Great Brain Robbery Seizes Millions of Minds
Hijackers Are Supported by Organized Ignorance
by James Ervin Norwood
Last updated December 28, 2007
Public Schools Are Flunking Out
Public schools are brain dead and on life support; so let’s pull the plug on them, give them a decent funeral, and let better alternatives take root and flourish.
Education is what we must save and regenerate, not an obsolete proven flop that has been in a persistent counterproductive condition for decades. The time has come to slaughter a sacred cow.
Public schools are failing and will continue to fail, for the following reasons:
Central planners of public schools cannot get adequate information to make plans that fit students.
No one owns public schools. No one has any capital at risk in them or a brand name to protect; so no one running them has incentive to cut costs to avoid losses and to increase revenues by maximizing customer satisfaction.
Public schools have stayed in business, in spite of their bad results. Their failures have not been punished by bankruptcy or loss of jobs. Their failures have been rewarded with more money, which has operated as a perverse incentive to fail again and again.
Public schools can ignore parents, since parents do not directly fund them. Educrats cannot ignore legislatures, judges, school boards, and pressure groups or their political agenda. So politics rules the roost, not parents; and politics has destroyed public schools.
Force-feeding children the state’s prescription for education is more about creating jobs for teachers than educating students. In any event, no one can be forced to learn anything.
Compulsory attendance laws, which aim at enlarging demand for administrators and staff and at keeping students out of the labor market, generate resistance and disruption by captive students, who are not interested in eating the state’s menu. Such students should be free to find other ways to learn how to fend for themselves, including going to work. The prisoners should be released.
Putting more money into a bad plan that won’t work will not make it work. That will only produce more of the same bad results. We have doubled, tripled, and quadrupled funds per student and have gotten increasingly worse results for our money.
Many good teachers in state schools are being frustrated by an unrealistic system that is based on false premises that make it inherently unsound.
The Free Market Remedy
We should close the public day jails and go to a free market in educational goods and services. With each dollar being one ballot, parents would be de facto owners of schools, since they would control them with their monetary votes. Legal owners of schools would produce results that please customers or would go out of business. Competitors would scramble to produce the best results at the least cost for the most customers.
With volume up and unit costs down, tuition for private education would drop sharply to affordable ranges, which would create a mass market. Private scholarships would expand to help students who really want to learn but who cannot afford even reduced prices. Nonprofits would also carry the ball.
With state monopolies that block innovations out of the way, educational entrepreneurs would innovate and produce good education. Many business outfits that are now producing K-8 reading and math programs would expand to produce full K-12 curricula and would adjust programs and contents to meet demand. Entrepreneurs would organize instruction and interactive computer programs to enhance participative learning. New educational enterprises would emerge, to compete with existing programs and entrepreneurs for the dollars of customers.
Who knows what would develop, as the market works its magic? Perhaps some low-cost Internet schools with high volume would arise. They would put courses by the best educators on computer discs; and customer service would connect students with questions on particular points, to home-based teachers across the land. Maybe a discount chain of All Smart schools would spread across the country. Franchises of McEd schools could develop.
Just as the telephone monopoly prevented creation of cheaper and more efficient alternatives and diversity in telecommunications, so the public school monopoly has prevented creation of cheaper and more efficient alternatives and diversity in education. One brand cannot serve all. So let’s clear the way for entrepreneurs to meet the educational needs of students with all sorts of talents and ambitions.
In the free market, people of all races, creeds, political stripes, ideological stances, and ethnicities would get along, as they independently contract for and use a variety of educational goods and services; and they would not have to fight each other, join the PTA, petition, form pressure groups, vote, file lawsuits, or run for political office to get what they want. Educators would be accountable to cash customers, who would get what they want for their children or shop elsewhere.
Vouchers and subsidies for private schools should be avoided as a plague, since they would put politicians in a position to wipe out private schools. When the god state funds any kind of education (lower, higher, or religious), politicians, judges, and bureaucrats control or strongly influence what is taught, who teaches what, methods and times of instruction, who studies with whom and where, and other conditions of eligibility for subsidies. Education is always lost in the shuffle to stuff ballot boxes.
Also, vouchers could be milked by fraudulent operators, as cash cows.
We have been paying two, three, and four prices for “education” and have been getting political battlegrounds and bureaucracies that have precluded education. If we want education, the socialist schools must be junked out and replaced with private schools, many of which would be nonprofits that would be tax-exempt and that would attract tax-deductible contributions and endowments.
Tuition, books, supplies, and fees would be exempt from sales taxes and would be deductible from taxable income, whether one itemizes deductions or not. School taxes would likewise be deductible from taxable income.
School taxes would be limited to paying off school district debts. With that done, school taxes would be totally abolished.
If we go through two more cycles of K-12 miseducation that fails to prepare students for advanced training that enables them to do complex work, we will degenerate into a third-world nation, within a generation. Adequate education is critical to the national security of the United States and to its very survival.
Even were public schools (and colleges) adequately teaching communications, calculations, and science, they would still reduce us to third-world conditions, by selling another generation of students socialist swamplands that consume capital and thus induce mass poverty. Such pink propaganda mills are destroying civilization.
