Thursday, March 01, 2012

Separate school & state, even at the local level

Why won’t conservatives ever go to the root of the statist problems that face our nation? A good example involves education, an area that most conservatives will admit has long been mired in crisis. Yet, all that conservatives end up doing is dancing around the problem, as they do in so many other areas where statism produces crises.

I generally avoid listening to talk radio because I find it so boring. Leftist talk radio does nothing but extol the virtues of the socialism and the welfare state, despite the manifest economic harm they have done to society, especially the poor. Moreover, with Obama’s embrace of President Bush’s infringements on civil liberties and imperialist foreign policy, most liberal talk-show hosts have gone silent in these areas out of some sense of misguided political loyalty.

But conservative talk shows are just as boring, not so much because their mantras and analyses are wrong but because they are never able to take their principles to their logical conclusion. The hosts will exclaim how “pro-free enterprise” they are and they’ll show how the free market is superior to socialism. But then comes their solution, and that’s where they’ll put you to sleep. Their solution inevitable is, “The system needs reform” or “We have to get Republicans into office so that they can run government like a business.”

I was listening to a conservative talk radio show the other day. The topic was whether public schools should be providing free breakfast and lunch for poorer children. The host was arguing the standard conservative mantras. “It is not the business of the state to be feeding children! That is the responsibility of parents!”

There were two guests on the show, a conservative and a liberal. The conservative agreed with the host. The liberal argued that helping the poor was a societal responsibility and suggested that without the free meals, the children of poor families would be suffering serious malnutrition.

Not one single time did the conservatives challenge the liberal on the basic point of coercion — that it’s morally wrong to force people to care for others. Just because there might be a moral, religious, or ethical duty to help the poor doesn’t mean that it’s okay to force people to do so. Whether to help the poor or not should left entirely to the realm of freedom of choice.

But what was most frustrating was that the conservatives could not see the real issue, which was the proverbial elephant in the room. They could see that it isn’t the role of government to be feeding people but they had a total blind spot on what is just as big an issue, if not bigger: Why should it be the business of government to be educating people, including children?

Boiled down to its essence, the conservatives and liberals on that talk show were debating how public (i.e., government) schools should be run. Should there be free meals in public schools or not?

Why not instead to the root of the problem: Should there be public schools? In other words, why get bogged down over how to run statist enterprises? Why not challenge the existence of statist enterprises themselves?

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, with no public schools the issue of whether there should be free meals provided in public schools disintegrates.

One of the favorite campaign positions in Republican presidential campaigns is to call for the abolition of the federal Department of Education (even though once they’re in office they decide against it). Republicans correctly claim that the federal government has no legitimate or constitutional authority to be involving itself in education. They want to return authority over education completely to the states or localities.

But notice that that doesn’t get to the heart of the matter — the mandatory, state-provided, or state-monitored educational system known as public schooling. The real solution is simply to free the education market from all government control, including at the local level.

That would mean the repeal of all compulsory-attendance laws and the abolition of all school taxes. The school districts would divest themselves of ownership of the school buildings and dissolve the school districts themselves. People would be free to have their children educated in the manner they deemed best. Entrepreneurs would be free to offer whatever educational vehicles they desired to consumers.

Public schooling, even at the local level, is really nothing more than a socialist enterprise, which conservatives claim to oppose. It is a system that is based on central planning, coercive attendance, and mandatory funding. Its methodology is based on memorization and rote learning. The regimentation that is inherent to the system produces mindsets of deference to authority, mindsets that end up accepting the premises of the established order and that end up just trying to reform or fix it.

Most everyone acknowledges that the free market provides the best of everything. Compared to socialist enterprises, the free market provides superior products and services at lower cost. It would do the same in the field of education.

Most parents want only the best for their children. That’s in fact why many parents, including President Obama and his wife Michelle, refuse to send their children into the public-school system. Why not let children have the very best education possible? That can only happen in a free-market educational environment, one in which we separate school and state just as our ancestors separated church and state.


