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Public education can work if it is limited to reading, writing and arithmetic. With bright children it is even possible to add elementary notions of geometry, the natural sciences and the valid laws of the country. But as soon as one wants to go farther, serious difficulties appear. Teaching at the elementary level necessarily turns into indoctrination. The party that operates the schools is in a position to propagandize its tenets and to disparage those of other parties.

Equality of opportunity, it is said, could be provided only by making education at every level accessible to all. There prevails today the tendency to reduce all differences among various peoples to their education and to deny the existence of inborn inequalities in intellect, will power, and character. It is not generally realized that education can never be more than indoctrination with theories and ideas already developed. Education, whatever benefits it may confer, is transmission of traditional doctrines and valuations; it is by necessity conservative. It produces imitation and routine, not improvement and progress. Innovators and creative geniuses cannot be reared in schools. They are precisely the men who defy what the school has taught them.

In order to succeed in business a man does not need a degree from a school of business administration. These schools train the subalterns for routine jobs. They certainly do not train entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur cannot be trained.

General education plays only a minor role in the formation of the political, social and economic ideas of the rising generation. The impact of the press, the radio, and environmental conditions is much more powerful than that of teachers and textbooks. The propaganda of the churches, the political parties, and the pressure groups outstrips the influence of the schools.

Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig von Mises

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) taught in Vienna and New York and served as a closes adviser to the Foundation for Economic Education. He is considered the leading theorist of the Austrian School of the 20th century.