Education

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Libertarians strongly oppose public education: they wish to eliminate tax-funding for education, regulation of education, and make education independent of government. Libertarians favor privatization and corporatization of schooling. This despite the obvious market failures in education and the international successes of state-run education.

Education is one of the great failures of libertarianism. Unlike liberalism, libertarianism has no justification for goals such as universal education or equal opportunities in education. Education has enormous market failures that would prevent an economically optimum production and distribution of education. And the libertarian anti-government fixation dooms most of their proposals to failure while failing to explain the obvious government successes in education.

All of the top performing nations in education (Finland, South Korea and Singapore, for example) are inexplicable with libertarian ideology: they are centrally organized systems with state funding, public schools, no school choice or vouchers, state developed curriculum, national standards, teachers paid well above market rates, mandatory schooling, universal schooling, and state mandated teacher education programs.

If we want a top-performing education system, markets will NOT do the job because some will want to save money by purchasing lower quality services. It's a major problem in the US where the quality of the schools is largely determined by the tax base available. Parents who care about education move into communities with high enough taxes to have good schools.

Nor is the role of government in K-12 education sufficient: early childhood education, college and trade education all have enormous needs where markets fail badly. Libertarians routinely oppose any government involvement with these: for example, they've railed against Head Start for decades.

Libertarian endorsement of vouchers is a stopgap solution on the way to total privatization, according to the Libertarian Party.

Plutocratic, corporate, and conservative interests want to subvert public schooling to educate students according to their own agendas, break power of local government that they don't control, and break teacher unions. That's the reason for the big push behind Charter Schools and for-profit education companies. Despite ludicrous promises of better performance, charter schools seldom match public school performance, and for-profit education companies go bankrupt after conspicuous failure.

Private, for-profit education companies have a long history of being rip-offs, especially when government funds pay for students. Virtual Charter Schools are the latest ALEC-sponsored attempt at undermining public schools through corporatization of education. They target communities of color or poverty which are dispossessed and disempowered.

Vouchers, charters, privatization and other libertarian/conservative proposals can be viewed as strategies to pit the middle and lower classes, racial groups, ethnic groups, etc. against each other to distract from solving the real problem: poverty.

The greatest gains for educational achievement in the US would come from five reforms:

  1. reducing poverty -- increasing the socioeconomic status of the poorest students
  2. adequately fund education -- reliance on local property taxes isn't enough
  3. significantly reduce class sizes
  4. put highly trained well paid teachers in every classroom
  5. respect the professional judgment of educators and empower them to lead education, rather than be bossed by bureaucrats and plutocratic "visionaries"

