As Edgar Knight, another historian of public schools in the South, observed: By the time of the American Revolution, “the theory was gaining that caring for and educating and training poor children were functions of the State.” [11]

Thomas Jefferson, however, approached universal education from another point of view. His belief was that it was the business of the State to educate because a free country required an intelligent citizenry. [12] “Enlighten the people generally and tyranny and oppressions … will vanish ….” “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” [13] According to Jefferson, “schools … must be provided by the state” because to give “information to the people … is the most certain, and the most legitimate engine of government.” [14]

After Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia in 1776, he became personally involved in the revision of the state’s laws. In June 1779, the committee of revision presented the legislature with one hundred and twenty-six bills, among which were some Jefferson himself had principally written. The two most germane to our discussion here are his “Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” and “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom.” In the former he proposed three years of government-paid elementary schooling for all children, rich and poor alike; college (high schools) for those requiring a middle level of instruction; and finally a state-sponsored university and library to complete the educational edifice. Each county was to be divided into wards or districts, and the voters of each ward were to tax themselves in order to support their own local schools. This thoroughly socialist plan is what Dabney described as “the first proposal ever made for local taxation for public schools” in America. [15] Another interesting aspect of Jefferson’s advocacy was his belief that those who could neither read nor write should be denied state citizenship and the right to vote. [16] Although Jefferson supported compulsory taxation to provide public schools, “he took a moderate position on compulsory education.” [17] Jefferson did not believe it was proper to force a parent to educate his child. As Jefferson wrote:

It is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings and ideas by the [felonious removal of the child from the parent’s custody] and [by the] education of the infant against the will of the father. [18]

In contrast, in his bill for establishing religious freedom Jefferson took a very libertarian position against all the elements of a state religion. He rejected state-licensed clergy, he refused to endorse state-approved prayer, curriculum, textbooks, compulsory attendance laws, and state-compelled financing. One wonders why Jefferson did not realize that the same principles that apply to state religious establishments apply to state educational establishments. [19] For example, Jefferson held that religion was a natural right of mankind, just as he supported the “unalienable rights of parents to direct the education of their children.” [20] However, on the issue of public taxation to support the church and the school, Jefferson took contradictory positions. “He declared that ‘to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical’ and ‘that even forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern,’ …” [21] Despite his realization that coercion was wrong in the case of religion, Jefferson did not recognize that it was “unjust to take the property of one man to educate the children of another. … In essence Jefferson didn’t apply his own professed principles against coercive financing” of religion when it came “to education like he [sh]ould have.” [22] This error, from its small beginnings in Jefferson’s legislative bill, has led to massive state-run educational establishments all across the United States.

Government legislation on the subject of the poor and of apprentices was based on several questionable assumptions. The first assumption was that such children were entitled to the basics of an education. If they were, then such a service must be provided by their parents, the government, or some charitable institution. [23] Most proponents of an educational entitlement thought that it should be the responsibility of the State to provide children with schooling. Finally, it was assumed that no other means of accomplishing this goal existed, even though there was plenty of evidence that various types of education were being provided under voluntaryism.

Jefferson and others after him extended the first assumption by claiming that all children had a right to an education. The only question to be answered was: At whose expense? Jefferson’s answer was that the citizens of the county or ward should be taxed to provide all the children in their local jurisdiction with schools. Why didn’t the church reformers, Jefferson, and others of the time eschew the State and depend upon voluntary efforts? The only answer I have is this: the State was there. The human tendency is to take the easy way out. If the State had not been there, those advocating schooling for the uneducated poor would have had to 1) either organize the State from scratch; 2) dig into their own pockets and help fund that which they were advocating; or 3) organize (themselves and in concert with others who shared their idea) the necessary number of charity schools to provide education for the poor. Given the existence of the State, its prior concern with the indigent and their education, they took the easy way out: they advocated taxation. Why Jefferson couldn’t see the parallels between state provision of religion and state provision of education is an unexplainable anomaly. It is comparable to his being an owner of slaves when writing that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence.