Don't bother getting a good degree: Now Britain's PC brigade says bosses shouldn't just hire best students as it 'discriminates against average graduates'

Companies hiring graduates with top degrees could be discriminating against students with average grades, according to a Government-commissioned review. Jobs that require applicants to have a minimum qualification of a 2:1 degree may prevent firms meeting diversity targets, the report said.

Many sought-after positions - particularly in the corporate sector - require a certain standard of academic achievement and even attendance at a certain set of universities. But the review for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said the system was 'flawed'.

Professor Tim Wilson, who carried out the review, said: 'A filter that limits recruitment to a particular set of universities, a "2-1 standard" and a defined UCAS entry threshold to the corporate sector are not uncommon requirements. 'In the context of reducing the applications to manageable proportions this is understandable, but it has flaws.'

He said companies who filter on academic achievement need to carry out regular reviews of their screening processes, based on the types of graduates they have hired.

'An algorithm that includes a profiling filter may reduce the selection task to manageable proportions and hence an acceptable cost, but it also has the potential to exclude graduates with skills profiles that are appropriate to company needs.

'Graduate recruiters using filtering mechanisms should undertake a systematic and frequent review of screening algorithms in the light of the qualities of the graduates that the company has recruited and the diversity objectives of the company.'

He added that the recruitment cycle is normally undertaken before graduation, so the degree classification is projected, not actual. This may minimise the cost risk, he added, but not necessarily manage the risk of diversity imbalance.

The review said that many employers were concerned about not attracting the right mix of graduates and that companies were often not doing enough to communicate with prospective candidates.

Sir Tim made 54 recommendations, including a number on how to encourage more so-called 'sandwich' degrees which involve some form of work, and ways of increasing internships.

He said that where internships are unpaid, universities should use funds they receive from the office for Fair Access, which encourages students from poorer backgrounds to go to university, to support eligible youngsters rather than condone a policy that could 'inhibit social mobility'.

He suggested universities should only charge students on a work placement year £1,000 rather than the permitted maximum of £4,500, and interest charges on student loans should be suspended.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the world's best universities were building deeper links with business, adding that the Government will now 'carefully consider' the report's recommendations.

The conclusions are likely to increase fears the professions are dumbing down in order to widen access and concerns this could damage Britain's already unstable economy.


One reason why 39% of Australian teenagers are sent to private high schools

Both episodes below occured at government schools

A BULLIED teenager who suffered horrific injuries when he attempted suicide has died more than two years after his tormenters drove him to despair.

Dakoda-Lee Stainer, 14, suffered brain damage when deprived of oxygen for more than 20 minutes after he tried to take his own life in 2009 following severe bullying.

Left in a wheelchair, unable to speak or walk, and taking food and liquids through a tube to his stomach, the teen died on Valentine's Day this year.

After Dakoda-Lee's tragic story was revealed in The Daily Telegraph last year, close family friends launched a campaign against bullying of the kind that drove the north coast teenager to try to end his life.

Sharon Grady of Yarravel, near Kempsey, yesterday said no one deserved the treatment Dakoda-Lee had suffered, but bullying was still happening. "We have now lost this precious, loving and caring young man who was talented in so many areas," Ms Grady said.

On the day he tried to end his life, the teen, who attended Melville High School at Kempsey, had been accosted by a gang of youths on the school bus after months of relentless attacks by bullies.

About a year earlier another 14-year-old, Alex Wildman, took his own life at Lismore after violent run-ins with fellow students, forcing education authorities to investigate how effectively schools were combating bullying.

Alex's stepfather, Bill Kelly, is suing the Department of Education and Communities for damages, claiming it breached its duty of care to the student.

A major offensive against cyber bullying has been launched in schools.

It involves graphic videos showing the dangers of online bullying designed to frighten students out of using the internet as a weapon to attack other children.

The graphic films, using male and female teenage actors to depict savage bullying scenarios, are so realistic they have shocked children into changing their online behaviour, parents and educators said.


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