What’s wrong with our schools?
By Sarah Schott
In Milton Friedman’s famous 1980 broadcast, “What’s Wrong with our Schools?”, he questioned why the public school system has changed; with parents beginning to complain about the poor education and the general public despising the growing taxes that support the public schools. He came to the conclusion that too much government control hurts the well-being of students and parents alike.
Think about a system where no one had the choice of what food they would eat. Instead they were given soggy cereal and rotten potatoes, and demanded to pay for it. Since this was the only food the people received, their only choice was to pay for and eat the food. People became weaker and were unable to work, depending more and more on that food system. Eventually there was no hope. Horrible, right! That is exactly what the school system is today. The government has given the people no choice in the quality of education of children and has forced some to attend schools with extremely deficient academics and pay education taxes. People that graduate or drop out of those schools are unable to get jobs and make money, thus trapped in poverty.
Many parents are denied the choice of choosing to what public school their child will attend and what teachers the school will hire. Milton Friedman references back to the one room schoolhouse, where families in the community would all work together and pay the fees to ensure that a sufficient building, teacher, and proper academic were instituted so that the children would be fully equipped for the real world of business.
Around the early 1840’s, the government became more involved in education, by creating “free schools” by which the parents paid tuition indirectly through taxes. Over time, parents have lost the freedom to choose what school their child will attend. To combat this declining situation, Milton Friedman stated, “Market competition is the surest way to improve the quality and promote innovation in education.”
I agree with his statement about how market competition can improve the quality of education, since those who want their child to go to a school with better education, will pay more. It is a factor of producer competition, with the schools being the producers and the students and parents the consumers. One thing I am concerned about is if the schools with better education cost more money than schools with deficient academics, the poor will be forced to choose the less expensive school, thus receiving a lower education.
Gregory Anrig, the Commissioner of the Department of Education in Massachusetts, in response to Friedman’s broadcast, stated that the problems in urban schools, schools with poorer education, are problems of poverty. However, Friedman said “Do not underestimate the role which bad schooling provided by our governmental mechanism has played in creating poverty.” Because the schools are not providing education that will help people excel in the work field, people become trapped in poverty. This is a perfect example of a fallacy of a false cause. Anrig stated that the cause of problems in urban schools is poor education. Rather, these two events tend to occur together.
As far as higher education, such as colleges, I believe that people who do not go to college or are unable to go to college, should not pay for those who do go to college. In my opinion, schools should be a private endeavor that provides the education that the parents want to pay for, instead of parents being forced to pay for schooling that does not provided sufficient education for their child. Friedman quotes, “Everyone who has the desire to have a higher education should be enabled to do so provided they’re willing to undertake the obligation to pay the cost of their schooling either currently or in latter yeas out of the higher income that their education will make possible.” I fully agree with this statement.
Overall, government control hurts the education system. People are unable to choose the level of education their child will receive and are forced to pay taxes to attend that school. We must, in America, establish a system where individuals are given the freedom to choose their education.
Sarah Schott is a junior in high school and this is her first contribution to Enter Stage Right. © 2016 Sarah Scott