Despite Jefferson’s advocacy of public schools, the idea of universal, state-paid education did not come about quickly. Educational historians of the South, time and time again, repeat that many Southerners had a “natural reluctance to being taxed.” Furthermore, the historians note that many Southerners held to the idea that it was not the function of the State to educate; that education was not conducive to good citizenship, that State instruction was a usurpation of parental rights, and that Negroes should never be educated. [24]. Here are some additional commentaries:

Local taxation of property for the support of community schools, entirely free and open to rich and poor alike, was not a popular measure. Two centuries of apprenticeship and poor laws had not developed a strong enough demand for the new type of education to overcome the dread of cost in taxes or to enforce the acceptance of the principle that the [S]tate should compel a man to tax himself for the education of his neighbor’s children. [25]

“The traditional hatred of taxes was universal in the South.” The planters “looked upon internal improvements [roads] as they did upon education, as mere excuses for taxation, and all taxation to them was evil. [26]

All taxes were an abomination to early Americans and taxation for schools was unthinkable for the old Virginians. If there were to be schools and institutions for learning, the funds for them must be provided in some other way than through taxes on property. [27]

The provision of education by the state to paupers “expressed the prevailing idea of the people that a man’s children should be educated by himself in his own social status, if possible, and that only the poor should be provided with the elements of an education at the expense of the [S]tate. The ruling class believed that any extended education of the masses would lead to unrest, to disappointment and to what the aristocrats called “leveling.” Their view was that the [S]tate should not interfere in the education of the children except when charity absolutely demanded it. [28]

In 1872, James Killebrew was appointed assistant superintendent of schools in Tennessee. His salary was paid by the Peabody Education Fund . “The greatest obstacle to the establishment of a real system of schools, declared Killebrew, was the old idea that education should be left to private enterprise; that it was wrong to tax the rich for the education of the poor; that the [S]tate had no right to compel a father to educate his children, much less those of his neighbor; that such procedure would tend to destroy the sense of obligation of the citizens to the discharge of their duty to their children and those of their fellow citizens.” [29]

Aversion to taxation has been the great obstacle to the schools in the Southern States. Taxes are simply money paid for civilized government. The savage alone is exempt from taxation. We were formerly taught that the best government was that which levied the smallest taxes. The future will teach that liberal taxation, fairly levied and properly applied, is the chief mark of a civilized people. In the old days we heard that it was robbery to tax Brown’s property to educate Jones’ children. In the new day no one will question the right of the [S]tate to tax both Brown and Jones to develop the [S]tate through its children. [30]

It has often been said that one government intervention leads to another. In the historical case being examined here, we find this happening. When supporters of State education of the indigent discovered that “the poor would rather keep their children at home [rather] than to send them to free [State] schools where they were branded [as] paupers,” they argued that ALL children, not just poor children should be educated at the expense of the State. “The true policy of the State is to recognize no distinction betwixt the rich and the poor; to put them all upon the same footing; … .” [31] In other words, if children of poor parents will not attend State schools, force everyone to attend State schools in order to avoid the stigma of ‘pauper’ schools.

The supporters of State-provided education had another way of defusing the objection to ‘pauper’ schools. As John Minor observed: “the government may give partial aid to all” via general taxation but still make every able-bodied father pay some of the additional cost of educating his children. This mixed method of local taxation and family contributions was known as the rate-bill system. Here is how it worked. Local school trustees contracted with a teacher for a term of teaching. At the end of the term, “they g[a]ve him an order upon the town superintendent for such portion of money as may have been voted by the district. … If the public money [wa]s not sufficient to pay the teacher’s wages, the trustees proceeded to make out a rate-bill for the residue, charging each parent or guardian, according to the number of days’ attendance of his children.” [32] Indigent families were exempt from such additional taxation. In New York State, during the late 1840s, “something like 40 per cent of the resources of the schools came from rates charged parents.” [33]

The struggle for and against the rate-bill system ran in two directions. Parents who were assessed the extra charges wanted to foist those expenses upon the State in the form of general taxation upon everyone. On the other hand, the general taxpayers, especially those without children, wanted the families of students to pay as much as they could. Furthermore, since the rate-bill system required every family to pay in proportion to the attendance of their children, there was a great inducement for many parents to wink at the absence and truancy of their children from school. [34] The final outcome of the struggle against the rate-bill system was decided by the immigrants who crowded into the large cities, such as New York. “They were without property to be taxed, but many of them had a vote, and they demanded education.” [35] The preponderance of the citizenry was in favor of “free elementary schools for all” and the last state to use the rate-bill system abandoned this method in 1871. [36]

Those who agitated to eliminate the rate-bill system advocated what they called “the free school” idea. This was the principle “that the schools should be absolutely free to all and supported at public and general expense.” [37] No longer would individual parents be assessed for sending their children to a local government school. Taxpayers who had no children would be forced to bear part of the expense of paying for the education of children via general taxation.

