In his article, Leonard Pitts describes the educational establishment as an “alternate universe”. Although he stops well short of making the obvious conclusion, one can nonetheless sense his deep frustration and incredulity with the status quo. Given Mr. Pitts’ liberal leanings, it’s doubtful he would ever endorse a radical restructuring of American education, preferring instead to work within the existing system to bring about incremental change. But radical ideas are exactly what is needed.
So I want to expound on the points raised by clarapurdy (discussed in my last post), as the choice between a government-run school system and a free market requires a firm understanding of just what a free market is…and isn’t. This discussion is by no means exhaustive, but rather is a part of my continuing efforts on behalf of freedom in education.
Clarapurdy’s slap at competitive advertising misses the point (11/18/2008 01:07:12 AM). The point is that educators…from for-profits to non-profits to private tutors or homeschool teachers…can appeal to parents in any fashion they choose, and parents can make their choices based upon their own values and judgements. If no school offers exactly what they want, they can either settle on the best available, or seek alternatives…including starting their own school or homeschooling.
There is no “we” or “they” in the market. That collectivist fallacy fails to take into account the fact that every individual mind represents potential ideas and thus competition, if he is free to act upon his thoughts and chooses to do so. There are no inhibiting factors such as the current entrenched monopolistic political education establishment. The solution to any and all educational needs can freely emerge from any mind free and willing to act…especially including the minds of the parents.
Take, for example, the question that I addressed in one of my comments regarding special needs children. To supplement my answer for clarification, I would use an analogy based upon personal experience. My daughter, Susan, had problems that prevented her from conceiving. Her problems were so severe that she and my son-in-law had trouble finding a fertility clinic that would accept her for IVF (invetro fertilization), because of the high probability of failure. Susan faced the prospect of not finding the help she needed. But guess what? She did find a clinic…one that specializes in low probability in-vitros. She now has two little girls. Of course, if no one chose to address this particular segment of the market, would it be just and moral to force someone else to provide the service that no one chose to offer voluntarily, under the fallacious guise of “market failure”? Not in a free and just society. But Susan had a “special need”, in regards to procreation, and someone was there to meet that market demand. The same would undoubtedly be true in regards to the “special needs” segment of a free education market.
This leads to my next point. Clarapurdy expresses the concern that only “smart rich kids” will get an education because no school will take anyone else. But this line of thinking is self-contradictory and is refuted by the whole history of capitalism. Can only the rich get access to a car, computer, house, television, electricity, food, air conditioning, or any number of the thousands of products and services available in the market? The free market doesn’t guarantee that everyone will be able to afford every available product or service. What it does guarantee is that everyone is free to think, produce and trade, which has always resulted in products and services spreading wider and farther down the income scale. That is how the middle class was created. But cause and effect cannot be reversed. The “free” in free market is the fundamental requirement for widespread prosperity. It is absurd to think that the needs of tens of millions of children who are not at the upper end of the scale in terms of intelligence or wealth…a vast market…would go unmet, in a free market. One would have to think that the parents of those children would simply give up on them.
She also worries the schools will only be concerned with keeping test scores up, in order to attract more business, which leads them to seek only the “highest IQs”. Again, she misses the point entirely. And here is where one must break outside of the mental box created by the accepted wisdom that public schools are the prism through which any discussion of reform must be viewed. One cannot look at the miniscule private school segment operating today around the periphery of the public school behemoth and extrapolate from that the way a free market would work. Those schools do not represent a free market…even a limited one. A limited free market is, in fact, a contradiction in terms. The only kind of private schools that can, in fact, exist under the cloud of the government monopoly are facilities specializing in some isolated sector, such as religion or high-end schools catering to the rich. That is because the government has monopolized all of the rest.
Success in any business depends upon what you are trying to achieve. Some schools may specialize in the gifted, some in the athletically or musically inclined, some in special needs or the autistic, some in multiple categories. In each market segment, the rules of competition remain the same. Those who provide the best education at the best price are most likely to thrive. She wants to call this “segregation”. But segregation is only possible through governmental coercion. Her alleged “segregation” is actually the result of free people living and acting according to their own rational judgement, in seeking to perform a market service or in seeking the best for one’s children. Segregation, in fact, cannot exist in a free market…if by segregation one means forced separation. It must be remembered that the purpose of education is to prepare the child for a self-sustaining, independent adulthood, by developing his mental capabilities to the fullest possible. It is not the proper purpose of education to establish a “diverse” student body as a primary goal, apart from that which would occur naturally (non-coercively) through the voluntary choices of parents acting on their own judgement about what is best for their child. The fact that some will act irrationally is no excuse for violating the rights of all.
And here we come to the altruist-egalitarian essence of clarapurdy’s whole argument. Notice that the parents with normal (non-special needs), or gifted children…or who are financially successful…are to be denied their rights to choose the best educational paths for their children because some children have special needs, or are poor. The number of children fitting the categories that clarapurdy agonizes over are a very small percentage. Education need not be a major expense, at least not as compared to the bloated expense of the public schools. Freed from the taxes that support today’s government-run school monopoly, almost all parents would be able to afford to give their children a good education. To say otherwise is absurd, since taxpaying parents are already supporting the existing school systems. The lower cost and higher quality made possible in a free education market would leave most parents and their children better off.
But clarapurdy and the public school apologists, in true egalitarian fashion, would sacrifice most parents and their children on the alter of the “neediest”. This is what’s so immoral about public education. Someone must always be sacrificed to someone else’s agenda…and it’s usually the best and brightest who are sacrificed. Just look at No Child Left Behind. In a free market, no one’s interests are sacrificed, because no one has the state’s coercive power at their disposal. Those concerned about the problems of the small minority that have special needs or are too poor to afford a proper education for their children are free to address that market segment. What is forbidden in a free society is for them to impose the costs of their efforts on others against their voluntary judgement. Ultimately, it must be remembered that all children are the responsibility of the parents who brought them into the world.
A free market won’t “give every child the opportunity to go to school regardless of race, religion, sex, socioeconomic statis etc.”? Well, they all go to school now…and look at the results. Public school apologists want to herd the children into government-run schools, where people like Ms. Rhee need to fight an uphill battle just to make some small common sense reforms to improve the disastrous conditions in those D.C. schools. Imagine the entrepreneurial Ms. Rhee as the owner or administrator of a string of private, for-profit schools. She could simply implement the reforms necessary to improve the quality of her schools, and then the parents can vote with their wallets...and their rational judgements.
It can’t be stated enough. The bogus “opportunity for every child” argument is a thin cover for the massive violation of individual rights engendered by a coercive political monopoly that has no place in a free society. Only a free market gives “every child the opportunity to go to school regardless of race, religion, sex, socio-economic status etc.” …and enables him the opportunity to get the best education most suited to his needs. That’s because his parents are free to choose what’s best for him, which is ultimately their solemn responsibility, and only theirs. Freedom offers opportunity...the right to take action based upon one's own rational judgement...and that’s all. The rest is up to the free individuals that constitute society. A government that attempts to guarantee to all a man-made service such as education is a dictatorship…which precisely describes, despite its superficial appearance and widespread popular support, today’s government-run public education monopoly.
What the debate between government-run public education and a free market comes down to is this. Should force be the determining factor steering the course of education for the young, or should it be rational, voluntary persuasion and free judgement? I’ll conclude with a challenge to those ferociously defending their coercive political stranglehold on American education. Quoting Isabel Paterson from The God of the Machine (Caxton Printers, LTD, 1964, page 274);
“The most vindictive resentment may be expected from the pedagogical profession for any suggestion that they be dislodged from their dictatorial position… Nevertheless, the question to put to any teacher [or apologist for the entrenched establishment] moved to such indignation is: Do you think nobody would willingly entrust his children to you or pay you for teaching them? Why do you have to extort your fees and collect your pupils by compulsion?”