… is from page 176 of Matt Ridley’s excellent 2015 book, The Evolution of Everything:
Horace Mann, widely regarded as one of the fathers of American public education, was a keen student of the Prussian model. He visited Prussia in 1843, and came back determined to emulate that country’s public schools. In 1852 Massachusetts explicitly adopted the Prussian system, followed shortly after by New York. In Mann’s eyes, the purpose of public education was not mainly to raise standards (after all, by 1840 literacy in the northern states had already reached 97 per cent), but to turn unruly children into disciplined citizens. He could not have been clearer that this was for the good of the country, not the needs of the individuals.
Government schools exist for the good of the State (and, today in the U.S., also for the good of that malignant state-growth called teachers’ unions). Unlike supermarkets, big-box retailers, restaurants, vegetable farmers, furniture manufacturers, and Broadway producers, government schools do not prosper by serving customers who are free to withhold payment if they believe that they will not receive good value in return. Government schools prosper by preying upon the populace in the name of education.