I’m not sure yet if I like George H. Smith, but he has written some good stuff. I’ll comment a bit on this reference.


I find it remarkable that Plato and Aristotle preferred the Spartan system of education, and its obvious failures, to the Athenian laissez-faire education system (or lack there of, perhaps attitude is the better word), which had such obvious success, evident even in themselves. 

The following statement will inevitably find fruition in our society if we continue with the compulsory education system we have. It is near term if the CCSS continues and Federal overreach continues.

As part of his grand educational scheme, Lycurgus instituted state control over marriage — an idea that found favor with Plato and later utopian writers. “Lycurgus,” Plutarch explains, “was of a persuasion that children were not so much the property of their parents as of the whole commonwealth.” The case for eugenics follows logically from this premise. After all, Plutarch argues, the owners of dogs and horses take special care to procure fine breeding, so why should women — who “might be foolish, infirm, or diseased” — be allowed to choose their own mates and thereby endanger the quality of state-owned children?

One is foolish to think laws and regulations would subvert women only. No one could suppose continued freedom of mate selection if the government continues its ever-expanding regulation and compulsion and presumption of ownership over children and individuals.

No, the state is secondary, or lower, to the individual. Always!

If one sacrifices for the good of the many, that is noble. If the many compel sacrifice from the individual for the good of the many, that is immoral in all regards.

Although many later advocates of state education rejected the militaristic and totalitarian emphasis of Spartan education, they were enthusiastic about the potential implicit in the Spartan model. They saw no reason why the same means could not be adjusted and employed so as to serve ends other than obedience to a totalitarian state. If a system of state education were to focus on the civic virtues needed for a free society, such as a respect for individual rights and obedience to a limited government, then surely it would be a good thing.

Do you catch the impossibility? It is impossible for totalitarianism to teach liberalism and freedom. There can be no free society while compulsion rules the education of the young with an iron fist.

Mr. Smith makes clear that Plato was a bit mixed up.


It seems reasonable to me to suppose Plato wished to rule the world, but being of inadequate station in life, he contented himself with philosophical dictatorial dictates. (Besides, The Republic seems more about establishing the superiority of virtue and honor rather than proposing a utopia.)

If Plato truly believed in rule by the philosopher kings, then he simply failed to understand the reality of human nature and the fact that power corrupts. No amount of training in virtue can eliminate it.

Mr. Smith paints Plato as an absurd idealist, a sort of hybrid hyper-conservative–hyper-progressivist. I’m insufficiently studied in Plato and Classical Greek history to comment much, but Plato was certainly an idealist who entertained utopian notions.

Given Mr. Smith’s assessment:

The jurisdiction of Plato’s rulers is staggering — medicine, physical exercise, even “law-abiding play.” But I needn’t list every detail so long as we understand the chain of reasoning employed here, to wit: Education, broadly conceived, includes everything that influences the character of human beings. Thus, if education is a vital and indispensable function of the state, then the state has a right – indeed, a duty –to supervise every aspect of a person’s life.

Surely all rational people can see that our current trend of federal meddling in education and the push for standardization and extreme rigor and high-stakes testing will culminate in an absolute stranglehold on all we hold dear in life and liberty. We must oppose compulsion in all forms, especially in education of our young.

Smith continues with part three:


He discusses Aristotle’s tweaks to Plato’s totalitarian utopia, and Aristotle likewise grants unrestrained power to the state and coercion.

Well, these giants of philosophy were a bit inept in their study of the human heart, don’t you think?

Like progressivism, Plato’s and Aristotle’s all-powerful nanny-state was simply against the human soul, and rebellion against it is inevitable. Humans must be free. Power can destroy freedom only so long.

Like Plato, Aristotle did not distinguish between the voluntary sphere of society and the coercive sphere of the state (or city-state, in their case). Consequently, individual freedom was not important enough for Aristotle even to consider when recommending laws. As a philosopher who believed he knew what is needed for a good society, Aristotle argued that laws should be concerned with producing “the healthiest possible bodies in the nurseries of the state.” The age of marriage for women should be around eighteen; for men, thirty-seven. Marriages should take place during winter, and married couples must “render service to the state by bringing children into the world.” Pregnant women should engage in moderate exercise by being required to make daily pilgrimages to a religious shrine.

I suspect the Star Trek [Next Generation] writers who developed the Borg were well versed in the totalitarian utopian views of the Classical Greeks. While the Borg were described in the story as pure evil, that can hardly be supported. The Borg were simply efficient at the expense of all else, especially individual freedom and individuality. The Borg were willing to make any and every sacrifice for the greater good of the collective. The Borg are simply the logical conclusion of progressivist agenda, and compulsory state-run education is a key component of progressivism.

Smith points out that the 18th and 19th Century advocates for state education leaned on patriotism and nationalism. Having fallen out of fashion, statist and advocates for state education emphasize competitiveness and economics, which I find even more offensive than simple statism.

We need to repeal all truancy laws, and we need to amend the Constitution. We need to add “or education” to the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or education, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We need the Federal Government’s relationship with education to be the same as with religion–totally hands-off.