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Does Santorum Really Oppose Public Schooling?

Written By: Michael Tennant  |  Posted: Thursday, March 1st, 2012

            "We didn't have government-run schools for a long time in this country, for the majority of the time in this country," Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said during a Valentine's Day campaign stop in Idaho. "We had private education. We had local education. Parents actually controlled the education of their children. What a great idea that is."

            Santorum is, of course, correct. "The American colonies had total educational freedom," explained The New American's Sam Blumenfeld. Even the local tax-supported common schools, he said, eventually began to give way to more efficient private schools.
            "Government ownership of schools," Blumenfeld wrote in another article, "is a concept that was promoted by early socialists in America, namely by Robert Owen and his followers who created the world's first secular communist community at New Harmony, Indiana, in 1828." In the 1840s teachers and administrators, seeking guaranteed employment, began agitating for tax-supported schools. Around the same time Horace Mann, having observed the Prussian system of compulsory, state-run education firsthand, threw his support behind the movement. Thus, despite a lack of popular demand for government schooling - "education was already virtually universal in America before it became compulsory," Blumenfeld noted - American education slowly but surely was taken over by the state. By the turn of the 20th century most American children were attending public schools.
            Santorum is no newcomer to the notion that public schooling is a bad idea. Last March he advocated straight talk about education. "Just call them what they are," he said. "Public schools? That's a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools."
            He has also been an outspoken advocate of homeschooling for years, having homeschooled his own children. In his 2005 book It Takes a Family he argued that "mass education" is an "aberration" because it is "a radically narrow, age-segregated environment" completely different from life outside of school, where individuals interact with people of all ages on a daily basis. He added:

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