There are so many great arguments for a free-market education system that they are hardly worth repeating here. (I do suggest John Stossel’s “Stupid in America” as an excellent, digestible overview.) The American education system has become a surreal affair. We’ve become used to the idea of something like a “right to education” and education being a core task of government. Covered with a patina of familiarity, it is sometimes difficult to see the American education system for the bizarre Keystone cops situation it is. We shrug our shoulders and rhetorically ask, “How could it be different?”
Thankfully the Texas State Board of Education is here to remind us of the inherently failed concept of public education.
Recently the Keystone cops met to hash-out the new curriculum. TFN Insider has been documenting the attempts by the conservative board members to modify education through propaganda. The blogged minutes to the meetings record it all. They have dropped Thomas Jefferson (a deist) from the list of Enlightenment philosophers who influenced the founders and instead include Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin (?!?) and William Blackstone. (The inclusion of Blackstone is particularly odd. Many founders, including Jefferson and James Wilson, had a love-hate relationship with Blackstone, a Tory, and his undying devotion to parliamentary supremacy. Sir Edward Coke, a more rights-based guy, was more influential to many of the founders.) During a general lesson on rights, they suggested that the First Amendment is unduly privileged over the Second Amendment and suggested dropping all coverage of either if they don’t get equal time. Also, in a predictable rehearsal of favorite conservative trope, they voted to elide over the separation of church and state. As TFN blogged:
12:28 – Board member Mavis Knight offers the following amendment: “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” Knight points out that students should understand that the Founders believed religious freedom was so important that they insisted on separation of church and state.
12:32 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the Founders didn’t intend for separation of church and state in America. And she’s off on a long lecture about why the Founders intended to promote religion. She calls this amendment “not historically accurate.”
12:35 – Knight’s amendment fails on a straight party-line vote, 5-10. Republicans vote no, Democrats vote yes.
And the list goes on. Conservatives have become enamored with the idea of a “culture war” and are ready to fight it through any means necessary. They must fight the dupers who indoctrinate our children and send our country down the heathen path to socialism. As I wrote in my first piece on the Citizens United case:
Both sides of the political aisle attempt to explain the other side’s opinions as a product of something other than rationality and a careful consideration of the facts. At some level, this may be psychologically necessary in order to maintain the self-aggrandizing illusion that only your side is rational and “gets it.” Therefore, the political right and left manufacture the existence of “dupes”; those people easily influenced and lulled into complacency by powerful forces. For the right, the duping force is often characterized as the “liberal intelligentsia”–the universities and their left-leaning professors, Hollywood, and the public school system populated by left-leaning teachers. For the left, the duping force is corporations, their for-profit motivations, and the corporate controlled media.
Particularly ironic here is how both the campaign finance reformers and the religious right see part of the First Amendment as a grant, rather than a restriction, of government power. For campaign finance reformers the Free Speech Clause actually means that the government is empowered to equalize speech. For the religious right the Establishment Clause apparently allows for government promotion of religion. Call me crazy, but my favorite part is the “Congress shall make no law…” part.
Amidst the numerous head-scratching moments I hope that a few observers realized the ridiculousness of having elected representatives choose how all the kids in the state would be educated. Education is the last thing that should be a one-size-fits-all endeavor. The state, unfortunately, is a one-size-fits-all entity. As Milton Friedman once said:
The political principle that underlies the political mechanism is conformity. The individual must serve a more general social interest–whether that be determined by a church or a dictator or a majority. The individual may have a vote and say in what is to be done, but if he is overruled, he must conform. It is appropriate for some to require others to contribute to a general social purpose whether they wish to or not.
The free market, on the other hand, runs off the principle of unanimity: nothing gets done unless all parties to the transaction agree to the terms.
In education, the political arena simply becomes a method by which the winners of school board elections—even if winning by a single vote—are given the coercive power of the state to force every child to learn ideologically-driven nonsense. And, as long as the state controls education, it will always be this way.