Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Freedom, not perestroika

Higher education needs more than perestroika, George Leef writes. He's exactly right, but one can't read his latest column without thinking also of K-12 education.
Under Mikhail Gorbachev, the rigid Soviet system gave way to glasnost (openness and freedom of discussion) and perestroika (restructuring of the system). Well-intentioned people proposed lots of changes to transform the nation's inefficient economy. They wanted to make better use of technology. They wanted more accountability for enterprise managers. They wanted to make the system work better.

What they didn’t want, however, was to scrap central planning in favor of unrestricted free enterprise. A few economists understood that trying to "fix" the central planning model was a waste of time because the model itself was the core of the problem—but challenging it was beyond the pale.

The reformers' ideas were well intentioned, but they could make very little difference. They didn't strike at the root of the problem.

So yes, I favor public education reforms such as merit pay for teachers, getting rid of trial de novo, reducing administrative bloat, and all sorts of things which are, heck, better than nothing. But in the end I can't get too excited about reforming socialism.

In K-12 education, we don't need perestroika. We need freedom. Not only is it more consistent with our American ideals, it also works better.

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