Compulsory miseducation is word play on a concept that was long considered a pillar of progres-sivism: universal compulsory education. In order to participate in social and economic and political life, reformers argued over decades and decades, all children, not just the privileged, should be granted access to learning, and all families, not just the enlightened, should send their youngsters off to school. This idea is now embraced the world around. Indeed, the “UN Convention on the Rights of the Child” calls on all state parties ratifying the document to accept a standard of universal education through the elementary years.

Despite its progressive origins and resonances, the idea of compulsory schooling took a decidedly sinister turn in the hands of authoritarian state powers: Soviet schools were compulsory, ...

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