Some of the rhetoric to bring about this change is very interesting. In North Carolina, Calvin Henderson Wiley was “one of the most devoted champions of universal education our country has ever produced.” [38] He promoted state legislation which authorized the formation of districts permitting the people to tax themselves for their local schools if they desired to have them. He also assisted in founding “Library Associations” to help teachers collect books and establish circulating libraries. “Out of them grew county associations to improve the teachers, to diffuse knowledge on educational subjects, to overcome the prejudices against public schools, and to educate the public to tax themselves.” [39] State officials and school superintendents were also notorious for wanting to expand the role of their states in educational endeavors. As one commentator noted: “One of the duties of … school officials was to create a public sentiment in favor of public schools.” [40] For example, we find in Gov. Reuben Chapman’s message to the Alabama legislature of November 18, 1849 the following:

The subject of the common schools deserves all the consideration and encouragement it is in the power of the assembly to bestow. The whole theory of our form of Government is based upon the capacity of the people. Without a general diffusion of intelligence among them, the machinery of a Government thus constituted can not be expected to move on successfully. The highest and most important of all the duties of a free Government is to advance the cause of education, and guard against that decline of liberty which results from neglecting the minds of the people. [41]

Fifty years later, State School Superintendent John W. Abercromie of Alabama speaking in 1900 said

[I]f we would properly qualify our people for citizenship [we must] give to counties, townships, districts, and municipalities the power of taxation for educational purposes. If the people of any county, township, district, city or town desire to levy a tax upon their property to build a schoolhouse, or to supplement the State fund, for the purposes of educating their children, they should have the … power to do it. …There should be no limit … to the power of the people who own property to tax themselves for the purpose of fitting the children of the State for intelligent and patriotic citizenship. [42]

Another organization that played a significant part in the expansion of government schools in the South was a charitable trust founded in 1867, by George Peabody (1795-1869), a wealthy Baltimore businessman. [43] The purpose of the Peabody trust was to encourage and promote schools in “those portions of our beloved and common country which … suffered … the destructive ravages … of civil war.” [44] Although there was no stipulation in the original bequest of one million dollars, the trustees of the George Peabody Educational Fund made the decision that they would disburse funds only to those communities which would help themselves by raising matching funds through taxation. The Peabody Fund did not give aid to private or religious schools, or to any schools not affiliated with their State’s system. [45] The Reverend Barnas Sears was named general agent of the fund and he became one of the leading agitators for free public elementary schools in the South after the Civil War. “Free schools for the whole people” became his motto. [46] According to Dabney. Dr. Sears “preached free public schools as a necessity in a democratic government.” [47] His stated goal was to teach the taxpayers of the South “that there is no more legitimate tax that can be levied on property than that for the education of the masses.” [48] Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry succeeded Sears in 1881. “When told that ‘the state had no right to tax one man to educate another man’s children, that it was dangerous to educate the masses, or that to educate a poor white or a Negro meant to make a criminal or to spoil a laborer’,” Curry’s reply was that “Ignorance is no remedy for anything. If the State has a right to live at all, it has a right to educate.” [49]


The State’s right to exist was certainly never called into question by any Southerners, even those who supported secession from the North. The idea of “educating men for the service of the [S]tate traces back to Plato.” [50] Karl Marx embraced the idea in the tenth plank of The Communist Manifesto, which he and Engels published 1848: “Free education for all children in public schools.” In 1855, William Henry Ruffner, a Virginian, pointed out that “state education is but educational communism,” but even he and other opponents of government-run education never objected on general principles to the concept of taxation. [51] For example, Herbert Spencer in his 1842 series of articles “On the Proper Sphere of Government” never once questioned the propriety or morality of forcing people to contribute funds to a government which would then “administer justice.” Coming from a dissenting family, Spencer did recognize “the injustice of expecting men to assist in the maintenance of a plan of instruction which they do not approve; and forcing them to pay towards the expences [sic] of teaching, from which neither they nor their children derive any benefit.” [52] But apparently Spencer had no problem with forcing men to pay for police protection, defense from foreign enemies, and the settlement of legal disputes. In short, he did not object to taxation when it was used to support some function of government which he thought necessary or of which he approved.

