I have family members and close friends who currently or previously worked in public education, and I can assure you, dear reader, that the libertarian argument for free market education isn’t a position that’s held in high regard in my world. It is my sincere hope that those of you reading this who also oppose a competitive market for education services will take this post in a spirit of promoting a real diversity of political opinion.
Betsy DeVos has been nominated for the Chair of the Department of Education, and as is the case with everything Trump says or does, the progressive establishment is having a conniption. Whether it’s her lack of Ivy League credentials, her advocacy of charter schools or her positively abhorrent donation to FIRE, Betsy DeVos has been branded Public Education Enemy Number 1 by the entire government education apparatus. In his recent piece in Reason, Robby Soave very carefully and methodically points out why all of them are wrong and it is they who are the ideologically hidebound zealots.
Here’s the deal.
Pretty much everyone agrees that education is important. The larger and more important question is over how best to promote real education; as in independent thought, critical thinking, a curious mind, marketable skills and a lifelong love of learning, versus just going to school.
It’s easy to view education as a “right”. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s not. If you are honest, you will easily be able to recall numerous occasions when school felt pointless and utterly without value. And the real world bears this out. Unless you cultivate entrepreneurial skills, a high school education is basically worthless in the marketplace. A bachelor’s degree doesn’t necessarily add much more value to your marketability either. When you treat any good or service into a “right” for which the government makes provision, you destroy the incentive to provide actual value.
Whenever the failure of public schools is discussed, “Reform” is the default cliché deployed. Anyone who suggests a market based alternative is just someone who hates children and only wants rich people to have education. Sadly, the Left is very good at painting opposition to government education as opposition to education itself while portraying themselves as Guardians of Knowledge and Social Justice from the mindless hordes of conservatards who just want to plunge America into a regressive New Dark Age of mandatory Christianity. It should be obvious to everyone that there is no such thing as “Reform”. Once you place a giant institution like education behind the government wall, there’s little you can do to truly reform it.
Institutional learning only reinforces deference to itself. If you want to promote real individuality and critical thinking skills, a bureaucratic, compulsory school system won’t produce that result.
I have plenty of skepticism over whether Betsy DeVos is going to make any meaningful difference, but I’m certainly willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. The public school bureaucrats are the real zealots here. It’s easy to point the finger of reproach when you enjoy the tacit protection of the government. And no, it doesn’t make one goddamn bit of difference that she doesn’t have fancy degrees. She’ll be in charge of a gigantic bureaucracy which sets the agenda for other bureaucracies.
If nothing else, she should do everything in her power to squelch the Title IX jihadists and the campus star chambers dispensing extrajudicial “justice”.