We critically examine the accepted notion that primary education is a legitimate and necessary function of the state. The notion is based upon three tenets: 1) public education is a necessary condition for democracy, 2) the market will not provide equal access and quality of education to all, and 3) education represents an external economy. Each tenet is addressed and evaluated according to its merits. In doing so, we also contrast the fulfillment of the ends implicit in the tenets under state and market provisions. We conclude that the state provision of primary education cannot be justified by these goals, and that market provision is a preferable alternative.

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