Links

Charter Schools (6 links)
Charter Schools are a strategy for undermining teacher's unions, privatizing public education and shifting and cutting education expenses from business and the community at the expense of the poor and the working class. They do not produce better results, let alone the extraordinary results cherry-picked by their advocates. They are primarily prometed by plutocrats, and serve to distract from the real causes of low achievement: especially poverty. The rich do not want to spend on fixing poverty.
Vouchers (6 links)
Libertarians claim to prefer vouchers to direct government provision. But they do so for ideological reasons, not because vouchers are the best method. Some voucher programs (such as food stamps) work well, but direct provision works better for many other goods.
15 Months in Virtual Charter Hell: A Teacher's Tale [More...]
Virtual Charter Schools are the latest ALEC-sponsored attempt at undermining public schools through corporatization of education. They target communities of color or poverty which are dispossessed and disempowered.
Massive Open Online Courses (3 links)
MOOCs are the latest technotarian educational fad. They are hyped by libertarians such as Tyler Cowen as the great disruptive game changers for higher education. They are proving massively unsuccessful, with completion rates of less than 10%.
Subsidized Training In Libertarian Ideology (6 links)
Enormous amounts are spent by Koch-funded or founded organizations to train politicians, judges, college students, high school students and professional libertarian shills in the application of libertarian ideology for government and public relations.
Adam Smith on the Benefits of Public Education [More...]
All the way back in 1776, long before public education was widespread, Adam Smith made the case in The Wealth of Nations for the government to provide public education for everyone, partly on the grounds that it would benefit the economy to have more educated workers, but also partly on the grounds that in a political context, educated people are "less liable ... to the delusions of enthusiasm and superstition" and "less apt to be misled" in a political context.
Are we holding the leash or wearing the collar? [More...]
Billionaires with good intentions, flashy pronouncements, and market-driven solutions have failed in many fields that need changes. Emissions reduction, education, charter cities, seasteads, etc.
Billionaire's Failed Education Experiment Proves There's No Shortcut To Success [More...]
"Three years is a long time in the technology world, and there should have been several notable successes from the batches of 20–24 students that the Thiel Foundation admitted. If Thiel had delivered what he promised, these startups should have all been in the category of “world-changing”—and vast majority should still exist."
College Isn't a Waste of Time [More...]
Noah Smith shreds Bryan Caplan's claims that college is mostly a waste of time and primarily used for signaling. "But his arguments against college are deeply flawed, and the country would be well-advised to take them with a shot of skepticism."
College, the Great Unleveler [More...]
For-profit education, burdening of students with inescapable loans and absence of federal leadership are identified as major problems that perpetuate inequality.
Dismantling Public Education: Turning Ideology into Gold [More...]
"Nowhere is the toxic effect of privatization on America’s public wellbeing more evident than in the sphere of education." How, through lengthy propaganda, public education is being transformed into a cash cow for the wealthy.
Does Money Matter in the Long Run? Effects of School Spending on Educational Attainment [More...]
"... this paper provides important evidence that increases in [primary] school spending improve students’ long-run outcomes that are of ultimate concern to policymakers." Why the rich use expensive private schools instead of underfunded public schools.
Early Childhood: the Nub of the Problem [More...]
David Warsh directs us to James Heckman for the best research on the importance and cost effectiveness of early childhood interventions through quality pre-K programs. Despite decades of libertarian criticism, some of these programs have been shown to have high benefit-cost ratios and rates of return. Read all 15 points.
Education and the Commercial Mindset (Review by Thomas Ultican) [More...]
"Abrams documents the triumphs and failures of profit based education[...] Abrams presents convincing arguments that KIPP and other no-excuses charter systems cannot possibly be scaled up to educate all American children. These systems have a history of burning out teachers and they rely on public schools to take in the children they expel or council out."
EDUCATION as a source of market failure [More...]
A wiki page which explains the economics of education market failures because of externalities and imperfect information.
Education as signalling [More...]
Our libertarian friends at Koch George Mason University frequently claim expensive educations are a form of signally and that nobody learns anything in college. That doesn't pass the sniff test.
George Mason University Economics Department (9 links)
A Koch-financed libertarian department of an otherwise publicly financed university. As of 2012, the Kochs had donated at least $33,000,000 to George Mason University. Essentially the entire department is also employed by the Mercatus Center, providing more Koch influence.
Government Intervention in the Markets for Education and Health Care: How and Why? [More...]
Lists 4 major market "imperfections" on page 279. Points out that they have not been well quantified. Ignores public goals for education beyond the simply economic.
Greg Mankiw Loves the One Percent, Doesn’t Know Why [More...]
Jonathan Chait ridicules Greg Mankiw's ideas of equal opportunity: "Mankiw really doesn’t know what he’s talking about here. He’s a brilliant economist, but he’s exposing a moral sensibility based on pseudo-facts and illogic."
Have Public Universities Lost Their Focus? [More...]
"The problem with higher education is that colleges are operating more like businesses and less like a social good." An interview about Christopher Newfield's book: The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them.
Here's How Not to Improve Public Schools [More...]
The Gates Foundation’s big-data experiment wasn’t just a failure. It did real harm.
It is Not a School Problem
Diane Ravitch used to be a supporter of school reform. But now she is the author of Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. The problem is poverty and segregation.
Koch foundation proposal to college: Teach our curriculum, get millions [More...]
The Kochs gave money to Florida State University’s economics department on the conditions that they align the curriculum with libertarianism, partly control faculty hires, and keep the libertarian department chair.
Koch network laying groundwork to fundamentally transform America’s education system [More...]
"Making a long-term play, the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and his like-minded friends on the right are increasingly focused on melding the minds of the next generation by making massive, targeted investments in both K-12 and higher education."
Libertarians for Social Democracy [More...]
Peter Dorman points out that Alex Tabarrok's endorsement of apprenticeship systems will not work without the other trappings of social democracy that make them work.
Plutocracy with a Philanthropic Face [More...]
“A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed,” notes education analyst Joanne Barkan, “to define the national debate on education.” The Gates, Walton, and Broad foundations don’t agree on every single educational policy twist. But they do all follow the same basic script.
Private charity can't replace government social programs [More...]
To suggest that community or faith-based charities can effectively supplant government social programs is a fantasy that serves only as a talking point to cut those programs.
Soaring Systems: High Flyers All Have Equitable Funding, Shared Curriculum, and Quality Teaching [More...]
Developed nations around the world fund education centrally and equally.
The bad teacher conspiracy [More...]
Statistics show that the problems in American education are not bad teachers, but instead are strongly correlated with poverty. The distraction from this fact, the emphasis on bashing teachers, comes from right wingers determined to break unions.
The changing dynamics of economic inequality and for-profit universities [More...]
The U.S. Department of Education is likely to disqualify about 1,400 for-profit educational programs from receiving federal funds because research shows that for-profit schools do much worse than non-profit or community colleges.
The Handmaiden of Entrepreneurship: Philosophy in the time of Charles Koch [More...]
David Johnson reviews a Koch-funded textbook for high school students, Ethics, Economy & Entrepreneurship for a course called "Philosophy 101: Ethics, Economy, and Entrepreneurship". "What I found was a peculiar mixture of the utterly banal and the frighteningly ideological."
The Kind of Anarchism I Believe in, and What's Wrong with Libertarians [More...]
Noam Chomsky points out that anarchism means requiring justification for authority: not blind opposition to authority. He describes libertarianism as a preference for private, unaccountable authority. And he discusses our system of propaganda and control.
The Myth Behind Public School Failure [More...]
"In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students."
The Underachieving Education Business [More...]
Cries for market competition to improve education are false promises. "In the United States, for-profit universities have a six-year graduation rate of 22%, far below the 60% achieved by not-for-profit institutions." An ineffective self-regulation proposal is made.
Vergara vs. California: Are the top 0.1% buying their version of education reform? [More...]
"In case after case, theories and approaches favored by a handful of very wealthy individuals received preferential treatment in the education debate. You cannot call that a democratic process."
Want to Fix Obama's Bad Education Policy? Start With These Two New Books [More...]
How current education reform (a movement financed by billionaires)can be fixed: The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession by Dana Goldstein and Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works by Elizabeth Green.
We must still hate our kids: Philadelphia and “education reformers” fight demented war on elementary schools [More...]
"No nurses, few textbooks, closed libraries: Money to urban schools is being starved, intentionally. It's just wrong." Plutocratically driven education reform is making our schools worse.

