메인 The Journal of Economic History The Twelve Year Sentence: Radical Views of Compulsory Education. Edited by William F. Rickenbacker....
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Reviews of Books 485 The Twelve Year Sentence: Radical Views of Compulsory Education. Edited by William F. Rickenbacker. LaSalle, 111.: Open Court Publishing Company, 1974. Pp. 236. $6.95. The compulsory public school system seems to be one of de Tocqueville's "necessary institutions," which are simply those to which we have become accustomed. Despite the current interest in the economics of education, few scholars have raised fundamental questions about the nature of existing educational institutions. In inquiring into the rate of return on education, few economists have considered whether the existing education system is capable of providing the desired kind or mix of educational services. In chronicling the history of public education, few historians have considered in detail the intentions of those who framed the compulsory attendance laws. In general, few scholars are prepared to ask the most obvious question about our education system: Why must it be compulsory? The Twelve Year Sentence is the outcome of a 1972 symposium on compulsory education. The volume is aptly subtitled in that the papers contained therein do take a radical view of the subject. The authors deal with questions that go to the root of a number of current debates over educational policy. Many of these questions originated in the early days of the public school system. As Professor Murray Rothbard shows in his essay on the "Historical Origins," compulsory education has its modern beginnings in the Protestant Reformation, 'and was conceived of as a device for moulding subjects into good citizens and pious churchgoers. Compulsory education was an instrument of Lutheran and Calvinistic reformers who used it to weld the Church-State alliance. In American history, compulsory schooling received strong support not only from the Protestant churches, but from erstwhile Tories who wanted to control what they saw as the Jacksonian "mobocracy:" The crucial point, concludes Professor Rothbard, is that a compulsory s; ystem will inevitably result in attempts by one group to shape the ideas and customs of others into a pre-conceived pattern. Compulsory education is then a profoundly conservative institution in an ostensibly liberal or libertarian society. The current trouble over the choice of textbooks in some schools only serves to point out that an urban humanism and secularism can also be a creed. Professor E. G. West in his essay, "Economic Analysis, Positive and Normative" extends his work on the origins of the support for a compulsory education system. He has demonstrated elsewhere (including his book Education and the State) that one factor not relevant (in at least the English and probably the American experience) was illiteracy among the population. Most families willingly educated their children before the advent of compulsory schooling. Those who argue that the state must coerce its citizens to purchase education services ignore history. Further, most appeals to external benefits fail to inquire whether there are any marginal net benefits to be captured from subsidizing or compelling further education. Professor West suggests, rather, that "a growing educationist bureaucracy and a protection-seeking teaching profession [were] among the strongest of nineteenth century agitators for universal compulsion. . . ." Advocates of compulsory education often 486 Reviews of Books attempted to convince parents that there were some other parents who were negligent. But the result was a system of universal compulsion, when the ostensible problem was a recalcitrant minority. All of Professor West's work on education is a model of the application of good economic theory to economic history to yield interesting and provocative interpretations. Papers by Robert Baker and Gerritt Wormhoudt examine the legal questions involved in compelling attendance at state schools, or schools that must meet rigid guidelines. They present a disturbing picture for anyone who values the maintenance of civil liberties. Professor Joel Spring has written an intriguing, if somewhat diffuse paper on the broader social and educational issues involved in compulsory schooling. The book is a refreshing example of a well-reasoned and well-researched investigation into the political economy of an issue that is of historical interest, and that increasingly will be of contemporary interest. The essays are not of uniform quality, but at least the ones by Professors Rothbard and West and lawyers Baker and Wormhoudt are seminal. The annotated bibliographies (general and legal) alone are worth the price of the book. GERALD P. O'DRISCOLL, JB., Iowa State University Tramps and Reformers, 1873-1916: The Discovery of Unemployment in New York. By Paul T. Ringenbach. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1973. Pp. iii, 193. $10.50. In mid-sixteenth-century England a temporary law was passed stating that vagabonds who attempted to escape from enforced service were to be branded on the forehead with the letter S signifying that they were to be slaves for the rest of their lives. Paul Ringenbach's Tramps and, Reformers describes a comparable episode which occurred in late nineteenth-century New York City. There, the Charities Organization Society, a leading philanthropic institution, undertook to segregate the "worthy" from the "unworthy" poor. It compiled a list of "'rounders,' 'repeaters,' and 'deadbeats.' The list was expanded into files, including complete identification and aliases. For identification it used the French Bertillion method, based on standardizing head and body measurements. . . also included in the files were case studies with resumes of the mendicant's career. . . Based on its files the Charities Organization Society circulated confidential bulletins to members and businessmen. It included some pictures and listed individuals under their distinguishing physical characteristics. For example, one section was headed 'Cripples; Migratory and SemiMigratory' and a key specified physical characteristics such as amputation of the right leg above ( + ) or below (*) the knee for each man." Although not stated explicitly, Ringenbach's study deals with a recurring problem in capitalist economic development. The entrepreneurs whose repeated extension of commodity markets ineluctably leads to the creation of labor markets feel threatened by the masses of unattached men who are forced to respond to their initiatives by tramping from job to job. The upper class