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Government & Politics        < Previous        Next >



How Liberal Economic Philosophy Has Wrecked Education


Q. What effect has economics had on how schools are being run today?


A huge effect. That's not all bad, of course; the skills of economics have high potential for helping educational administrators make better management decisions. But to the extent that the philosophy of economics that's most prevalent today is replacing classical American economics ideology, it's bad news, because it has destroyed competition and choice, and established a powerful government monopoly in public education.


For the last several decades, schools have been transformed by the ideas of British thinker John Mayard Keynes (pronounced "canes," 1883-1946, who developed the theory of macroeconomics. Keynesians position government as the answer to every problem, and the notion that government should intervene in the lives and choices of individuals for the good of the whole.


Keynes' ideas spurred Roosevelt's New Deal and the deeply entrenched ethic we have now in this country, that higher taxes and make-work public spending are the way to keep people employed and the economy alive, even though the services provided aren't as good as the private sector could have provided, and everyone's plunged into a bottomless pit of debt.


Keynesian economics spurs more activity by the government, not the private sector, and tends to create new problems that "force" government to keep spending and regulating more and more, displacing the private sector from its previous functions and responsibilities more and more.


Keynesian economics is why we are so deeply in debt with exploding government entitlement programs, levels of taxation that are becoming untenable for many people, a shrinking middle class, and so many marginalized people in this incredible land of plenty. We have these huge problems because we turned to Keynes and away from the free-market economics -- Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" -- that served as the framework for the American dream for the centuries before.


Keynes was the king of letting enormous public debt pile up with little or no worry about the impact on the generations to come, because, as this non-Christian ideologue said famously, "In the long run, we are all dead."


Here's how his ideas have played out in U.S. school philosophies:


n       The elite should be in charge because they're smarter, and everybody else should just come along for the ride without any meaningful input into what happens. But of course, the masses should still shoulder the cost.


n       Instead of outright government control as in Marxist systems, however, the control is in semi-autonomous corporate bodies operating within the framework of the State, similar to the medieval fiefdoms of Europe. That's where all these "public-private partnerships" are coming from, especially in education, and increasing influence by tax-sheltered Non-Government Organizations (NGO's) and foundations of the rich.


n       Keynesians want schools to become more like training centers than centers of liberal-arts education because they believe that, in the Information Age, the need for government control of the "means of production" has shifted from factories and farms, to "human capital" - what we used to call "people."



n       The rich and powerful will put their kids in private schools to position them for the few opportunities for future leadership, while the hoi polloi have no choice but to put theirs in the centrally-controlled, dumbed-down, highly bureaucratic "local education agencies" (as they're already called in England) that lead mostly to make-work and donkey work. There's the appearance of local control in these LEA's, but actually, they're just local branches of a national government agency, like post office branches. Chillingly, "LEA's" is the same term used in the America 2000, Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind federal education legislation of the past 25 years for what we used to call "local public schools."


n       To Keynesians, the group is more important than the individual, which is the opposite of the American philosophy. Group concepts such as "global interdependence," "world citizenship," "sustainable development," "equity" and "tolerance" will overshadow "anachronisms" of U.S. history such as "national sovereignty," "independence" and "inalienable rights." Keynesians believe aggregate demand for goods and services should rule over individual choices, perceived needs and desires. Conformity rules over choice, and submission to the government's imposed values over personal freedom of thought in important personal decisions such as career choices. It's basically "the government's way or the highway" in everything from school curriculum to gatekeeping for who gets into the "right" colleges and gets the best jobs.


n       Social control is better public policy than freedom, according to Keynesians. It's an elitist mentality. It's best to offer people a minimum of "choice" in areas that don't really matter so that they'll think they still live in freedom. To sustain this fiction, government must unify with the private sector to create "social control."


The Keynes philosophy and its consequences come into clearer focus when you study what other economists have said, and realized that Keynes was pointing us toward globally-aligned schools, a world bank, a single worldwide currency, and world socialism, while the free-market, laissez-faire economists whose ideas square better with what America is supposed to be, including Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises, were getting drowned out by the Big Government types.

Homework: Learn more about laissez-faire economics and how school choice might improve educational outcomes for children on and


By Susan Darst Williams Government & Politics 08 2008


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