This paper has laid out a comprehensive program for opening up educational choice. At last all students, especially those from poor families, will have an opportunity to choose alternatives to the public schools. This program will break the ignorance cycle in the inner cities by transferring choice and power from the bureaucracy to parents and students. It will bring about far-reaching changes in our educational system.
But ultimately we should go much further than this program. We must acknowledge one basic point: It is fundamentally contrary to the principles of a free society for government to involve itself in education. We should believe as strongly in the separation of education and state as we do in the separation of church and state, and for the very same reasons.
We would all look with horror on a society in which the government published 90 percent of the books available in America. It is just as dangerous for 90 percent of our children to be educated in government schools. The dangers inherent in-such a near-monopoly go well beyond the decline in educational quality. We all know what happens when a totalitarian regime seizes power in another country; One of the first things it does is to restructure the educational system to fit its way of thinking. Even taking a much more benign view of our own government, how can a government school system help but to promote the basic values of the people in power? The public-school interpretation of American history, politics, and economics must necessarily coincide with what the government thinks is correct. It's certainly worth noting that economics as taught in the public schools is almost exclusively the Keynesian variety -- the economic doctrine that has justified massive government intervention in the economy, the boom- and-bust cycle of inflation and recession, and now the phenomenon known as "stagflation."
In a more personal vein, do we want our children learning about life and love, values and ethics from the government? Vietnam, Watergate, Abscam, Koreagate, violation of our personal freedoms -- a host of such occurrences should be enough to convince anyone that the government is a bad moral teacher. Americans traditionally have valued freedom of speech highly enough to keep government from legislating against it. We have valued freedom of religion enough to prohibit government from interfering in its free exercise and from establishing a state religion. These traditions recognize the dangers of letting government involve itself in the world of ideas. It is time that we establish freedom of education, which, after all, intimately involves both speech and religion, and remove government from this area altogether.
We conclude this White Paper with a quotation
from A New Beginning by Ed Clark:
Let me conclude by describing my vision of education in America. A child's education is and should be an intensely personal and private matter. The principal decisions should be made by parents and children -- for it is their lives that are affected. I want to reduce the role of impersonal, unresponsive government in this decision, and instead enhance the role of free individuals. I want to invite all members of society, whether they are parents or not, to take an active interest in and responsibility for education, by breaking away from the notion that government, after all these years, can be expected to find a solution for our educational problems. I want to have an environment in which all children have the opportunity to reach their highest potential, whatever that may be, in freedom -- without being forced into a mold by a government bureaucracy. I envision a system which encourages a young and curious mind to know the joy of learning, not one which stifles this process and turns joy into a burden.I want to see people in voluntary interaction build an educational system that will be a reflection of a creative, dynamic, peaceful, and voluntary society. We can start by implementing a program of education tax credits and moving toward a free educational system.