Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career with a passion for all things libertarian to become the Libertarian Opinionizer.
Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer
It should go without saying that libertarians believe in free education. It should also go without saying that the “free” in the term “free education” doesn’t mean “free of charge” because TANSTAAFL: “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” or in this case “Free Learning.” The “free” means free from government.
Similarly, when Jeffrey Smith wrote his article “A Libertarian Look at Free College” on the Being Libertarian website he didn’t mean “tuition-free.” In one way or another, someone somewhere somehow has to pay. Few educators educate without receiving paychecks. Again, TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lesson.
Free also doesn’t apply to “School Vouchers” or a “Voucher System” since this is just an alternative way to expend taxpayer’s money even though some libertarians seem to favor such a scheme on the basis that it’s a “good step in the right direction.”
In another article, this time at “The Libertarian Republic,” Rob Shimshock reports in his article titled “Trump Ponders Funneling Billions Into Private Schools For Working Class.” This of course is pure oxymoron. Any private school that accepts public money and all the government regulatory puppet strings attached to every dollar of it ceases to be a private school and becomes de facto a state indoctrination center little different from public schools.
The result would be to dumb down every private school to the bureaucratic standards of government schools.
A Libertarian’s “Free College”
People who insist on calling themselves “libertarian” badly need to part company with coercive government groupthink variations on the concept of “free education” by reconsidering what “free” actually means in this context, from pre-school to post-grad.
A good place to start would be Jeffrey Smith’s thoughtful and unique idea of “free college.” Here’s an attempt to nutshell his approach:
Students attending Smith’s private for-profit school would pay no upfront tuition, but they would sign a contract agreeing to pay 12 percent of their income to the college for the next 12 years after they graduate until their tuition is paid in full.
See how that strongly incentivizes the school to teach their students well, to give them all the best education and tutoring and other help to ensure that they graduate, and to powerfully motivate them to actively help their graduates get the best jobs possible at the highest salaries possible and to continue helping them to advance in their careers throughout those dozen years?
Of course, there are multiple considerations and Smith addresses many if not all of them. For example, if students don’t graduate, or if they settle for burger-flipping jobs, the school gets little to no profits for its efforts.
Also, a Ph.D. in Business Admin would be more profitable to the student, and therefore to the school, than a degree in Animal Science (listed as the lowest paying college degree in 2014 by USA Today) so to be fair the school would charge lower tuition or not offer a course in Animal Science at all. The latter would, in a free competitive society, leave an opening for other schools to specialize in lower-earning degrees.
Other problems to overcome would be addressing how to handle dropouts, transferees, students changing majors, or taking a career path after graduation not related to the degree, etc.
The biggest problem of all that needs addressing is, of course, how to wrench education from the grimly grasping grip of the local, state, and federal educratic elitists and their self-serving unions who derive their power, ego identities, and their very excuse for existing from pumping propaganda into their unsuspecting pupils and their parents.
More “Free” Schools
But Jeffrey Smith’s concept of a libertarian “Free College” is just one model for creating non-government educational programs that actually work. Many others already exist and still others are waiting to be tried in a future libertarian post-statist laissez-faire free marketplace of ideas.
There are many ways in which free people can choose to teach their children without some self-serving state dictating the whole process. Even children who have grown up with little or no formal education still have the option of self-education. The possibilities in a libertarian society based on the non-aggression principle of freely chosen learning opportunities would be restricted only by human imagination and individual choices, not by government-trained human robots.
Any list of such educational institutions would include for-profit and not-for-profit church schools, trade schools, boarding schools, homeschooling, Montessori and similar specialty schools, academies, online schools, or other “distance learning” methods such as engaging with recorded or broadcast lectures or participating in correspondence courses.
There could be even more opportunities if we lived in a free society.
Storefront Schools: All that it takes to begin teaching children is a teacher, a few books and pencils, maybe a white or blackboard, and a space where they can gather. This could be any currently unused structure like an empty store, a church, a home, a library basement, the backroom of an ongoing business, a warehouse space, or a fraternal organization’s meeting room.
Funding might come from a local philanthropist, community donations, monetary contributions, civic-minded groups, charitable trusts, foundation grants, investors and entrepreneurs, neighborhood mutual aid associations, or just parents volunteering their money, time, and other assistance.
McSchool: If burger and chicken and pizza fast food eateries and many other kinds of stores can be nationally franchised why can’t schools? They can easily be designed to serve people of varying incomes in the same way that chain stores K-Mart and Macy’s serve economically different people.
In many respects, educational quality is what people, not schools, make of it. Some students fail Harvard, and other students drop out of high school and become dotcom millionaires. Some pay thousands for a well-rounded liberal education while others achieve the same thing on their own.
Storefront and McBurger educations for small children may not be a high-quality learning experience but if they can at least graduate knowing how to read and write they’re still way ahead of all those failed inner-city public schools we’ve all heard so much about that do little more than warehouse poor minority kids who emerge barely able to add two plus two.
Cyberlearning: Don your Wi-Fi wearable virtual reality optical head-mounted digital display gear, wake up your smartphone, finger tap your video lecture, live stream, or prerecorded courseware program and sit back in your monorail seat on your way to or from your temp job, your hairstylist, your NextGen Pilates place or wherever, and mind-meld with a little knowledge.
Later you can punch up an app and take your self-paced exam, then message it along with a fee transfer to Cloud Tech U for degree credits.
Self Education: (AKA “Earn While You Learn”) Imagine a young man with no more than a public high school diploma and a few weeks of trade school but with no money or college prospects who managed to use his long-developed childhood drawing and writing skills to get a job as a trainee drafter for a small electronics firm.
Soaking up everything he learned on the job and as much as possible in his free time, he built a career by transitioning from electro-mechanical drafter to technical illustrator to technical writer to logistics analyst to supportability engineer, spending much of his later career as a highly-paid temporary freelance contract specialist. Everyone needs an education; not everyone needs a piece of paper to prove it.
That’s what even a little freedom in an otherwise unfree world can produce.
Private vs. Public Schools
There’s one other thing both libertarians and non should consider before rejecting private sector education. In the developing world, private sector schools have stepped in to educate children where their governments for one reason or another have abandoned them.
In a 2015 article, “Learning Unleashed,” The Economist reported on how low-cost private sector schools in developing nations have taken on the challenge of providing the poorest of the poor with “a decent education,” in some cases not simply instead of their governments, but in spite of them.
This excerpt from the article explains a lot:
“One reason for the developing world’s boom in private education is that aspirational parents are increasingly seeking alternatives to dismal state schools. In south and west Asian countries half of children who have finished four years of school cannot read at the minimum expected standard.”
Does this sound achingly familiar to many Americans? Like maybe America’s governing educational bodies are inexorably turning its own low-income children into illiterates even as other nations are doing everything they can to enlighten their young people?
Any teacher who sees their goal as “molding young minds” should be fired immediately. The goal of all teachers should be not to mold children’s minds but “to teach them how to think.”
Education, like everything else in a society that wants to break from despotic mandatory authoritarianism, needs to breathe free in order to do anything successfully, including educating.
If parents around the world can educate their children without government, why can’t Americans?
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Garry Reed