Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hitler and Stalin liked centralized decision making ... do you?

Here's a real, real, real good example of what we don't need the state government doing: Connecticut Senator Thomas Gaffey State will push for legislation that would require public schools to wait until after Labor Day to start classes.

This is a good test case because most of us don't have a vested interest in school start times. Most of us don't care. (This, as opposed to sex education or soda machines or bake sales, where people want the government- any government- to come down on their side.) I've made the point on this blog, time and time again, that these are the sorts of issues that should be left up to local school boards and parents. Why do we need a state law telling schools when they have to stop and start- shouldn't school schedules reflect the will of the people living in the town who actually have children that attend the schools?

Once again, this is the same logic I've used when it comes to state soda and junk food bans- Let these issues be decided locally. Localism gives people more freedom and more of a voice in these sorts of decisions - And isn't democracy a good thing?

I think one of the worst aspects of the twentieth century has been the way in which the authoritarian and centralizing tendencies of both fascism and communism have been adopted by the free world. Certainly uniformity is needed in regards to laws about, say, business for instance, but that's because businesses interact across both local and state lines. Education has no such problems, so why not let decisions about education policy remain in as close to the hands of the people as possible?

I know I'm all over the place here, but that's sort of the point. The policy itself is unimportant - the real question is where the power to make these decisions should lie in the first place.

2 Comments:

Blogger John said...

"Certainly uniformity is needed in regards to laws about, say, business for instance, but that's because businesses interact across both local and state lines."

Doesn't education do that too? Isn't the idea of education to teach kids the same things, reading, writing and arithmetic? Not every child stays in the same school system their whole upbringing and not every child goes to college in state or in general. I think the goal of education has always been to be as uniform as possible. Obviously some states and towns will have differences in curriculum (a school in the Southwest might emphasize more about Native Americans, or a school in the Pacific Northwest could emphasize more about forests, etc), but in general, things should be the same.

Now, I'm not defending the school start time legislation, that just seems sort of unnecessary. But it's not the same as the school lunch thing and other school issues. I think our education system fails in the sense that schools aren't more alike. And no, I don't think it's socialism, I just think it's a step up from our current classism system.

7:11 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

Just keep in mind that the argument for centralized education is different than the argument for centralized rules of business. For instance, say every state and locality decided to make different rules about how long widgets could be. It would make it near impossible for widget makers to sell their products to anything more than a local consumer base. In centralized education are a lot less one-sided.

There's a great deal of sense to what you say- shouldn't kids have the same basic skills, and, in an increasingly mobile society, shouldn't parents be able to move without putting their children at some sort of education disadvantage because of differing curriculums.

At the same time, I think an argument can be made against centralization on the theory that the freedom of schools and localities to plan for themselves will lead to better and more innovative ideas. Really it's just sort of a grassroots, from the bottom up sort of argument, as opposed to a top down sort of argument.

Personally I think we have too much uniformity in education already, without it being mandated by law. Why is math structured the same- why is science structured the same- why do they follow the same sequential path around the country? I think some innovation would be a good thing. And I think my point is, overall, that the more widespread the rule- whether it's made on the federal or state level, the lesser the likiehood of innovation.

9:49 AM  

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