Thursday, July 05, 2007

Detroit Needs Free Market Education by Akindele Akinyemi

Each year, hundreds of news articles, opinion columns, editorials and letters critical of our public education system are printed in newspapers throughout Michigan. Yet, few, if any, propose getting rid of taxpayer-funded education and allowing the free market to provide our educational needs.

Education and opinion cartels claim that the elimination of the traditional public schools would mean the death of education. They paint a bleak picture of a nation of unschooled illiterates who would not even be able read and write, much less acquire technological or scientific expertise.

To discover the facts, we need to take a look at American history from colonial days until well into the 19th century.

During that vast stretch of time the free market provided all educational needs. Home-schooling and the one-room school were very common. Private schools supported by parents, churches or charitable institutions flourished without the benefit of government subsidies and directives. Parents controlled the teaching of their children.

The absence of government funding did not hinder the students of this free-market approach to education. Without compulsory attendance laws and other controls mandating a “good” education, they somehow managed to transform a supposedly backward wilderness nation into the envy of the world.

Colonial and post-colonial generations of Americans not only knew how to read and write, they also possessed values that are under attack today. These include responsibility, respect, self-reliance, honesty and perseverance. Because parents controlled the education of their children, they could transmit to their offspring the same traditional values that they cherished.

Tragically, many Detroiters mistakenly believe that public schools are an integral part of our government. Separation of school and state is not a revolutionary development in our history. It is a welcome return to our philosophical and cultural roots.

Today, we pay public education taxes for life even if we have no children. In a free market, we would pay none. Parents would save considerable money to pay for the education of their own children. Also, parents could select schools teaching the curriculum and values of their choice. Competition among the many new private schools needed would keep tuition costs low and supply abundant choices. Charity would provide for the poor.

Our public education system continues to require more of our tax money while producing declining academic results and increasing social problems. The only viable solution is to separate school and state and return to a tried and proven free market in education.

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