Archive for education
G.T. asks a great question on the Christian Libertarian FAQ:
It’s one thing for adults to be left to make their own choices and live with the consequences, but when it comes to children, does society not have certain responsibilities for their proper care (if parents are unable/unwilling)? For libertarians who believe that education should be privatized, how does this practically work for these “forgotten” children?
Candidly, if I knew how a market in X works in practice, an accurate and comprehensive answer would be the most valuable proof that statism would work. Knowing how things work in practice ahead of time is impossible. We can guess and offer possibilities, but if education were privatized, it would probably look very different from what we now expect. At the same time, we don’t have just theories or principles of economics to look to for answers on how education could work without the state. We have a history of markets with millions of examples of how goods and services “work in practice.” We also have a history of markets that show us how the poor are provided goods and services that in prior decades on the wealthy could afford or have access to. While it will always be true that the wealthy will have access to the best, since the advent of freed markets the poorest have had access to reliable and quality substitutes for those products or services. In the early 1990s, “car phones” seemed to be the envy of the wealthy, completely out of reach to the poorest. Cellular phones are now ubiquitous and nearly universally affordable. A computer used to cost thousands of dollars in 1980s money, but now are merely a few hundred dollars in today’s money. These are but a few examples.
Education is one of the most complex social phenomena throughout history because of its rather fundamental nature of life. The bare minimum of learning is for mere survival, and so broadly speaking, education has always existed where survival was necessary! Just as there have always been many ways to learn, there are many ways to acquire education—apprenticeships, schools, labor market, reading, to name just a few. The first thing to keep in mind with education is that what we usually think of as “education” today is relatively new. Schools as we think of them are a recent historical practice.
The most difficult endeavor in proposing a society that operates completely on the foundations of peaceful interactions is to imagine a world nearly upside down from today’s experience. Examples throughout history are full of those who objected to social change. Certain industries may thrive in new conditions and leave old industries obsolete, yet life continued and humanity adjusted. It moves on. And most of us are the better for it. But social change is not without its hurdles. The biggest one is opening the imagination of others who cannot see what ought to be done. This takes courage and perseverance. It doesn’t happen overnight.
For most who question the privatization model of education, the children who will presumably be “left behind” (i.e. they fail to get adequate education) are the focus of concern. Add to this the Christian responsibility to concern themselves with the wellbeing of what Jesus calls “the least of these,” and the question becomes a bit more important. If Christians advocate something that leaves the poor behind, it might need to be reconsidered.
A Honda Civic will get me to work just as well as an Aston Martin. An iPad will send emails, but so will the cheapest tablet on the market that costs a fraction of the price. You can buy expensive cabinets made of exquisite wood shipped from exotic locations around the world, or you can shop at IKEA. Both add functionality to your kitchen. Markets have a proven track record of providing reliable and socially acceptable goods and services for those who have very little. In many areas, even those who were very wealthy could not afford such things a decade prior.
Once we keep in mind that education is not just “schooling,” we can begin to imagine ways that educating the poorest in a free society is not just a prediction but is feasible.
The question isn’t really about who owns and operates the school system. The question is, “What kind of ‘system’ do we need in order to see access to education to as many people as possible?” Do we even need a formal system, or does an emergent order of educational providers make more sense (the Hayekians among us would have plenty to say here!)?
It is often stated that it is the job of “the church” to assist the poor and not the job of anyone else. But for the same reason I reject the idea that “schooling” equals “education,” I would also reject the idea that “Church” equals “institutionalized Christianity.” Those who follow Jesus should be pushing the way forward that helps those in need, by whatever peaceful means necessary. That could mean starting a school funded by donations from those who have extra to give. That could mean starting a business that provides apprenticeships to the poor in exchange for inexpensive labor. That could mean working in the political system to privatize schools as we now know it. It could also mean working toward dismantling the current system so that it reflects a less institutionalized approach to educating.
A remaining concern to address is the neglectful parenting that can happen, leaving children “behind” the rest of society. What I would caution against is considering “society” as an entity with a purpose as if it were an individual. If by society you mean “the people living in society,” consider this: when a society is ready and willing to “go private” with education (face it, that’s a long way off!), that society will be ready to take care of those who are being neglected without a need for a federal or state institution to do so.
