The Harmful Effects of Government Schools

The Marred Origins of Public Education

John Taylor Gatto was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.

In his groundbreaking books Weapons of Mass InstructionDumbing Us Down, and The Underground History of American Education, Gatto gives a teacher’s perspective on the origins, and problems of the public school system in the United States.

Here is an excerpt from The Underground History of American Education:

 The structure of American schooling, 20th century style, began in 1806 when Napoleon’s amateur soldiers beat the professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena. When your business is selling soldiers, losing a battle like that is serious. Almost immediately afterwards a German philosopher named Fichte delivered his famous “Address to the German Nation” which became one of the most influential documents in modern history. In effect he told the Prussian people that the party was over, that the nation would have to shape up through a new Utopian institution of forced schooling in which everyone would learn to take orders.

So, the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver:

  1. Obedient soldiers to the army;
  2. Obedient workers to the mines;
  3. Well subordinated civil servants to government;
  4. Well subordinated clerks to industry
  5. Citizens who thought alike about major issues.

Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted – sometimes with guns – by an estimated eighty per cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880’s when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.

You can read the book free here.

The New American Academy writes about the Prussian Model of Education, of which our current system is based on, on their website:

Horace Mann, credited as the father of the American public school system, studied a wide variety of educational models before implementing the Prussian system designed by Fredrick the Great. King Frederick created a system that was engineered to teach obedience and solidify his control. Focusing on following directions, basic skills, and conformity, he sought to indoctrinate the nation from an early age. Isolating students in rows and teachers in individual classrooms fashioned a strict hierarchy—intentionally fostering fear and loneliness.

Mann chose the Prussian model, with its depersonalized learning and strict hierarchy of power, because it was the cheapest and easiest way to teach literacy on a large scale.

This system was perpetuated throughout the early twentieth century by social efficiency theorists who sought to industrialize the educational process. Led by educators such as Ellwood P. Cubberley, they used education as a tool for social engineering:

“Our schools are, in a sense, factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life.” (Cubberley, 1917)

Building upon the depersonalized uniformity and rigid hierarchy of the Prussian system, they constructed an industrial schooling model designed to produce millions of workers for Americaʼs factories.

Believing that most of America’s students were destined for a life of menial, industrial labor, these theorists created a multi-track educational system meant to sort students from an early age. While the best and brightest were carefully groomed for leadership positions, the majority was relegated to a monotonous education of rote learning and task completion.

Consequently, our schooling system is still locked into the Prussian-industrial framework of fear, isolation, and monotony. For both students and teachers, procedure is emphasized over innovation, uniformity over individual expression, and control over empowerment. It is, therefore, not surprising that the majority of Americaʼs classrooms have changed little in over one hundred years.

This design was devised to prepare millions of workers for America’s factories, not to develop creative thinkers and learners.

It is ironic to me that the Progressive Movement in America has always relied on the state, one of the oldest and most violent institutions still in existence, to achieve its goals, often through force, or threats of force.

This initiation of aggression is always justified throughout history as being for “the greater good” of the nation or society as a whole. The good intentions of those in power always trump the desires and needs of the individual. This is never more true than in public schools.

According to the Wikipedia article on Progressivism in the United States:

Early progressive thinkers such as John Dewey and Lester Ward placed a universal and comprehensive system of education at the top of the progressive agenda, reasoning that if a democracy were to be successful, its leaders, the general public, needed a good education.[21] Progressives worked hard to expand and improve public and private education at all levels. Modernization of society, they believed, necessitated the compulsory education of all children, even if the parents objected.

Only in our upside-down world is using force and threats of violence and cages to impose your will onto others considered “progress”. Astoundingly, adopting the Prussian model of forced education was, and continues to be, described as a great leap in “progress” by its supporters in the United States.

In 1840, the literacy rate in Massachusetts was 99%, with no help from forced, public education. Massachusetts passed its compulsory education law in 1852 (the first in the country). The literacy rates then began to drop; 96.1% in 1860, and 93.2% in 1870.

The current literacy rate in Massachusetts is around 90%.

Yes, literacy rates in Massachusetts dropped after compulsory schooling was put into place.

This is particularly noteworthy when the argument comes up that without forced, public education, the youth of our nation would be in miserable shape. The empirical data points to exactly the opposite being true. This is typical, baseless fear-mongering that the state always uses to maintain and expand its power.

Compulsory, public education is a recent phenomenon. In fact, some of the most barbaric and violent periods of human history occurred after compulsory education was adopted by governments worldwide.

The Bloody Consequences of State-Run Education

The 45 million killed in Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward”, the 20 million deaths under Stalin, over 300,000 killed under Mussolini, World War I, the Holocaust, World War II, and the over 1 million deaths of civilians in the last 10 years of the Iraq war were made possible largely by the instilling of nationalism, patriotism, and loyalty to the state by public education.

The state has a vested interest in shaping the minds of an entire nation, and to deny this conflict of interest is willful ignorance and naivety. The greatest beneficiary of state-run, forced education is the state itself.

Progressives and leftists who are so vehemently against US foreign policy and military conquest would be remiss to ignore that, historically, nationalistic pride, patriotic fervor, and support for military action is fostered first in government schools, when children are the most impressionable.

Yahoo News featured an article about a school teacher in Florida who attempted to force a student to put his hand over his heart, and pledge allegiance to the state and its flag:

Anne Daigle-McDonald, a teacher at Explorer K-8 School in Spring Hill, Fla., made the student, a Jehovah’s Witness, place his hand over his heart during the Sept. 11 pledgeaccording to a report by the Tampa Bay Times. (Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden from worshiping objects — including the American flag.) When he resisted, she said, “You are an American, and you are supposed to salute the flag,” the boy told a school administrator.

According to several students, Daigle-McDonald admonished the class the following day. “In my classroom, everyone will do the pledge; no religion says that you can’t do the pledge,” she said. “If you can’t put your hand on your heart, then you need to move out of the country.”

School teachers nowadays look more like Thought Police and enforcers of state-approved opinions than they do facilitators of learning.

This is by design. As was mentioned earlier, a key objective of the Prussian model of education is to produce “Obedient soldiers to the army”, “Well subordinated civil servants to government”, and “Citizens who thought alike about major issues.”

The Empirical Results of Public Education

Where facts are concerned, the track record of public education is absolutely abysmal. If anyone other than the government were responsible, it would have been abandoned as a miserable failure several decades ago. Here is a graph that contrasts 40 years of federal funding for education, and its impact on reading, math, and science scores:

So, if all of that money isn’t going to actually teach students valuable skills and information, what is it going to, exactly?

The swelling armies of parasitic school administrators, of course.

According to this report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, employment of administrators and other non-teaching staff grew 702 percent since 1950, more than seven times the increase in students.

An article by the Cato Institute’s Paul Ciotti examines the most expensive educational experiment ever performed in the United States. This experiment forever puts to rest the argument that the primary problem facing the public school system is funding.

Here’s a summary:

For decades, critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.”

In Kansas City they did try. For more than a decade, the Kansas City district got more money per pupil than any other of the 280 major school districts in the country. Yet in spite of having perhaps the finest facilities of any school district its size in the country, nothing changed. Test scores stayed put, the three-grade-level achievement gap between blacks and whites did not change, and the dropout rate went up, not down.

The rest of the article can be found here.

The government has a near-monopoly on education. As with any other monopoly, the result is always high prices, and poor service. To make matters worse, this is a monopoly you are forced to pay for via taxation.

If you don’t pay, they take your house.

It doesn’t matter how poorly of a job the government does with education, you’re going to keep paying your taxes. Of course public schools are a giant failure; what incentive is there for them to succeed?

Consider, for a moment, that the government is responsible for “educating” a child for 12 years. At the end of that 12 years, that child has absolutely 0 economic value, and 0 marketable skills. A high school diploma is worth nothing.

12 years.

The only thing that possessing a high school diploma signifies is that you were sufficiently compliant for 12 years in a row. You are not taught to think, you are taught to obey. This basic tenet of “education” continues through college.

Richard Arum conducted a massive study, following 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009, and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities.

His findings?

“Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called “higher order” thinking skills.”

Public Education: Human Obedience Training

I loathed school, and was nearly thrown in juvenile detention for being late or absent so many times. I hated going, and dreaded waking up each morning. I was actually lucky enough to go to Goddard Public Schools, which is, comparatively, one of the better school systems in the country.

I remember being called into the principal’s office one day, and having the “Truancy Officer”, a power-drunk, plump, brutish, unpleasant woman by the name of Trudy, berate me in front of the entire office, getting angrier and angrier as I sat in defiant silence, refusing to answer to her onslaught of questions and accusations.

