Education is a fundamental right, and the public good demands tax dollars are appropriated for that purpose. It is the central premise behind the nearly $4 billion in Race to the Top grants awarded by the Department of Education. According to a 2005 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, America spent more per student than any other country besides Switzerland (both spent about $11,000). States provide free education to all students, regardless of income, through redistributive tax systems. Clearly, it must be a “fundamental right.”
How is that working out for everyone? According to the OECD just last year, America is only average when it comes to academic performance among 15 year olds, and dangerously below average when it comes to match specifically. The report again confirmed the United States is the second highest spender per pupil. Obviously, it’s not working out.
Our education model is to blame. One of the major influences on the American educational model were the Prussians (essentially, Germans), who initially standardized both the curriculum and profession of teaching. Students were given free compulsory education, supported by tax dollars, so they could be taught the skills necessary for an industrializing society. Basic lessons in subjects like reading and math were standard, but also were lessons in ethics and obedience. By and large, it’s still the same model that is practiced in the United States today.
A few basic assumptions underline a system like that. First, educating students serves the purpose of maximizing social utility. In other words, produce students who can read and write better so they can be better laborers later on down the road. Second, society is obligated at some level to redistribute wealth in order to provide the resources necessary for such a system. Third, it requires the state’s involvement to redistribute that wealth.
At its core, educating students for the “public good” is morally reprehensible. That goal assumes, regardless of what the student may or may not need for their lives, they will learn the lessons required of them. Such a preposition is the foundation of coercion and abuse that threatens the lives and well-being of parents and students alike, and it has real negative impacts upon the lives of parents and students.
In 2008, a California judged ruled that parents could not homeschool their children, and recently a New York couple was threatened with jail if they didn’t register their home schooling lessons with the local school district. The negative effects of bullying on individual development are becoming widely known. We have a highly segregated school system; the “haves” and “have-nots” are routinely funded different based off disparate tax regimes. Not to mention the statistic identified earlier – America is an average country, achieving sometimes less than average results. Clearly, the “social good” is turning out to be really bad.
Deconstructing state education monopolization is a moral obligation. Right now, students are merely stuffed into an assembly plant and churned out when they’ve reached the end. Individualism is destroyed, and with it the self-confidence needed to build a life one can be proud of. It’s a dehumanizing experience for students.
Parents will have the opportunity and responsibility again to determine the education needed for their family, and students can exert more influence over their learning as they grow older. Educators, too, stand to benefit. Their innovations and improvements can demonstrate real value to the students, as opposed to being squashed in bureaucratic wrangling. Think of the educational value alone in low-income communities, where innovators can provide a highly valuable service at a low-cost. The parents win, and the educators win. There is a history of that prior to the “reforms” implemented across the globe that modeled the Prussians; England demonstrated almost complete access to private education, even among the poor, as recently as the early 1800s.
More importantly, it will change the paradigm that has dominated American education. No longer are industrialized “geniuses” produced that can do little for themselves in a post-industrial world. Recieving education is no more a right than recieving your neighbors car on the weekend. To seek an education, or more appropriately to seek personal development as you see fit, is a fundamental right. People are not products of the state, and it is time models of education reflect that basic truth, too.