Escaping Government Schools

The problem with so-called public education.

People say public schools are "one of the best parts of America". I believed that. Then I started reporting on them.

Now I know that public school -- government school is a better name -- is one of the worst parts of America. It's a stultified government monopoly. It never improves.

Most services improve. They get faster, better, cheaper. But not government monopolies. Government schools are rigid, boring, expensive and more segregated than private schools.

I call them "government" instead of "public" schools because not much is "public" about them. Members of the public don't get to pick their kids' schools, teachers, curriculum or cost.

By contrast, supermarkets are "private" yet open to everyone. You can stroll in 24 hours a day. Just try that with your kid's public school. You might be arrested.

Now a school choice movement has given government schools a sliver of competition. Private schools, charter schools, vouchers, education tax credits and the Web offer competition. Not all the alternatives work, but with competition, bad alternatives die and good ones grow.

This will help all kids.

But so far, the alternatives reach only a small number of kids. Unions and bureaucrats don't want competition, and they use their political clout to stifle it. But gradually, they're losing.

After fighting homeschooling for years, they've stopped trying to ban it, and today homeschoolers fare better on tests and college admission. So, some in the government monopoly claim that if your kids are homeschooled, they will not be properly socialized (in the sense of interacting with peers, that is, not in the sense of belonging to government).

But homeschooled kids participate in all sorts of social events with other homeschooling families -- plus theater, ballet, karate and other classes that most kids get and that some only wish they did.

Homeschoolers do just fine. Somehow, without government control, they prosper.

Defenders of government schools often claim their schools are what create the American "melting pot." Different races, ethnic groups and income levels mix together in government-funded schools.

Bunk. If it was ever true, it isn't now.

University of Arkansas education professor Jay Greene examined school classrooms and found that public schools were more likely to be almost entirely white or entirely minority.

He also looked at who sat with whom in school lunchrooms. At private schools, students of different races were more likely to sit together.

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  • Live Free or Diet||

    I spent half the day yesterday getting the local high school to let my daughter drop an extra science class. Everything she's taking is the highest level they offer, and half the courses are for college credit. Amazing how many times they lied to my face. "This is just the start of the process. Tomorrow someone else will..." "The principal has to approve..." "You can't just drop a class..."
    She started the altered schedule this morning.

  • BakedPenguin||

    If she's real ambitious, there's also CLEP exams for subjects where they don't offer AP credit.

    Nothing like starting out as a college junior.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    She's starting out pretty far ahead. And she knew what CLEP exams were when I asked her about them. But because of you I got to learn something new about my kid.
    Thank you, sir.

  • INFORG||

    Usually with just a signature from the principal that the student is capable, you can enroll your teens in actual college classes and get a head start on a degree. Getting the signature is usually as simple as showing up in person and not taking "no" as an option.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Some are "dual enrollment." She gets high school and college credit for those.

  • ||

    University of Arkansas education professor Jay Greene examined school classrooms and found that public schools were more likely to be almost entirely white or entirely minority.

    He also looked at who sat with whom in school lunchrooms. At private schools, students of different races were more likely to sit together.

    Is this just Jay Greene's observation or is there a study to back any of this up? I'm inclined to believe it since my own observations from years of visiting other schools for sporting events backs it up, but some research would be nice to throw around.

  • benracer1||

    You can follow professor Greene's work at his blog www.jaypgreene.com
    This is probably blogged about somewhere, maybe in the archives.

  • Purple Drank||

    You kinda have to sit with kids of other races if there is only one other Black kid in the school.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    So, some in the government monopoly claim that if your kids are homeschooled, they will not be properly socialized (in the sense of interacting with peers, that is, not in the sense of belonging to government).

    Stossel, you should listen to your betters like Melitha Harrith-Perry. All your kids are belong to us.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    I'm still sporting a rage-boner over this statement of hers. The Fascithm ith strong with thith one.

  • INFORG||

    I get so tired of the socialization garbage. Do they really think that segregating kids by age leads to socialization? My homeschooled son has to communicate with people of all ages outside of the school prison. Everyone who meets him remarks on how his behavior is so much more mature than his peers.

    Yeah, lock them all up with kids the same age and they will learn how to be "socialized" adults.

  • Brian||

    It's so ridiculous how they push the socialization angle, while simultaneously wanting to reduce choice. Kids learn from the children around them. If I'm going to have my children socialize, then I want to choose the kids they're socializing with. Why, then, would I tolerate a public school system with no choices, that throws my kids in with whatever other kids happen to live in the same geographic area?

    They take away practically all your choices, and then, when you opt for the one choice you can afford (i.e., do it yourself school), you're the bad guy. Sorry, home schooling parents aren't taking away everyone's choices. The state is.

