Timmy Elsewhere

At the ASI.

One reason we want markets in education.

1 thought on “Timmy Elsewhere”

  1. The greatest reason for a market-based education system is for the preservation of freedom in one of the fundamental aspects of civilized life: the shaping of the rising generation.

    With all due respect to Tim and those who see education as merely the training-ground in skills necessary to productivity, I differ.

    Education (and its control) has been described as a “political plum” of the very highest order, a means by which to oppress political opponents, most especially in what are termed “multicultural” societies. Though enunciated by von Mises from the ’20s onward and with respect to those conditions in Eastern Europe known as “Balkanization,” the basic principle applies universally, becoming evident wherever such conditions are increasing.

    Mises emphasized that the stuggle for supremacy in the publically-funded school systems, not only of the language(s) of instruction but of the curriculae themselves, was one of the forces (in addition, especially, to trade intervention) leading, inevitably, to war on an international scale. It was his observation that nearly all mothers, given their choice, would prefer illiterate sons to dead ones.

    A look at the U.S.’s experience might prove enlightening, though few are familiar with it.
    Studies of literacy conducted in the very early 1800s in the very new nation showed literacy rates—in urban areas—in the 90%+ range and the lowest rates, just over 50%, in very rural portions of the deep South. “Literacy” meant an
    ability to read and write in any language, not necessarily English. But the U.S. of that day lead the entire world–and by substantial margins. More newspapers existed here than in the entire rest of the world combined. Books, fiction and non, and whether written here or abroad were likewise popular. De Toqueville (early 1830s ) was surprised that, on the frontiers, people eagerly awaited the latest publications, including newspapers, arriving by stagecoach and that the subject of these, both literary and periodical, formed a regular basis of conversation, most especially at dinnertimes.
    Studying the need for state-subsidized education, the New York State Board of Regents (in the early 1820’s. from memory) concluded that there was no need because private schools (including sectarian) were very generous with assistance (and without regard to belief) and that the few neglected tended to be extremely rural kids actually required for labor on their parents’ farms.

    But, eventually the promoters of public funding won out. They tended to be the northern-tier educated classes, almost entirely of dominant Protestant composition, whose concern was with the foreign immigrant element in their midst and the need to Americanize it for social and economic reasons.

    Not much has changed except that the political orientation of the original intellectual class has changed somewhat and, with that change, a similar shift in their focus on education. At the same time, though the original process may have had some benefits and certainly achieved a commendable all-round level of education for nearly a century, it is also noteworthy that, in at least one quasi-measureable magnitude–literacy—the trend has been ever downward since before the advent of widespread public schooling; in other respects, it hit some apogee in years after WWII after which steady and all-round decline became paramount.

    A free market in education may not accomplish all that some people may want with respect to the product. No market can: men err frequently and continuously, regardless of station in life, intelligence, benignity, etc. What a market will do is the very same as with respect to all other human economic goods: provide the very greatest choice for all consumers from among those very most closely approaching their ideals in exchange for what those same consumers are willing and able to pay. Anything else costs more and gives us less–not what most would want were the choice made clear to them.

    But it must be repeated, lest sight be lost of the fact, that the over-riding reason for which public education must be rejected and rendered archaic is not its falure to “deliver the goods” in the form of a productive citizenry but the far more compelling (and, ultimately decisive) reason that such education is, of necessity, an indoctrination in the political and social organizational philosophy of those on the Left—a system always focused on conformity of thought, whether in social or scientific areas, enforced concensus of intellectual opinion, diminution of inequality of life outcomes, and the thoroughgoing bureaucratization of as many aspects of human existence as possible.

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