State and Education, Markets or Coercion

Know Your Neighbor

How well do you know your neighbors? Besides their names, their children’s name and where they work etc.; how well do you know them?

Do you know their favorite book, movie, type of music? What about more personal details? How do they view the world? Do they have religious beliefs? Maybe eastern mysticism, pantheism? What do they believe about the origins of man? Evolution, theistic evolution, literal creation? What about how they view raising children? Do they ever consider any of these questions? Do you?

It’s pretty obvious that we know very little about our neighbors, which make sense. Individually, we are working hard to keep our own lives under control. We hardly have time to understand our neighbor’s issues.

Limited Knowledge

Nonetheless, we collectively insist that we know enough about our neighbors to solve their problems. Although it is established that as an individual I am not omniscient, we collectively believe and consequently behave like we are.

As a society we claim to know what’s best. Usually, our opinion is based upon another’s (experts) findings. But does this make sense? Does studying a matter in-depth make you more knowledgeable about those you offer advice too? Try planning and fixing meals for your neighbor. You may be a great Italian cook, but if your neighbors are vegan, your veal scampi might end up in the trash.

Humans are frightfully complicated. Regardless of the attempts by social scientists to reduce human action to determinism we are all unique. Reducing the irreducible complexity of human desires to an objective standard of “what people want” is almost non-sense. The result is so broad (food, shelter and love) that it offers no guidance to those who desire to govern others activity. Maybe those who govern should leave somethings to the individual to pursue independent of government coercion.

Many Ways or the State’s Way?

Apply this axiom to education. Is it possible to reconcile a society of unique individual’s or family’s desire for knowledge with a system that meets that need? What would it look like?

The dominant paradigm today is a forced education. The state forces the individual to pay for the system and then provides a curriculum that the state also establishes. “We will take your wealth from you and then give you the education we want for you”. Does not leave much, if any room, for individuality or innovation and what does pass for innovation is last decade’s “latest greatest”.

What does the state know about every individual and family that it governs? Very little. How successful is any endeavor where one party knows very little about the group it serves? Reading, writing and arithmetic does not qualify as “knowing your customer”.

Markets Give Diversity and Choice

Try identifying all the non-government schools that offer differing methodologies, curriculum and calendars in one paragraph. The diversity is far too great to categorize other than to say there is a plethora. Quite a contrast to the government schools touting magnet, charter, special and traditional as being “diverse”. A six pack of Crayola crayons is diverse when compared to black and white. But a 64 pack of Crayola crayons is truly diverse.

Why are there so many varieties of education offered? Because there are families willing to suffer the burden of taxation to support government education and simultaneously demand something different. They demand an education for their children that meets their personal needs and are rejecting the “least objectionable” form of state education.

One Size Does Not Fit All

These parents are rejecting the model of federal, state and county politicians, teachers, teacher unions, administrators, elected and unelected board of educations at the local and state level (state board of education officials being a separate group than the Governor, state house and senate members), focus groups and education “experts” (all, expect the unelected officials, are taxpayer supported) in favor of a model of administrators and teachers that listen to their individual desires and delivers what they want individually. Parents are rejecting the bland, monolithic and inferior state education for a choices that are market driven; their needs are being met.

The Issue is Freedom

Why would a society elect a group that insists on a system of education that demands compliance in the face of civil and some cases criminal penalties? The issue is not education, it is freedom. Milton Friedman properly observed, “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

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