Saturday, November 9, 2013

To Fight "Free" College, Fight "Free" Education

Robert Samuel's call for "free" public college may at first seem radical. But, in fact, it is a logical extension of past government intrusions into education, stretching back to the beginning of tax-funded primary education in the 19th Century. 

In a NJ Star-Ledger interview with Jim Namiotka, Samuels cited the government's takeover of high schools as precedent. In answer to questions about how to convince a skeptical public, Samuels said:

This is similar to what happened at the beginning of the 20th century with high school. Very few people went to high school; now, we accept that high school is a universal public good that’s paid out of tax dollars. We have to apply that same idea to college.

Samuels goes on to cite Thomas Jefferson in support of his proposal. 

Samuels argument shows that, while "free" college may not be politically feasible today, tomorrow will be another story, because he is on the side of current historical trends. Already, he has garnered the support of prominent politicians; e.g., New York Representative Charlie Rangel. President Obama has taken a big step in that direction when he cut the banks out of the student loan program, making the federal government the direct lender. Does anyone believe he doesn't support Samuels and Rangel, but for political calculations?

What Samuel's reasoning shows is that it won't be enough for liberty advocates to oppose the "free" college scheme in isolation. We'll lose. How to fight "free" college in the face of Samuel's comparison to "free" high schools? To defeat the likes of Samuels and Rangel, the idea of government-funded education must be attacked at its root.

Our Founders were brilliant activists who precipitated the most glorious revolution in mankind's history, and Thomas Jefferson is one of my favorites. But they were not perfect. One of the biggest mistakes our Founders made was to not separate education from state in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of church and state. If we had "free," tax-funded religion, we wouldn't have freedom of religion.

"Free" college is the worst idea to come along since "free" high schools. To safeguard freedom, we should be moving in the opposite direction; phaseout and constitutionally forbid tax-funded schools at any level. We need to add to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of education, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ."
Related Reading:

"Free" College is Anything but Free

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits

No comments: