How Will the Poorest Be Educated?

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My correspondent worries “As a society, don’t we have to chose to either pay for basic  schooling via taxes for the poorest children versus simply letting these children grow up without an education and thus without any skills to ever create capital goods?” There must be hundreds of articles written by free market advocates on how education might evolve without coercion by taxes. Ideas in Liberty no doubt has a great many articles.

Aside from recommending Ideas in Liberty as a source of answers to this question, I have the following thoughts:

First, stop thinking in terms of “we” and “as a society” and “what we should do.” Choices are not given to this “we” but to each of us. I’m not you, and you are not anyone else, and there is no “we” that exists except what you and I and others agree to. There exists no single “society” that can be identified as a legitimate or proper decision-maker in this field or any other field. On the other hand, each person is an appropriate locus of decision-making naturally, since each of us has his own brain, will, desires, motives, values, knowledge, aims, bodies, and so on. There is no such naturally existing organization (such as society) that corresponds to this. All such groupings are either what we as persons construct via agreements and consent, i.e., voluntarily, or else what others force us into.

Second, do not assume that “the poorest children” won’t find funding sources from other persons or organizations or benefactors or prospective employers or through scholarships or money funded for scholarships from benefactors, employers, religious organizations, and so on.

Third, do not assume that parents and extended families or groups of families will not provide education. Assume that mutual aid will occur. For example, it was the wife of slave Frederick Douglass’s master who taught him the alphabet.

Fourth, assume that when schools are no longer public but privately run, education will become far more innovative and the cost of it will decline, so that it will be far more widely available.

Fifth, assume that self-education will increase and self-help to get education will increase.

Sixth, assume that innovation combined with internet delivery will greatly increase.

Seventh, assume that many learned folks will give away knowledge, create free modules and learning experiences.

Eighth, assume that with the dead hand of public rules and regulations gone, and with the dead hand of enforced curricula gone, and the dead hand of lousy textbooks gone (because of the increased competition), education technology will make great strides, bringing its cost down to the point where even the poorest can afford it.

Ninth, do not assume that today’s costs will be tomorrow’s costs. Brick and mortar may decline in use for schools.

Tenth, assume that with freedom to choose education, resources will be vastly redirected. Parents who want swimming pools will have to pay for them, or their use can be separated from schools rather than be linked by force.

Eleventh, assume that being forced into cohorts by age will become a thing of the past. The freedom to progress according to one’s own advancement and not be forced into certain groups will further reduce education costs.

Twelfth, do not think of “the poorest” as being dependent and as having to be told what education serves their needs. Think of them and everyone as having the capacity to choose and decide on their own.

Thirteenth, assume that the quality of education will rise sharply as teacher unions and lousy schools of education are undermined by competition.

Last, look into how poor people acquired education before there were public schools. Look into how this happened and the extent to which it happened when standards of living were vastly lower than today. I suggest, for example, that one look at self-help educational efforts and accomplishments of slaves in America.

1:29 pm on July 10, 2012