Front Page Titles (by Subject) Government Schools and Social Control - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4
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Government Schools and Social Control - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Government Schools and Social Control
“Social Change, Discipline, and the Common School in Early Nineteenth-Century America.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 1 (Summer 1978): 1–17.
During the late pre-Civil War period in U.S. history (1830-1860), the formal education of children underwent fundamental change: the common school established itself as virtually independent of control by parents in educational matters. Parents ultimately traded control over their children's education for the status students acquired through literacy and technical training. Parents never fully acquiesced in the transformation of schooling, however, and the conflict between parents and teachers during this period produced the crisis of early American education that culminated in the modern school.
The crisis arose from the conflict between the two groups over the extent to which teachers could discipline students. Discipline stood at the center of the transformation in education. Without the freedom to chastise sluggish or rebellious children, the school claimed it could not perform its mission. At stake was the ability of schools to produce docile laborers and citizens. Through discipline teachers could break the bonds of home-formed habits and instill in children new, more malleable values designed to meet the goals of progressive schooling.
Parents often and vigorously objected to school discipline. The historical record abounds with examples of parents, singly or in groups, withdrawing their children from classes supervised by overzealous disciplinarians. In one instance the withdrawal was so complete and resolute that the local school board accused the parents of sedition resembling that of the southern states. Generally, however, the objections to discipline took less pronounced forms. Children either were kept at home for short periods of time, or the parent would voice anger at a public meeting. A compromise eventually mitigated the stance of both sides even though the balance ultimately tipped in favor of the schools. Children stayed at home until age five or six and then attended school for a prescribed number of days each year for the ten years thereafter. Thus parents were allowed to share with teachers in the socialization of children, but during the critical period of adolescence, when youths oriented themselves to work and politics, the state schools sought firm and exclusive control.