Wikipedia has the following to say about truancy officers:

The position of a full-time truancy officer is generally viewed as being a relic from the 19th century when mandatory school attendance was relatively new.

Trudy threatened that if I didn’t straighten up, she’d be taking me straight to juvenile detention.

Forced education, threats of cages, and cartoonish, fat, miserable women screaming threats at children… Ah, what a wonderful time to be alive.

School was absolutely nauseating for me. To be frank, all of my teachers either thought I was retarded, or wanted to drug me, and I nearly failed out on several occasions.

After failing Algebra 1 three years in a row, I finally gave up completely, and got my GED at age 17. (Ironically, I got the highest GED score in the state of Kansas that year.)

In my case, it wasn’t because I just didn’t like learning, was a bad student, or was lazy; quite the opposite. Nothing thrilled me more than learning, which made my experience in public schools that much more unbearable; it did nothing but keep me from expanding my mind, and did everything to crush my imagination, creativity, and individuality.

Albert Einstein once remarked:

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of education have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate  plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.

In Walter Isaacson’s famous biography, Steve Jobs told him,

[At school] I encountered authority of a different kind than I had ever encountered before, and I did not like it. And they really almost got me. They came close to really beating any curiosity out of me.

study by Westby and Dawson asked teachers to describe their favorite students. Teachers overwhelmingly favored students with traits such as conformity, reliability, and unquestioned acceptance of authority.

Critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, and individuality need not apply.

No wonder I was never the “Teacher’s Pet”.

To quote Henry David Thoreau,

What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.

If anything, school was the only obstacle standing in the way of my success and happiness – an enormous, monolithic, immovable, and heartless obstacle that benefits teachers, union bosses, and bureaucrats at the expense of children.

Luckily for me, I had a stable home and a supportive family. My mother tried everything she knew. Before I got my GED, she discovered that one of the public schools in our city offered all of their High School classes online. This immediately alleviated a huge amount of my anxiety and depression.

Instead of spending 7-8 hours each day inside the four walls of a school, I could finish an entire weeks worth of school work in about an hour at home. When I was given the opportunity to take my education at my own pace, I flew through it, which gave me the rest of the week to pursue the things I was truly passionate about. I learned several times more valuable information in my free time than I ever would have in a classroom all day.

I spent between 1-4 hours on Friday completing all of my homework and tests for the entire week. (I got straight A’s in every single class, except for Algebra 1.)

This proved to me, once and for all, that the primary curriculum taught within public schools is nothing more than Human Obedience Training.

You are told when to be and where, are conditioned to automatically respond to audible cues such as bells and whistles like one of Pavlov’s dogs, are punished for questioning authority, and are forced into an environment where you must conform to your peers, or face ostracism, taunts, threats, and bullying.

That is all public schools exist for. The actual subject matter taught within the classrooms can be learned in 1/10 of the time for free on the internet, but it takes 8 hours a day to properly break down and rebuild young human minds as docile, obedient office zombies and cubicle drones who live their entire lives comfortably within the status quo.

Again, when you get into college, it doesn’t get any better. A report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 62% of colleges restrict free speech on campus.

“No public school in the United States is set up to allow a George Washington to happen. Washingtons in the bud stage are screened, browbeaten, or bribed to conform to a narrow outlook on social truth. Boys like Andrew Carnegie who begged his mother not to send him to school and was well on his way to immortality and fortune at the age of thirteen, would be referred today for psychological counseling; Thomas Edison would find himself in Special Ed until his peculiar genius had been sufficiently tamed.”

– John Taylor Gatto

The Epidemic of School Shootings

The system is inherently sick and destructive, and it is especially cruel towards those who yearn for creativity and individuality. Because of this, several times I, and many others like me, considered suicide. It is now no wonder to me why we hear of so many children hanging themselves in their closets, or overdosing on drugs.

Add on top of that the overwhelming pressure of hours of homework every night, and brutal “Standardized Testing”, and you end up with disastrous results.

As this article points out, the physical toll that public education takes on children is devastating enough:

Diabetes rates among school-age children are sky-high, and the percentage of 6-to-11-year-olds who qualify as obese has nearly tripled since 1980. And what do children do in school? Exactly. They sit.

Inactivity is also bad for the brain. A 2011 study by Georgia Health Sciences University found that cognitive function among kids improves with exercise. Their prefrontal cortex—the area associated with complex thinking, decision making, and social behavior—lights up. The kids in the study who exercised 40 minutes per day boosted their intelligence scores by an average of 3.8 points.”

Public education is heading in the opposite direction by reducing physical activity in the form of PE and recess. Schools are increasingly forcing kids to sit still even longer, and be brow-beaten into memorizing endless amounts of useless information required to pass Standardized Tests.

When they are punished and drugged for “acting out”, it only exacerbates the underlying psychological harm being done to them.

Mental Disorders in Children

Dr. Peter Gray wrote for The Atlantic:

“Suicide rates quadrupled from 1950 to 2005 for children less than fifteen years and for teens and young adults ages 15-25, they doubled.”

There has been a significant increase in anxiety and depression from 1950 to present day in teens and young adults and Gray cites several studies documenting this rise. One showed that five to eight times as many children and college students reported clinically significant depression or anxiety than 50 years ago and another documented a similar trend in the fourteen- to sixteen-year-old age group between 1948 and 1989.

In an article entitled The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders, he writes:

Children today spend more hours per day, days per year, and years of their life in school than ever before. More weight is given to tests and grades than ever before. Outside of school children spend more time than ever before in settings where they are directed, protected, catered to, ranked, judged, and rewarded by adults.

As a society we have come to the conclusion that children must spend increasing amounts of their time in the very setting where they least want to be. The cost of that belief, as measured by the happiness and mental health of our children, is enormous. It is time to re-think education.

Ironically, on Monday, the Overland Park, KS police chief said he wants to install gun cabinets that hold rifles and ammunition in local schools.

Police are using money from drug busts to buy equipment that could save lives during a mass shooting. The new equipment includes gun cabinets that could hold rifles and ammunition inside some Shawnee Mission schools.

The state-run, public education system is driving kids insane enough to shoot up the school, so the only solution is to have schools with built-in guns funded by the drug war?

Those kids who lack a supportive family, come from horrible home environments, and then are handed over into this mad institution are ripe for destruction, and the only thing our society can seem to debate about is whether we should let teachers pump a few rounds of ammo into these kids when they snap.

Think about this for a second.

Children are forced into the monolithic grinding stone of forced education where they are treated like mindless cattle. This report from McKinsey states that half the teachers come from the bottom third of their graduating college classes. According to the “Peter Principle”, the most incompetent among them now fill the roles of principals and administrators.

No wonder you hear stories about 5 year olds being suspended for chewing a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun, or for committing crimes as heinous as shooting imaginary arrows at each other.

Just recently, a 6 year old boy in Colorado was suspended for “Sexual Harrassment” after kissing a classmate on the hand.

There has been a news story circulating recently about a 12 year old boy named Ryan Gibbons, who died because school officials confiscated his inhaler, which makes it inaccessible, and, therefore, completely useless for what it is intended for – namely, saving the child’s life in an emergency situation.

Peter Gray, Ph. D, and author of Free to Learn, wrote the following for Psychology Today:

Over the past few decades, the education-industrial complex has attempted to remedy the obvious failures of coercive schooling by adding ever more coercion, to the point where many children are literally being driven crazy (for more on that, see here and here).

NBC News recently reported on “Active Shooter Drills” conducted by Troy Buchanan High School where children are terrorized by gunmen firing blanks into classrooms, while other children covered in fake blood lie around pretending to be dead.

“This isn’t a bizarre, premeditated mass murder or some twisted sacrifice led by a student cult. These are the 20 minutes preceding an active shooter drill, the 13th one Missouri’s Lincoln County school district has staged in the past year.”

“In Missouri, it’s not only a trend; it’s the law. In August 2013, the state legislature took a cue from a handful of post-Sandy Hook lawmakers, like the ones in Illinois and Arkansas, and voted to require every school district to conduct simulated shooter drills. Because the law goes into effect this year, 20 superintendents from across the state are here to take notes.”

“I’ve done this like 10 times, and it gets me every time,” says Bargen, who agreed to do the drill as extra credit for drama class. “This one is even scarier because it’s on my home turf. It’s going to make me second-guess my school.”

Kiera Loveless, 17, who has done eight drills before, “thought it would be fun at first. Now I wouldn’t say fun exactly—it’s scary. But a good experience.”

The first time she participated, she was “terrified.” She’d only heard gunshots on television. “I didn’t even really have to pretend. I kept having to remind myself ‘this isn’t real, this isn’t real.’”

