Civil Society and Education: The Return of an Idea
An education established and controlled by the State should only exist, if it exists at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus to keep the others up to a certain standard of excellence.
JOHN STUART MILL
Schools should be state-establishments and not establishments in the state. They depend on the state and have no resort but it; they exist by it and for it. They hold their right to exist and their very substance from it; they ought to receive from it their task and their rule.
When it comes to education and how it is best organized and governed in modern democratic societies, there is an enduring schism among the pioneers of modern democracies. Although hardly anyone doubts that democracy and intellectual enlightenment of the citizenry go hand in hand, there is deep disunity over which organizational forms are best suited to the “diffusion of knowledge” (Jefferson) among the general population. Broadly speaking, we can distinguish a state-centered and a society-centered vision of education. Advocates of the state-centered vision, like Napoleon Bonaparte, want to harness education to the political ends of the state, whether these ends are military prowess, national unity, cultural assimilation, economic growth—or some combination of these. Advocates of the society-