The beauty of choice

The square root of intelligence

2012-12-10 school choice

I got the following mail from my most cherished reader.

 Hi Folks,

 Ontario teachers are threatening to strike for more money when the rest of us haven’t seen a decent raise in 20 years. In fact, the average Canadian has seen his and her disposable incomes nose dive in the past decade due to lost employment, huge price increases, higher taxes and massive government overspending. Yet these out-of-touch fat cats, these purveyors of the worst education Canada has ever suffered, these over-paid, progressive manipulators of young minds, these shills for deviant life style movements and green socialism propagandists, these poster children for lousy education themselves, these unionists – are using little children as expendable pawns in their power plays … once again. How many times have we seen this happen and how many more times will we endure it?

 Here is how I would handle them. The School system is dysfunctional and defunct so we’re closing the doors; that’s it. The corporation has failed, its bankrupt and we’re shutting down. All those parasites are out of work. In bankruptcy, we’ll restructure, reorganize and de-unionize. In a few weeks, we will open a new corporation for education under new management with a new commitment to real teaching and real learning and, just to show there are no hard feelings, we’ll allow all those who used to be in the teaching profession to apply for positions. We will select employees on the basis of merit; not tenure. Each community will elect members of the local school boards and parents will monitor their progress with the option to turf any bureaucrat who doesn’t function on behalf of the community simply through a ballot of non-confidence.

 Kids who don’t work on their grades will fail. Kids who are better athletes will win and those who are physically inept will lose. There will be no more first and last winners, no more sliding through thirteen years of kindergarten, elementary school and high school without being functionally literate. Kids will spend their time in schools learning real history, math, geography and real facts. Children won’t spend most of their time being programmed to be good little socialists — they’ll be able to make that decision for themselves because they will have actually learned how to think.

 There you have it … all fixed.

There you have it. Another conflict. Although the assessment is perfect, I cannot agree with the suggested solution. In my last two posts I hinted at the problem of polarized political stances. That they are, well, polarizing. That they make true communication impossible because both sides just keep repeating their ideology driven yawning points. That the debate is mostly about politics. In this case, differing visions about education. About the way the system should be organized and how it should function. Even if the most visible are the harmful effects of the second, we should only focus on the first.

No matter how much I am a fan of conservative teaching methods, I would not want to foist them on unwilling liberals the way they are willing to rape my life with their screwed up ideas. I want to be better than that, I want to be better than them. The debate should not be about whose vision should prevail but that no particular vision should be forced on anybody. Suggesting a different structure, different goals and different methods can only bog us down in endless arguments about the merits of each approach.

Freedom and choice is all we need for a better world. The higher value of my vision should prevail in the test of reality, not of political power.

The issue

I do not want to convince anybody that my way is better, I just want to have the freedom to do things my way.
I could talk a lot about what I consider a good education. I would start with Dorothy Sayers wonderful essay about the medieval system.
I would continue with my own ideas about the subjects and their proportions and the important points of the curriculum as I would like to see them but my ideas about education should not be the subject of this discussion.

I asked a Montessori school teacher about the method and how does it compare to other methods when it comes to outcome. She surprised me with the honesty of her response. She explained that it works well in lower grades but loses out to other methods in high school. The Montessori method is at least as much anti-thetic to the ideas above as the public school system. Should we ban it? How about other methods practiced in some private schools? If some parents would like to raise sensitive children sheltered from any ugly competition, should we prevent them from raising their kids the way they see fit? If some parents want government bureaucrats to make decisions about the extracurricular activities of their children, shouldn’t we let them?

This teachers’ strike (as any other) should NOT be approached as an opportunity to point out all the problems with the existing system, not as an opportunity to suggest a different way but to simply point out that the system is not working. It does not make anybody happy. The teachers are not happy (that is why they strike) the parents are not happy and the kids are not getting an education, but we should be careful what we suggest as a replacement system.

Nobody should select teachers but the school principal, the “CEO” of the free market educational enterprise. His selection criteria should be based on the demands of his market, the quality of the service he is supposed to provide and his reputation. It should be the job of the parent to find the school that best suits his ideas about what a good education should be like.

Nobody should tell teachers what to teach and how beyond the contract that they signed spelling it out, the contract that should represent the philosophy and the expectations of the particular school where they are working.
What should be in that contract should be none of our business – as long as we are free to choose between several options.
Our quest should be simple: freedom of choice.

