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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Donald Trump, Jr. Was Right About American Public Education

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. |  August 3, 2016  Education Views

Donald Trump, Jr., son of the Republican presidential candidate, had the audacity to be political incorrect at the recent Republican convention when he described American public education as being fundamentally flawed, “Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class. Now they’re stalled on the ground floor. They’re like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students.”

This was foreseen by the renowned nineteenth century philosopher, John Stuart Mill, who had warned about government schools in his 1859 treatise On Liberty“A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another…it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.”

As history shows, Trump’s speech only mirrored what American Federation for Teachers president, Albert Shanker, wrote in 1989 about public education.

"It’s time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It’s no surprise that our school system doesn’t improve: It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy….

After decades of economic failure, even the Soviet bloc seems to have concluded that only markets work, that a system without incentives and rewards drives out the good and favors the mediocre."

Shanker questioned why education leaders had allowed the situation to get so far and why they were not taking the lead in correcting the problems.  He predicted that, “Unless we change for the better -- and soon -- policymakers are going to find a cure that will be painful and radical.”

He saw that change was already coming.

Milton Friedman, who won the 1976 American Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economic Sciences, was the twentieth century's most prominent advocate of free markets.  In 1980 he wrote that public schools were suffering from the malady of “an over-governed society,” describing the American public school system as “an island of socialism in a free-market sea.”  He and wife Rose, who was also a free-market economist, established the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in 1996 to educate parents about the benefits of free market for schools.

As the public anger toward the dismal output of education grows, those bureaucrats in control react by forcing schools to comply with yet more federal mandates where special interest groups battle for education resources.  The goal is to spend more money – not to solve the problem.

The federal government has mandated a rapid fire implementation of the new education bill, Every Student Succeeds Act, over a short span of just a few months -- thus effecting cramming the massive piece of legislation and additional expense down the throats of Americans.  Very soon taxpayers are going to wake up and realize they have been shafted yet again by political hacks at both the federal and state levels.

Although defenders of the status quo shriek about how charter schools and vouchers are killing public schools, they never mention the cause of the problem or that it should be eradicated.  Nor do they seem willing to take the lead in solving the problem.  No, they will not take the lead because they are feeding at the public trough and, thereby, serving as accomplices in using public schools as the engine to drive political and social change.

The public is reacting to this bureaucratic arrogance by demanding that their state legislatures pass more school choice programs so their children can exit traditional public schools.  There are now 29 states that offer school choice with a total of 60 school choice programs in the U.S. with more expected to come.

Collapse of the American public school system as we know it is now inevitable.

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