“There are several kids splayed out in the hallway, their fake blood still glistening. The kids start to rise, most nervously tittering, a few picking up shells as souvenirs. One girl, who has fallen on her stomach after getting “shot,” doesn’t get up. Her body is trembling. It doesn’t take long to realize she is sobbing.”

This is what public education has been reduced to; preparing to be shot.

When factory workers in China throw themselves off of tall buildings and bridges because they’ve been driven so insane by their work environment, everyone rushes to condemn the factory owners and managers.

When children hang themselves in their closets, overdose on drugs, and go on shooting rampages because they’ve been driven so insane by the environment of their public school, no one rushes to condemn the government or the public school administrators.

Would it be acceptable if someone tried to solve the problem of suicides in Chinese factories by telling the workers to just stop bullying, and be nicer to each other?

Who deserves blame, the children and the factory workers, or the school administrators and factory owners?

To escape blame, the government is always shifting responsibility onto violent video games, and bullying, of course.

Anyone who criticizes this monstrous system, or dares to suggest any true alternatives, such as homeschooling or unschooling, is excoriated and socially ostracized.

Homeschool kids have a negative stereotype. Meanwhile, public school kids are on Xanax, Prozac, and a multitude of ADHD medications, and going on shooting rampages.

Anyone who, like me, suggests that the environment of the system itself is to blame is demonized into oblivion.

Anti-bullying campaigns, crusades against violent video games, pushes to medicate children, and debates about whether to arm school staff roar on.

This is to be expected. Every time a truly crazy system like this is put into place, and the inevitable unintended consequences surface, instead of solving the root problem, the defenders of that system will always shift blame off themselves, and throw an endless amount of even more insane solutions at it, which only makes the original problem worse.

This is universally true with every problem the government causes and then makes worse with their insane solutions, from the War on Drugs, to the War on Poverty, to the War on Terrorism, to violence in public schools.

WAR-ON-EDUCATION

The defenders of these systems always use these problems to expand their own power, even when they have proven to be completely incapable of solving them, and in fact, have only made them exponentially worse.

They will label anyone who fundamentally questions the system as “radicals”, or “zealots”.

I am radically and zealously concerned about the children we are feeding into this system.

ADHD, Zero-Tolerance Policies, and The War on Boys

State-run schools are destructive, wretched environments for children, especially for young boys, who are treated as little more than broken girls.

With the relatively recent implementation of “Zero Tolerance Policies”, public schools are becoming increasingly hostile toward young boys.

According to this article in Time Magazine:

Boys are nearly five times more likely to be expelled from preschool than girls. In grades K-12, boys account for nearly 70% of suspensions, often for minor acts of insubordination and defiance.

Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts.

Play is a critical basis for learning. And boys’ heroic play is no exception. Such play, say the authors, also builds moral imagination, social competence and imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint.

Logue and Harvey worry that the growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrativeplay choices may be undermining their early language development and weakening their attachment to school.

Efforts to re-engineer the young-male imagination are doomed to fail, but they will succeed spectacularly in at least one way. They will send a clear and unmistakable message to millions of schoolboys: You are not welcome in school.

The lengths they go to in order to force children, boys and girls alike, to conform and obey, oftentimes through medication, shows how absurd the whole thing is – they literally have to drug kids to get them through it.”

Dr. Gray describes the treatment process in this article:

Using the standard diagnostic checklists, the clinician then takes into account the ratings of teachers and of parents concerning the child’s behavior. If the ratings meet the criterion level, then a diagnosis of ADHD is made. The child may then be put on a drug such as Adderall or Concerta, with the result, usually, that the child’s behavior in school improves. The student begins to do what the teacher asks him to do; the classroom is less disrupted; and the parents are relieved. The drug works.

We can give them a powerful drug–a preparation of methylphenidate or amphetamine, both of which have effects on the brain similar to those of cocaine (but without the euphoria) and are, for good reasons, illegal to take unless you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder and given a prescription. The drug works. The children become more tractable and classroom management becomes easier.”

He goes on to give a reason for the recent astronomical rise in ADHD diagnoses, especially among boys:

From my evolutionary perspective, it is not at all surprising that many children fail to adapt to the school environment, in ways that lead to the ADHD diagnosis. All normal children have at least some difficulty adapting to school. It is not natural for children (or anyone else, for that matter) to spend so much time sitting, so much time ignoring their own real questions and interests, so much time doing precisely what they are told to do.

We humans are highly adaptable, but we are not infinitely adaptable. It is possible to push an environment so far out of the bounds of normality that many of our members just can’t abide by it, and that is what we have done with schools. It is not surprising to me that the rate of diagnosis of ADHD began to skyrocket during the same decade (the 1990s) when schools became even more restrictive than they had been before.

One of the biological characteristics that predisposes for ADHD in the school environment, obviously, is the Y chromosome. For evolutionary reasons, boys are, on average, more physically active, more adventurous (in the sense of taking risks), more impulsive, and less compliant than are girls.

A normal distribution of such traits exists for both boys and girls. The distributions overlap considerably, but are not identical. The cutoff on the distribution that gets you a diagnosis of ADHD in our present society happens to be at a point that includes about 12% of boys and 4% of girls.

The Dreadful Treatment of Children Outside of School

Public schools certainly produce terrifying and traumatic experiences for many children. Unfortunately, the way we, as a society, treat children outside of schools isn’t much better.

Science is starting to find more and more evidence that ADHD is nothing more than Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by the toxic environment of public schools, disrupted parental relationships, physical and emotional abuse, and chaotic early experience, as noted in this article on MSN.com:

“These children are hypervigilant because they are looking for dangers or threats,” says Frank Putnam, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “They become exquisitely attuned to sights, sounds and especially facial expressions or tones of voice that might be linked with impending trouble.

Hypervigilance can look like hyperactivity or inattentiveness in school because these children are paying attention to “distractions” like the teacher’s face or another child’s movements, not their schoolwork. A slammed door might prompt them to jump from their seats—and cause a “fight or flight” response that might seem aggressive or defiant.

Trauma can also produce what’s known as a “dissociative” reaction. When a threat is physically inescapable, the body prepares for injury by slowing heart rate and breathing. The brain is flooded with endogenous opioids—the brain’s own painkillers—which cause numbness. In extreme cases, the person feels like he has “left his body” and is watching events from outside.

A sight, sound, smell or memory can trigger a return to this state. “Children may space out and appear to be daydreaming,” Putnam says. “They lose contact with reality and become involved in an internal world. Teachers see a child who is never paying attention. They still have their math book out when the teacher has moved on to history.”

Many children who are diagnosed with ADHD, Putnam believes, may actually be suffering from trauma. “There is probably a significant group of kids with traumatic hypervigilance or dissociation that interferes with attention and increases arousal and activity levels,” who are misdiagnosed, he says.

Early trauma has been shown to have significant effects on the early developing brain. Early spanking has been shown to be associated with trauma, poor cognitive development in early childhood.

According to an article published on Frontiersin.org;

A systematic review of the consequences of spanking which included 88 empirical studies reported that spanking was associated with moral internalization, aggression, delinquent and antisocial behavior, poorer quality of the parent–child relationship, poorer mental health, and an increased likelihood of being a victim of physical abuse.

Furthermore, spanking during childhood was associated in later adulthood with aggression, criminal and antisocial behavior, poorer mental health, and adult abuse of one’s own child or spouse. The only benefit of corporal punishment identified in this systematic review was improved immediate compliance. 

One longitudinal study of discipline at age three found that, among girls, physical discipline was associated with a lower IQ (Smith and Brooks-Gunn, 1997). A subsequent study with a much larger sample and more effective control of confounding variables reported that spanking at 1 year of age was associated with aggressive behavior at 2 years of age and lower developmental scores at three compared to children that were not spanked (Berlin et al., 2009). 

In spite of this, 70 percent to 90 percent of parents in the US hit or slap their children, and between 14 and 35 percent of mothers in the US hit their infants.

In a study published recently in the Journal of Family Psychology, it was found that parents of 2 year olds were hitting them an average of nearly 1,000 times per year.

“The degree to which the psychiatric community is complicit with abusive parents in drugging non-compliant children is a war crime across the generations, and there will be a Nuremberg at some point in the future” – Stefan Molyneux

Rebellious children are merely conscientious objectors to an absolutely insane world they’re being introduced into. They must be beaten and drugged into compliance.

