I am not a fan of government schools. It is really just welfare. Government schools are like food stamps, except they are also for the middle class, and even sometimes the rich.
To be clear, I don't blame anyone for sending their child to a government school, particularly when there are so few other options. The government forces you to pay for the schools, along with everyone else, so there is certainly nothing morally wrong with using them. It is your decision on whether you think it is best for your child.
The government makes it very difficult for middle class families to homeschool or send their kids to private school. Not only do they take a lot of your money away from you, but they also regulate schools and limit competition, thus limiting your choices and also making it more expensive.
I think the main problem with government schools is simply that they are run by the government. They are bought and paid for with money that has to be extracted with the threat of force. This in turn creates a whole host of other problems.
But I want to tell you the problem with government schools, outside of the fact that they are funded through immoral means and that attendance is compulsory. I want to discuss the educational aspect.
Many libertarians make the mistake of criticizing government schools on the basis that kids are not learning enough. They will talk about test scores and how American children score much lower in math and reading in comparison to many other countries around the world. But the problem with this is that they are comparing American government schools to foreign countries with mostly government schools.
Here is the problem with government schools from an educational standpoint. The problems with government schools is not what children aren't learning; the problem is what the children are learning.
From an education standpoint, if anything, children are probably taught too much in the way of academics. And they are all taught the same thing at the same age. You don't need to teach complicated math to a 3rd grader, especially when they aren't interested. In a couple of years, they could probably pick up the same thing in about 10 minutes.
My biggest problem with government schools is what they are taught. They start them young. Every day starts off with a pledge to the flag. They pay homage to the state in many ways. They are taught to be good little citizens and to trust and love their government. They are taught to worship the military and all it stands for. They are taught to follow orders and obey commands. They are taught to not think outside the box. Their creativity is stifled.
They are also taught socialism in many schools where all of the kids have to put their supplies in a general bucket, where they are then divided up equally. It is not sharing. It is compulsory. It is perfect symbolism of the government. They are taught a lesson against property rights.
This is only a small fraction of what goes on over the period of 12 years or more. I won't even get into what they teach in history and economics.
But I think libertarians should be careful in how they criticize the government schools. They should be criticized for moral reasons (they are tax funded). From an educational standpoint, they should be criticized for their indoctrination. The problem isn't that kids aren't learning enough. It is that they are learning too much, and much of it is propaganda.
Some of the brainwashed kids will never be cured. For some, it will take many years to deprogram. We all go through it. It is harder for some than others.
I always like to hear people say, "but I went to a government school and I turned out fine." How can you ever tell if you are brainwashed? Part of being brainwashed is not knowing that you are brainwashed. It is realizing that you were brainwashed that actually starts the process of reversing it.
This could make for an interesting philosophical discussion.