(UPDATE: Mises.org Wiki has a great page called Private Alternatives to Public Goods.)
Tags: children, economics, education, FAQ, free market, free society
If you have never read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, and close friend to J.R.R. Tolkien), then you are missing out. In the book, the arch-demon Screwtape corresponds with his nephew Wormwood, who had recently been appointed his “temptership” on Earth. Lewis, in the voice of Screwtape, writes about the intricacies of sin and temptation, and it is an amazingly insightful work.
After publishing The Screwtape Letters, Lewis wrote an additional piece called “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” in which Screwtape is giving a lecture before the Tempters’ Training College. (It is often included in current editions of the original book.) A most interesting element of the essay is the indictment of “democracy” itself, or perhaps “the diabolical democratic spirit.” Having been reminded of this essay recently, I felt it would be fun and enlightening to share it with you. I’ve highlighted some significant parts throughout the essay. Enjoy!
(The scene is in Hell at the annual dinner of the Tempters’ Training College for young devils. The principal, Dr. Slubgob, has just proposed the health of the guests. Screwtape, a very experienced devil, who is the guest of honour, rises to reply:)
It is customary on these occasions for the speaker to address himself chiefly to those among you who have just graduated and who will very soon be posted to official Tempterships on Earth. It is a custom I willingly obey. I well remember with what trepidation I awaited my own first appointment. I hope, and believe, that each one of you has the same uneasiness tonight. Your career is before you. Hell expects and demands that it should be — as mine was — one of unbroken success. If it is not, you know what awaits you.
I have no wish to reduce the wholesome and realistic element of terror, the unremitting anxiety, which must act as the lash and spur to your endeavours. How often you will envy the humans their faculty of sleep! Yet at the same time I would wish to put before you a moderately encouraging view of the strategical situation as a whole.
Your dreaded Principal has included in a speech full of points something like an apology for the banquet which he has set before us. Well, gentledevils, no one blames him. But it would be in vain to deny that the human souls on whose anguish we have been feasting tonight were of pretty poor quality. Not all the most skillful cookery of our tormentors could make them better than insipid.
Oh, to get one’s teeth again into a Farinata, a Henry VIII, or even a Hitler! There was real crackling there; something to crunch; a rage, an egotism, a cruelty only just less robust than our own. It put up a delicious resistance to being devoured. It warmed your inwards when you’d got it down.
Instead of this, what have we had tonight? There was a municipal authority with Graft sauce. But personally I could not detect in him the flavour of a really passionate and brutal avarice such as delighted one in the great tycoons of the last century. Was he not unmistakably a Little Man — a creature of the petty rake-off pocketed with a petty joke in private and denied with the stalest platitudes in his public utterances — a grubby little nonentity who had drifted into corruption, only just realizing that he was corrupt, and chiefly because everyone else did it? Then there was the lukewarm Casserole of Adulterers. Could you find in it any trace of a fully inflamed, defiant, rebellious, insatiable lust? I couldn’t. They all tasted to me like undersexed morons who had blundered or trickled into the wrong beds in automatic response to sexy advertisements, or to make themselves feel modern and emancipated, or to reassure themselves about their virility or their “normalcy,” or even because they had nothing else to do. Frankly, to me who have tasted Messalina and Cassanova, they were nauseating. The Trade Unionist stuffed with sedition was perhaps a shade better. He had done some real harm. He had, not quite unknowingly, worked for bloodshed, famine, and the extinction of liberty. Yes, in a way. But what a way! He thought of those ultimate objectives so little. Toeing the party line, self-importance, and above all mere routine, were what really dominated his life.
Tags: C.S. Lewis, culture, democracy, education, freedom, government, individualism, society, theology
LearnLiberty.org is a great new resource for teaching people about libertarian ideas. They regularly produce neat videos demonstrating various principles. A few videos have recently been released that are quite nice.
Tags: economics, education, inflation, libertarianism, public schools, school choice, video
In the wake of the shootings in Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this year, a bill was proposed in the Arizona legislature that would allow faculty members at universities and community colleges to carry a concealed weapon while working on campus. Naturally, this was a polarizing topic among students and faculty. Had it passed, Arizona would have been the second state to have such a law. The state of Utah already permits college instructors to have concealed weapons on campus.
