Despite the tragic results of public education, American parents have yet to realize that to properly educate their children, they must entirely reject the current state-controlled system. They must demand that government give them back their taxed money so they can assume sole responsibility for choosing and paying for their children’s education. The government has no right either to the money it taxes, or to the students it forcefully enrolls. Government should not be in the education business. Government is a political institution, not an educational one. Its function is to protect people’s right to pursue their education, not to provide them with one. Education should be a private business.

In a free market, different schools and teachers would compete for students. The best schools would succeed and multiply and their franchises would pop up everywhere. The worst schools would just loose their students and close down. Parents would have the freedom to choose their children’s schools. In a free market, curriculums would compete against each other; so would textbooks and teaching tools; and the best would drive out the worst.

We would never accept having government bureaucrats decide on our bookstores’ selection. Yet most of us do not seem to mind that they are the ones choosing our school libraries’ selection.

Education is very important: it guides the development of the human mind. The state should never, ever, have control over that aspect of human existence. This is because the state already has control of the gun, the legal monopoly on the use of force. As novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand discovered, “Mind and force are opposites.” The human mind needs freedom to function and to develop. It cannot work under compulsion or force. An enslaved mind is a useless mind. And government is the agency that works exclusively through the use of force. Government does not propose, it imposes. It does not suggest, it orders. Control over education should reside exclusively with parents and students, not government bureaucrats.

Yet in America, government controls the education of 47 million children. It hires and trains their teachers, it decides on their curriculum, their class size, their textbooks, and on every other aspect of their education. We have a situation where unaccountable bureaucrats decide on the lives and education of these children. And even worse, the government has all but eliminated its competition.

While private schools must earn their financing by the voluntary consent of students’ parents, public schools take their financing by forced taxation. Private schools have to squeeze educational value out of every dollar they earn. Public schools have only to make sure they spend their budget.

Private schools must pay their teachers by merit, for results, so they can hire, maintain and provide the best. Public schools for decades have refused to pay by merit, so they can hire and keep whomever they want.

If a private school fails at educating a student, his parents can transfer him elsewhere. If a public school fails, well, that’s just too bad. If a private school fails at educating its students, it soon goes out of business. If a public school fails, it gets a bigger budget.

Private schools have to maintain and improve their quality — constantly. Public schools have only to promise they will do their best. Private schools have to give parents and students what they want. Public schools can give parents and students whatever they, the bureaucrats, want. Private schools have to really educate their students. Public schools just have to take them in and see them out.

Moreover, private schools have to compete against public schools that offer education for free. And that’s not all. Private schools, and even home schooling, can only exist by government permission. Government controls the licensing of all education.

The government exercises the power to decide which competitors to let into, or take out of, the education market; it forces taxpayers, including its competitors, to finance its public schools; it mandates its customers’ enrollment; it competes with others by offering its services for free. The plain truth is that the government has a virtual monopoly on education. This is why parents feel impotent to prevent the disintegration they are witnessing in the schools and in their children’s minds. Parents have no control.

Public Education is a despicable monopoly that unfortunately was accepted by the American people as a good thing. But if Americans would just question this misguided belief, they might just glimpse that the answer to a better education lies in a free market where each parent has total control over their money and their own children’s education. All of us should demand that the government return to parents the rightful control they should have never relinquished over their children’s education. And the sooner we do it, the better.

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David Holcberg

David Holcberg, a former civil engineer and businessman, is now a writer living in Southern California. He is also a writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.