The citizens of the early Roman Republic enjoyed an education system similar to ancient Athens. It was voluntary and parents paid tutors or schools directly. There was very little government interference, so a vibrant education free market of tutors, schools, and apprenticeships developed.
One aspect of Roman society that compromised their education system was that Roman parents wanted their children to learn knowledge that only Greek teachers could provide. However, most Greeks in Rome at the time were slaves.
As a result, the Greek teachers could not personally or financially benefit by their work. Often their morale was low and they were subject to harsh discipline. Unlike the free teachers in ancient Athens, Greek slave-teachers in Rome had little incentive to innovate or continually improve their skills. As a result, the quality of education stagnated.
Also, a majority of the Roman population was slaves, both from Greece and other areas Rome had conquered. Naturally, these slaves had no rights and no control over their children's education.
Things got worse after Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C. and Emperor Augustus took power. The quasi-democratic Republic turned into the dictatorial Roman Empire and was ruled by a succession of Emperors. To secure their power, each succeeding Emperor then tightened their grip on education. They increasingly regulated education, suppressed teachers who spoke against the Emperor, and eventually required teachers of Greek and Latin rhetoric to be licensed and paid by the State. The quality of education in Rome then grew progressively worse.
The parallels with the history of education in America are striking. Here too, when our education system was voluntary and parents paid teachers and schools directly, we had a high-quality, constantly improving education system. After state governments created compulsory public schools, education in America has been going down-hill ever since.
Joel Turtel is an education policy analyst, and author of "Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie To Parents and Betray Our Children." Contact Information: Website: http://www.mykidsdeservebetter.com, Email: [email protected], Phone: 718-447-7348. Article Copyrighted © 2005 by Joel Turtel. NOTE: You may post this Article on another website only if you set up a hyperlink to Joel Turtel's email address and website URL, http://www.mykidsdeservebetter.com.