  • Doctor Whom||

    So, some in the government monopoly claim that if your kids are homeschooled, they will not be properly socialized (in the sense of interacting with peers, that is, not in the sense of belonging to government).

    The sort of socialization that goes on in many public schools shows that that argument is bound to backfire.

  • Square||

    Ain't it the truth. I spent so much time and care raising my daughter to be mature and respectful, eat right, and all that.

    And then she went to public school [sigh].

  • CE||

    In my experience, home schooled kids are better socialized, because they learn to relate to people of all ages, not succumbing to peer pressure from their age cohort to act like an imbecile.

  • Anomalous||

    “To call something public is to define it as dirty, insufficient and hazardous. The ultimate paradigm of social spending is the public restroom.”

    -P.J. O’Rourke, ‘Parliment of Whores’

  • Bill Dalasio||

    The first thing to bear in mind when thinking about public schools is that they view the student as the product, not the consumer. Any discussion about improving our schools that doesn't start with this recognition is doomed to failure.

  • Square||

    And they view parents as an obstacle.

  • Tony||

    Vouchers? Psh. The true libertarian must make schooling a market product available to those who can afford it.

    Then when the children of poor parents grow up to be illiterate and useless, you can continue to point the moral finger at them for their lack of productivity, because obviously they didn't choose their parents wisely enough.

    Don't give me this squishy voucher/charter school bullshit. Be libertarians. End universal education now!

  • cavalier973||

    There could be a market opportunity to teach the children of poor parents. Suppose a teacher charged $1 an hour to teach children reading, writing, and arithmetic, and managed to get a class of 20 students. $20 an hour wouldn't be too bad of an income.

    Besides that, there are charitable organizations willing to educate children free of charge. The church program known as Sunday School began specifically for the purpose of teaching children how to read.

  • Purple Drank||

    If you think the working poor can afford one dollar an hour then you are seriously out of touch. And besides, there are other costs to schooling, such as the school.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    For those that disbelieve a market solution would arise to help with the education of the American poor, please see Kenya as a case study. Kenya, I believe, has a public school system funded by an international organization (UN or something). However, this public school system (free in cost to Kenyans) has largely been abandoned for private schools for quality reasons. See also the BRAC schools in Bangladesh as a private solution.

    Furthermore, simply look at US history. Take the literacy rate, for example, in the black population. Compare today's rate with that of 120 years ago...

  • Being Waterboarded||

    Oh - so in response to T o n y, yes, all government schooling should be eliminated. It is immoral, since it requires theft. My neighbor should not be forced to pay for my child's education. The effect of eliminating government schools on poor children is a secondary consideration (even if the theft helped those children, it is still immoral), but it turns out public schools do as much harm as good.

  • Tony||

    If taxation and redistribution is immoral then you have to be an anarchist. And if we have to live under anarchy in order to abide by your moral code, then it's simply prima facie true that your moral code is pointless and should be discarded.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    Lack of government force via taxation does not result in lack of government, per se. A perfect example of this is neighborhood watch or neighborhood security whereby citizens voluntarily (monetarily) support an organization that has the (locally) dominant monopoly on coercion. That is, the neighborhood security exhibits the necessary coercive characteristics of government without the forced monetary support. The same could hold true for a federal government if it's only role was to uphold inherent rights (which do not include 'education'). There would easily be enough volunteered funds to support such a government (another local example of such are volunteer fire departments).

  • Jordan||

    And if we have to live under anarchy in order to abide by your moral code, then it's simply prima facie true that your moral code is pointless and should be discarded.

    How many logical fallacies can one man fit into a single thread? Let's find out!

  • Being Waterboarded||

    No kidding...

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    then it's simply prima facie true...

    In other words, I don't really wanna deal with justifying opposition to your ideas, so I'll assume them away.

  • Tony||

    I thought I did justify it very succinctly.

    Logically, if taxation is immoral, then it must be immoral for any purpose, thus the only acceptable system is anarchy.

    Anarchy is among the worst possible ways to live, if not the worst.

    Therefore, a moral code that requires anarchy is faulty and pointless. It's far less costly for people to accept the reasoning of the social contract and allow for taxation and redistribution since it results in much better lives for everyone.

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    Anarchy is among the worst possible ways to live, if not the worst.

    Argument by assertion.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    WTH? Please read before posting. Elimination of taxation does not necessarily result in anarchy. The others have pointed out your other fallacies, so I'll leave it at that.

  • CE||

    If taxation and redistribution is immoral then you have to be an anarchist.

    Agreed.

    And if we have to live under anarchy in order to abide by your moral code, then it's simply prima facie true that your moral code is pointless and should be discarded.