Introversion: The Mortal Sin

I was especially hard for the one-size-fits-all education system to “deal with” – not only was I a rambunctious little boy who couldn’t wait to go back outside and pretend like I was G.I. Joe, but I was also an extreme introvert, a trait many teachers tried, and failed, to break me of. My desire to be left alone, and lack of “classroom participation” and enthusiasm was always brought up in parent-teacher conferences. None of these teachers could figure out why I couldn’t stand being there, and why I always did the bare minimum to get by. They couldn’t grasp the fact that I was just trying to endure it.

In a paper entitled Introversion: The Often Forgotten Factor Impacting the Gifted, the authors write the following:

School is not a positive experience for many introverts. It can be loud, crowded, superficial, boring, overstimulating, and focused on action, not reflection.

Modern schools seem to be designed for extroverts. From the beginning of the day (especially if they have to ride the bus), the day is full of large groups and large areas, large classes, lunch in a common area, physical education in a large group and in a large gym, locker rooms, assemblies, homeroom, etc.

The culture and environment benefit the extroverts because they match their needs and learning differences.

I am sure that if my mother had put me through the ringer of mental health services, I would have been diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger’s and ADHD, and I would have been sufficiently medicated to fall in line with the preferences of my teachers, and the public school system in general.

Enrico Gnaulati, Ph.D., writes the following in his book, Back to Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior Is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder:

 In its milder form, especially among preschool- and kindergarten-age boys, it is tough to distinguish between early signs of autism spectrum disorder and indications that we have on our hands a young boy who is a budding intellectual, is more interested in studying objects than hanging out with friends, overvalues logic, is socially awkward unless interacting with others who share identical interests or is in a leadership role, learns best when obsessed with a topic, and is overly businesslike and serious in how he socializes.

If we don’t have a firm grasp of gender differences in how young children communicate and socialize, we can mistake traditional masculine behavior for high-functioning autism.

This only added to my hatred of school. Dr. GnaulatiI notes,

Highly intelligent boys who happen to be introverted by temperament are probably the subpopulation of kids who are most likely to be erroneously labeled autistic.

When we mistake a brainy, introverted boy for an autism spectrum disordered one, we devalue his mental gifts. We view his ability to become wholeheartedly engrossed in a topic as a symptom that needs to be stamped out, rather than a form of intellectualism that needs to be cultivated.

Boys like William don’t need to be channeled into unwanted and unnecessary social-skills classes to obtain formal instruction on how to start and sustain normal conversations. They don’t need to be prodded to be more sociable with the neighborhood kid whose mind works completely differently from theirs. They need unique school programs that cater to the mentally gifted in which others will not be chagrined by their intense love for ideas and where they have a shot at making true friends and therefore have the opportunity to feel truly sociable.

I was completely incompatible with a system hell-bent on making me compatible. In this artificial, forced system, the only option I, and many other children, saw to get out was to take our own lives. I ended up dropping out at 17, got my GED, moved out on my own, and started a business.

The way children in general, and particularly boys, like me, are being treated by this system is just monstrous. The inevitable one-size-fits-all nature of forced, public education is wrong-headed in its inception, and destructive in its execution. Because of this, intelligent teachers with empathy and sensitive consciences rarely ever survive in such a brutal system.

Gulty by Association: Teachers, Administrators, and Unions

As I stated recently, half the teachers come from the bottom third of their graduating college classes. Intelligent, caring teachers either remove themselves from the system once they see how harmful it is to children, or they get so frustrated at the ludicrous policies that they seek other work.

What remains are people who are too oblivious to see what’s going on, mindlessly obedient people who follow instructions without question because they were molded by the system themselves, or people who are aware of what is going on, and either feel no empathy, or actually take delight in harming children.

This is a problem few are aware of, but a quick Google search pulls up an enormous laundry list of news reports about teachers all over the country abusing children verbally, psychologically, physically, and even sexually.

This is to be expected from a system of coercion originally designed by the Prussian government to break children, and form them into docile, obedient workers and soldiers. A system like this depends upon a legion of oblivious, unthinking, obedient teachers, administrators, and supporters to carry out its goal.

In 2010, The New Jersey School Board Association posted an article on their website written by Jean Harkness, one of their policy consultants. In the article, she interviews Dr. Alan McEvoy, professor of sociology at Northern Michigan University about his research concerning teachers bullying students.

Dr. Alan McEvoy, professor of sociology at Northern Michigan University, is a leading authority on harassment and bullying. He has been a pioneer in research that focuses on teacher (and coach) bullying.

In a recent interview Dr. McEvoy shared his views and research findings, including his pilot study, Teachers Who Bully Students: Patterns and Policy Implications.

“Teacher bullying is a common problem that exists in most schools,” said McEvoy. His research found that 93 percent of the 236 teachers and students surveyed reported that teacher bullying occurred in school and the subjects were in agreement regarding who the bullies were within a school. Results from his follow-up study supported these results as well.

Colleagues rarely report bullying because incidents are contained in the classroom, hidden from the observation of other adults, he reported. Additionally, the students and faculty surveyed perceived that there was no effective or meaningful redress for complaints against teachers for bullying; and that there were seldom negative sanctions for teachers who were reported. The perception that school incident reporting and investigation mechanisms are complicated and ineffective perpetuates the silence and secrecy that enables bullying.

In a 2004 study titled, “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature”, commissioned by the Department of Education, it was found that nearly 10 percent of all public schooled students had been raped, abused, or sexually harassed by teachers.

A wretched system like this draws to it, like flies to manure, some of the worst kinds of people in society.

To make things worse, some teacher’s unions even think teachers should be rewarded with cash after being found guilty of raping their students.

Matt Walsh writes in this post about a Ohio Democrat who wants to require all homeschool parents to undergo a Social Services investigation:

To make his case, Senator Capri Cafaro is repulsively exploiting the child abuse death of a 14 year old kid. Teddy Foltz-Tedesco died last year after his mother pulled him out of school to hide his abuse from authorities. The boy was finally beaten to death by the mother’s boyfriend.

In keeping with the government’s long tradition of being incompetent in every possible facet of existence, this young child’s abuse was already reported to Social Services. Social Services failed to act, and now, in response to THEIR OWN failures, politicians want to give them MORE power. This is a brand of mania that you can only find in government: an agency bungles its authority, and the solution is to give them more of it.

If the rare case of an abusive homeschool parent can serve as an indictment of homeschooling, why can’t the more common case of a sexually abusive teacher serve as an indictment of public schools? By this politician’s own logic, all government schools should have been shutdown long ago.

Add school shootings, gang violence, fights, bullying, and administrative abuse in the form of zero tolerance policies that brand and label young kids as criminals, and public school is clearly a much more dangerous proposition.

The government has no place pointing the finger of suspicion at parents. We are the ones who have every possible reason to be suspicious of them.

The Solution

More and more parents are taking a closer look at this twisted system, and are now seeking alternatives. It is becoming increasingly obvious how unhealthy and destructive this system is for children during crucial stages of human development.

The further we get away from, and fight against nature, the more unintended consequences arise. If we don’t focus on the underlying issue, but instead try to treat the symptoms, children will continue to suffer. Children have been educated by their parents, in their home and community, for thousands of years. It is no sign of progress when children are being bused off to prison-like institutions straight out of the 18th century where violence is common, and performance continues to decline.

The accusations that are thrown at homeschooling and unschooling pale in comparison to the horrifying realities happening in public schools every day.

I have written previously about self-directed education, homeschooling, and unschooling in this article. I featured an incredible story about a school teacher in Mexico who, with no resources other than the internet connection on his home computer, scrapped the school-mandated curriculum, allowed his students to learn whatever drew their interest, and ended up with an entire class that scored higher than the national average in all categories, with one student receiving the highest math score in the entire country.

I also write about Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University in the UK. In the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, Mitra conducted experiments in which he gave children in India access to computers. Without any instruction, they were able to teach themselves a surprising variety of things, from DNA replication to English.

One of the most astonishing experiments in self-directed learning was conducted by Nicholas Negroponte, cofounder of the MIT Media Lab. The experiment was called the One Laptop per Child initiative. Wired.com reports:

Last year the organization delivered 40 tablets to children in two remote villages in Ethiopia. Negroponte’s team didn’t explain how the devices work or even open the boxes. Nonetheless, the children soon learned to play back the alphabet song and taught themselves to write letters. They also figured out how to use the tablet’s camera. This was impressive because the organization had disabled camera usage. “They hacked Android,” Negroponte says.

Using technology and the power of the internet to enable children to direct their own educations is truly “progressive”.

I will conclude with these words from Dr. Gray:

It seems to me that we have two choices. We can continue stumbling along with our coercive system of schooling and continue to fight our children’s instincts, using drugs or whatever other means we must to dampen their cries for freedom.  Or, we can adopt what to most people today seems like a radical, even crazy approach to education, but which to hunter-gatherers seemed like common sense.  This radical approach is to let our children educate themselves, while we provide the conditions that make that possible.

