Educational Optimism

2002-06-28

Most of my libertarian and Randian friends tend to get depressed about politics. I used to, too, until I stopped paying attention to the scandal of the day. They bemoaned the Clinton years. I tuned them out, figuring that a President who screws interns is a lot safer than a President who screws the country.

Another reason I'm more optimistic than my news-obsessed friends is that I focus on long-term trends. And to me the most important long-term trend is education. I suppose I agree with Victor Hugo: "The progress of man by the education of minds -- there is no safety but in that." (William Shakespare, II.5.vii) To be more precise, it is learning and knowledge that matter, not "education" (since I think much that passes for education is at best socialization and at worst brainwashing). We have had the unfortunate experience in the U.S.A. of relinquishing the crucial activities of teaching and learning to schools that are run by governments. Since he who pays the piper calls the tune, the results have been less than salutary.

But that's changing. Slowly but surely, cracks are forming in our socialistic education monopoly. One such fissure, ever-widending, is caused by the increasing number of parents who are teaching their own children or contracting out (individually and in groups) for such teaching. This is called "homeschooling" and it is the most radical challenge to traditional (not just government-run) schooling.

Another challenge comes in the form of the school choice movement. And that movement just won a huge victory: the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that the school choice program in Cleveland does not violate the Constitution's prohibition on the establishment of religion. The Institute for Justice, one of only two "think tanks" that I support, played a key role in defending the Cleveland program and has every reason to celebrate. Another nail in the coffin of monopolistic, government-controlled schooling. Another strike in favor of educational freedom and thus the freedom of thought.

I'm optimistic.


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