    Not agreed. A government funded by voluntary contributions and voluntary user fees could still exist, to enforce a common set of laws. Or even better, people could be free to choose from competing governments, not tied to your geographical residence, and providing whatever services those subscribers decide on. Conflicts between subscribers to different governments could be settled by a third government.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    If taxation and redistribution is immoral then you have to be an anarchist.

    Agreed.

    Depends on your definition of "lack of government" and thus your definition of "government" itself. Semantics, I know. I prefer the definition of government as that group that has monopoly on coercion. As I said below, if one removes taxation, that need not remove government. It looks like you agree with me on this point, but I thought I'd point out the distinction in our semantics. I generally don't call myself an anarchist because I don't believe in absence of government, just the absence of government with forced participation via taxation or other fees. Voluntarily supported government that would enforce rights I am completely in support of.

  • Tony||

    A government funded by voluntary contributions and voluntary user fees could still exist, to enforce a common set of laws.

    Prove it.

    people could be free to choose from competing governments, not tied to your geographical residence

    How does this work exactly? In your house murder is illegal, but next door it's OK?

    a third government.

    What form would this take, and how is it instituted? Why bother twisting ourselves in knots trying to come up with a truly fantastical form of society when what we have works pretty well all things considered?

  • Brian||

    Tony:

    A government funded by voluntary contributions and voluntary user fees could still exist, to enforce a common set of laws.


    Prove it.

    Do you believe that the native americans lived in a state of anarchy? If not, could you please explain their tax structure?

  • Tony||

    I don't believe anyone has actually ever lived in a state of anarchy, except people stranded in the wilderness. You get any group of people together and there will be some governing principle, even if it's just tribal arrangements. I'm not saying tribal leaders went around and collected seashells, but people in tribal societies were generally expected to contribute their share of the work.

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    I'm not saying tribal leaders went around and collected seashells, but people in tribal societies were generally expected to contribute their share of the work.

    So, in your mind, contributing their share of work = taxation. Is this correct?

    So, if I decide to build a house with someone, and it will be our house, and I do half the work, and they do the other half, at this point, we have taxation. This is how you look at it?

  • Brian||

    a compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers' income and business profits or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions.

    The great thing is, I think we agree on a lot. Surely, there's always been taxation with every civilization. However, for this to make sense, taxation has to be defined as "coordination" or "cooperation", not what it actually means.

    It's like that Bastiat quote: "Socialism .. confuses the distinction between government and society." In the end, we're saying the same thing, you just have a strange concept of what words mean.

    But, sure, just so you're not worried: I'll be happy to cooperate and coordinate with people, and pay for the stuff I use. You know: as long as we're not talking about what real taxes are.

  • Tony||

    120 years ago literacy among blacks was about half. It has improved markedly since then. Where are you getting this stuff?

  • Square||

    Privatizing the school system would make education less expensive for poor people - that's an angle that unfortunately a lot of libertarians forget to emphasize, preferring the "they can't take my money" angle and then wondering why the lack of popular appeal.

    I'm guessing, but I think it's a small minority here that really believes that the government should provide NO funding for education whatsoever. I'm sure there are some that hold it as a kind of purity test, but the main issue for your libertarian leaning crowd is the lack of choice.

    Poor people are most affected by this actually - they are the least likely to have any options about what schools their children are assigned to, and they have the least recourse if they feel that the school is damaging their child, psychologically, socially or otherwise (all of which are absolutely real dangers especially in the poorer schools, which are run much more like prisons).

    You can take your kid out of the public school only if you can pay out of pocket for an alternative, because they are not going to give you the money back that you are also contributing to the public schools.

    This doesn't impact rich people seriously. This fucks over poor people royally.

    Vouchers enable the same level of public funding for schooling to continue while allowing poor people the choice of not sending their kids to prison when they turn five. They are not a call to make poor children pay for their own schooling.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    " I think it's a small minority here that really believes that the government should provide NO funding for education whatsoever."

    Aaaaaaand you'd be wrong.

  • Tony||

    We have tried it your way and we've tried the guaranteed universal way. Guess which resulted in higher literacy and more economic prosperity?

    At any rate, even going along with your noncompulsory charity-based fantasy (I mean that it the best sense of the word), it will still inevitably be true that poor children are even more disadvantaged with respect to access to education. This is, to my mind, the single biggest underlying problem with libertarianism: the existence of children. You can't morally scold them for choosing the wrong parents (thus justifying ignoring all of their needs as you do adults). You can't justify the morality behind your laissez-faire system at all, in fact, since their disadvantage is 100% based on bad luck. All you can do is pretend they don't exist, really.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    We have tried it your way and we've tried the guaranteed universal way. Guess which resulted in higher literacy and more economic prosperity?