The idea that children can direct their own education, and can do it well, seems absurd to most people today; we are so conditioned to the idea that education requires top-down direction and coercion. But, for those who are willing to take a look at it, the evidence is overwhelming that the hunter-gatherer approach to education can work beautifully in our society today.

I’ve described that evidence in previous essays (see, for example, this one). We can build play and learning centers—similar to the Sudbury Valley School—that provide children with the resources they need to educate themselves. The essential resources include access to lots of children of mixed ages to play with, access to the tools that are crucial to our culture, and access to caring adults—all within the context of a moral community that embodies the highest values of our society.

Amazing as it may seem to some, this can all be done at far less expense and trouble than that extracted by our current system of coercive schooling. And this sort of institution—unlike our standard schools—is filled with excitement and joy.

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The Harmful Effects of Government Schools

The War on Drugs Isn’t So Bad, Is It?

The US government’s campaign against the illegal drug trade was first termed the “War on Drugs” by former president Richard Nixon in June 1971.

According to this overview of the history of the drug war by DrugPolicy.org:

He [Nixon] dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. Nixon temporarily placed marijuana in Schedule One, the most restrictive category of drugs, pending review by a commission he appointed led by Republican Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer.

In 1972, the commission unanimously recommended decriminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana for personal use. Nixon ignored the report and rejected its recommendations.

The Origins of the “War on Drugs”

After President Reagan was elected in 1980, he oversaw a massive expansion of the drug war. The incarceration rate for nonviolent drug offenses from 1980 to 1997 increased 700%. Source

To call it a “War on Drugs”  is really a misnomer; you cannot declare war on an inanimate object. It is a war on people, mostly US citizens.

If we want to have a serious conversation about this issue, we need to have clarity about what is truly happening. Because this is such a divisive issue, I want to deal strictly with published facts from reputable sources, not subjective opinions or feelings. I want to take an objective look at what the drug war is, what it does, and what the results are.

Once we have a clear picture, you are then free to arrive at your own conclusions.

Prohibition

Alcohol prohibition was instituted in the United States with the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution on January 16, 1919. While drinking alcohol was never illegal, the amendment prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States.”

After only 14 years, the failure of prohibition became apparent, and public outcry became overwhelming. The repeal of prohibition came with the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution on December 5, 1933.

Among the strongest arguments for repealing prohibition was the economic case that legalizing and taxing alcohol would bring about much needed tax revenue, as the “Great Depression” had begun just a few years earlier. Another strong case was that legalizing the manufacturing and sale of alcohol would completely undermine organized crime, which had amassed a great deal of power and control through their monopoly on the alcohol black market.

To illustrate this, consider the vast, criminal empire created by Al Capone, who is probably the most recognized and infamous head of organized crime during the prohibition period. By 1927, Capone and his gang, “The Chicago Outfit”, were making approximately $60 million per year. They controlled the alcohol supply from Canada to Florida, profiting from the sale of liquor to over 10,000 speakeasies. Massive bloodshed occurred whenever rival gangs threatened his empire. In fact, violent crime increased overall during the prohibition period.

Prior to prohibition, the homicide rate in the US was 6 per 100,000. This increased to 10 per 100,000 in 1933. When prohibition was repealed, this rate went back down.

You can see the sharp rise in homicides starting at the beginning of prohibition in 1919. It drops back down after prohibition was repealed in 1933:

Source

We learned some very valuable lessons through the implementation, and failure of alcohol prohibition:

  • Alcohol, which was produced “underground”, became more potent, and dangerous to consume because trusted, reputable manufacturers were forced to cease production. (Adding to this danger was the deliberate decision by the government to poison alcohol, resulting in as many as 10,000 deathsSource)
  • If you make a product illegal, demand for the product will continue, and it effectively creates an illegal black market for that substance and invites all of the criminal activity and dangerous conditions that come with it. It  pushes the entire market for that substance  to “the streets”, resulting in both less safe products and violent criminal enterprises springing up around their sale. In a study of over 30 major U.S cities during the prohibition years, the number of total crimes increased by 24%. Theft and burglaries increased by 9%, homicide by 12.7%, assaults and battery rose by 13%, drug addiction by 44.6% and police department costs rose by 11.4%. Source
  • Prohibiting the use of a product millions of people enjoy quickly fills prisons to capacity with non-violent offenders. By 1932, the number of federal convicts had increased 561%, and the federal prison population had increased 366%. Total federal spending on incarceration rose 1,000% between 1915 and 1932. Source
  • While federal spending on the enforcement of prohibition skyrocketed, production and distribution of alcohol continued. The annual budget of the Bureau of Prohibition increased 204%, from $4.4 million to $13.4 million, during the 1920’s. Source
  • Prohibition leads to wide-spread corruption.  Commissioner of Prohibition Henry Anderson concluded that, “the fruitless efforts at enforcement are creating public disregard not only for this law but for all laws. Public corruption through the purchase of official protection for this illegal traffic is widespread and notorious. The courts are cluttered with prohibition cases to an extent which seriously affects the entire administration of justice.” Source

It’s not hard to conclude that, not only did prohibition achieve the exact opposite of its stated goals, the only people who benefited from prohibition were criminals, and the corrupt bureaucrats that protected them. Both of these groups profited greatly from the illegal sale of alcohol.

When prohibition was repealed in 1933, organized crime was decimated and lost nearly all of its black market alcohol profits. It’s pretty obvious how comparative alcohol prohibition is to drug prohibition.

The comparison between prohibition and the war on drugs is further explained in this article published by Reason.com:

When America repealed prohibition, we repealed it with a constitutional amendment. Contrast that to drug prohibition, where Congress made no attempt to comply with the Constitution in passing the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA), the law that gave us the modern drug war.

There’s no question that drug prohibition has been every bit the failure alcohol prohibition was. Nearly 40 years after the CSA passed, we have 400,000 people in prison for nonviolent drug crimes; a domestic police force that often looks and acts like an occupying military force; nearly a trillion dollars spent on enforcement, both here and through aggressive interdiction efforts overseas; and urban areas that can resemble war zones. Yet illicit drugs like cocaine and marijuana are as cheap and abundant as they were in 1970. The street price of both drugs has actually dropped—dramatically—since the government began keeping track in the early 1980s.

When he first visited the United States in 1921, Albert Einstein wrote of America’s ban on booze: “The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law… For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.” That’s as true today as it was then.

The following graph shows the effect of $1.5 trillion worth of federal drug enforcement spending over the last 40 years on the rates of drug addiction in the US:

drug-spending-v-addiction

Source

As with alcohol prohibition, federal spending on drug prohibition continues to skyrocket, while drug use, transportation, and addiction continues, virtually unaffected.

The Financial Cost of the Drug War

In 2011, The Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a report signed by George Shultz, Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. It begins:

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption.”

Regardless, the Obama administration, in its 2013 budget, requested $25.6 billion in federal spending on the drug war. Source

When you combine state and local spending on everything from drug-related arrests to prison, the total cost adds up to at least $51 billion per year. Source

If you add up total spending worldwide, enforcing the drug control system costs at least $100 billion a year. Source

The money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education in the past 20 years.  Since 1980, California has built 1 college campus and 21 prisons. A college student costs the state $8,667 per year; a prisoner costs it $45,006 per year.Source

You can view a real-time clock of federal drug war spending here.

None of these numbers account for the lost productivity of those in jail, opportunity costs lost as businesses reconsider putting offices in violence-plagued regions, the cost of putting children into foster care and psychological services because a parent has been thrown into jail, or the pain and suffering when innocent people are injured or killed in botched drug raids. Calculating the exact amount of financial damage is impossible.
While the financial costs are staggering, the most vicious impacts are on people’s lives.

The Human Cost of the Drug War

The number of people killed in Mexico as a direct result of the war on drugs is over 70,000. Source

This graph shows how the incarceration of Americans has skyrocketed since the start of the war on drugs:

File:US incarceration timeline.gif

Source

In fact, the US prison population now dwarfs that of all other nations:

Source

In 1992, there were 1.3 million inmates in America’s prisons and jails. Today, there are 2.2 million Americans in prison or jail. Source

The reason for this sharp rise starting in the early 90’s, according to Prospect.org is:

State after state (and the federal government) in the ’90s passed laws lengthening sentences for many crimes, particularly drug crimes. If you got convicted, you’d stay in prison far longer. About half the states also passed “three strikes and you’re out” laws mandating that anyone convicted of a third felony would be sentenced to a long prison term—usually life or 25 years.

