PostHeaderIcon The Ultimate Conundrum

In response to my article “Equality: Myth vs Reason”, BrockTownsend responded that homeschooling is a viable response to the sorry mess we call a public education system.

Naturally, Brock is absolutely right while being mostly wrong. Homeschooling is an option only for those families who possess the three critical attributes that determine virtually all success in raising children: means, ability and willingness. Families with these attributes will almost always raise their young to be good citizens whether they homeschool or not.

On a recent episode of Stossel, John Stossel opined that “Charter Schools” are another response to failing public schools. Again, absolutely right and mostly wrong. Charter Schools are not growing in number due to the resistance of both the progressive establishment and the education unions. And, getting a child into the ones that do exist requires at least ability and willingness on the part of the family because of the fierce competition to get into these schools.

A sad fact of modern American life is that far too many children are being born into “families” who lack most or all of the three critical attributes. As a result, the complete problem with our public education system is a combination of a dysfunctional system and dysfunctional students. This is proven by the fact that, however bad the system may be, a certain number of children emerge well educated despite it.

So, how do we improve the overall quality of the children being produced in this nation? That is the Ultimate Conundrum.

If it is true that too many children are being born into dysfunctional families, one quick answer would be to forbid them from having children. Another would be for the state to take the children away from their families and raise them in (shudder) state-controlled institutions. Aside from the obvious fact that the state can’t find its posterior with both hands, these answers are wrong because they require the denial of individual liberty – the very essence of being American. We must reject any so-called solution that involves further encroachment on our personal liberty lest we become just another tyranny. It is bad enough that we have the disgrace called The Patriot Act which is partly based on the irrational notion that sometimes you must forfeit liberty in order to preserve it.

Does this mean then that there is no solution? Not at all. One overriding problem in modern America is that we have a confused system. We try to privatize success while socializing failure. This holds true all the way from the upper echelons of major corporations all the way down to individual deadbeats.

When major corporations make good decisions, they fully expect to reap all the gain – as they should (privatized success). However, increasingly, when they make poor decisions, they expect the government (that would be you and me) to stand good for their losses (socialized failure).

Likewise, the deadbeat fully expects the government (again, you and me) to provide food, clothing and shelter (socialized failure) but, should they get lucky with the lottery or at the track, they fully expect to keep all of the winnings rather than reimburse the government for past handouts (privatized success).

It should not require much analysis to realize that such a confused system is totally irrational. So, what to do? The progressives among us respond “total socialization”. Yet all experience has shown us that even partial socialization always fails because it destroys the incentives to produce, to improve and to excel.

Likewise, the conservatives and libertarians among us respond “total privatization”. And, all experience has shown that to fail because the powerful will inevitably prey on the weak.

Clearly, a mostly privatized system with a only a few rules intended to ensure contracts and to discourage fraud is the best answer. And, it is the answer that propelled a new Republic into world leadership in a historically short time. But, this solution itself has what some people, progressives in particular, consider a fatal flaw. That flaw is that a free marketplace responds to failure in a way that is harsh and sometimes even cruel.

I contend that it is the attempt to remove this harshness, this seeming cruelty, that has led us to our current confused state. Yet, it is the very solution that Nature itself uses. If you choose well, you flourish. If you choose poorly, you suffer and eventually leave the stage.

This solution is also consistent with personal liberty because it allows each of us to decide for ourselves, and to contend with the consequences of those decisions.

Think about it.

Troy L Robinson

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