The problem

The problem with the system is not simply the outcome but the attitude that inevitably leads to it. The notion that the state knows best, the notion that the primary function of schools is to create good citizens. I highly recommend Rothbard’s “Education, free and compulsory” (this link is to a free .PDF version) It helped me to refine my views on the subject, it may do the same to you. I started reading it already as a firm supporter of voucher type systems but I did not question the compulsory aspect. I came away from it agreeing with him that compulsion is the foundation of the problem that all others spring from.

The main problem we have is not the ideology infestation, but what makes it possible, the twisted monopoly of the state over the system. I said twisted because it is not true that the system has no element of freedom. We can send our children to private schools as long as we are willing and able to pay for their education twice. Once to the public system, once to the one that will actually get them educated. Private schools are doing fine. The children of the 1% who can afford them are doing fine. It is the rest of us who get screwed by the overpaid, unionized minions of the distributor class. That is the problem that needs to be solved.

What makes arguing with the supporters of the status quo (the pinkos) difficult is their righteous arrogance and their adamant denial of conflict of interest.

The unions argue at every single strike that they are actually doing this for the children. You cannot expect proper devotion from underpaid teachers and staff.

Their arguments for the public system came down to roughly this:
Some people are just too stupid to make the right decisions for their children and ‘our’ children (‘us’ meaning society in the context) are just too precious for us to allow this to happen. Some schools would even teach creationism for God’s sake!

Once the people who think that anybody disagreeing with them is stupid get the power of monopoly, they will, of course, promote a world view suggesting that everybody who disagrees with them is stupid.
They would also argue that we cannot allow an entirely free systems for the same reason: parents are stupid and some charlatans operating really bad schools could dupe them.

THAT IS the attitude we need to fight. The arrogant condescension, the righteous oppression.

The solution

While I do agree with Rothbard, in the end, I would be willing to compromise in supporting an unconditional voucher system with government set standards and payment for it based on tax dollars. It is not a very libertarian idea but it is one that we may have a chance to ‘sell’ to the general public. It is one that’s difficult to argue against. All we need to argue for is competition. The right to choose.

An unconditional voucher system is ALL we need. Anybody who wishes to keep his child in the public school system should be welcome to do so. Any teacher who wants to be a member of a union should be free to join. The only thing we should oppose is the fact that this system (or any system) is forced on us.

The beauty of the free market is that it can change everything without forcing change on anybody.

Our fight should not be with the teachers, but with our friends, neighbours and families convincing them that the world would not fall apart if those of us who are willing to make choices would be allowed to make them and to support us politically when we ask for such rights.

4 replies on “The beauty of choice”

  1. EimaiSkorpios says:
    Freedom of choice is something we no longer have in this Province and even in this country. The system has failed us because the sharp edge of democracy is blunted and has become a remote concept in the dull brains of the current generations because that is the end to which teachers and their unions have been working for a very long time. It has been a progressive movement over many years to usurp freedom and choice and that is why we call those perpetrators “Progressives”. Teachers and their unions are charter members of the Progressive movement.

    In my lifetime, the Universities of this land were the bastions of free and creative thought and where all carefully crafted ideas and opinions were received eagerly – indeed, almost rapaciously. Today, opinions contrary to the Progressive agenda are violently beaten into the dust and, by force of numbers, driven out of the halls of reason under the watchful eyes of teachers and school authorities. Anyone who denies this truth is either one of them or has been living under a rock for decades.

    The Progressives will leap onto any issue that suits their purposes; to advance that issue, pervert it, twist its meaning and subvert it to their end. I use the example of “bullying”, something we dealt with as individual communities for centuries. The teachers and their Progressive hacks in the Legislatures have decided that bullying falls under the purview of school boards because it is a perfect vehicle to advance a major portion of their agenda; that of the promotion of deviant lifestyles. What a surprise, the basis of this movement is to undermine the influences of Judeo-Christianity that teaches in opposition to the Progressives and is the very foundation of our civilization.

    I am not a religious man. However, I treasure the ancient wisdom and values that shaped the most advanced society this planet has ever seen. Only a fool would try to argue that one. Judeo-Christianity gave us the Magna Carta, put humans on our moon and sent our research capability beyond the reaches of our solar system – 18.5 Billion kilometres from earth.

    Teachers pay drooling homage to the worst Prime Minster this country ever had, a socialist by the name of Pierre Elliot Trudeau. They teach little children that this bastard is to be revered and admired for being largely responsible for bringing us to our current state where there simply aren’t enough makers to cover the costs of the massive number of takers in this country.