To the voluntaryist, on the other hand, the very concept of taxation is morally wrong. Taxation is theft. Government agents must initiate force, or the threat of force, upon those who refuse to pay. R. C. Hoiles, founder of the Freedom Newspapers, was probably the first libertarian in the 20th Century to oppose government schools on the basis that they were tax-supported. He used to argue: if it is morally wrong for A to take money from B against B’s will, then it is wrong for A and C to take money from B. It is still wrong if A and C associate with hundreds of thousands of others to rob B. As he used to ask, at what point does the number of people involved in an act of thievery turn it into a morally proper activity? The answer should be obvious: a wrong is a wrong even if everyone supports it. [53]

In an exchange of letters on “Why Homeschool” in 1993, I wrote that the only consistent way to oppose government schools is to oppose them because they are tax-supported. [54] That means opposing every service government provides because everything the government does – from police protection, roads, courts, defense against foreign enemies to schools – is paid for via taxation. In short, that means opposing the very concept of government itself because government could not exist without taxation. Government violates the property rights of all those from whom it collects taxes. If it gave people the choice to pay for a service, or order less of it, or decline its services altogether, without suffering any punishment, then there would be no difference in principle between such a government and a voluntary organization. People could shop for educational services wherever and however they chose. Yes, some people would remain unable to read or write, if they were not forced to attend schools, and if their parents were not forced to pay for their schooling. However, it is interesting to note that we have not overcome the problem of illiteracy even after a century and a half of educational coercion and government schools. On the other hand, we would have avoided all the ill-fated consequences of government in our lives and schooling.

Since voluntaryists are opposed to the use of coercion to support governments, the question of how government should spend its tax revenues disappears. Most voluntaryists support education, roads, and protection services. It is not these ends which they call into question, but rather the coercive means used by the State to provide them. Since taxation is theft, taxation cannot legitimately be used to attain any ends. And of one thing we can be certain: If you take care of the means, the end will take care of itself. And another: if you try to force the end, the means will destroy and vitiate whatever good intentions you start out with.

There is only one way to freedom and that is by voluntary means. All else will fail. But neither is there any guarantee that voluntaryism will succeed, but if it does, or at least to the extent that it does, we can be assured that it will depend on obtaining people’s willing cooperation. Compelling them to “cooperate” is not only contradictory, but it will never work.

End Notes

[1] Charles William Dabney, UNIVERSAL EDUCATION IN THE SOUTH In Two Volumes. All citations are to Volume I: From the Beginnings to 1900, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1936, p. 3. On the influence of the Prussian educational system in Virginia in the late 1830s, see Charles William Dabney, “Dr. Benjamin M. Smith’s Report on the Prussian Primary School System,” in four installments beginning in XVI THE VIRGINIA TEACHER (September 1935), pp. 117-124.

[2] ibid., p. 4.

[3] ibid., p. 5.

[4] ibid., p. 8.

[5] John B. Minor, INSTITUTES OF COMMON AND STATUTE LAW, Volume I, Second Edition, Richmond: Printed for the Author, 1876, Book I, Chapter XVI, p. 384. It is interesting to note how governments expanded Jefferson’s idea of three months of schooling per year for three years to nine or ten months of government education per year for twelve years. Give governments an inch and they will take a mile!

[6] Edgar W. Knight, PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE SOUTH, Boston: Ginn and Company, 1922, p. 161.

[7] ibid., p. 146.

[8] ibid., pp. 48-50 and p. 56.

[9] Minor, op. cit., p. 396.

[10] Marcus W. Jernegan, “Compulsory Education in the Southern Colonies, XXVII THE SCHOOL REVIEW (June 1919), pp. 405-425 at p. 414 and p. 422.

[11] Knight, op. cit., p. 56.

[12] John C. Henderson, THOMAS JEFFERSON’S VIEW ON PUBLIC EDUCATION, New York: AMS Press, 1970 (originally published 1890), p. 35.

[13] Dabney, op. cit., p. 5.

[14] ibid., pp. 19-20.

[15] ibid., p. 10.

[16] Henderson, op. cit., pp. 344-345.

[17] Dabney, op. cit., p. 13.