    Tony, please scan your posts for logical fallacy before submitting.

    You truly believe that public education is both necessary and sufficient for economic prosperity?

    Tony, please also fact-check your posts before submitting. Look up the Black literacy rate in the 1700s or 1800s versus today.

  • califernian||

    it will still inevitably be true that poor children are even more disadvantaged with respect to access to education

    How many times do you have to be told that you are conflating educational opportunity for the poor with state provision of education?

    They ARE NOT ONE AND THE SAME. Government compulsory schools are immoral and crappy.

    And NOT the only way for society to ensure educational opportunities for the poor.

    You are either a moron or deceitful. Possibly both.

  • Tony||

    So tell me what other ways you ensure universal quality education without government subsidy.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    If you and I both buy lottery tickets, and you win $10M and I get zip, that is 100% based on my bad luck. My kids don't get nice crap while your kids do. That is not fair. Wait - what's that you say? You think I have the right to take half that money so we're even?

    No system (including libertarianism) will be fair in the sense that bad luck won't strike someone, leading to disadvantage.

  • Tony||

    The whole point of civilization is to change the equation so that things are to a degree more fair than straight Darwinian competition. You certainly can't endorse this harshest of all possible schemes (strict aristocracy--your destiny is tied pretty much entirely to your parent's wealth) and then talk about the meritocratic virtues of capitalism.

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    The whole point of civilization is to change the equation so that things are to a degree more fair than straight Darwinian competition.

    And who decides the point of civilization? God?

    Did I miss out on the point of civilization weekly determination meetings?

  • Tony||

    Human beings collectively acting decided it was a good idea. Put in Darwinian terms, people who gathered in civilizations survived longer and had more babies than those who didn't.

    That we haven't decided en masse that anarchy or quasi-anarchy is good for us must be a lapse in judgment I'm sure.

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    Human beings collectively acting decided it was a good idea.

    We did? When did we do this?

    Put in Darwinian terms, people who gathered in civilizations survived longer and had more babies than those who didn't.

    Right. That's natural selection. How is that not Darwinian? Remember your own argument: you claimed that this was an alternative to Darwinian competition.

  • Brian||

    And, you've made a great case for cooperation.

    Now, tell me about the earliest history of people using weapons and threats of violence to compel each other to do things, like transfer wealth, and such. How glorious was that, exactly?

  • Tony||

    How do you prevent those things without a strong government, which requires taxation and wealth transfer?

  • Brian||

    We prevent that with strong governments and wealth transfer?

    Do you think the last several millennia of human organization beneath strong rulers can be correctly described as preventing large scale violence and violent wealth transfer?

    Do you describe a 25% - 50% tax rate as the prevention of wealth transfer?

    Your solution sounds like the problem. Which makes sense: the whole idea of using violence to transfer wealth has its historical foundations in barbaric hordes, not human beings voluntarily cooperating in agrarian societies for mutual aid and self-defense.

    The "strong government" with its tax system is directly descended from violent hordes, with evolved into ruling monarchies, emperors, and whatnot. It's not an idea cooked up by farm people.

    If you want to look at ancient history, then libertarians are the agrarian farmers, and you're a henchman to Genghis Khan or a pharaoh.

  • Tony||

    Well you can't really escape it. Staying strictly on those terms, civilization wildly improved the human species' ability to survive and reproduce. It did that by supplanting the competitive order that existed when humans were hunter-gatherers. Civilization is survival insurance. You participate so that risk is dispersed and minimized. Rather than having to compete to the death for food, institutions are set up to distribute food so that we can spend our time competing in sports and games instead. The whole point is distribution of resources. Government is the institution that does the distributing. This lifts everyone's boat, everybody wins, and they keep winning until some deeply misguided asshats who don't know what's good for them come along and claim that they owe nothing to the civilization they were lucky enough to be born into and start advocating the ending of the useful distribution of resources.

    Realize capitalism is precisely a means to this end. It's meant to produce efficient distribution, right? Let's keep our eye on the end and not the means.

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    Rather than having to compete to the death for food, institutions are set up to distribute food so that we can spend our time competing in sports and games instead.

    Really? Institutions are set up to distribute food, thereby removing competition? Is this really your perspective on history and institutions?

    So, the first government's/churches were primarily food distributors?

    in sports and games instead. The whole point is distribution of resources. Government is the institution that does the distributing.

    This is just factually incorrect, unless you're living in a complete dictatorship.

    ...ending of the useful distribution of resources.

    This assumes that it's only useful if the government distributes it. I thought "government bad" was too narrow minded. Seems like a similar sentiment.

  • Tony||

    Agriculture was the beginning of civilization, because it allowed people to settle down. Agriculture outperforms hunting and gathering precisely because it is organized and you can benefit from economies of scale. Sure you had thousands of years of feudal-type systems that weren't exactly a utopia of efficient distribution, but it was a first step on the long road to modern technocratic democracy. Taxation and redistribution has never really been in question--democracy came about in response to the fact that this was being done by overlords, but nobody ever thought it was a bad idea to have civilization itself (i.e., taxing and redistribution) until libertarians came along.

  • Brian||

    So, we've never had a civilization without taxation? Is this correct?

  • Tony||

    Not that I'm aware of. There's certainly never been any society without human cooperation that was to some degree coerced.

  • Brian||

    Oh, we've already talked about coercion. Libertarians aren't against coercion. They're against the initiation of aggression, not vague "coercion".

    Please explain the tax structure of the native americans.

  • Tony||

    Native Americans lived in tribes (usually of small groups of a few families), not large civilizations. They had primitive governments but displayed the problems of tribal culture that civilization mitigated, principally intertribal warfare.

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    They had primitive governments but displayed the problems of tribal culture that civilization mitigated, principally intertribal warfare.

    Right. Because we all know that modern nation states, with taxes, never go to war with each other. This has been true from the time of the Roman empire. Is this correct?

  • Tony||

    Of course you know that's a straw man. Yes modern states go to war with each other. Far less frequently than did tribes, and resulting in far less frequency of violent death. It was an improvement without question, if your standard is body count in proportion to population.

  • Brian||

    It was an improvement without question, if your standard is body count in proportion to population.

    Citation, please.

  • Tony||

    The most prominent work on this subject has been done by Pinker.

  • Brian||

    I haven't read his book, but, as I know, he's describing the emergence of civilization from a state of nature. He's not talking about native americans. Native americans came to know modern civilization, strong government, and the wonderful taxation that fuels it all when they were being moved to reservations by the US army. I'm fairly curtain that the trail of tears had a higher body count than their previous state.

    While early civilization reduced death from conflict when compared to a state of nature, giving credit to taxation is nonsensical. A state of nature, with feuding tribes and raids on villages, is all about people asserting authority and confiscating wealth, i.e., taxation. If one group does better than others, it can dominate other groups, tax on a large scale, and maintain relative peace, while they consume the product of the human livestock. Continued taxation lets them hold their dominance, and keep the peace, but, since they were fighting and killing over wealth confiscation before, I don't see how that's a victory for taxation.

    Finally, using body count is questionable, and cuts both ways. Parts of Detroit are much more dangerous than North Korea. Our great city of Washington, DC, is more violent than the wild west. That's incredibly sad.

  • Tony||

    I can see that you might be going toward user-fees as an alternative (but I would call that just a more direct form of taxation--it all depends on whether you see value in having public goods). My main point is that there's no reason to get your panties bunched over taxation. It's a pretty efficient way of doing things. It's the way every decent place on earth does things. There's a reason for that. The only thing it doesn't do is afford you a level of autonomy you have absolutely no right to expect considering you have benefited since the day you were born from tax-funded services.

    All real-world evidence suggests that even going moderately in the direction of privatization of traditionally public services results in bad social outcomes, primarily the concentration of wealth. But it's never been any real secret that this is the principal goal of antitax movements.

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    The only thing it doesn't do is afford you a level of autonomy you have absolutely no right to expect considering you have benefited since the day you were born from tax-funded services.

    That's such a lame argument. That argument would justify any and all taxes, regardless of what they bought or how efficiently they were used. Apparently, I owe it to the past to pay taxes? Sorry, but I'm not going on a guilt trip just because you love government.

    All real-world evidence suggests that even going moderately in the direction of privatization of traditionally public services results in bad social outcomes, primarily the concentration of wealth. But it's never been any real secret that this is the principal goal of antitax movements.

    So the goal of getting rid of taxes is bad social outcomes. Demonize much?

    And, I assume that, since civilization requires taxation, that none of this ever happened.

  • Tony||

    Sorry, but I'm not going on a guilt trip just because you love government.

    So how do you propose you pay for all the services you've received since literally the day you were born? Or do you think having fanciful antigovernment beliefs alone entitles you to a free lunch?

    And, I assume that, since civilization requires taxation, that none of this ever happened.

    You don't think those brief, scarce examples prove my point rather than yours?

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    And, I assume that, since civilization requires taxation, that none of this ever happened.
    You don't think those brief, scarce examples prove my point rather than yours?

    You said that civilization requires taxation. This implies that these episodes are impossible, or they would produce Somalia like warlords, as you say. This is not the case.

    Therefore, your point makes predictions that contradict reality.

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    o how do you propose you pay for all the services you've received since literally the day you were born? Or do you think having fanciful antigovernment beliefs alone entitles you to a free lunch?