1 out of every 34 adults in America are being supervised by the criminal justice system, more than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. Source

More than half of federal prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes. Source

In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on non-violent drug charges; 4 out of 5 were for mere possession. Source

The “Land of the Free” has just 5% of the world’s population, yet we comprise 25% of the world’s prison population. Source

The Racial Bias of the Drug War

Blacks make up 50% of the state and local prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes.

Black youth are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than white youth, even though white youth are more likely to abuse drugs.

1 in every 18 black males over 18 is incarcerated. Source

Incarceration rates for black males jumped 500% between 1986 and 2004. Source

This graph shows the racial disparity of the prison population:

One of the shocking side-effects of mass imprisonments in America is that we are now the only country in the world where male rape victims outnumber female rape victims, according to the Department of Justice figures.

The Militarization of Police Forces

When it comes to actually arresting drug offenders, the “no-knock raid” is a commonly used technique. A no-nock raid is an unannounced, combat-style, paramilitary raid, usually done in the middle of the night, on a suspected drug offenders home; a tactic that has grown in use from 3,000 raids a year in the mid-1980s, to 80,000 annually today. Source

Radley Balko is the author of Rise of the Warrior Cop.

He writes for the Wall Street Journal:

In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated.

Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield.

Consider today’s police recruitment videos (widely available on YouTube), which often feature cops rappelling from helicopters, shooting big guns, kicking down doors and tackling suspects. Such campaigns embody an American policing culture that has become too isolated, confrontational and militaristic, and they tend to attract recruits for the wrong reasons.

In his paper entitled Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America, available for free here, he writes:

Americans have long maintained that a man’s home is his castle and that he has the right to defend it from unlawful intruders. Unfortunately, that right may be disappearing. Over the last 25 years, America has seen a disturbing militarization of its civilian law enforcement, along with a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of paramilitary police units (most commonly called Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT) for routine police work.

According to TIME:

In a pre-dawn drug raid late last month in northern Georgia, the Habersham County police entered the home of the Phonesavanh family while they were sleeping and dropped a “flashbang” grenade in a crib holding a 19-month-old boy, who was badly burned and later placed into a medically induced coma.No one was arrested, and no weapons or drugs were found inside the home.

The officers making the raid were part of what the county police call an SRT – or a Special Response Team. That moniker is normally used by the military. But SRT and SWAT teams using military-style tactics and weaponry are becoming increasingly common.

As the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have wound down, police departments have been obtaining military equipment, vehicles and uniforms that have flowed directly from the Department of Defense. According to a new report by the ACLU, the federal government has funneled $4.3 billion of military property to law enforcement agencies since the late 1990s, including $450 million worth in 2013.

Five hundred law enforcement agencies have received Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, built to withstand bomb blasts.

More than 15,000 items of military protective equipment and “battle dress uniforms,” or fatigues worn by the U.S. Army, have been transferred.

The report includes details of police agencies in towns like North Little Rock, Ark., (pop: 62,000), which has 34 automatic and semi-automatic rifles, a Mamba tactical vehicle and two MARCbots, which are armed robots designed for use in Afghanistan.

According to The Guardian:

Tanks, grenade launchers, armored vehicles, and assault rifles are just a few of the items that have been transferred from military control to municipal police forces. Law enforcement agencies need only to arrange and pay for shipment in order to receive the items of their choice (pdf).

One particularly egregious example is found in South Carolina, where Richland County’s sheriff acquired a tank with 360-degree rotating machine gun turrets. Sardonically, the vehicle has been named “the Peacemaker“.

Sheriff Lott’s new toy:

In 2012, an estimated 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older had used illicit drugs in the past month. Source

We are giving law enforcement officials military equipment, paramilitary training, telling them that they are fighting a war, and that 23.9 million American citizens are the enemy. This has caused a dramatic change in how the public and law enforcement see each other.

The Courts

The numbers of people who are arrested and incarcerated are shocking, but what about what happens in between? Are our courts administering justice effectively?

Michelle Alexander, a Civil Rights Lawyer, writes for the New York Times:

The Bill of Rights guarantees the accused basic safeguards, including the right to be informed of charges against them, to an impartial, fair and speedy jury trial, to cross-examine witnesses and to the assistance of counsel. But in this era of mass incarceration — when our nation’s prison population has quintupled in a few decades partly as a result of the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement — these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical.

More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. 

If you are arrested and charged with drug possession, and decide to go to trial before a jury, even if you are innocent, it’s your word versus the cop’s word. The conviction is an almost guarantee, and the sentences for those who take their case to trial are unbelievably harsh.

According to the New York Times:

After decades of new laws to toughen sentencing for criminals, prosecutors have gained greater leverage to extract guilty pleas from defendants and reduce the number of cases that go to trial, often by using the threat of more serious charges with mandatory sentences or other harsher penalties.

In the courtroom and during plea negotiations, the impact of these stricter laws is exerted through what academics call the “trial penalty.” The phrase refers to the fact that the sentences for people who go to trial have grown harsher relative to sentences for those who agree to a plea.

Nearly nine of every 10 cases ended in pleas last year, the federal data show, while one in 12 were dismissed (the percentage of dismissed cases was substantially higher a generation ago). The number of acquittals dropped even further.

Last year, there was only one acquittal for every 212 guilty pleas or trial convictions in federal district courts. Thirty years ago, the ratio was one for every 22.

If you are charged with simple drug possession, the plea bargain usually consists of a huge reduction of your sentence if you simply plead guilty, and help the court avoid the hassle of a trial. If you decide to take your case to trial, the judge and prosecutor will throw the book at you. In essence, you are being coerced into giving a guilty plea because going to trial isn’t worth the risk.

Oftentimes, though, the plea deal comes with strings attached.

John Horner

John Horner was a 46 year-old fast food worker who lost his eye in an accident in 2000, and was prescribed painkillers. A couple years later, he befriended a man who said he was suffering from Crohn’s Disease, an incredibly painful inflammatory bowel disease.  The man asked Horner if he could purchase some of the painkillers so he could finally have some relief.

Horner’s new friend was a police informant. Under Florida’s mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws, the minimum sentence he faced was 25 years. In Florida, it costs around $19,000 to incarcerate an inmate for a year. This means that his sentence would cost the state $475,000 total, enough to send 75 students to Florida State University for a year.

The prosecutor offered to reduce his sentence if he became an informant himself, and helped send 5 others to prison on 25 year sentences. He tried, but was unable to meet the deadline, and was sentenced to the full 25 years last October.

He will be 72 by the time he gets out.

Meet John Horner’s children:

john horner's kids.png

John Horner’s wife has a petition up on Change.org to reform mandatory minimum laws for 1st time drug offenders. You can learn more, and sign the petition here.

Because of these mandatory minimum laws, we don’t even know who’s actually guilty of these crimes, and who is just pleading guilty because it’s less risky. If a cop says you had drugs in your possession, you’re going to take the plea deal. If you turn over the names of 5 other people, they’re going to plea as well. When you’ve got 25 years hanging over your head, you’re going take the deal, and to turn over everyone you can think of.

Not only is the information from informants likely unreliable, sometimes these informants are so terrified of these sentences that they will plant drugs on other people in order to escape jail time.

Such is the case in this story from the Boston Globe:

A Lowell man is expected to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Lowell and a Lowell police officer who relied on two informants suspected of planting drugs on dozens of innocent victims, a scandal that already has led prosecutors to drop charges in 17 pending drug and firearm cases and to overturn two convictions.

Because of the monetary incentives that drug arrests bring to police departments, corruption is inevitable, as is the case in this story from alternet.org:

The NYPD has been under fire in recent months for illegal searches resulting in thousands of low-level marijuana arrests, mostly of people of color. As corrupt as this practice is, testimony from Stephen Anderson, a former NYPD narcotics detective, shows it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

According to Anderson, who testified at trial Wednesday, New York City police regularly planted drugs on innocent people to meet quotas.

Anderson should know. He was arrested in 2008 for planting cocaine on four men in a bar in Queens. His statements are the first glimpse into a culture of set-ups at the Brooklyn South and Queens Narc squads where eight corrupt cops were arrested.

The New York Times also reported on the story:

Though there had been conflicting testimony during the trial about the existence of quotas in the department’s drug units, Justice Reichbach said, a system of flawed procedures in part led to the charges against Detective Arbeeny.

In the department’s Brooklyn South narcotics unit, for instance, drugs seized as evidence are not counted or sealed until they reach the precinct and can be handled by multiple officers along the way, Justice Reichbach said, adding that such unacceptable practices “pale in significance” to the “cowboy culture” of the drug units.