[18] Kerry L. Morgan, REAL CHOICE REAL FREEDOM IN AMERICAN EDUCATION, Lanham: University Press of America, 1997, p. 107 and p. 120 (Note 5).

[19] ibid., p. 106.

[20] ibid.

[21] ibid., p. 107.

[22] ibid., pp. 107-108.

[23] Dabney, op. cit., p. 27.

[24] John Furman Thomason, THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN SOUTH CAROLINA, Columbia: The State Company, 1925, p. 223.

[25] William Arthur Maddox, THE FREE SCHOOL IDEA IN VIRGINIA BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR, New York: Teacher’s College, Columbia University, 1918. Reprint edition by Arno Press and the New York Times, 1969, p. 16.

[26] Dabney, op. cit., p. 30 and p. 31.

[27] ibid., p. 35.

[28] ibid., p. 40.

[29] ibid., p. 302.

[30] ibid., p. 204. This is a direct quote from Charles Duncan McIver, an agitator for public schools in North Carolina throughout the 1890s.

[31] ibid., pp. 228-229.

[32] James B. Conant, THOMAS JEFFERSON AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN PUBLIC EDUCATION, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962, pp. 33-34.

[33] ibid., p. 35

[34] ibid., p. 34.

[35] ibid., p. 36.

[36] ibid.

[37] Andrew Sloan Draper, ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE COMMON SCHOOL SYSTEM OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, Syracuse: C. W. Bardeen, Publisher, 1903, p. 52.

[38] Dabney, op. cit., p. 168.

[39] ibid., p. 170.

[40] Cornelius J. Heatwole, A HISTORY OF EDUCATION IN VIRGINIA, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916, p. 228.

[41] Stephen B. Weeks, HISTORY OF PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATION IN ALABAMA, Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1915. Reprinted by Negro Universities Press, Westport, Connecticut, 1971, pp. 51-52.

[42] ibid., pp. 135-136. Also cited in Knight, op. cit., pp. 423-424.

[43] Dabney, op. cit., p. 106.

[44] Knight, op. cit., p. 384.

[45] Dabney, op. cit, p. 111 and p. 116.

[46] Knight, op. cit., p. 386. Barnas Sears (1802-1880) had been “the successor to Horace Mann in the office of the Board of Education of Massachusetts” (Dabney, op. cit., p. 111).

[47] Dabney, op. cit., p. 421.

[48] ibid., p. 119.

[49] ibid., p. 123 and p. 128.

[50] ibid., p. 13.

[51] William Henry Ruffner, “State Education Radically Wrong,” forthcoming in THE VOLUNTARYIST. Originally written and published anonymously in the PRESBYTERIAN CRITIC (1855) and reprinted 40 SOUTHERN PLANTER AND FARMER (April 1879).

[52] Herbert Spencer, THE PROPER SPHERE OF GOVERNMENT, with an Introduction by George H. Smith. Special reprint from RAMPART INDIVIDUALIST: A JOURNAL OF FREE MARKET SCHOLARSHIP, Vol. I, No. 1 & 2 (no date), p. 85. “The Proper Sphere of Government” was originally published in Edward Miall’s THE NONCONFORMIST in twelve parts, beginning in June 1842.

[53] “R. C. Hoiles Revisited,” forthcoming in THE VOLUNTARYIST. Originally printed in the Colorado Springs GAZETTE-TELEGRAPH, July 11, 1972, p. 6-A.

[54] “Why Homeschool?”, Excerpts of Correspondence between Helen Hegener and Carl Watner, Whole No. 65, THE VOLUNTARYIST, December 1993, and reprinted in Carl Watner, editor, I MUST SPEAK OUT, San Francisco: Fox and Wilkes, 1999, pp. 177-181.

Boxed quote to accompany this article:

There can be no greater stretch of arbitrary power than is required to seize children from their parents, teach them whatever the authorities decree they shall be taught, and expropriate from the parents the funds to pay for the procedure. … “Free education” [is] the most absolute contradiction of facts by terminology of which the language is capable. Everything about such schools is compulsory, not free; … . A tax-supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state.

– Isabel Paterson, THE GOD OF THE MACHINE (1943),

from Chapter XXI, “Our Japanized Educational System.”

[Note: Ms. Paterson failed to observe that the expropriation

was from all taxpayers, not just the parents.]