Education is certain to be a hot topic in the upcoming election.
Unfortunately substantive discussion is likely to be absent if
libertarian ideas are not included. Four years ago as a candidate for
governor I had to opportunity to appear on several panels that
included leading Democrat and Republican candidates. I was appalled
by the shallowness of their views on this topic. Fundamental
questions concerning just exactly what the word education means and
how human beings learn were not of any interest to these other
parties. Instead, the answers to most of the big questions were
taken for granted leaving a debate over having one statewide school
board or a decentralized system. To break out of this mold we need to
ask ourselves to think instead of blindly accepting what we are told.
Education in America is big business. It employees millions of people
and expends billions of dollars. It as become a system centered
around providing instruction at maximum cost. Like the medieval
church it relies on the fears of the populace to enrich itself. The
great cathedrals of Europe were built in the midst of poverty by
people afraid of going to Hell. Today an education establishment
funds itself by promoting fear among parents for the well being of
their children. Education has become Religion. In this paradigm the
only road to education is expensive formalized classroom study, just
as in the middle ages the only road to salvation was supporting a
wealthy and worldly church.
A good way to look at education is to provide the knowledge seeker
with what they need to know and with what they want to know. The
essential element is the knowledge seeker and their personal quest.
We have a school system in which the top priority is providing
employment to legends of teachers and administrators. The system’s
second priority is baby sitting. Small children are safe at school
from a potentially dangerous world and the community is safe when
teenagers are under supervision at school. Education is at best a
third goal. To demonstrate this point one need only consider all the
other ways a student can acquire knowledge.
Alternatives to the expensive labor intensive 12-year tax funded
authoritarian based government school system are numerous. Most any
one that can be picked leads to a better educational result. We have
home schooling, private non-profit schooling, trade and
correspondence schools, educational television programming, the
Internet, and old fashioned self education through books and
libraries. Apprenticeships have long been a part of human education.
None of these methods has been allowed to move public education from
its central role despite their superior record in instruction for the
simple reason that they do not create as many jobs, waste as much tax
money, or concentrate on baby sitting as the government schools do.
Government schools like all other government programs are designed to
be wasteful. There is no reason in the world it should take students
12 years to get what is essentially an elementary school
education. If high school graduates can read, write, and do basic
arithmetic, it is considered “success” in the government school mind
set. They should have mastered all of these talents after six years.
Why then did the taxpayers have to foot the bill for six additional
years? Why did the students have to spend the extra time attending
classes and doing homework? Is their time a non-consideration in
evaluating total costs? Do a mental experiment. If a hundred 30-year-olds were given the tests they took in high school after 12
years away from study what do you think their scores would be? Mostly
D’s and F’s on anything other than basic elementary skills. This is
an indication that real learning, that implies retention, has not
taken place in grades seven through twelve.
Those who insist that tax funded schooling under government
management must persist need to sit down and ask these fundamental
questions. First, there needs to be a reordering of priorities away
from professional educators and their pecuniary interests and towards
students. The priorities should start with students, than taxpayers,
parents, teachers, and administrators. The current system is almost
an exact opposite of this model.
”’Tracy Ryan, chair of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii, can be reached by email at:”’ mailto:email@example.com
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