Thursday, November 20, 2008

Evolution vs. Creationism in the Public Schools

The Texas State Board of Education is currently revising the science curriculum standards for Texas public schools. Those standards are scheduled to be adopted in March 2009. If the past is any indication, the debate over the curriculum will be divisive and contentious as proponents of evolution and creationism seek to exert influence over the process.

For the record, I equate creationism with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Ents. But that is not the point of this post. My point here is to offer a solution to this debate which will allow for both evolution and creationism to be taught. And my solution will allow parents-- all parents-- to choose which is taught to their children.

Some will not like my solution for reasons that have nothing to do with evolution or creationism. They will dislike my solution because it is "not fair", it penalizes children, etc. Some will not like my solution because it will actually empower parents (and students). Some will not like my solution because it will hold teachers and educational administrators accountable. Some will simply dismiss my solution as impractical.

My solution: privatize education.

The government's virtual monopoly on the educational system has been an abysmal failure by virtually every objective measure one could use. For some frightening evidence, watch any of Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segments. But those failures are only a part of the issue.

The fundamental issue is freedom. Public schools are financed through coercive means-- that is, taxes. Parents and non-parents are forced to provide financial support for the public schools, whether they agree or disagree with the ideas and methods taught in those schools.

While parents can certainly home school or send their children to private schools, these are not viable alternatives for many, if not most, families. Their money for educating their children is taken by the government. In short, most parents have no choice but to send their children to public schools. And they have little choice in the ideas taught to their children.

Privatizing education allows for parent to choose the ideas their children will be taught. Those who want evolution can have it. Those who want creationism can have it. Each parent can choose what his child is taught. And nobody has to pay for teaching ideas that they find repugnant.

There will be those who cry that education is a right, that children are our future, that some parents can't afford to pay for their children's education, etc.

Education is not a right anymore than hair cuts are a right. Rights pertain to action. Specifically, rights permit one to pursue values; rights are not a claim on values. Rights permit one to act without intervention from others, so long as one respects the mutual rights of others. There is no such thing as a "right" to the property of others.

That some parents may not be able to afford an education for their children does not give them a claim on the property of others. First, if education were privatized and parents were not taxed for education, they would have more money. Second, perhaps parents should give more thought to the financial implications of having a child rather than demanding that others pay for their decisions.

A completely privatized educational system would result in a wide variety of schools, as entrepreneurs seek to meet the demands of their customers. Unlike the public school system, a privatized system would allow parents more choices and more control over their children's education.

As with many issues, public schools turn curriculum decisions into political footballs. Each side has a legitimate demand that its values and ideas be taught-- after all, they are paying some of the bill. A privatized system eliminates the politicalization of education, and allows everyone to find a school that teaches the ideas they support.

The free market provides a wide assortment of choices in housing, from apartments to modest starter homes to luxurious mansions. Housing in Houston is among the most affordable in the nation because the free market is allowed to operate without interference from government. The same choices and benefits result in every field when government stays out of the way. The same would happen in education.

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