Across the country in the state of Michigan, there are no guns allowed in the public schools, but one school district is allowing Sikh students to wear a ceremonial religious dagger to school. This time it is parents and teachers who are polarized.
These two incidents come as no surprise to anyone familiar with public education. Disputes between students and schools and between parents and school boards over such issues as appropriate clothing, zero-tolerance policies, freedom of expression, and free exercise of religion are the norm.
But those two incidents also remind us that the problem with public education is that it is public education.
Most controversies about what weapons, drugs, and electronic devices can be brought to school; whether baggy pants, short skirts, or shirts with messages on them can be worn to school; and whether prayer should be allowed in classrooms and at assemblies and football games disappear when education is left up to the free market instead of the government.
The same is true for the teaching of evolution, climate change, patriotism, religion, sex education, and any other controversial subject. In fact, every conceivable issue related to education large and small — from whether military recruiters will be allowed on campus to graduation requirements to what is served for lunch — can be solved when education is left up to the free market instead of the government.
There are generally three layers of government when it comes to K-12 education (federal, state, and local) and two layers of government when it comes to college education (federal and state). The biggest problem with education at all levels, but one that can easily and quickly be solved, is the elimination of federal regulation, control, and funding of public education.
Because the Constitution is silent not only on those subjects, but on the subject of education itself, it is a no-brainer that all Americans — regardless of their political affiliation — should be united on the fact that federal involvement in education in any way is plainly unconstitutional. Some people may want the federal government to have total and complete control over education, others may want the federal government to have nothing to do with education, and still others may want something in between. But clearly, there is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the federal government to be involved in any way, shape, or form with the education of anyone.
That means that on the federal level there should be no Pell Grants, student loans, research grants, teacher-education requirements, teacher-certification standards, Title IX mandates, school-lunch programs, Head Start funding, bilingual-education mandates, forced busing to achieve racial desegregation, diversity mandates, presidential visits to schools, standardized-testing requirements, special-education mandates, math and science initiatives, directives such as the No Child Left Behind Act, or Race to the Top funds; and, of course, no Department of Education.
Although Republicans in Congress may complain about some of those things, they are solidly behind federal funding and control of education. It has been 30 years since the Republicans have seriously talked about abolishing the Department of Education. And the last time they had total control of the government — for more than four years during the George W. Bush presidency — they greatly expanded the size and scope of the department.
Libertarians who advocate educational vouchers so that parents can send their children to the school of their choice — including private schools — are being very inconsistent. If it is not the business of government to fund public schools, then it is certainly not the business of government to fund private schools.
Eliminating public education
One reason that the elimination of federal involvement in education would not be so very difficult, especially when it comes to K-12 education, is that local public schools generally receive less than 10 percent of their funding from the federal government.
On the state and local level, the arguments against public education must be limited to the philosophical and the practical, because all state constitutions have provisions for the establishment and maintenance of a public-education system at the primary, secondary, and college levels. It all comes down to the foundational purpose of government and the extent of its role in society. Thus, the real issue is not how government should establish, reform, improve, regulate, or fund public education, but whether the government should do those things in the first place.
That means that at the state and local level there should be no mandatory-attendance laws; property taxes to pay for public schools; regulation, monitoring, or control of private or home schools; and no public-school teachers — all for the simple reason that there should be no public schools.
Public schools should at the very least be optional. That is, if the states are to have public schools, then they should be like the post office or any government activity that competes with the private sector: Those who use the product or service should have to pay for it; those who don’t, should not have to.
Why should people with no children have to pay for the education of other people’s children? Why should people who pay to send their children to private schools have to also pay to educate the children of others? But more important, why shouldn’t parents — who are responsible for their children’s medical care, clothing, food and drink, housing, religious training, transportation, recreation, et cetera — not also have the responsibility for educating their children?
That does not mean that everyone should home-school his children. Even now, with public funding of education, those parents who choose not to send their children to a public school have a wide variety of options. The educational opportunities that would exist under a real free market for education are limitless. Not only would there be for-profit and non-profit schools, religious and secular schools, vocational and college-prep schools, there would also be schools that cater to a particular religion, political viewpoint, ethnic group, sex, socio-economic status, nationality, ethic, level of intelligence, or worldview.
Charities, business partnerships, and private voucher plans would certainly exist to help educate poor and special-needs children — just as they exist now under the present system.
