Friday, May 1, 2009

Educational Reform: Real and Imaginary

This week Texas lawmakers unanimously passed legislation that will measure public schools by their success in preparing students by their readiness for college and the workforce. Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, author of SB 3, was quoted:
The overarching goal is to raise the bar so that Texas students are prepared for success in life based on what we’re calling post-secondary readiness.

Shapiro went on to say that standardized tests have no link to success after graduation from high school. And what method will be used in this so-called reform? The Chronicle says:
Schools would be held accountable for the percentage of students meeting passing standards and college readiness standards.

As under the current system, schools will be measured by scores of various demographic groups.

That sounds a lot like standardized testing to me. Regardless, this is not reform, but merely tinkering with details.

Politicians seem to think that they can make minor changes in some program and hail it as reform. They tweak this and fiddle with that, and then proclaim that they have solved the problem. But there is only one way to truly reform our educational system--re-form it.

So long as government--politicians and bureaucrats--have any voice in education, it will continue to produce functional illiterates. The solution is not more money, or higher standards, or different tests; the solution is privatization.

By any rational standard, our educational system is an abysmal failure. Politicians and education bureaucrats futilely seek something that "works", change their definition of success, promise changes, and then offer more of the same failed policies.

Public education involves the use of force on two levels—economically and intellectually. Economically, taxpayers are compelled to provide financial support for public schools. Intellectually, this means that taxpayers are compelled to support the teaching of ideas that they may oppose, such as evolution or creationism.

Privatizing the educational system eliminates these issues. The financial burden would be lifted from taxpayers and shifted to where it rightfully belongs—parents and students. And the consumer would have the choice and ability to select the school that offers the curriculum most desired. In other words, the consumer could choose a school that teaches evolution, or one that teaches creationism, or one that teaches neither.

From a purely practical standpoint, the public educational system is a disaster. Students regularly graduate high school as functional illiterates and lacking in basic math skills. The growing popularity of home schooling and educational franchises is testimony to the declining efficacy of the public system—parents are seeking a better education for their children than that provided by the public system. And yet, taxpayers are compelled to support such a system—they cannot opt out or take their money elsewhere.

Morally, the public educational system is reprehensible. School boards are magnets for special interest groups, each seeking to influence the content of text books and the curriculum. Invariably, the views of some must be implemented and the views of others ignored. Which means, children are often taught ideas opposed by their parents. This is another reason for the growing popularity of home schooling.

Some argue that education is a right, that the poor will not be able to afford to pay for education, that children are our future, and therefore, public education is necessary. Such arguments ignore the fact that rights apply to freedom of action, not the products of action. Such arguments ignore the fact that these alleged rights require that someone provide a product or service under compulsion. Such arguments ignore the fact that these alleged rights place an involuntary obligation upon other individuals..

The need of one individual is not a claim on the property of others. A parent who cannot afford to pay for his children’s education does not have a moral claim to force others to do so. Some may argue that the child is an innocent victim—he had no choice in the matter. But what of the individual who chose to not have children, but must still finance the education of others? He is equally innocent. He too had no choice in the matter.

A privatized educational system would not prevent or preclude individuals from helping others. Indeed, many individuals and businesses establish scholarships and other forms of financial aid for students. Unlike the public system, these programs are voluntary and allow the participants to establish whatever criteria they choose. In addition, freed from the burden of taxes, parents would have additional funds available to pay for education.

The free market invariably provides a wide choice of options to consumers. Even in an educational environment dominated by a government controlled monopoly this is readily evident. Private businesses and individuals offer a wide variety of educational choices, from private schools to tutorial services. More importantly, these choices do not use force to obtain financing or customers. They do not violate the rights of individuals.

Education is not a proper function of the government. All government financing of education should end. All government involvement in education should end.


Anonymous said...

Government schools were designed to stop the NEXT revolution.

Brian Phillips said...

And by turning out students who can't think critically, have little or no self-esteem, and believe in all kinds of imaginary "rights", they are doing a good job of that.