    I'll stop consuming them once the government gives me a choice.

    And, if you just care about me paying for the services I've used, I'll be glad to start paying for only those. I had no idea you wanted such a limited government, that people would pay only for what they use themselves.

    I guess it's easier to put people on guilt trips for what they use, instead of wealth redistribution. Wonder why that is...

  • Tony||

    That's all we're doing: paying for the stuff we use. In modern societies this includes radiant services that we don't necessarily directly use. But me paying for old people's health insurance is me paying for a service for myself--I don't have to worry about grandma going into poverty. Everyone paying in isn't the only way this has to work, but it is the most efficient and cheapest. You don't have to like having such a program, but enough people do, so it remains. That means they are willing to pay the price. It goes without saying that 300 million people aren't always going to agree on such policies; but they must be free to make the choice. You can't opt out of your civilization while living in it. Some services, not even radiant ones like that, you can't help but avail yourself of. That's just practicality. We can't destroy and rebuild everything each time a new person is born. All of this is simple convenience in the service of human well-being, and it depends absolutely on democratic accountability. What's your alternative now?

  • Brian||

    That's all we're doing: paying for the stuff we use.

    I'll remember that, the next time the president wants to invade Syria/Iraq/Vietnam/Korea.

    But me paying for old people's health insurance is me paying for a service for myself--I don't have to worry about grandma going into poverty.

    Does everyone have a living grandma? Does everyone want to be relieved of the worry about a grandma?

    That means they are willing to pay the price.

    That means some of them are willing to pay the price. For some of them, there isn't a price. For others, it's a price they're not willing to pay, but are forced to. You act as if everyone's coming to some agreement about what to do. You're just pretending there isn't a gun in the room.

    Some services, not even radiant ones like that, you can't help but avail yourself of.

    What service can I not help but avail myself of, where the government isn't forcing a monopoly?

    We can't destroy and rebuild everything each time a new person is born.

    False choice.

    What's your alternative now?
    I reject the notion that forcing people to pay taxes so they can support wars in foreign countries and arrest drug users is legitimate. I would make all social programs voluntary: if you think insurance is so great, choose to buy it. Or not. If that makes insurance slightly more expensive, sorry.

  • Tony||

    Does everyone have a living grandma? Does everyone want to be relieved of the worry about a grandma?

    Does everyone want murder to be illegal? What does everyone have to do with it? It's not about my grandma, it's about the problem of poor grandmas in general. We're better off, and we save more money, when their needs are taken care of collectively. Collective action is the very efficiency I'm talking about. Not everyone's circumstances will be the same. What makes you think everyone's circumstances will be amenable to libertarian policies? Their opinions on the matter certainly aren't by a long shot.

  • Tony||

    I do not agree with the war or drug policies either, but sorry, I'm not a little brat of a child who thinks he is entitled to get everything he wants all the time in a community filled with millions of other people. The utility of taxation is one debate. Assuming taxation is useful for the reasons we've been talking about, then sometimes things will happen that some people won't like. That's why I said democracy is essential.

    How would the country fight any war, by the way? Is it simply not allowed, because there exist antiwar people? Or should only war supporters be charged for the action? No free rider problem there.

  • Brian||

    Assuming taxation is useful for the reasons we've been talking about, then sometimes things will happen that some people won't like. That's why I said democracy is essential.

    And hows that working out for you? Did you really like funding the Iraq war? Do you look forward to funding a Syria invasion, maybe? Do you really like funding the drug war? I mean, you say you don't like it, but you don't want to be a "little brat of a child", so what does that mean? You're AOK with it, as long as most other people are? Or, since most people disagree with it at this point, as long as the government is OK with it?

    So, if I don't agree with the drug war, I'm not being a brat. But if I don't agree with taxation, then I am a brat. Because taxes are special? This sounds like you're just letting us know you're own personal prejudices, not making a consistent argument.

    Or should only war supporters be charged for the action? No free rider problem there. God forbid those who wanted to invade Iraq paid for it, and let the rest of us free ride. That would have been horrible.

  • CE||

    We have tried it your way and we've tried the guaranteed universal way. Guess which resulted in higher literacy and more economic prosperity?

    Our way did. Literacy rates were higher in Massachusetts before public schooling started, for example. Have you seen some of the 8th grade exams from the 19th century? Kids back then were expected to actually learn stuff.

  • Carma||

    We have tried it your way and we've tried the guaranteed universal way. Guess which resulted in higher literacy and more economic prosperity?

  • Square||

    "when the children of poor parents grow up to be illiterate and useless"

    That would be a change from the current system how?

  • Tony||

    It would be even worse?

  • Square||

    How could it be?