    A perfect example: Teachers teach that development of the Alberta Oil Sands is a crime against nature and humanity because it fits nicely with their “green socialism”; their way to try to control our economy because socialism on its own isn’t taking hold fast enough. Teachers drag their tiny students out into the streets to hold up signs condemning petroleum products and displaying their “anti-oil” class projects showing endangered wildlife. These stupid projects take huge amounts of the time that should be devoted to learning just why petroleum development was, quite possibly, the greatest discovery of mankind.

    A Progressive teacher in Toronto puts her tiny charges to work on a project to ban plastic bags and then trucks off to Ottawa to get an award from the Prime Minister. Unfathomable ignorance! One of two things here: either this teacher is the product of her own education system or she is deliberately attempting to torpedo the future of those little children. She claims plastic bags don’t degrade in landfill sites so if we ban them all the world will be a Utopia … except that she doesn’t know her ass from a hole in the ground. Plastic bags are a miniscule portion of solid waste and they are one of the most re-purposed products manufactured today.
    Speaking of manufacturing, that’s something else to which the Progressives want to see an end. What a wonderful achievement it would be for them, all of those workers now unemployed and another contribution to the destruction of capitalism and democracy.

    Here’s what Harriet Simand, that Toronto schoolteacher, doesn’t know but should be teaching her tiny students:

    Contrary to popular belief, very little degrades in a modern landfill. Modern landfills are sited and operated to avoid wet conditions and prevent as much biodegradation as possible. When organic matter does degrade in landfills, one of the emissions is methane gas (a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide). This means that biodegradable products in landfill are not a good thing and one of the reasons why Germany prohibited any form of degradable materials from entering their landfills back in June 2005.

    Plastics have numerous advantages over other materials when they are disposed of by land-filling due to the fact that they are easily compressed and have an inherent inertness meaning that they do not leach contaminants and can help stabilize materials in a landfill.

    Today’s modern landfills are composed of four main elements: a bottom liner (which can be made from clay, plastics or a composite material), a “leachate” (apparently a landfill word) collection system, a cover and an appropriate setting. The liner’s role is to effectively prevent wastes from migrating directly into the environment, specifically the groundwater. The better liners being used today are composed of a tough, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic that is usually 30 to 100 mils thick. The plastic liner may be combined with compacted clay soils as an additional liner, and it may also be surrounded on either side by a fabric mat (geotextile mat) that will help to keep the plastic liner from being torn or punctured by the nearby rock and gravel layers. In any landfill environment, the use of a plastic liner is an important safeguard against groundwater contamination.

    Back to Progressive teachers:

    David Suzuki. A rabid “environmentalist” who makes no sense what-so-ever in his promotion of Global Warming (that had to be changed to Climate Change because the globe wasn’t warming) and spends his time chasing after donations for his $10 million operation by trying to scare little kids into thinking that Santa is drowning up there at the North Pole. This is the guy that the teachers piped into their schools – live – all across the country so they could listen to and swallow his blatant lies about the environment and how big oil was funding the Conservative Party. He and the teachers conveniently ignored the fact that we have laws against that, but Suzuki is allowed to claim charitable status while he campaigns for the Liberal Party Progressives.

    How about a little Progressive racism from the teachers? An excerpt from the Toronto District School Board’s operating guidelines for teachers:

    “Racism: While people in different contexts can experience prejudice or discrimination, racism, in North American context, is based on an ideology of superiority of the white race over other racial groups.

    Racism is evident in individual acts, such as racial slurs, jokes, etc., and institutionally, in terms of policies and practices at institutional levels of society. The result of institutional racism is that it maintains white privilege and power (such as racial profiling, hiring practices, history, and literature that centre on Western, European civilizations to the exclusion of other civilizations and communities). The social, systemic, and personal assumptions, practices, and behaviours that discriminate against persons according to their skin colour, hair texture, eye shape, and other superficial physical characteristics.”

    In other words, in Canada, only white people can be racist and it pervades our institutions so we must hold whitey down; take him to task at every opportunity because he is the man and it is his society we are trying to destroy.

    During my political campaign of 2011, I visited four high schools. I talked with teachers, with students and read much of the literature lying around the schools. I asked a bunch of questions about history, geography, science and the environment. I was appalled by the illiteracy, the ignorance and the misinformation presented to me in dozens of candied discussions. I was also appalled by how emasculated the males students were and how immature they behaved for their ages. These kids were dumbed-down and brainwashed to the Progressive agenda … I walked out of those schools in a daze of disbelief.

