Once again, politics has been successful in doing one thing really efficiently—creating controversy. In the midst of all this talk about the health care bill, the slowly recovering economy, and the ever-expanding war on terror, the Texas State Board of Education recently approved changes to the state’s curriculum. The changes that were approved by the board have included things like the questioning of the theory of evolution, removing Thomas Jefferson as a world thinker from history curricula, and questioning the secularity of the Founding Fathers. It was approved based on party lines, with the conservative Republicans winning with a vote of 10-5. This may affect other states in the nation as well. Texas is one of the largest buyers and distributors of textbooks in the nation, and several states follow the guidelines set by the board, effectively changing the curricula of those states. All that’s needed now is a final approval from the board—which is most likely going to happen. The board is failing to achieve its sole purpose of existence: to educate the students of the Lone Star State.
The failure of the state and the government is utterly apparent here. The libertarian point of view gives a completely different take on what should be done. All that’s happening is that one one-size-fits-all education system is being replaced by another one-size-fits-all education system. Standards that are set by the state mean that everyone has to be able to reach these goals, assuming that every child will and must learn the same things, when in fact every child learns differently and will believe in different things. What is taking place is that one party is forcefully imposing its point of view on another party about what is to be taught in schools. Instead of offering new perspectives to be taught, one ideology is replacing another due to the passive-aggressive manner in which the conservative Republicans imposed their will. Political involvement in education doesn’t allow for free thought and instead mandates that into which children will be indoctrinated.
There are other things that the Board is dictating, like teaching the right to keep and bear arms and an individual’s rights to protect their property. These are things that libertarians support and believe but wouldn’t want to be taught in this way. It should be an individual’s prerogative to choose to exercise these rights, and individuals should not be forced into believing them through the coercion of the state. Murray Rothbard once stated that education by the state is not guided by altruism. Instead, it is guided by the desire to coerce the population into a mold desired by the establishment. People should be able to choose what to learn instead of being force-fed an education that they don’t want. Teachers should be able to teach without the state dictating what they should teach, and students should be able to decide for themselves what they want to learn according to that in which they can excel.
An alternative to being forced into a state-sponsored education can be found in homeschooling, where parents can actually teach what they want their children to learn. This provides an opportunity for those who don’t necessarily agree with the state education system to teach whatever values or lessons they feel are best for their children. The freedom to teach in a coercion-free environment will allow students to thrive and succeed to the best of their abilities instead of having to follow a mandate. Another alternative is for children to go to private schools, where they can also learn in a coercion-free environment and learn to the best of their abilities. Though there is a greater amount of freedom in homeschooling and private schooling, there are still limits in place, as students must take periodic assessment tests in some states.
In the end, when the government is involved in the education process, the rights of students are diminished, even taken away, because they have no ability to learn what they want to make themselves truly successful. Success, as defined by the state, is effectively limiting what students can become. The state may change what is being taught, but individualism will always prevail, because we are not the same and shouldn’t be treated as such. Instead of asking why the education system is failing our children, we should be asking why the state is involved in the first place. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Syed Hossain is a Columbia College sophomore majoring in economics. He is a member of the Columbia University Libertarians. Benjamin Malec is a sophomore in the School of Engineering and Applied Science majoring in mechanical engineering.