Thursday, November 29, 2007

End All Government Involvement in Education

Prayers in school, sex education and "intelligent design" are contentious school issues. I believe parents should have the right to decide whether their children will say a morning prayer in school, be taught "intelligent design" and not be given school-based sex education. I also believe other parents should have the right not to have their children exposed to prayers in school, "intelligent design" and receive sex education.

The reason why these issues produce conflict is because education is government-produced. That means there's either going to be prayers or no prayers, "intelligent design" or no "intelligent design" and sex education or no sex education. If one parent has his wishes met, it comes at the expense of another parent's wishes. The losing parent either must grin and bear it or send his child to a private school, pay its tuition and still pay property taxes for a school for which he has no use.

The solution is to take the production of education out of the political arena. The best way is to end all government involvement in education. Failing to get government completely out of education, we should recognize that because government finances something it doesn't follow that government must produce it. Government finances F-22 Raptor fighter jets, but there's no government factory producing them. The same could be done in education. We could finance education collectively through tuition tax credits or educational vouchers, but allow parents to choose, much like we did with the GI Bill. Government financed the education, but the veterans chose the school.

~From George Mason economist Walter Williams' latest column


At 11/29/2007 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m not sure I follow William’s logic on this one. There’s probably just as much, or more, government involvement in F-22 fighter jet production as there is in education. In fact, just the military specifications that they are built to probably total more than all the federal statutory education regulations for schools. I know the federal budget outlay for defense is much, much more than education.

As a 1970s radical, I just can’t see the United State’s military complex as a good example of governmental non-interference in citizen’s lives.

At 11/29/2007 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Walt. I think William's picked a poor example.

Ironically, the military and the defense of the country is one of the few legitimate areas the federal government is empowered to act. I worked in the defense industry and am well aware of the impact of federal specifications. But the military is the customer and has the right to make the demands they deem necessary.

Bottom line is the federal government has no legitimate role in education.

At 11/29/2007 10:30 AM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Williams' point is that just because the government requires something, or pays for something, it doesn't mean that they have to provide it. Here are a couple of examples:

1. The government could require a retirement pension system, but allow the private market to provide the service, e.g. Chile's privatized Social Security system, which has been followed in many countries around the world.

2. The government can and does require car insurance, and it sets minimum amounts of coverage, etc., but we buy insurance from private companies.

Likewise, the government could help to fund education, and enforce mandatory attendance until a certain age, and set minimum standards, but the private sector could provide education, just like it provides cars, food, clothing, refrigerators, CDs, paper clips, computers, etc.

At 11/29/2007 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bob wright:

It's a fine line between indoctrination and education when the federal government gets involved. There have been some excellent and in-depth posts on the topic elsewhere on this blog. It boils down to this: Students need to be taught how to think—not what to think.

Professor Perry:

But isn't the real problem the rules and regulations not so much as the service? My sister is a second-grade teacher and she is always complaining about the NCLB Act and the MEAP test (even if her union is eliminated, that control still stands). If the government decides to run schools like the military, I want to sell toilet seats when the specs hit the fan!

At 11/29/2007 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a number of countries with no government funded education, Nigeria, etc. The overall populations suffers, because you will have a few elite individuals and the rest not well trained for todays economy. Our educational system is not perfect, it shouldn't be. The federal government should set minimum standards for public ed, once a student reaches that standard they should get a diploma. And for the people who want a superior education they should have to pay for it.

At 11/30/2007 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My only nagging concern with totally privatizing education is the question of how far to we let it go? Would we allow fringe groups of certain religions or social groups the freedom to teach hateful or violent ideas? You can certainly argue that in some groups there would be a demand for that kind of thing.


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