    No Zork, I don’t think you disagree with me all that much. I think you agree we are suffering from a system that has been hijacked by the Leftists and is well on its way to rack and ruin. Where we disagree is in how urgent is it to react and whether or not I should be imposing my values onto the system that is imposing its values on me … and innocent children. Nothing changes for the better until the established structure completely collapses. I say intervene and collapse it while we still have the freedom to preserve our freedom.

    • zorkthehun says:
      There is absolutely no question about the correctness, the validity, the justified indignation about any of the points you make. I feel the same way, but I also think, on the other hand, that we have to fight two wars at the same time – a cultural and a political one. Even if the two seem to be hopelessly intertwined, we have to keep in mind that the goals of the two are quite different.
      I believe that left to their own devices individuals are far more reasonable then they are when they are part of mob like special interest groups. I believe that the cultural war is the ultimate one but I also believe that getting the government out of the institutions is half the battle won. It then also becomes an easier to handle tactical question. What are the ideas that can be ‘sold’ to our ideological opponents?
      Two days ago, I had a conversation with a unionized teacher; yesterday with a self-declared left-wing patent agent. The first took the position that we need government run compulsory public education because people are stupid and left to their own devices they would make bad decisions that we need to protect them from. The second, when asked whether he would support a voucher system, answered no and said that he would even get rid of the Catholic School Board because he does not like the idea of religious education. People should not be allowed to send their children to any school they wish.
      The only way we can get away from these political arguments, the only way we can end the tit for tat, the constant battle for having the upper hand whereby WE can dictate to EVERYBODY what to do as opposed them doing it to us is by focusing on freedom and choice.
      One of the reasons why the left opposes freedom so vehemently is the fact that they know that they would lose in a free competition of ideas. Political control is THEIR weapon. Being right is ours. Fighting them for control would just keep us in a vicious circle.
      The political fight should focus on choice and freedom. An unconditional voucher system for grade and high schools and no government involvement in higher education whatsoever.
      Let’s talk about the culture war some other time.
  2. EimaiSkorpios says:
    “To argue with a man who has renounced his reason, is like giving medicine to the dead.”
    – Thomas Paine

    As I said, Zork, right now we don’t really have that freedom of choice and the options, few as there are, dwindle away daily and all too perceptibly.

    In my earlier reply, I said the system had failed us. I was typing too quickly I’m afraid. We have failed the system. Democracy is an idea, not an entity and cannot fail anyone. We came up with this sensible idea more than 2,500 years ago but some of us keep trying to destroy it. The reasons are simple: dictatorial power, utter stupidity and sloth. Socialism always turns radical and always ends up in a leftist dictatorship.

    You are quite correct in alluding to the fact that those who fail or are too lazy to strive for their individual success tend toward socialism. It is just like being a vegetarian; it can only work in a warm climate or highly developed Western society. It’s easy to be a holier-than-thou vegetarian when you have a capitalist grocery store down the street that flies in fresh produce from all over the world. And it’s easy to be a socialist when you don’t have to clear fields, cut wood and raise livestock every day of your existence and you have other people’s money to spend. The trouble with vegetarianism in Canada is you can’t move to the country. The trouble with socialism is that you run out of other people’s money.

    If you think all individuals, left to their own devices, can be more reasonable on their own than as part of a tribe, you haven’t met my younger brother. Reason abandoned him a long time ago and I run into his doppelgangers all the time.

    In my opinion, we have long passed the point where individuals of good faith can sit down and compromise. The only recourse in 2012 is physical action. The majority now has to win back freedom of choice by “taking it back” from the leftists, who are now in the positions of influence.

    I agree that we don’t need government involvement in education. Their respective, local communities should support the schools, through tuitions, scholarships and private grants. In that way they will maintain a high scholastic standard through competition. If Religious schools can get enough funding to survive, so be it. That would be the ultimate in democratic free choice.

    My detractors say under that kind of freedom Saudi Arabia would fund thousands of teaching mosques. I say only if we tolerate Sharia in our society. But that would be ridiculous to allow the law of Islam to operate in a democracy. Islam is inseparable from Sharia so it can only take root here if we are willing to abandon freedom.

    It all comes back to nasty socialism. Socialist Progressives would give free reign to Sharia as a tool to destroy democratic capitalism. This is the why we cannot afford to wait around for compromise – it will never happen.

  3. EimaiSkorpios says:
    BTW, Zork … my inclusion of the Thomas Paine quote was in reference to the futility of trying to reason with socialists; nothing else. ;o)

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