Libertarian Michael A. LaFerrara advocates a sort of educational voucher to parents of minor children, replacing all public elementary and secondary schools:
What we can do is redirect the dollars now spent on each child’s schooling by recognizing the moral right of parents to direct the course of their own children’s education through universal school choice. This can be accomplished by essentially giving the education tax dollars now spent on each child to the parents, to use according to their own judgement.
Parents’ moral right to direct the course of their own children’s education? LaFerrara forgot the important step of proving that part, popular or not, before making his case about how the government should facilitate it. When we’re talking about making decisions for someone who is either unable or not allowed to make them for himself, that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
In any case, the application of free market principles to education is one of the most misguided parts of libertarianism, in no small part because
- educational competition does not necessarily serve all of the major goals of education and
- education impacts our own evaluation of education.
Schools that teach something false, even if it is significant to some major subject, are by no means destined to fail. If they teach that slavery was not an important factor in the American Civil War, for example, they might still produce great students who go on to become very successful in their careers. Even a school that rejects major scientific truths may produce students who are successful in non-scientific fields, which can be enough. Parents tend to want their children to believe the same things that they do, so if there are already many people who buy into these false ideologies, then there is already demand for schools that teach falsehoods. And when students graduate from those schools, many of them will not know any better, so they will raise their children the same way, thereby securing the next generation for those schools. We see all of this already in our current system, so I can only imagine it getting worse under LaFerrara’s vision.
But even if it were true that the truth would win out in the end, how long would that take? How many people must be miseducated (and go on to affect all of us with their votes, including votes for further miseducation) in the name of “freedom” before the truth is accepted? This sounds a lot like another problem with libertarianism: how many people must suffer at the hands of unregulated bad businesses before natural market forces cause them to fail? The ultimate result, even if it is somehow what libertarians imagine it to be (it isn’t), does not undo or make up for the problems along the way.
One last point. LaFerrara writes:
“When will we learn that you can’t foster a competitive workforce geared to a competitive world economy on the back of an uncompetitive, monopolistic education system?”
I confess that I do not know much about other countries’ educational systems, but I was under the impression that most countries do not have a “fully free education market.” If their systems are like ours but they are still doing better, then it is reasonable to conclude that we can improve our own system without resorting to LaFerrara’s recommendations.
When he says “Educational Freedom”, he means gutting public education to subsidize corporate or religious indoctrination.
It’s convenient to ignore the moral obligation, and basic need, for the public to educate children free of religious dogma and corporate bottom lines.
If parents want their children indoctrinated, fine. Let them pay for it, but not on my dime.
A free thinking mind is a terrible thing to waste. Look at the Randroids.
Have a good rest of the week.