Quotations

Over the past two and a half decades, the poor in privatized urban schools have been successfully harnessed to the delivery of reliable profits to investors and munificent salaries to executives.
Alex Molnar, "Dismantling Public Education: Turning Ideology into Gold"
Anybody stupid enough to think education works like consumer goods markets should have to explain why there isn’t a McHarvard franchise on their block.
Mike Huben
We are going to need a bigger and better government. The private unregulated market does not do well at health-care finance, at pensions, or at education finance. The private unregulated market does not do well at research and early-stage development. The private unregulated market does not do well with commodities that are non-rival, or non-excludible, or produced under conditions of greatly-increasing returns to scale. We are, in all likelihood, moving into a twenty-first century in which these sectors will all be larger slices of what we do. Thus in the twenty-first century a well-functioning economy will need a larger government share in the economy than was needed in the twentieth century.
Brad DeLong, "My Take on the Seven Things We Need to Focus on for Equitable Growth in America: Thursday Focus"
It seems to me that there are five areas in which government spending has a demonstrated superiority over the private sector -- health and disability insurance, education, old-age pensions, infrastructure spending, and military spending. It seemed to me that structural changes in our economy and society were driving the amount of money we ought to spend in sum on those five up, hence the enlargement of government.
Brad DeLong, "Nick Eberstadt and the "Takers" Once Again: More Reflections on the General Theory of the Moocher Class"
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not just wrong but “impossible,” Boaz declares, because to declare education a human right mean that someone has to provide it, and since that’s not always possible, education cannot be a right. This weird little trick of language only works if you define a right to be a thing that can be provided at all times, instead of a moral obligation toward which all societies must aspire.
Nathan Robinson, "Oh God, Please Not Libertarianism..."
All that is spent during many years in opening the means of higher education to the masses would be well paid for if it called out one more Newton or Darwin, Shakespeare or Beethoven.
Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics (1890), p. 216.
Well one of the main problems for students today -- a huge problem -- is sky-rocketing tuitions. Why do we have tuitions that are completely out-of-line with other countries, even with our own history? In the 1950s the United States was a much poorer country than it is today, and yet higher education was … pretty much free, or low fees or no fees for huge numbers of people. There hasn’t been an economic change that’s made it necessary, now, to have very high tuitions, far more than when we were a poor country. And to drive the point home even more clearly, if we look just across the borders, Mexico is a poor country yet has a good educational system with free tuition. There was an effort by the Mexican state to raise tuition, maybe some 15 years ago or so, and there was a national student strike which had a lot of popular support, and the government backed down. Now that’s just happened recently in Quebec, on our other border. Go across the ocean: Germany is a rich country. Free tuition. Finland has the highest-ranked education system in the world. Free … virtually free. So I don’t think you can give an argument that there are economic necessities behind the incredibly high increase in tuition. I think these are social and economic decisions made by the people who set policy. And [these hikes] are part of, in my view, part of a backlash that developed in the 1970s against the liberatory tendencies of the 1960s. Students became much freer, more open, they were pressing for opposition to the war, for civil rights, women’s rights … and the country just got too free. In fact, liberal intellectuals condemned this, called it a “crisis of democracy:” we’ve got to have more moderation of democracy. They called, literally, for more commitment to indoctrination of the young, their phrase … we have to make sure that the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young do their work, so we don’t have all this freedom and independence. And many developments took place after that. I don’t think we have enough direct documentation to prove causal relations, but you can see what happened. One of the things that happened was controlling students -- in fact, controlling students for the rest of their lives, by simply trapping them in debt. That’s a very effective technique of control and indoctrination.
Noam Chomsky, "The Kind of Anarchism I Believe in, and What's Wrong with Libertarians"