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American Thinker’s Thoughtless Insights on Public Education

December 19, 2016

Occasionally a post from the American Thinker blog comes through my Google feed and compels me to examine public education from a conservative perspective. “Help us with public education, Donald“, this morning’s post by Richard Miniter, offers a conservative’s perspective on what Betsy DeVos should do for public education, but it is generally short of new ideas and long on faith in the marketplace. After analogizing education spending to spending on the military (while conveniently overlooking the fact that roughly 39% of spending on the military is contracted to the private sector), Miniter notes that literacy rates in our nation and Britain have not increased since 1980 though, according to his figures, the US spends $620,000,000 annually on public education. Thus, he is not seeing any “Return on Investment” for all the money being spent. His solution? THE MARKETPLACE!

…If the population of the United States requires sixteen million new cars and trucks every year, that’s what the United States produce.  Need a million tons of potatoes?  You got it.  A billion cheeseburgers?  Get the ketchup ready.  And so it follows that absent government education, one might confidently predict that if the nation has a requirement for 95 or 90 or 80% literacy among parents or the labor market, that’s what the free market will hand off.

If the market is free to do so.

Make it homeschooling, small local private schools, expensive snotty private academies, distance learning – whatever.  With whatever that is, parents have the means and the inclination to indulge themselves with.

This preposterous logic overlooks the fact that the marketplace is currently generating a diet that is has a higher rate of obesity than ever and a life expectancy that is diminishing… but no matter…. the magic of the market is already working in “education”. How?

The greatest advance in information distribution since the invention of movable type is the still unfolding computer revolution.  But what we don’t think about is that this revolution is accompanied by the most incredible educational effort ever undertaken in the history of the world as children learn how to use computers, smartphones, and other handheld devices in order to begin texting or talking to one another.  To learn how to connect to the world’s databases, encyclopedias, books, news, and opinion sites.

And every bit of this vital education has occurred outside the government’s K-12 system and at zero cost to any taxpayer.  Without public school teachers, “education presidents,” school boards, state departments of education, without landscaped multi-million-dollar campuses or two-hundred-dollar boring textbooks, and without having most of a $620,000,000,000 annual bill for services vanish into teacher salaries and cushy retirement funds.

So ask yourself this: if the text messages your children compose and send already exceed by a factor of two hundred the word count of the essays they’re required to produce in public school, who and what are actually teaching your child to write?  If your children are accessing the millions of free or very inexpensive books and other information sources online in order to explore and master the subjects that excite them, who and what are teaching your child to read?

If Mr. Miniter is using the word count of tweets, text messages, and social posts as the basis for “literacy” then schools are unnecessary. And if he is unconcerned about the quality and accuracy of the “other information sources online” that students are exploring on line then schools are not required to deliver curricula. And if he believes that having children spend endless hours looking at screens in darkened rooms is preferable to spending time outdoors or in an environment where they come in contact with other future citizens. In the end, Mr. Miniter seems more interested in lowering his taxes and propagating scare stories about the “evil influences” children are exposed to in “government schools”:

(Ask yourself) if the school taxes you’re required to pay on your home run five, ten, or fifteen thousand dollars annually, is having a teacher show your child how to put glitter on his finger-painting worth that?  Is the danger to your child from violent students the school cannot expel worth that?  Or are the long bus rides, endless indoctrination in transgenderism, the really diseased obsession with “diversity,” skewed history classes, dumbed down textbooks, having somebody sell your child drugs in a school bathroom, worth that?

The marketplace won’t solve the problems of violence children experience at home, of dealing with gender issues, of learning how to interact with people of differing backgrounds, of drug abuse. If the marketplace could solve these problems they shouldn’t exist anymore… and if “the government” created them they would only exist here. These are all issues that are a part of the human condition, issues that can’t be measured by the number of words in tweets, text messages, and social posts.


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