With a free market for education, some schools would allow prayer; others would forbid it. Some schools would permit guns; others would outlaw even the representation of a gun. Some schools would teach creation; others would teach evolution. Some schools would have a liberal dress code; others would require uniforms. Some schools would offer sex education; others would have an abstinence program.
Why, then, do so many Americans reject educational freedom? Two reasons are the powerful teachers’ unions and generations of Americans that have come to expect free public education, at least at the K-12 level. The distrust that many Americans have of government has, unfortunately, not generally included public education. But it should never be forgotten that public education is nothing more than government education.
The problem with public education is a simple one; it is the fact that it is public education.
Originally published at The Future of Freedom Foundation on February 9, 2012.
Tags: education, government, libertarianism, public schools, society
It is bad enough that Republican warmongers like Mitt Romney, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Allan West are whining about the supposed cuts to the defense budget that are due to take place because of the failure of the congressional "supercommittee," but it is disgusting and shameful that a professor of practical theology and seminary chancellor would do likewise.
The defense "cuts," of course, are not really cuts at all, just reductions in the rate of spending increases of the bloated defense budget.
So, who is this Christian warmonger that is so upset about defense budget "cuts" that he thinks they are a deeply disturbing, draconian, recklessly dangerous, self-destructive absurdity.
He is not a member, with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Hal Lindsey, Cal Thomas, and Pat Boone, of the Christian axis of evil, although he should be. He is not a Christian killer par excellence, like Doug Giles. He is not a Christian warmonger on steroids, like Bryan Fischer. And neither is he the greatest Christian warmonger of all time. That designation goes to Ellis Washington.
He is Michael Milton, the newly elected chancellor/CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Milton holds a B.A. from Mid-America Nazarene University, an M.Div. from Knox Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wales, Lampeter. He is the former pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in addition to founding two other churches and a Christian school. Milton is the host and speaker on Faith for Living, which can be seen on television and heard on radio. He has also released three music CDs and is the author of several books.
But perhaps I should also note that Dr. Milton has a diploma from the Defense Language Institute, holds a commission in the U.S. Army Reserves as a chaplain, and was elected in 2010 by the Chief of Chaplains to the College of Military Preachers and appointed an instructor at the Armed Forces Chaplain School. He is also the founding director of the Chaplain Ministries Institute in Charlotte. I also note that on October 14, 2001, it was announced that Reformed Theological Seminary had "been approved by the NC SAA Program to receive the GI Bill under the provisions of Title 38 and 10, United States Code!"
Milton is a theological schizophrenic. Schizophrenia has been described as a mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of thought processes and of emotional responsiveness that most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking.
I know of no other way to describe Milton after reading his latest post on the Faith for Living blog hosted by his seminary:
The failure of the bipartisan super committee to take decisive action to reverse the 15 trillion-dollar debt crisis this country needs from becoming another Greece has, predictably, failed. Now the Washington blame game begins. However, the greatest losers are the American people and, specifically, those Americans who courageously and proudly wear the uniform of the armed services.
As threats of cuts are made to their very mission, our brave troops are on the ground, in the air, and on the seas fighting, defending, and protecting this nation from the continuing threats to our very existence as a people. The absurd decision to tie massive cuts to the US military as an "incentive" to force action by the super committee was one of the biggest mistakes ever made by Washington DC, and they have made a few recently. Of all the things that the government does, providing a military to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" just happens to be one of the clearest.
Scripture teaches that God has ordained government for the good of man. Civil authority, according to St. Paul, has been granted the power of the sword to punish evil, thereby protecting the innocent: "For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (The Epistle to the Romans 13:4 KJV). The present talk of defense cuts flies in the face of our nation’s duty and our proud heritage.
We have had draw downs before – after WWII, after Vietnam, and after the Gulf War, but we have never had to think about draconian reductions while we were in the middle of a war! It is this very point that is deeply disturbing, and recklessly dangerous. The consequences of even the talk of such tinkering with our defenders, even if reasonable heads prevail to stop this absurdity, will have their consequences.
Have we not learned our lesson? Reagan’s military build-up in the 1980s reversed the ill-advised draw downs after Vietnam (just one front in a larger, trans-generational Cold War) and, according to scholars like Paul Kengor of Grove City College and the American Center for Vision and Values, "All of these ventures [the strengthening of defense] had the effect of demonstrating a stronger, resurgent America, not only economically but also militarily. Suddenly, the country that had left Vietnam no longer appeared to lack resolve" (The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism by Dr. Paul Kengor, HarperCollins, 2007, 82).