What is needed to regenerate education is complete separation of school and state. Nothing less will result in optimum education. If necessary, we should invoke Amendment I, U.S. Constitution, to kick the states and the Feds out of education, so that entrepreneurs can produce education and parents can get on top of education with the power of the purse.
Free Market Schools Are Automatically Accountable
Several wheels that are missing from the public school junker are indicated below.
Managers of private schools can fire incompetent teachers. So teachers are immediately accountable to management and thus have incentive to perform well.
Customers of private schools can fire managers and teachers, by withdrawing their children and taking them and their money elsewhere. So managers and teachers in private schools are immediately accountable to parents and have incentives to produce.
The alleged accountability reports by public schools are largely irrelevant whitewash to divert attention from and to make excuses for incompetence and failure. Without executive power to fire incompetent teachers and without parents having practical power to withdraw their children, there is no accountability in public schools. Also, when public schools fail, the people who are running them do not suffer the loss. Such personnel are therefore inherently unaccountable.
Heavy school taxes keep the victims trapped in public schools, so that few students can afford to escape to private schools. Also, private schools are backed into charging high tuition, because they are precluded by school taxes from developing a mass market and thereby reducing unit costs.
Another problem with politically managed schools is in various “education” plans that arise from state judiciaries, legislatures, and bureaucracies and from the federal judiciary, the White House, Congress, and federal bureaucracies. The dreamers who grind such sausage to get ballots in the box and to project their egalitarian mirages into practice cannot fit their delusions to the educational needs of children. Their captive “customers” are forced to pay for their fantastic designs that won’t fly; and school administrators, teachers, and students without parachutes are compelled to wear regulatory straitjackets to the inevitable crash. The great majority of them would fly in the free market.
How would private educational businesses in a free market (without the subsidized public school monopoly blocking access) work? The only way that private businesses in a free market can legitimately get money from customers into their cash registers is to fit their goods and services to the needs and demands of sovereign consumers. Private businesses must cut their costs and keep their prices as low as possible without losing money, to meet competition and to generate a mass market and high volume. Customers win in a free market.
If we want optimum education at the least cost, we must close public schools and go to a free market in educational goods and services. Parents would rule the roost, with each customer’s money guiding production by entrepreneurs. Resources would be organized by entrepreneurs to meet the educational needs of students, just as resources are organized in the rest of the market to meet the needs of billions of people for automobiles, computers, recreation, locomotives, appliances, shelter, information, furniture, food, clothing, wristwatches, aircraft, firearms, tractors, training, and whatever else there is sufficient demand for to cover costs of production.
The public school monopoly is a dead drag on education, is blocking progress in education, and should be shut down NLTY–not later than yesterday.
Richman, Sheldon, Separating School and State (Fairfax: Future of Freedom Foundation, 1994), 128 pp.
Rothbard, Murray N., Education: Free and Compulsory (Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999), 58 pp.
Sennholz, Hans F., et al., Public Education and Indoctrination (Irvington-on-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education, 1993), 203 pp.
Footnotes and Comments
Allegedly free education guarantees inefficiency. Without prices for their goods and services, public school managers are flying blind. Prices would tell them which students want to learn what, in what volume they want to learn, when and where they want to learn, who does not want to learn what, who does not want to learn anything at all, etc.; but public “education” is “free” and therefore cannot be priced.
Prices condense trillions of bits of information, far too much for anyone to comprehend or even consider; but prices tell business managers what to produce and what not to produce, since they reflect information that is impractical or impossible to discover. Price signals that occur with voluntary exchanges of property rights in goods and services are indispensable to an efficient market for anything.
It follows that the so-called free and efficient public schools that the Texas Constitution mandates in Art. VII, sec. 1, are impossible. The more money that is spent blindly, the more costly and less efficient education becomes. [Back]
2 Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, 2nd ed., trans. J. Kahane (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981), “Destructionism,” pp. 413-462. [Back]
3 Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, 4th rev. ed., ed. Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007), Vol. 1-4, 1,037 pp. [Back]
4 One can logically conclude that a school system that forces students to use its services and that compels people to pay for its services, whether they use its services or not, does not have anything worth using or paying for. It follows that such a fraudulent operation would totally collapse in a free market and that its managers and political hacks in seats of power would be charged with both fraud and extortion plus child abuse.
One can be for education or for political management of schools; but one cannot logically be for both, since each interest is exclusive of the other. In tax-fed schools, government is the principal; and “educators” are government agents who are bound to pursue the interests of the principal that signs their checks, not the interests of parents and their children. Therefore, parents lose control of what their children are taught; and their children are indoctrinated with government propaganda that political factions
demand and are required to take irrelevant and frivolous courses that teachers unions use to stock public schools with more of their members. Learning thus becomes subordinate to political requirements to get ballots in the box, to the detriment of the education of children. Most of the children miss the boat on education.
When enough parents pull their children out of the public school gulag that inhibits learning, voters will demand that politicians defund the money wasters. Until parents take action, politicos will spend more of your money for less learning and to pay off educrats to speak well of them and round up voters for them on election day. When parents sign their checks, educators will be agents of parents and will pursue their interests. Power to the parents.