Socrates (470-399 B.C.) was a famous Greek philosopher from Athens who taught Plato, and Plato taught Aristotle. Socrates used a method of teaching by asking questions. The Greeks called this form “dialectic” – starting from a thesis or question, then discussing ideas and moving back and forth between points of view to determine how well ideas stand up to critical review with the ultimate principle of the dialogue being veritas – Truth.


  • Socrates

  • President, National Education Association, or NEA
  • Jowakka (age 14, a typical public school student from America)
  • Mutumbo (age 18, a typical student from South Africa)

“Mediocrities, I absolve you; everyone, for I am your champion!”

~ Salieri (mediocre composer and contemporary of Mozart)

Setting: Socrates’ Academy, Washington, D.C., 2007

Socrates: We are gathered here today at my Academy to discuss one very important question. Should a public school education be free?

NEA: {indignant} Of course public school education should be free. If it wasn’t then the poor wouldn’t get educated and would remain poor all their lives, generation after generation, which would lead to more crime and anarchy in society.

Socrates: How many poor people do you know?

NEA: {affronted & afraid} Well, well, uuhhmm, uuuhhhmm, I-I-I- don’t really know any.

Socrates: Well, then why do you have such faith in what the poor can or cannot do? Perhaps it is because you and other so-called teacher’s union members built your careers on exploiting poor inner-city children in the ghetto?

NEA: In America we have had a long-standing tradition to give all of its citizens a free public education.

Socrates: Jowakka, you are taking history class or what you call “social studies.” Does the NEA speak the truth about the history of education in America as always being free?

Jowakka: {preoccupied} Huh? What? I didn’t hear what you said. I wasn’t listening.

Socrates: Perhaps, Jowakka, if you take the headphones off your head you could better participate in our dialogue.

Jowakka: {indignant, agitated} What you say to me?! Maaannn, forget you! You don’t tell me what to do. You ain’t my daddy!

Socrates: Indeed, I am not. Who is your father and why didn’t he bring you to my Academy?

Jowakka : {resigned} I don’t know. My momma and daddy weren’t married when I was born and since they argued all the time, he just stopped coming around when I was about 4 years old. I haven’t seen or heard from my daddy since.

Socrates: Yes, indeed, now things are becoming clearer. Mutumbo, perhaps you can tell me if the NEA’s recollection of the history of education in America is accurate?

Mutumbo: Yes, Master; I will do my best. My reading of American history tells me that public education in this country was not always “free,” so on this point NEA is in error. Around the 1830s, liberal-minded educators, mostly in Massachusetts and the northeastern states, believed that all Americans, not just the affluent, should have access to a free education, but it was limited. Legislation was passed by several New England states, and the “free schools” went through the eighth grade. However, from 1607, when the Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock until the early 1830s, most American’s were educated at home either by their parents, the church, a tutor, a governess or a private schoolmaster.

Socrates: Why did liberal educators feel so strongly that all Americans need to be educated?

Mutumbo: You must remember the 1830s was the beginning of the so-called industrial revolution where machinery was created that could do the jobs of 10 men, of 50 men, of 100 men and even of 1,000 men and beyond. There was an immediate necessity to standardize education in America. Society was becoming increasingly technological as Americans moved from the South to the North; from an agrarian society that relied on farming technology to one that used industry to make Americans reach the ascendancy of the greatest nation on earth just 100 years later by the early 1900s.

Socrates: Indeed, Mutumbo, your deductions certainly are more enlightened and your analysis more comprehensive than that of the NEA.

NEA: Yeah, but America has a history of racism and discrimination against the poor and against black people like Jowakka. Without a public school education, people like Jowakka would be left out of the American Dream.

Socrates: How many poor black people do you know? How many black people do you know?

NEA: {silence}

Socrates: NEA, do your children attend public schools?

NEA: No, Master. I wouldn’t trust my children, whom I love deeply, to attend any public school. They have been in the best private schools all their lives.

Socrates: Is it true, NEA, that over 70 percent of the public school teachers send their children to private schools and refuse to send them even to the public schools at which they teach?

NEA: {hesitant, contrite} Yes, that is correct, Master.

Socrates: Indeed, yet you feel qualified to construct this massive, multibillion-dollar bureaucracy called the Department of Education funded annually by craven politicians on both sides of the aisle. The liberals dare the Republicans to try to get rid of the Department of Education (which they frequently say they want to do), yet the Republicans don’t even have the guts to cut this leviathan bureaucracy’s budget, so there we are. What really is the Department of Education for? Didn’t public schools and quality education exist before this department was created by President Carter in 1979?

NEA: Yes, but we really needed a Department of Education. It was created to make sure that all of America’s kids have access to a free education, especially the poor, the underclass and the disenfranchised, but also to standardize teaching and testing procedures.

Socrates: Indeed, but aren’t “access” and “mandatory” two different concepts? Which one is it? Which one should everyone have – access to a free education? And should this free education be mandatory? Who benefits from this egalitarian scheme? Only the NEA Nazis, the education bureaucrats, yet the people still foolishly fund the Department of Education and no political leader has the courage to tear down this temple erected to a pagan and false god called “free education.”

NEA: Temple? Did you say temple? Socrates, there is a law here in America that the NEA helped to pass called “separation of church and state,” which means you can’t use religious words like “temple” in a public school setting; it violates the law because some child might see a need to go to temple to pray to God and reform his life, and we certainly cannot have that now, can we, Socrates?

Socrates: Whatsoever is free will not be appreciated and will be taken for granted and despised by all – such has become America’s so-called “free” public school education. For example, look at this dialogue we are having. Mutumbo is very attentive and takes dictation on every word I utter because at his own expense and at great sacrifice he paid to fly here to America’s capital all the way from South Africa! Yet Jowakka, a public school student from Washington, D.C., who has never paid a dime of her own money for her own education, has been totally disrespectful to me. Even her appearance here at my Academy today was paid for by the NEA. Jowakka refuses to address me as “Master,” she chews gum while talking, she is defiant, she refuses to pay attention and participate in this dialogue, and she frequently uses belittling, ignorant language. No wonder America has some of the lowest test scores in the world. With a classroom full of Jowakkas, students that have no personal stake in their own destiny. It is human nature for them to despise what has cost them nothing. Therefore it logically follows that you will have anarchy – drugs, crime, violence, sex, anti-God, disrespect to teachers, everything but learning … and it’s ALL “FREE.”

Mutumbo: Master, why do you refer to education as “free” as though you doubt that it is so?

NEA: Yes, Socrates, education is free here in America, as I stated before. It’s now a constitutional right (or at least people think that they have a “right” to an education).

Socrates: Nothing in this world is free but ignorance and death. NEA, since you claim that a public school education in America is free, who pays for the multibillion-dollar Department of Education, the books, the school buildings, the teachers’ salaries, the administration staff?

NEA: Well … property taxes of course.

Socrates: This is indeed tyranny. If the emperor tried to usurp taxes from the citizens of Athens in ancient times without a direct benefit to the people, there would have been a revolt similar to the one your forefathers executed against the British that history called the “Boston Tea Party.” Not all people whose homes are taxed even have children in public schools, yet they must pay. Where is that robust American spirit? Why do the American people continue to pay this unjust tax?

Jowakka: Because if they don’t they will go to jail, and people fear jail more than they fear protesting against the unconstitutional principle of taxation without representation.

Socrates: {surprised} I am impressed with your elucidation here, Jowakka. I didn’t think you had it in you; that you possessed those ideas in your mind.

Jowakka: Although I had my headphones on, Master, I was listening very carefully and learned from you, Socrates, that if you act ignorant or uninformed your opponent will be lulled to sleep. That’s when you hit him with logic and a strong argument and win the debate. This is what you frequently did in Plato’s dialogues of you, Socrates. This “underdog” technique made you one of the greatest philosophers of history. Thank you, Socrates, thank you.

Socrates: I restate my original question: Should public school be free? In light of the evidence presented at this dialogue, the logical conclusion, the rational conclusion, the just conclusion based upon equality under the law and human nature is that a public school education should not be free, but that each family, using their own resources, should secure the proper education for their children as they deem proper. The government should no longer be in the education business, at least at the grade-school level. Property taxes should no longer be used to fund public education, and the money saved by each citizen should be used as a voucher for the family to send that student to any school they choose. The ubiquitous issue of “the poor” can be addressed by schools offering grants, scholarships or work-study programs similar to programs offered in college.

This new educational system based completely on merit will weed out the lazy, the ignorant, the disinterested, the violent, the unqualified, the moron, and leave only those students who are truly interested in learning.

{Turning to NEA} Like Hitler’s Brownshirts, your NEA union members (teachers) are your foot soldiers in their 100-plus year assault on education under the guise of educating kids. They are what Lenin called “useful idiots.” They are the willing accomplices in your grand scheme not to educate, but to control and dominate the entire bureaucracy of education. This is why you, along with the ACLU and other radical socialist groups, had to remove God from the public schools, for America’s Judeo-Christian traditions would have exposed your nefarious, anti-education schemes – until now.

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Ellis Washington, a graduate of John Marshall Law School, is a freelance writer and lecturer at public schools, universities and law schools, specializing in constitutional law, jurisprudence, history of law, international law, critical race theory and feminist theory. He has published over a dozen law review articles and several books, including “The Devil is in the Details: Essays on Law, Race, Politics and Religion” (1999), “Beyond the Veil: Essays in the Dialectical Style of Socrates” (2000, 2004), and “The Inseparability of Law and Morality: The Constitution, Natural Law and the Rule of Law” (2002). He has just completed the manuscript to his next book, “The Nuremberg Trials: Last Tragedy of the Holocaust” (2007).

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