Kengor went on to demonstrate that President Reagan understood that America was still at war. According to this preeminent Reagan scholar, his action in strengthening the military greatly contributed to bringing down the Soviet Union. Why now, when our sacred military members are risking their lives to fight "over there" so we don’t fight "over here," would the president and other congressional leaders think that it is any different? To reduce military strength or even to talk about it as an option is to demoralize our troops while they are literally in the midst of a battle for our way of life.
Some may call it treason. I would call it self-destructive. As a minister of the gospel I would also call it irresponsible and immoral, given that God has called our civil authorities to protect our people against evil. May God have mercy and bless the troops who bravely carry on their mission to defend this nation, even while others who have taken the same oath are allegedly using the military as pawns in a Washington election year. There are times when the Church should speak up. Because our life and liberty is at stake, I think that time is now.
Milton holds to every armchair warrior, red-state fascist, reich-wing nationalist, imperial Christian fallacy known to man.
As I mentioned above, cutting the bloated defense budget is to Milton a deeply disturbing, draconian, recklessly dangerous, self-destructive absurdity. The "cuts" fly "in the face of our nation’s duty and our proud heritage." Never mind that the real defense budget is $1 trillion, that the United States spends more than the rest of the world combined, and that most defense spending is really spending on offense.
Milton idolizes members of the military. They are our "brave troops." They "courageously and proudly wear the uniform of the armed services." God should "bless the troops." U.S. soldiers are never Christian killers, murders, accomplices to murder, criminals, dupes, mercenaries, or part of the president’s personal attack force willing to obey his latest command to bomb, invade, occupy, and otherwise bring death and destruction to any country he deems necessary. They are "our sacred military members."
Milton is likewise deceived about the real mission of the military. He thinks they are "our defenders" who "defend this nation" and protect "this nation from the continuing threats to our very existence as a people." The government provides a military to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." U.S. troops "fight ‘over there’ so we don’t fight ‘over here.’" They are "in the midst of a battle for our way of life." But is this what the U.S. military actually does? Unfortunately, most of what the military does is more offense than defense, more foreign than domestic, and more civilian than martial. I think Milton needs a course in DOD 101.
Milton says that we are "in the middle of a war." The United States is actually in the middle of several wars. But rather than saying we should not cut defense because we are fighting wars, why not examine the wars we are fighting to see if they are just, right, and necessary? Since the undeclared, unconstitutional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Yemen, Pakistan, and everywhere else, are clearly – except to Christian warmongers and imperial Christians – unjust, immoral, and unnecessary, the only sensible solution is to end the wars, not increase the defense budget.
Like other Christian apologists for the state, its military, and its wars that I have written about who appeal to Romans 13 to justify their blind nationalism, their cheerleading for the Republican Party, their childish devotion to the military, their acceptance of national-security state, and their support for perpetual war, Milton seeks to justify a large defense budget by doing the same thing. This, of course, is ludicrous, since the passage has nothing to do with the government providing national defense. But let’s assume for a moment that it does. Fine. How does that justify bloated military budgets, foreign wars, militarism, imperialism, and policing the world? When it comes to the military budget, conservatives adopt the same fallacy as liberals do when it comes to education. To liberals more spending on education means better education; to conservatives more spending on defense means better defense.
And finally, why do conservatives always invoke the name of the criminal, warmongering, budget-busting, deficit-increasing, liberty-destroying, government-expanding, economic and foreign interventionist St. Reagan? Anyone remotely familiar with the Reagan record would not be impressed with Milton’s name-dropping. For the complete and utter evisceration of Reagan, see Murray Rothbard’s "The Reagan Phenomenon," "Ronald Reagan, Warmonger," and "Ronald Reagan: An Autopsy."
What is so bad about theological schizophrenics like Michael Milton is that they have a position of influence over many young people. We can only hope and pray that this is one college administrator that students never get to know.
Originally posted on LewRockwell.com on December 9, 2011.
Tags: Bible, culture, education, national defense, national security, nationalism, Romans 13, theology, violence, war, war on terror