About this Blog

Most of conventional education, at both the K-12 and university level, is profoundly inefficient and wrong-headed.  Although most of my experience is of American educational institutions, I have some experience with educational institutions in Chile, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Senegal, and Rwanda, and sadly I find the educational institutions in those nations to be even more problematic than are American educational institutions.  In my conversations with people from around the world I find that although there are small, interesting experimental educational programs and institutions around the world that provide at least partial exceptions to the generalizations that I will make here, there are no large scale exceptions anywhere on earth.  By and large, our existing educational institutions around the world are out-dated legacy systems that need to be replaced by fundamentally new institutions.

There are many thousands of great educators at all levels and in all institutions; it is not their fault that they are functioning in a flawed system – except insofar as they reflexively defend the institutions as they exist today.

In order to create an educational system capable of improving the happiness and well-being of humanity, we need to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, government involvement in education at all levels, as well as government restrictions on the free pursuit of whatever occupation one desires.  Government financing and regulation of education at all levels prevents the emergence of the more authentic, humane, and effective forms of education that we need.  Thus around the world we need to move towards a principled separation of school and state, occupation and state, and research and state.

The primary reason why most people believe that the government must provide education is in order to ensure that the poor receive an education.  There are four strategies for achieving such a goal without direct government funding of education:

1.  Tuition tax credits, in which parents may deduct the amount paid for private school tuition from their taxes and corporations, foundations, and other philanthropic donors may likewise deduct from their taxes tuition paid on behalf of poor students to attend private schools.  The potential difficult with tuition tax credits is that government may choose to define what counts as a “school” and thereby limit innovation.

2.  Citizen’s Dividends, in which each citizen of a nation receives a certain amount which they may then spend as they choose.  In the U.S. we already spend nearly $30,000 on every person below the poverty line.  Instead of spending such amounts, most of which is wasted, the poor would be better off receiving cash directly and choosing how they would spend it.

3.  Finance education by means of land value gains in private communities or Free Cities:  Insofar as good schools add value to a community, it may be possible to finance, or partially finance, education by means of the land value gain contributed to a particular community.

4.  Pure free market approach, with philanthropic support to ensure broad-based participation.  At the university level, elite colleges typically have such large endowments that they can afford to give adequate financial aid to any student who wants to attend.  The same is true for the most elite prep schools, which aggressively recruit highly qualified minority students.  In the U.S. there have been numerous private scholarship programs for poor students even in the absence of tuition tax credits.  A purely private society would soon become wealthy enough to provide every child with a vastly better education than is available to most poor children in government schools today.

As we gradually eliminate the quasi-monopoly of government schools (see my article “Why We Don’t Have a Silicon Valley of Education”) we will see better and better schools, and gradually advocates for the poor will insist that they have access to private education – as some are already doing (see here and here, for example, and this book for the existing case for school choice for the poor).  At some point people will be horrified that we had ever forced generations of young people into government schools, much as they are currently horrified by the thought of 19th century child factory labor.

For many people the separation of state and school, and state and occupation, will be an unfamiliar and sometimes frightening world.  As it turns out, the only way to create a world in which all ten billion human beings on earth are likely to live vibrant, fulfilled lives is one in which we eliminate the role of government in education and government-enforced occupational licensing at all levels.

21 Responses to About this Blog

  1. Pingback: Renewing the Promise of Montessori Education | The Purpose of Education

  2. Victor says:

    I am overwhelmed by the extent to which your observations about education correspond to my own, which are based on my wife’s experiences as a teacher of two- and three-year-olds. She was an attorney, like me, but she recovered and went on to earn her teaching certificate last year. She utilizes the Socratic method routinely. One of the greatest debates concerned whether the class guinea pig, who was kidnapped by leprechauns on the Friday before St. Patrick’s Day, could dance with his abductors (as her impromptu ransom note claimed). My wife loves this age group because it is uncontaminated by coercive sovereign curriculum expectations; she treats her children as fully baked, rapidly developing people who need not be bullied or embarrassed in class. The students set their own rules, which are determined by a show of hands and therefore change from week to week as the students learn what logical consequences are. In her second year of teaching at this school, her main problem is that last year’s students visit her classroom and refuse to leave. The parents marvel at how “academic” her class is, compared to previous years (her students now lecture their older siblings on the life cycle of a caterpillar, for example). Little do the parents know that her “lesson plans” are usually improvised during the drive from our home to campus. In short, she achieves astonishing results by ignoring most of the conventional reasoning about pedagogy that her teaching certificate imparted. She and I enjoy rehashing her daily experiences, which I scrutinize through my libertarian lens. If you are in charge of the MKG Group’s experiment in Honduras, then we are both fascinated.

    • Wonderful to hear!!!

      For those of us who interact with young people naturally this way, and who realize who miraculously powerful it is, the existing institutionalized system, legislatively financed and enforced, seems like a bizarrely cruel and inefficient system. Much of my work as a teacher trainer has been to instill the sort of interaction dynamic that your wife apparently has naturally. For some it is natural, with others it is more alien than learning Chinese and quantum physics at the same time. Most of the best Socratic teachers I have worked with did not get an education degree, and most people with education degrees are ill-suited to teach by means of simply asking questions.

  3. Pingback: Honduras Sets Stage for 3 Privately Run Cities

  4. Victor says:

    Don’t get me started on teacher certification and education degrees….

    Will there be roles for gringos in the Honduran free cities? I am so disgusted by the state of affairs here in the USA — education being merely one reason for my pessimism — that my wife and I have seriously discussed moving away. If the free cities will be a kind of libertarian incubator, then I am passionately interested.

    • Most jobs are reserved for Hondurans, but there will be plenty of opportunities for non-Hondurans. We expect it to be a combination of a cosmopolitan city as well as an authentically Honduran city, bilingual Spanish-English.

      • Victor says:

        Hah, I shared a synopsis of our discourse with my wife, and she is horrified my my comment that she made up most of her lessons en route to work that day. She asked (!) me to clarity that she worked long hard hours developing her lesson plans, and only on the way to school decided how to handle the transitions into and out of the various waypoints of the day, based on her experiences from the previous school day.

        So please disregard the insinuation that my wife achieved all of her great results through inspiration rather than perspiration.

        She also asked me to convey that very good things are happening in certain public schools in the USA, including (of all places) New Jersey.

        That said, I’m still hoping your MKG Group website has an opening for a libertarian attorney with expertise/interest in alternative dispute resolution, educational business models and minarchism.

      • Gabriel says:

        You wife may be one of the few good teachers. Humans are the only animal capable of accumulation of information. Others can teach their young survival tricks, but it’s the same set of tricks going back to the beginning. Only we can teach trick+newtrick indefinitely. So, teachers are very important. The mistake leftists make is in assuming all teachers are, therefore, important.

    • Gabriel says:

      Professional certifications are a wasteful scam. It’s good for a given industry to have standards, but not to con employers into expecting everyone to have their paper, and to force you to tithe them indefinitely to keep their blessing “current”. This is fresh to me as someone offered to pay my way through the PMP program. I told him to put his money into his products and told the PMI to get lost. They way they pestered and sold me like used car salesmen, it was obviously a very shady thing.

      • Victor says:

        No kidding. They are like medieval guilds minus the professionalism. Certification has become an excuse for lazy school administrators to avoid their most important obligation: to find the best teachers. Accreditation programs are another scam intended to sell a flavor of the month to bureaucrats.

  5. Gabriel says:

    I’m of your mindset and want to be involved in the project in Honduras. I’ve came up through the ranks of technology and start-ups and currently work in the field of operations management (i.e. “Site Manager”). I’m certain there will be a need for people who get things done and who can overcome and adapt in any situation. Where should I look for opportunities regarding this project?

    • We will have a website up soon regarding the project. I expect it will get plenty of media attention. We’ll have a contact form there.

      • Gabriel says:

        Excellent. I’ll keep an eye out for the contact form.
        If jobs are reserved for Honduran nationals, I can bring investment capital down instead. Right now I’m focused on Vietnam because I have connections there, but that will be long done by the time your Honduras project gets rolling.

  6. Victor says:

    By the way, regarding your tagline about the purpose of education, I tell people that the purpose of a libertarian government is to foster mutually satisfactory intercourse. That usually raises an eyebrow or two, but I think it is very similar to “happiness and well-being for all.”

  7. Victor says:

    I’m surprised more people haven’t figured the connection between the you-know-what and the you-know-who, such that “who” can still field questions about his educational philosophy. It’s been a breath of fresh air to discuss his approach with him, and not be deluged by other comments.


  9. Victor says:

    Hah, I am sure there are a few good teachers around besides her. But don’t spare the right from your wrath. Dubya’s No Child Left Behind legislation is a fiasco. Congress micromanages the teaching industry and then demands accoountability from teachers, when they are highly restricted in what they can do. The problem with the Republicrats is that they think a certified teacher is a good teacher. That ain’t so.

  10. Kevin C. says:

    Been watching this blog and your upcoming project in Honduras with apt interest. There are a number of us from places such as Silicon Valley that are ripe to help lead the charge to start over and create a sustainable and optimized community led by visionaries, leaders and entrepreneurs with real world experience. Not to take away from education degrees and tenure, however, I agree that the system is completely broken and tweaking and tinkering are not the solution. Having been on the teams that created 9+ startups we learned as much from our failures as we did from our successes. That translates into invaluable education for generations to come that is completely undelivered in the US and elsewhere today. My wife and I run a successful coaching business so we’re big fans of the Socrates method and feel one’s ability to ask the right questions is key (not commonly found as a skill) but still the key.

    When will the site be up regarding the Honduras project?

  11. Gabriel says:

    Peter Schiff (schiffradio.com) is interested in having you on as a guest. Schiff is one of “us” regarding free market and entrepreneurial endeavor. If he contacts you, I hope you will accept his invitation to be on the show.

  12. Gabriel says:

    I just reviewed the MGK site. Looks good. Though I don’t quite see if I’d fit in as a resident with external income, an entrepreneur, or something else. It reads more like a closed Honduran project but the buzz is that it’s open to foreigners.

    Adjudicating under Honduran or Texas law is fascinating (I’m in Austin, Texas). Texas law is a very unique animal. There must be some unique goals in mind to have selected it.

    Say, there’s a typo here: http://www.grupomgk.com/english/governance.html
    The first bullet has a repeated sentence:
    Local governance with on-line monitoring of budgets, meetings, agendas, etc. Local governance with on-line monitoring of budgets, meetings, agendas, etc.

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