Uncle Tom's Cabin really did help start the Civil War; but it was not by arousing the North to embark on some moral crusade. The book's most important effect was to promote wildly exaggerated notions in the minds of plantation owners in the deep South (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and the delta parts of Tennessee) about how many slaves were were escaping to the North. The estimate of how many slaves escaped in the 40 years from 1820 to 1860 that I trust is James McPherson's — somewhere between 4,000 and 8,000 — only "several hundred per year". The politically correct numbers being offered by the National Park Service ("one thousand a year" and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati (2,500 a year) are as exaggerated as Ms. Stowe's narrative. What everyone agrees on is that almost all the escaped slaves — like Frederick Douglas –came from the border states - Maryland, Kentucky and Virginia.

I find myself wondering how long it will be before the current plantation owners — the School Teacher Unions — become hysterical about runaway children. 3 decades ago a majority of states in the Union made home schooling a crime (30, to be precise). According to Joseph Murphy, who teaches at Vanderbilt, in 1975 there were only 10,000-15,000 children being taught at home in the entire United States. There are now, according to Professor Murphy, two million. "Home Schooling in America” may be as exaggerated as Harriet Beecher Stowe's book was in terms of its numbers; I doubt it will have anything close to the same popularity. But, it may be "the smoking gun" (appropriately awful metaphor for our current politics) for the official education lobby. One can only hope.





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2 Comments so far

  1. Ed on January 10, 2013 12:16 pm

    The rotten system is driven by the institutional imperative of bureaucrats and unions. The entire structure and delivery mechanism of public education is hopelessly obsolete. Even the “education crisis” itself (shakedown for more funding) is a scam when demographic criteria (USA vs. other nations) is controlled for.

    Small group or individual tutoring plus high tech aids/tools (whic is what home schoolers do) is the future, and it can be done at a much lower cost and allow for kids to go at a pace appropriate for their particular aptitude. The lecture “40 kids facing a teacher, turn the page at the same time” model is a zombie/relic from the past.

  2. Greg Rehmke on January 13, 2013 1:00 am

    This HSLDA study has data from 2009 on homeschooling numbers: http://www.hslda.org/docs/study/ray2009/default.asp

    It is complicated though. I am told homeschooling numbers are down dramatically in California. But that is because the state lets any homeschooling family declare themselves a charter schools, and they get some of their tax money back in exchange for following some rules.

    Separate from homeschooling, though related, are the fast growing Classical Schools, plus Classical Conversations, which is a sort of hybrid homeschool tutorial program (with 60,000 or more students currently enrolled).


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