Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Markets and Education

We all enjoy the benefits of choosing from a wide variety of goods and services produced in a competitive business market. Yet many people refuse to consider the benefits of creating a competitive market for K-12 education. Such people either take markets for granted or, even worse, they view them as chaotic and destructive. They usually believe that technical specialists with political power can do a better job than entrepreneurs and consumers organizing voluntarily via a market. Of course, that is just the kind of thinking that made North Korea the commercial and educational powerhouse that it is today.

The following letter to the editor is a reply to Cindi Ross Scoppe's editorial on school choice in "The State" newspaper. In her editorial, she defends a bill that would give South Carolina parents the option of choosing among public schools, but would do nothing to aid parents who want the option of sending their children to private schools. She compares criticism of the bill to criticism of her recipe for strawberry shortcake. Her thinking reduces the kind of complex decision-making best left to individuals in a market to a one-size fits all recipe.

Dear Editor:

Perhaps Cindi Ross Scoppe revealed more than she intended in her Friday column. She said any criticism of state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex’s plan for open enrollment in public schools is “like saying my recipe for strawberry shortcake is ‘fundamentally flawed’ because it doesn’t include sardines.”

Ms. Scoppe, my children are not ingredients for your political kitchen. I dare say most parents feel the same way.

Comparing something as precious, as complicated and as important as the education of a child to baking a cake reveals a social vision that leaves little room for individual preferences and innovation.

The only thing more troubling than such a vision is the hubris to impose it on everyone else.

No comments: