Sunday, January 2, 2011

School Vouchers: Education Stamps

HARBESON: We don’t need no education ... stamps

If you plan on following the upcoming legislative session in Indiana, I advise you to put on protective gear because it looks like school vouchers are going to be on the Republican agenda.

The idea of vouchers is not new, but has always been very controversial. To more easily understand why, we need to realize that the idea behind vouchers is no different than the idea behind food stamps.

Food stamps help the needy purchase food for their family, and vouchers, or education stamps, help the needy purchase education for their family.

Both are intended to help the needy improve their current situation, so any controversies surrounding each should be identical, but they’re not. This is because government controls education far, far more than it does food.

(This is strange for a society that says it values freedom. After all, the freedom to feed our minds is at least as important as the freedom to feed our bodies, isn’t it?)

Anyway, as it stands now, we do not have government food stores. We do, however, have government education stores; we’ve simply been trained by those in government to refer to them as “public schools.” These government education stores exist solely due to the initiation of force on others.

This is why it’s misleading when politicians like Mitch Daniels say that vouchers will introduce competition into education. To have anything close to true competition in education, all schools would operate under identical market-driven constraints. They would all use voluntary means to gain customers — just like all of our food stores do.

If all we had were privately run schools, then introducing vouchers, or education stamps, would have no more effect on the relative competitiveness of schools than food stamps do on food stores.

What’s even worse, in our current education system, it’s the people who usually express concern for the needy who end up getting in their way. Many of these people fight hard against education stamps for the needy because so many of them make their living off of the government schools.

Naturally, they don’t want to make it easier for their currently trapped customers to leave, so they want to severely constrain the use of education stamps.

We would see the same thing happening with food stamps if we had government food stores. But since we don’t, the needy can go to any store that is approved to accept food stamps.

Parents can buy grapefruit at one food store and then go to another store to purchase hamburger. They can even purchase seeds and grow their own food at home.

But no such freedom would exist with education, even if a school voucher program were passed by Mitch and his buddies because the lack of freedom in education has developed a system that, even in the private realm, is often an odd all-or-nothing venture.

For example, in our current system, a parent would never be able to take education stamps and purchase math services at one private school and go to another private school for reading.

And, of course, none of these families would be able to use vouchers to purchase items that would help them grow their own self-directed education for their individual family.

Therefore, the first step we need to take — if we truly do want to create and develop better educational opportunities for everyone — is to rid our society of these government education stores. We need a competitive private system for education just like we have a competitive private system for food.

When we’ve accomplished this separation of education and state, then we can focus on the problem of government food stamps and vouchers, which promote the myth that it’s moral to initiate force upon others to help the needy rather than using peaceful and voluntary means to do so.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson enjoys the freedom of feeding her mind, but she does try to avoid too much salty language.

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