As the presidential election looms, The Economist considers whether the next president will use “the regulatory power of the federal government to spur reform” in education policy—as both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did—and if he or she does, how that will be accomplished.
“The era of regulation-driven school reform is now coming to an end, for two reasons,” the magazine declares. “The Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in December as a replacement for [No Child Left Behind], hands back power to states over standards and tests, making it difficult for a future president to seek to micromanage school reform. And in any case, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton are inclined to imitate the past two presidents. Mr Trump is ‘totally against’ and ‘may cut’ the Department of Education. Declaring that ‘it is time to have school choice,’ in September he pledged to give states $20bn to fund school vouchers for parents of poor children.” Clinton, too, The Economist says, “has also been keen to defer to states.”
To believe either of our prospective presidents will delegate policymaking to the states is a happy thought, indeed. After all, as the Home School Legal Defense Association reminds us, “Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government delegated the power to regulate or fund elementary or secondary education.” But what role should the states have in regulating education? Why should a governmental institution on any level be empowered to usurp the most fundamental responsibility traditionally belonging to the family?
Public school proponents argue it is in the best interest of a nation to have a well-educated populace. True. But it is also in the best interest of each individual member of the populace to be well-educated. Aristotle said, “All men by nature desire to know,” and people, since the beginning of time, have been yearning, learning, innovating, and inventing, even without the government’s insistence that they become “educated.”
I put “educated” in quotation marks because it is a misnomer to call what government schools provide an “education.” I’ve never heard someone sing the praises of what U.S. public schools accomplish as far as student achievement goes, because there’s nothing to brag about. Rather, what they do, is talk about how hard our teachers work, why they deserve higher salaries and cushy benefits, and then they blame poor student performance on “lack of funding.”
Public schools are, simply put, failing our kids, and it’s not because they don’t get enough money; it’s because they have monopolized the system, removing as much competition and innovation as possible. As John Stossel pointed out in a 2013 article, “Spending per student has tripled. There are more computers, teachers, social workers, reading specialists, principals, assistant principals, etc. But test scores haven’t improved.”
Contrary to what leftists espouse, taking the government out of education won’t mean poor kids won’t have access to an education. All education freedom will do is allow children to escape failing schools in which they are brainwashed and babysat for seven hours a day for the 12 most formative years of their lives.
Let that sink in. If your child goes to a public school, you are trusting the government to determine what and how he thinks from the time he reaches the age of reason until adulthood. Talk about a nanny state! Day-in and day-out, someone you don’t know is telling your child everything about everything. It’s not as simple as “reading, writing, and arithmetic” anymore. Public education now also involves sex education and “social and emotional learning.” It’s straight out of 1984, and it’s really, reallycreepy.
We need to rid ourselves of the notion big government has conditioned us to accept from the time we first entered its warm embrace as little children: Without big brother, little brother and little sister (all of us) will be helpless. If the government were to stop “educating” our children, would people stop learning? Learning is a natural human instinct. Toddlers ask enough questions to drive a person crazy. We Wikipedia things on our phones and watch YouTube tutorials. We humans are a naturally curious species—and for good reason! It’s beneficial to know as much as possible: It makes you a better employee, a more interesting date, and a more competent person. The government doesn’t have a law (yet!) mandating everyone learn how to drive a car, but most of us do so anyway, because it’s in our best interests.
Without political influence, would parents suddenly stop wanting their children to learn? Of course not. Parents want to satiate their children’s natural curiosity and see them become well-rounded individuals who can reach their full potential. Parents also don’t want to be responsible for caring for their children forever, and they will do what they can to help them grow into well-prepared, independent, and successful adults. If anything, abolishing public schools will cause parents to take a more active, involved interest in their children’s educations.
Moreover, if you’re responsible enough to bring another human being into this world, shouldn’t you be responsible enough to raise that child, including accepting such a fundamental duty as educating your offspring?
Currently, not everyone has the luxury of being able to homeschool or send a child to a private school, but as Stossel observes, “Unpredictable things happen when you leave people free to experiment, and competition produces better results than one tired monopoly … Market competition helps everyone, especially the poor.”
If government were to mostly leave the education arena, people would find ways to provide high-quality educational opportunities for their kids, just as they do in nearly every other aspect of life, from washing machines to motor vehicles. If you don’t want the government choosing your car for you, why would you trust it with your children’s education?
Let’s hope The Economist is right and our next president doesn’t influence education at the national level. But let’s also hope every other elected official follows suit and gets government out of education entirely.