    Have you ever been to a public school in a poor neighborhood?

    As a public works contractor I tour public schools in poor neighborhoods all the time - I've seen dozens.

    I literally cannot imagine how privatizing those schools could POSSIBLY make them any worse.

  • Tony||

    What do you mean by privatizing? Making access wealth-dependent? Wouldn't they just shutter in poor communities in that case?

    Or do you mean a voucher scheme whereby a nonprofit institution whose goal is to education children is turned into a government-subsidized for-profit business whose goal is to make money for itself?

    Despite libertarian mythology, money really is the problem. It's not a coincidence that schools in poor areas tend to be bad and schools in wealthy areas tend to be fine.

  • Square||

    1) Privatizing does not mean "making access wealth-dependent."

    2) Why would "they" just shutter in poor communities? How does that serve the profit motive?

    3) If you think the primary goal of public school administrators is to educate children, you are extremely naive. They are as bottom-line obsessed as any robber baron.

    4) The one thing public schools are not is efficient BECAUSE they have no profit motive - if they are run incompetently, they simply ask for more money.

    "Privatizing" therefore means not continuing to automatically fund institutions that do not perform their function and instead letting people (even poor people) choose for themselves what schools they want their children in.

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    Then when the children of poor parents grow up to be illiterate and useless

    You assume that the poor are being educated now. That's debatable.

    They're going through an education system. Actually being educated? That's different.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Here's another shocker...people who make this argument also assume middle class kids are being educated. I don't even think that's debatable. Ask a random kid in 8th grade what the quadratic equation is or who was Andrew Jackson. Prepare to fear for Humanity. If the kids going to the best public schools in say, Fairfax County, VA, are mostly fucking morons (they are), what hope do "poor" (being able to afford various luxuries makes it hard to qualify someone as poor outside of the first world) kids have being ground through similar systems? And we know these crappy school systems can have a shit-ton of funding with no positive results (I'm looking at the unnatural disaster that is the DC Public School system).

  • Tonio||

    Brain, you're assuming that it's a real person, arguing in good faith.

  • califernian||

    Tony, as always, completely embodies this quote by Bastiat:

    "Socialism .. confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.

    We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. ... It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain"

  • ||

    Nice.

  • Tony||

    We disapprove of state sanctions for murder. Doesn't mean we disapprove of murder. The magic rights fairy is all we need to establish a peaceful society.

  • CE||

    Okay, I'll bite. I don't want government vouchers. End government schooling now.

    Millions of Americans want to help educate the children of poor families, so I'm certain that will still happen, but with much higher levels of achievement and accountability.

    Home schoolers fare better, even when their parents are the most educated folks around, because their parents care more. If everyone had to pay their own kids' way, parents would be a lot more involved and interested in where there money is going.

    And those receiving an education through private charities would be more grateful and feel less entitled.

    Costs would drop, quality would increase, and the poor would be better educated.

  • CE||

    that is, even when their parents aren't the most educated

  • Tony||

    Millions of Americans want to help educate the children of poor families, so I'm certain that will still happen

    Ah the charity fairy. One wonders why public institutions ever needed to get invented in the first place, since magically there will be enough spontaneous good will to distribute resources adequately to make for a decent civilization without any organizing principle.

    If everyone had to pay their own kids' way, parents would be a lot more involved and interested in where there money is going.

    And if some parents couldn't afford to educate their children? Tough shit, I suppose?

    Nothing you're saying is meaningfully different from "If only magic existed."

  • ||

    Just because you're a heartless racist bastard that wouldn't help your fellow man unless the government extorted the money from you first doesn't mean the rest of us are. Asshole.

  • cavalier973||

    The new line on homeschooling is that the only reason parents want to homeschool is so that they can abuse their children without interference.

  • Tonio||

    That's not new. And I don't doubt that that's actually a thing for a very small number of people, but the majority are guilty of the worse crime of being unmutual.

  • Purple Drank||

    Your missed the part about all those studies showing that kids who went to these charter schools do so much better on the tests than the kids who go to these private schools. After all, you must have at least one source showing that? This ought to be renamed Ideology Magazine, because that is why you think public schools suck, not because of actual evidence.

  • Square||

    You must not have much direct experience with public schools.

  • Tony||

    I think the request was for evidence, not anecdote.

    Public schools are, however, the victim of the brilliant antigovernment tactic that squeezes government programs of funds and ensures that they are as dysfunctional as possible, all so you can turn around and pat yourself on the back for being right about how bad government is at doing things.

  • larry hammond||

    Government schools are squeezed for funds? You truly are a delusional fuckstick. Government doesn't need anti-government tactics to make it dis-functional. Dis-function is one thing that government excels at.

