In a recent interview, retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate Ben Carson said the following:
“It really doesn’t matter what a person’s racial or economic background is. If they get a good education, they pretty much can write their own ticket.”
“And yet, we have huge pockets of failure, particularly in our inner cities, with schools that simply are dysfunctional, and local politicians who protect those schools, rather than do what’s necessary to improve those schools,” he lamented.
Right. So what’s the solution? “Better schools” is the obvious answer. How do you get better schools? By electing different politicians? That won’t work. First of all, 98 percent of inner city blacks will keep voting for the same candidates over and over again. Second, even if they changed candidates or parties, there would simply be different politicians to manage the failure of government school monopolies, as we’ve seen whenever Republicans get elected.
So what’s the answer? The one nobody will ever name: freedom of enterprise in education.
“Freedom of enterprise” means exactly that: the freedom for providers of goods and services to exchange benefits (usually money) with willing, interested and convinced customers.
The idea of using terms like “customers” and “business” when talking about education is unthinkable to most people. And that’s precisely the problem.
We don’t find it unthinkable to talk about business, money, exchanges and markets when it comes to any of the following things: haircuts, automobiles, smart phones, computers, Netflix or Amazon subscriptions, deodorants, shirts, dresses, shoes, and even pet cats or dogs (as well as their medical care).
Yet somehow, when it comes to education – inner-city education most of all – there’s simply no slot in the brain/mind (and therefore the language) for anything like profit, quality, choices, marketplace, consumers, and so on.
It makes no sense at all. Everybody agrees education is one of the most important things in the world. Yet almost nobody thinks it’s something you should shop and pay for. In fact, the idea of paying for education…why, it’s downright immoral and obscene, to a lot of people.
It’s not just education, but it’s a lot of other things (most notably health care). But I focus on education precisely because it is one of the most important things there is. If anything, it’s tied with medical care as the top two important things in human activity. Mind and body: education and medical care.
Freedom of enterprise means that paying customers have the right to shop and hold the people from whom they’re purchasing goods and services accountable.
Isn’t that one of the biggest things lacking in public education, with inner-city public education most of all…accountability? Nobody seems able or willing to change anything about these horrible schools. It’s because they’re monopolies unable to go out of business, with absolutely no competition! Remember that public schools get all the money and grants, while private schools are forced to compete all on their own. This is not fair or real competition. It’s not a market.
Even throwing more billions at the problem does not change it. Sure, you might get nicer chairs or newer computers. But those are merely tools of education. The objects do not refer to education itself. Education is a spiritual process. Not in a mystical or supernatural sense, but in a rational one. In other words, money and property—while important and sometimes crucial—cannot buy the ability of teaching a young mind how to learn to think.
So far, our collective answer has been to throw more billions at the problem. The problem does not go away. With education, as with so many other things, the real answer was there all along: free enterprise, free markets, freedom to use your judgment in a competitive marketplace. If it’s important when shopping for cereal or brands of smart phones, isn’t it at least as important with training your young child’s mind?
And this does not mean what conservatives refer to as “school choice” via government vouchers. These programs throw government money at private schools. While there might be some short-term benefit in this, eventually the government providing the money will oversee and control the private schools. The private schools will either opt out of public funding when government becomes too pushy, or become the equivalent of unaccountable and bureaucratic monstrosities now ruining so many young people’s ability to think.
The mind has to be free. If the mind is to be free, it has to start with freedom in education. There’s nothing to stop private donors from giving away all kinds of money for needy kids to attend quality schools. That would undoubtedly happen in a free market, just as it happens now. But they’d be quality schools in free, competitive and accountable marketplace.
Nothing else will save the young of inner cities. Throwing trillions at the problem, as Hillary Clinton and others aim to do, will not solve the problem any more than throwing billions did. You can’t put a price tag on accountability. Only a completely privatized market for education has any hope of doing that.
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