Education vs. Schooling


The cost of college and public schools education quality are two of the main political issues now in the United States. The progressives believe that we should spend more on K-12 education, although we already spend the most per student, and create a federal standard for school curriculum and force the states to adopt it, hence common core. For college education, the progressives are pushing for plans to make the college free, which means that the taxpayers will pay for everyone’s college education regardless of whether they need or deserve such education. Conservatives on the other side are pushing for school choice, teacher accountability and the return of education powers to the local school boards which are all good ideas if your goal is to make public schools function better, but nobody is seriously considering the role all levels of government are playing in education. Are public schools necessary?

The free market can offer all types of services and education is no exception. Public schools offer education services to the students, but they are not the only ways people receive the education. About 6% of K-12 students in the United States are homeschooled, and they still manage to learn reading, writing, math and other academic subjects. About 10% of all K-12 schools attend private schools and they receive education as well so there are no special powers or abilities public school have that other types of education don’t. Even among people who graduate from college their education doesn’t stop, they learn skills as they progress in their lives through different sources such as books, websites, classes and collaboration with other people.

We can open education services as well to the free market and let private companies compete to provide education services to all ages and let the consumers choose the services that best fit their needs and budgets. A student may enroll in a small group tutoring for a certain subject while relying on a study group to learn another and online course to learn the third. Another student may decide on a different combination. Of course for young children the parents to makes these decisions but as the student grow he/she can take part in these decisions and eventually make them.

The current public school system prevents innovation in education because most parents just send their children to public schools which they are forced to finance through taxes. On top of that, the states have different laws and rules to regulate and limit private schools. These factors limit the size of the market for private education services which slows the rate of private innovation.

Progressives will attack such ideas claiming that the poor won’t be able to pay for education services. This argument is so wrong because the current public school system hurts the poor the most. The current school system locks poor students in failed schools where the teachers get paid whether the students learn or not and where the schools will stay open regardless of the quality of education they offer. Students from families that push them to succeed will attend the same school with neighbor children whose families don’t care much about education and who don’t let anyone else learn. Ending the current public school system will free the tax money paid by both poor and rich people so they can use their tax savings to buy education at the services they want. Education services will target all income levels in the same way there are TVs, cars, clothes and food at different price points.

The quality of education as well will improve dramatically because not all students will receive education from the same sources so they will exchange ideas and have discussions with their friends who may have learned a certain subject from different sources. Our education system will transform to be one that encourages critical thinking and free exchange of information.

The transition to such education system is possible now by abolishing the federal department of education and freeing the states from the federal pressure in education. The citizens of different states can push their legislatures to privatize the existing public schools and repeal the laws favoring public schools. The newly formed private schools will quickly under market pressure transform to meet market demands. It only takes a single state to do it and realize the benefit to get other states to follow.

Further Readings

Thomas Sowell’s book “Economic Facts and Fallacies” covers education facts and fallacies in chapter 4 titled “Academic Facts and Fallacies”.

The Mises Institute has some great resources on education.