“Anything goes in the never-ending war on drugs,” he said, “and a refusal to go along with questionable practices raise the specter of blacklisting and isolation.”

The “Prison-Industrial Complex”

The corruption continues in other areas, as Salon.com reports:

new report from In the Public Interest (ITPI) revealed last week that private prison companies are striking deals with states that contain clauses guaranteeing high prison occupancy rates. The report documents the contracts exchanged between private prison companies and state and local governments that either guarantee prison occupancy rates (essentially creating inmate lockup quotas) or force taxpayers to pay for empty beds if the prison population decreases due to lower crime rates or other factors (essentially creating low-crime taxes).

Some of these contracts require 90 to 100 percent prison occupancy.

The booming private prison industry is often called the “Prison-Industrial Complex”, a variation of the term “Military-Industrial Complex” coined by President Eisenhower when describing the increasing influence of private military contractors on government policy.

The term implies that the private prison industry is lobbying the government to institute policies to fill jail cells, and their pockets, just as military contractors lobby the government to go to war and buy more weapons. The more wars we get into, and the more people we lock up, the more these private contractors make. By imposing long prison sentences for seemingly innocuous, non-violent crimes such as drug possession, the prison population drastically increases, along with the “Prison-Industrial Complex’s” profits.

According to The Atlantic, it’s not a wacky conspiracy theory; it’s simply a matter of fact:

The prison-industrial complex is not a conspiracy, guiding the nation’s criminal-justice policy behind closed doors. It is a confluence of special interests that has given prison construction in the United States a seemingly unstoppable momentum. It is composed of politicians, both liberal and conservative, who have used the fear of crime to gain votes; impoverished rural areas where prisons have become a cornerstone of economic development; private companies that regard the roughly $35 billion spent each year on corrections not as a burden on American taxpayers but as a lucrative market; and government officials whose fiefdoms have expanded along with the inmate population.

Since 1991 the rate of violent crime in the United States has fallen by about 20 percent, while the number of people in prison or jail has risen by 50 percent.

Between 1990 and 2010 the number of privately operated prisons in the U.S. increased 1600%.  Source

To further increase profits, inmates in these prisons are also put to work.

According to this article in Yahoo Finance:

Federal Prison Industries, a company that contracts out prison labor, made over $900 million in revenue last year.

FPI has prisoners working in apparel, clean energy, printing, document conversion and call centers. The prison industry has also made money by contracting prison labor to private companies. The companies that have benefited from this cheap labor include Starbucks, Boeing Victoria’s Secret, McDonalds and even the U.S. military.

Prison laborers cost between 93 cents and $4 a day and don’t need to collect benefits, thus making them cheap employees.

Simply put, we’re jailing Americans for profit, not because they are violent criminals, or a threat to society.

Kids for Cash

If this wasn’t already bad enough, the Wall Street Journal reports on a scandal aptly titled “Kids for Cash”:

In what is known locally as the “kids for cash” scandal, two judges have pleaded guilty to accepting $2.6 million in kickbacks from a for-profit juvenile correctional facility — a privately owned jail for kids, essentially.

In 2003 one of them, Judge Michael Conahan, who had authority over such expenses, defunded the county-owned detention center, channeling kids sentenced to detention to the private jail — along with the public’s money. Mr. Conahan also agreed to send the private facility $1.3 million per year in public funds.

Over the succeeding years, the private jail, along with a second lockup-for-profit that had opened in another part of the state, won tens of millions of dollars in Luzerne County contracts, allegedly with the two judges’ help. Mr. Conahan’s alleged partner in the scheme, Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr., reportedly sent kids to the private detention centers when probation officers didn’t think it was a good idea; he sent kids there when their crimes were nonviolent; he sent kids there when their crimes were insignificant.

It was as though he was determined to keep those private prisons filled with children at all times. According to news stories, offenses as small as swiping a jar of nutmeg or throwing a piece of steak at an adult were enough to merit a trip to the hoosegow.

The conditions inside these youth correction facilities are usually deplorable, as a special Huffington Post report entitled Prisoners of Profit discovered:

Those held at YSI facilities across the country have frequently faced beatings, neglect, sexual abuse and unsanitary food over the past two decades, according to a HuffPost investigation that included interviews with 14 former employees and a review of thousands of pages of state audits, lawsuits, local police reports and probes by state and federal agencies.

Out of more than 300 institutions surveyed, a YSI detention center in Georgia had the highest rate of youth alleging sexual assaults in the country, according to a recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

There are multiple organizations that have a keen interest in keeping the war on drugs going. Because of drug laws, not only do private prisons make record profits, so do the drug kingpins themselves.

Just like alcohol prohibition, the war on drugs keeps drug prices high, which means drug gangs and cartels are making obscene amounts of money, and they are vehemently against legalizing drugs, especially marijuana. Cannabis, or “marijuana”, is a plant that is easily cultivated, which means that if it were legal, anyone who wanted to consume it would no longer have to buy from drug dealers; they could simply grow it in their own home. Border violence and gang wars would be virtually eliminated overnight.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera reported head of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, ranked 701st on Forbes’ yearly report of the wealthiest men alive, and worth an estimated $1 billion, officially thanked United States politicians for making sure that drugs remain illegal.

According to the Huffington Post, he said:

“I couldn’t have gotten so stinking rich without George Bush, George Bush Jr., Ronald Reagan, even El Presidente Obama, none of them have the cajones to stand up to all the big money that wants to keep this stuff illegal. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say, Gracias amigos, I owe my whole empire to you.”

This is obviously satire, but it makes an extremely good point. Just like Al Capone during prohibition, business is good for those involved in the illegal drug market. Business is good for everyone that benefits from drugs being illegal, including private prisons and governments. Simply put, just like all other wars, the war on drugs is too profitable for too many people to be ended.

With all of this money flying around, it’s only natural that large banks would be getting in on the action:

During a 22-month investigation by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, it emerged that the cocaine smugglers had bought the plane with money they had laundered through one of the biggest banks in the United States: Wachovia, now part of the giant Wells Fargo.

Source

Just like Capone and his “Chicago Outfit” gang, if drugs were legalized, drug dealers, gangs and cartels, and other powerful interests would be decimated, and so would the private prison industry, the DEA, and police departments nationwide. All of them have an interest in keeping the drug war going.

The Most Powerful Interest in the Drug War

As I mentioned earlier, one very powerful group that benefits from the war on drugs is the government itself, and not just because it increases their budgets.

According to ABC News in an article entitled How Undercover Cops in a Florida City Make Millions Selling Cocaine:

For years, the Sunrise, Fla., police have been conducting what are called “reverse stings.” Undercover police detectives play the role of cocaine dealers and try to lure in potential buyers who drive or fly in from all over the country with wads of cash. If the stings are successful, informants can receive large payouts and police can seize cash, cars and other non-monetary assets. The busts have pumped millions of dollars into local coffers.

This is a common practice by police forces nationwide called “Civil Asset Forfeiture”.

It is described in this article by The New Yorker:

The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing. It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, cops drive a Cadillac Escalade stencilled with the words “this used to be a drug dealer’s car, now it’s ours!”

In Monroe, North Carolina, police recently proposed using forty-four thousand dollars in confiscated drug money to buy a surveillance drone, which might be deployed to catch fleeing suspects, conduct rescue missions, and, perhaps, seize more drug money.

Hundreds of state and federal laws authorize forfeiture for cockfighting, drag racing, basement gambling, endangered-fish poaching, securities fraud, and countless other misdeeds. In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on a par with “probable cause” is sufficient. Nor must you be charged with a crime, or even be accused of one.

A piece of property does not share the rights of a person. There’s no right to an attorney and, in most states, no presumption of innocence. Owners who wish to contest often find that the cost of hiring a lawyer far exceeds the value of their seized goods. Washington, D.C., charges up to twenty-five hundred dollars simply for the right to challenge a police seizure in court, which can take months or even years to resolve.

Obviously, asset forfeiture presents a massive conflict of interest for law enforcement, and it is ripe for rampant corruption and abuse.

You can find countless stories of innocent people losing of their valuables in police encounters for absolutely no reason, including a man who lost $22,000 in cash.

According to the story:

“If somebody told me this happened to them, I absolutely would not believe this could happen in America.”

That was the reaction of a New Jersey man who found out just how risky it can be to carry cash through Tennessee. For more than a year, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has been shining a light on a practice that some call “policing for profit.”

In this latest case, a Monterey police officer took $22,000 off the driver — even though he had committed no crime.

“You live in the United States, you think you have rights — and apparently you don’t,” said George Reby.

This is nothing but thinly veiled armed robbery on a massive scale.

