There are justified complaints about politicization and its consequent indoctrination in educational institutions, yet it is accepted that the state apparatus imposes curricular criteria on these centers, whether state or private, which in the latter case are deprived of independence.
The core characteristic of education lies in a process of trial and error in an evolutionary context.
No one should have the power to impose curricular structures since this closes the doors and windows of a system that requires maximum oxygen in a competitive process in which cross audits are established to achieve the highest levels of excellence. One of the pillars of any self-respecting education is to encourage independent thinking and the ability to question the status quo and clear out mental webs, which we intend to do in this article. The apparatus of force should be alien to education. It is not possible to teach freedom on the basis of compulsion.
Not only do the so-called ministries of education and culture not make sense, but state education is a contradiction in terms, as is state literature, state journalism, state art, and other nonsense. And I do not say “public education” since it is a disguise since private education is also for the public.
It is not in any way a matter of arguing that there are not excellent teachers in state institutions. On the other hand, it would not be consistent with my own record outside of private universities if I thought that all state education was deficient since I worked in state universities.
This is not to refute the fact that much good has been learned in government educational institutions through teachers’ hard work and meritorious work. Neither is it the case of discussing in our midst Sarmiento’s formidable work in a virgin territory, even with the criticism of having displaced private education due to the “gratuitousness” of his proposal (let’s remember in passing that nothing is free).
At this point, it is a matter of reviewing the substance of the matter, and not to limit it to the Argentine case, but to formulate a global analysis that fits all state educational institutions in all latitudes. It is not a matter of ill will, but independence and incentives, since it is not the same when one pays the bills as when one forces others to pay them.
Accreditations, where required, would be carried out, as was originally the case, through private academies and institutions that, in the process, also serve as cross audits and in competition for the quality of the programs.
On the other hand, it is necessary to consider the unique characteristics of each of those that apply for formal education, which are even multidimensional in the same person, so a dynamic and changing process is required.
It must be understood that we all pay taxes, especially the poorest, who may never have seen a tax form. This is because those who are de jure taxpayers reduce their investments, which, in turn, decreases wages and income in real terms, a sequence that takes place because capitalization rates are the only explanation for higher living standards.
Moreover, if we take into account the concept of marginal utility, it becomes clear that a monetary unit – although intersubjective comparisons of utility are not possible, nor can they refer to cardinal numbers – is generally not the same for a poor person as for a rich person. In the first case, keeping other factors constant, or ceteris paribus, the negative effect of the tax will be greater, which means that the impact of the tax will ultimately fall more heavily on the poor as a result of the aforementioned contraction in investment.
From another perspective, the costs per student in state educational entities are usually higher than in private institutions, for the same reason that “the tragedy of the commons” operates in terms of incentives that make the poorly named “state enterprises” inefficient. Therefore, state educational institutions should be sold, for example, to the same people in charge of the respective building blocks with all the necessary facilities.
And in the transition, in order to finance those who do not have sufficient income, but have conditions to apply to existing educational offerings, the voucher system has been repeatedly suggested. This system exhibits a non sequitur: this means that, from the premise that other persons should be forced to finance the education of others it does not follow that state educational institutions should exist, since the voucher (demand subsidies) allows the candidate in question to choose the private entity he prefers.
It has been said repeatedly that education is a public good, but this statement does not resist a technical analysis since it does not fit in with the principles of non-competition and non-exclusion proper attached to public goods.
It has also been said time and again that state education should be incorporated because it supports the idea of “equal opportunity.” This figure, prima facie seems attractive but is totally incompatible and mutually exclusive with equality under the law. Liberalism and an open society encourage people to have greater, unequal opportunities because people are different. Equality is before the law, not through it.
It is argued that children should have a minimum of education such as learning to read and write, but if parents feel this is important, this is what will be given priority as has happened throughout history through direct payments or through scholarships. It is very true that education is fundamental, but even more important is to be well fed and no common sense person, at this point, will propose that food production be in the hands of the state, because famine is certain.
If we pay attention to the writings of historians, we will see that, starting with Athens, the Rome of the Republic before the Empire, the Arab world in Spain and in the beginning of the American colonies there was no state interference in education. Anyone could set up a school and compete to attract students at very different prices and conditions, resulting in the best education in the world at that time.
Because government control gradually took over education, the first state system was installed in Germany and France in the 17th century. Already in the 18th century most of Europe was under the influence of this system (except Belgium, which imposed it in 1920).
Finally, I would like to point out that, in an open society, when parents are considered to be infringing on their children’s rights, be it in terms of education, food, or physical care, those who detect such behavior can act as subrogates under the law.
Alberto Benegas Lynch, Jr. is president of the Economic Sciences Section of the National Academy of Sciences of Buenos Aires