  • califernian||

    In california some schools districts cost over 25K per student.

    Meanwhile the median cost of private school in California 9k per year...

    The the only measure of the quality of a school is the satisfaction of the parents. All the other measures are bullshit smoke and mirrors from the communists.

  • Square||

    And that's just "on the books" funds - that doesn't take into account how many costs for school supplies are transferred onto the teachers and parents, and how much schools depend on PTA fundraising to supplement that basic spending.

    Public schooling is in fact horrifically expensive.

  • montana mike||

    We are trying hard...NEEDS MORE DOLLAZ

  • Brian||

    Government doesn't need anti-government tactics to make it dis-functional. Dis-function is one thing that government excels at.

    No, no, no. The glorious state wanted to prepare everyone for college universally, and they would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling antigovernment kids.

    In other news, antigovernment villains create military industrial complex, fight drug war.

  • Brian||

    Tony:
    Public schools are, however, the victim of the brilliant antigovernment tactic that squeezes government programs of funds...

    Yeah, antigovernment types have been brilliant in their funding cuts to public schools.

    You were mentioning evidence instead of anecdote. Please continue, bearing that in mind.

  • califernian||

    like you're a fan of charter schools. please

  • Tonio||

    For a magazine called "Reason"...

    Close enough. Drink!

  • larry hammond||

    Public schools do suck. They do more establish a virtual caste system in the US than anything else. They virtually guarantee a poor child going to a poor school will remain that way for life. This despite massive increases in real spending and constant demands for more. They crowd out other options and squash innovation. Without public schools you would find many options for educating children and a lot of charity (not theft) dedicated to making sure it was available. With government running the show it will remain same as it ever was, or worse.

  • montana mike||

    Public schools sucking in every large metropolitan area is acknowledged by the school systems, hence their constant cry for more money. Spending has skyrocketed and achievement is in freefall. If you can't recognize this you are extremely dim witted.

  • ||

    "This ought to be renamed Ideology Magazine..."

    How's that working out for you...being clever, that is.

  • califernian||

    About 2% of american kids are now homeschooled.

  • Wags||

    but how will the children know about the social contract?

  • Loki||

    I think those who want to force a single-government solution on everyone are just confused -- but if I were as judgmental as that Slate columnist, I'd be tempted to conclude that they're bad people.

    I guess that means I'm judgemental. Because I don't think they're confused. I think they're a bunch of shitheads.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    Underground History of American Education.

    An interesting book about public education - you can find the pdf free online.

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  • jolieena||

    my classmate's step-sister makes $84/h hourly on the internet. She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her pay was $20791 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site.. Bay89.com

  • Kaye||

    Our child has been at Alpine Valley School, a Sudbury model school, for the past 6 years with astounding results! Why? Freedom. The students, ages 5 to 19, run the school with the assistance of a small number of adult staff in a completely democratic fashion. Students are 100% responsible for their own education. The school is non profit and tuition rates are significantly lower than most private schools. What really sold me on "freedom" was meeting the Alumni. I am absolutely stunned at how these young people are turning out--responsible, happy, capable and in demand by employers (if they are lucky enough to get them since 42% of Sudbury Valley School graduates are entrepreneurs.) I can't believe I wasted my youth in a government school (prison). I will not be "duped" again with our child.

  • Acosmist||

    Selection bias is fun, yeah

  • loellaviles||

    my friend's sister makes =$­8­0= an hour on the laptop. She has been fired from work for seven months but last month her pay check was =$­1­2­7­4­1= just working on the laptop for a few hours. here are the findings...

    http://WWW.WORKS23.COM

  • JSebastian||

    The worst offense of government schools isn't poor education, its the fact that they're inherently vulnerable to the tragedy of the commons. By mandating school attendance, the govt discriminates against both the poor and the middle class alike, since they can't afford the tuition of private schools...and by forcing this economic choice, they violate a fundamental Constitutional right to freedom of association. Don't want your kid associating with the children of low-class criminals, illegals, and undesirable elements of society? Concerned that the negative behaviors inculcated by children from a family of dullards, illiterates, and uncultured peasants of the Americas might rub off on your own kid? Too bad....if you're middle class or poor. Because you have no alternative.

    The major danger to children is a bad peer group; there are no bad schools, only bad students. You need only look at how the left has become crazed over the phantom issue of "social justice" which is a foil for commie schemes, to see that it is nothing more than misguided attempts to force equal outcome. But the biggest factor in the success of children is a healthy "family of origin" replete with the psychological support and intellectual stimuli that allows children to learn and enter the civilized class - the one that values the intellectual and the artistic, and encourages and demands good citizenship (interpersonal skills, not being a Statist lapdog) learning, rigor, perfection, etc.

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