Education and Liberalism

Education and Liberalism

In a liberal society there are no public schools as today. Even so, there will be many different offers tailored to people of different needs, and the way we think about education will probably be very different.

What can we expect, and what is actually wrong with the school system of today?

School and Education are Not the Same Thing

School as we know it today originated in Prussia in the 1800s. The Prussian state was one of the precursors to the modern welfare state, and the intention with the public school was to create loyal and obedient subjects and soldiers, as well as productive and obedient employees.

The legacy of this specific system has resulted in the strict hierarchy in school, the fixed divisions into class schedules and subjects, and the division of grades based on age – rather than ability and interest.

Furthermore, it has resulted in the idea that education is primarily for people in a certain phase of life (childhood and youth) shaping them for selected tasks and professions – instead of education being a lifelong process, as it could and should be.

Such elements are often counterproductive for real education, and it is essential to point out that school and education are not the same thing. It is easy to confuse the terms, since the philosophy behind the society of today is so deeply ingrained in us.

If the school of today is not optimal, which alternatives are available? What can a liberal society offer?

The Internet Revolution

Modern Technology has made education accessible for an ever-larger target group. It is completely possible to learn most things over the internet – totally free of charge and at different skill levels. One fascinating concept is massive open online course (MOOC), which provides open access to courses and education over the internet.

Among examples here, we find Khan Academy, edX and YouTube EDU, as welll as for those who want an alternative in Norwegian. You will find more websites with free education at

The humanist school is also worth mentioning as another Norwegian alternative to the public school today.

No More «One Size Fits All»

The point is that mandatory comprehensive education is not necessary for someone to gain competence and become educated and knowledgeable. In a liberal society, the possibilities are many, and it will not be a «one size fits all» model that hamstrings the individual student, and which doesn’t help the weaker students.

Under liberalism, «public» (traditional) schools and private schools can exist alongside each other, along with a number of other possibilities – precisely things like internet-based education.

It will be up to adults and parents to determine what is most suitable for themselves or their children. Then they can choose for themselves, whether, for example, they want to go to an experimental internet school, or they want to send their child to a charity-funded public school using the traditional framework.

Finally, it is important to point out that a liberal government will not prohibit traditional schools. The only thing such a government will prohibit is anybody forcing anybody else to finance or participate in such institutions.


  • School and education are not the same thing
  • The school of today originated in a system that was shaping students to become obedient citizens
  • It is time to think about education in a new way
  • Modern technology bypass comprehensive education to offer a complete education – often at no cost
  • Under liberalism, «one size fits all» is out, and offers that are customized to each student are in



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