Education in a Free Society

By Palasek, Karen Y. | Ideas on Liberty, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Education in a Free Society


Palasek, Karen Y., Ideas on Liberty


Education in a Free Society

edited by Tibor Machan

Hoover Institution Press * 2000 * 149 pages * $16.95 paperback

Editor Tibor Machan states in his introduction to this collection of four essays that "The primary concern in this book is whether human individuality is compatible with coercive public education." Each of the four perspectives offered takes a unique approach.

The late E. G. West's contribution, "Public Education and Imperfect Democracy," takes an economist's-eye view of the topic. It is a well-thought-out discussion of voucher plans in particular, focusing finally on the policy possibilities for an evolution toward a freemarket alternative to public schools, including the near-complete withdrawal of government from education. Professor West's conclusions are that market diversity and parental authority, as evidenced in the Milwaukee experiment, are sufficient indicators of the success that a fully market-oriented educational system can provide.

Psychologist Carol B. Low's essay on "Schools and Education: Which Children Are Entitled to Learn?" focuses on the goals of public education in contrast to the quite different goals of traditional private education. Low, looking at the group makeup of girls versus boys, the treatment of gender differences as "disorders," and the methods in which public schools deal with these issues, argues those schools' primary aim is equalization, homogenization, and socialization among all members. As Low remarks, "Our children are unable to discover who they are and what they are and where they are going in life because there is a system in place with the power to tell them." In contrast to the publiceducation model of a good student, Low presents the expectations of a traditional private education: the ability to think and to understand, the expansion of individual knowledge, and the presumption that one strives to rise to his or her highest potential. What should education in a free society be like? Education that knows our children as more than publicschool students. The final somber note of the essay reflects on the sad and pernicious system of social conditioning that crushes individuality instead.

Philosopher J. Roger Lee writes an exposition entitled "Limits on Universal Education." Only when we come to the very end do we comprehend the method in Lee's approach. He presumes a universal education, but wants to enlighten us as to what moral, religious, or political ideas it may legitimately include. He summarizes, "Given that we may include these topics in the domain of whatever universal education we provide children, should we do so? …

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