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 Washington, D.C.)
  • Mutumbo (age 18, a typical student from South Africa)


Liberalism demands … [e]veryone is taxed to support indoctrination into the state religion through the public schools, where innocent children are taught a specific belief system. …

~ Ann Coulter

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

Socrates: We are gathered here today at my Academy to discuss a very important question – Should public school be mandatory?

NEA: {affronted} Well, what a ludicrous question, Socrates. Of course public school should be mandatory.

Socrates: Why, pray tell?

NEA: {condescending} Well, all of the academic studies unmistakably show that children who are not forced to attend public schools are more likely to live the “gangsta” lifestyle – fatherless babies, drugs, drunkenness, stealing, mugging, vagrancy, vandalism, rape, murder, mayhem. The only way to keep these poor, hopeless children off the streets is by forcing them to go to school. {prideful manner} It is the public schools that stand between the poor and the abyss!

Socrates: NEA, how many poor people do you know?

NEA: {humbled} None, Master.

Socrates: Then why do you have so much faith in what the poor can or cannot do? Why do you have so much faith in the failure of another?

NEA: {silence}

Socrates: Perhaps it is because you, NEA, along with the American Federation of Teachers and other socialist teachers unions and their de facto legal arm, the American Civil Liberties Union, has since the 1930s been utterly devoted to an anti-education bureaucracy dedicated to the exclusive mandate of wielding left-wing political power in Washington, D.C., and keeping lower-class children imprisoned inside inferior, dangerous schools in the trailer parks, ghettos, barrios and impoverished communities of America … correct, NEA?

NEA: I plead the Fifth (Amendment), Socrates.

Socrates: I will ask Jowakka the same question, but before you answer, Jowakka, would you please take the headphones off your head, put away that magazine, take the gum out of your mouth and sit up straight like a lady?

Jowakka: {indignant} Huh? What you say to me?! … What-ev-ar! Yeah.

Socrates: Yeah? Yeah, what?

Jowakka: Yeah to your borin’ question. I don’t like school, OK? I never have and I never will, so I don’t think we should be made to go to school, al’ight? That’s so stupid! Nobody should be made to go to school if they don’t want to.

Socrates: Indeed. Now things are becoming clearer to me now. Mutumbo, you are a student from South Africa, a senior in a private school there. Do you think public school should be mandatory?

Mutumbo: Master, such a public school system would be against nature.

Socrates: What do you mean by “against nature”? This is a philosophical concept.

Mutumbo: Master, please allow me to read my notes of your previous lecture “Should public education be free?”

{Quoting Socrates} [It is human nature that] 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 he paid to fly here to America’s capital all the way from South Africa! Yet Jowakka, a public school student, who has never paid a dime of her own money for her own education, has been totally disrespectful to me.

Jowakka: {robotic tone, irate}I didn’t take no notes because NEA didn’t give me no pencil and no paper. I didn’t take no notes because Mutumbo didn’t give me no pencil and no paper. I didn’t take no notes because you, Socrates, didn’t give me no pencil and no paper. I didn’t take no notes because my mama didn’t give me no pencil and no paper {ad infinitum}.

Socrates: I restate my original question at this symposium – Should public education be mandatory? In light of the evidence presented in this dialogue, the logical conclusion, the rational conclusion, the just conclusion based upon rationality, logic, equality under the law and human nature, is that public school should not be mandatory, but that each family using its own resources should secure the proper education as they deem proper for their own children. Property taxes should no longer be unconstitutionally confiscated 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 regarding “the poor” can be addressed by schools offering loans, grants, work study programs and scholarships similar to programs offered in college.

This new educational system, modeled on my student Plato’s Philosopher-King paradigm, would be based completely on the worthiness of the individual and will weed out the lazy, the idiot, the disinterested, the violent, the uneducable, the horrible, and leave only those students who are truly interested in learning. To force children to go to school when they obviously do not desire to only guarantees that those students who do want to learn will be prevented from learning in the words of Malcolm X, “by any means necessary.”


This, my dear students, is the shameful and ironic legacy Brown v. Board of Education has left America 53 years later. The public schools are more segregated by race, class and ethnicity than they would have been if the secretary of education were the Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan himself. Was this their plan? I’ll leave that dialogue for a subsequent symposium.

Previous column:

Symposium: Should public education be free?


Related special offer:

“The Harsh Truth About Public Schools”

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.