The Iran-Contra Affair

During the ramping up of the drug war in the 80’s under President Reagan, Nicaragua was controlled by a leftist group called the Sandinistas. In an attempt to further US economic interests in Central and South America, Reagan believed that the Sandinistas should be replaced by a regime more friendly to the US; the Contras. In order to do so, Reagan believed the best course of action would be to fund and arm the Contras, much like he did with Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban “Freedom Fighters” in Afghanistan.

In fact, here’s Reagan meeting with the Taliban in the White House:

Man-and-Horse-that-Built-Civilization-62580619141

In order to acquire the funds to support the Contras, members of the executive branch sold weapons to “supposedly moderate elements” within Iran in exchange for the release of the American hostages of Hezbollah. These “moderate elements” ended up being Ayatollah Khomeini’s radical Islamist regime. Khomeini was known for his support of the hostage takers.

According to The New York Times, the following weapons were sold to Khomeini:

  • August 20, 1985 – 96 TOW anti-tank missiles
  • September 14, 1985 – 408 more TOWs
  • November 24, 1985 – 18 Hawk anti-aircraft missiles
  • February 17, 1986 – 500 TOWs
  • February 27, 1986 – 500 TOWs
  • May 24, 1986 – 508 TOWs, 240 Hawk spare parts
  • August 4, 1986 – More Hawk spares
  • October 28, 1986 – 500 TOWs

The only problem for Reagan was, the Contras were human rights abusers who frequently employed tactics such as rape, kidnapping, torture, and murder of civilians, and U.S. funding of the Contras insurgency was made illegal through the Boland Amendment. (Again, the US has a nasty little habit of constantly supporting “Freedom Fighters” who end up being violent, extremist terrorists.)

The deals went down as planned, and the Contras got the money they needed. So, what does this have to do with the drug war?

Gary Webb

During what became to be known as the “Iran-Contra Affair”, an investigative journalist named Gary Webb wrote a series of articles for the San Jose Mercury News called Dark Alliance.

What Gary Webb uncovered was that the CIA was helping fund the Contras in an even more insidious way; drug trafficking. In essence, Nicaraguan drug traffickers, with the assistance of the CIA, were transporting and distributing cocaine in Los Angeles (leading to the crack epidemic of the 80’s), and the profits were used to support the Contras.

In 1996, CIA Director John M. Deutch went to Los Angeles to attempt to refute the allegations raised by the Webb articles, and was famously confronted by former Los Angeles Narcotics Detective Michael Ruppert, who testified that he had witnessed it occurring firsthand.

Here’s the video of the confrontation:

John M. Deutch was fired as the director of the CIA shortly after this confrontation.

Michael Ruppert was found dead with a gunshot to the head on April 13, 2014. The coroner judged it a suicide.

Meanwhile, Gary Webb’s reporting generated a firestorm of controversy. His employer, the San Jose Mercury News, backed away from the story, effectively ending Webb’s career as a journalist. His wife stated that he had been depressed for years over his inability to get a job at a daily newspaper, losing his house, and not being able to financially support his family.

Tragically, Gary Webb was also found dead with 2 gunshot wounds to the head in 2004. The coroner judged it a suicide as well.

According to Esquire, Webb’s work “prompted an investigation by the CIA’s inspector general which subsequently confirmed the pillars of Webb’s findings.”

A movie about Webb’s life called Kill the Messenger is coming out later this year:

A New Approach

All of the evidence, facts, and data are clear; the war on drugs is a massive failure, and the unintended consequences have been devastating.

If we, as a country decided, after just 14 years, that alcohol prohibition was a failure and had to come to an end, how can we not at least admit the same about the drug war?

The people who believe that legalizing drugs will lead to widespread abuse now would have said the same thing about alcohol abuse in 1933. What they forget is that all drugs were freely available prior to drug laws passing. Only a tiny portion of society ever got addicted to these drugs, contrary to what drug war supporters would have us believe.

In his book, The Great Libertarian Offer, presidential candidate Harry Browne wrote:

Until the early 1900s, the federal government did little to regulate or control the sale or use of alcohol or drugs  except for taxing alcohol.

It may be hard to believe today, but early in the 20th century a 10-year-old girl could walk into a drug store and buy a bottle of whiskey or a packet of heroin. She didn’t need a doctor’s prescription or even a note from her parents. Any druggist would sell to her without batting an eye; he would assume she was on an errand for her parents.

While that may seem amazing now, it wasn’t to anyone then. Heroin was sold in packages as a pain reliever or sedative  just as aspirin or other analgesics are sold today. The measured dose didn’t make anyone high, and rarely did anyone become addicted certainly no more often than with sleeping pills today.

Given such easy access to liquor and drugs, we might assume that America’s adults and children were all high on booze and drugs. But that wasn’t the case.

You can read the entire chapter on the drug war for free here.

As mentioned earlier, under Nixon, marijuana was temporarily classified by the DEA as a Schedule One drug, the most restricted drug category, along with heroin. Nixon ignored the report by his drug commission, and marijuana has remained a Schedule One drug ever since.

Ironically, meth and cocaine, which are both significantly more dangerous and addicting than marijuana, are only Schedule Two drugs. Source

It is clear that these categorizations are not based upon any serious scientific research, but instead are informed solely by irrational fear and propaganda. Federal drug criminalization prevents any further scientific research, and completely eliminates a serious, factually-based debate.

More people die from tobacco and alcohol use each year in the US alone than all illegal drug use worldwide. Source

No one has ever died from marijuana use. Source

Obesity has now surpassed tobacco use as the number one cause of preventable death in America. Source

There is no rhyme, reason, or logic to our drug laws. If we really want to fight a war on dangerous substances consistently, we need to focus most aggressively on fighting alcohol, tobacco, and sugar.

Research by Harvard links sugary beverages to 180,000 global deaths.

Locking people up for cigarettes, beer, and cupcakes sounds ridiculous, but because of how many people they kill, it should make total sense for supporters of the drug war.

The motivation and rationale behind the drug war is confusing, contradictory and inconsistent at best, and devious at worst. It is clear that those struggling with addiction to illegal drugs shouldn’t just be thrown in jail; they should have the same treatment options as those with addictions to prescription drugs, tobacco, alcohol, or junk food.

The organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition says:

We believe that by placing drug abuse in the hands of medical professionals instead of the criminal justice system, we will reduce rates of addiction and overdose deaths.

Richard Branson, the billionaire CEO of Virgin recently wrote for CNN,

In business, if one of our companies is failing, we take steps to identify and solve the problem. What we don’t do is continue failing strategies that cost huge sums of money and exacerbate the problem.

Rather than continuing on the disastrous path of the war on drugs, we need to look at what works and what doesn’t in terms of real evidence and data.

In the United States, if illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco, they would yield $46.7 billion in tax revenue. A Cato study says legalizing drugs would save the U.S. about $41 billion a year in enforcing the drug laws.

Have U.S. drug laws reduced drug use? No. The U.S. is the No. 1 nation in the world in illegal drug use.

As with Prohibition, banning alcohol didn’t stop people drinking — it just stopped people obeying the law. Treating drugs as a health issue could save billions, improve public health and help us better control violence and crime in our communities. Hundreds of thousands of people have died from overdoses and drug-related diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C, because they didn’t have access to cost-effective, life-saving solutions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that syringe access programs lower HIV incidence among people who inject drugs by 80 percent.

One-third of all AIDS cases in the U.S. have been caused by syringe sharing; a total of 354,000 people.

U.S. federal government support for syringe access programs is currently $0.00, thanks to a federal ban reinstated by Congress in 2011 that prohibits any federal assistance for them. Source

Six former presidents, Richard Branson, and other world leaders have concluded that the drug war fuels the global HIV/AIDS pandemic:

The global war on drugs is driving the HIV pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual partners. Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that repressive drug law enforcement practices force drug users away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risk becomes markedly elevated. Mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders also plays a major role in spreading the pandemic.
Today, there are an estimated 33 million people worldwide living with HIV – and injection drug use accounts for one-third of new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

The case against the drug war couldn’t be any more clear.

Further viewing:

Ending the War on Drugs – With Compassion!

“The video footage was taken by a CIA surveillance plane over the Peruvian jungle in 2001. It shows Peruvian fighter jets opening fire on the light Cessna carrying American Missionaries Jim and Veronica Bowers and their children Cory, 6, and adopted baby Charity, who was just seven months, as well as pilot Kevin Donaldson.”

U.S. Marines, sponsored by the U.S. taxpayer, stand vigilant watch over poppy fields in Afghanistan ensuring that the world is supplied with plenty of heroin.

The War on Drugs Isn’t So Bad, Is It?