Libertarians on education

Libertarians have recently been engaged in debates amongst themselves about educations. They’re basically debating whether education is 100% signaling or only 70% signaling.

Aretae offers a more nuanced summary of the debate, which you may find interesting.

I have several problems with this debate.

First, there is a moral tone to it that is not justified. Signaling seems to be considered "bad." I don’t understand why this is so. Humans – being social animals – signal. Humans always have signaled. Humans always will signal. If you want to improve education, I might suggest that you figure out how to make signaling more efficient – eliminating it is a hopeless task (like the Commies trying to eliminate profit).

Second, like most discussions among liberals and libertarians, this one fails to differentiate among people. The only public, pre-college school systems that I know anything about are suburban Minnesota’s (where I grew up) and urban Washington DC’s (where I live). The idea that these systems are the "same" in any meaningful way is absurd. The students attending the schools have wildly different goals. The parents of the students have wildly different expectations. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that the parents in MN were worried about which college their kids would get into while the parents in DC were worried that kids might get stabbed at school. To speak of "education" (without any differentiation!) as having x% of purpose A where x and A are the same in both these districts is ridiculous.

Third, the debate entirely skipped discussing a necessary prerequisite: what should education do? When reading the libertarian debates, one can’t help but think that the libertarians think that education should turn us all into entrepreneurs. They really seem to believe that if only the system worked right, soon all the children of the world would be founding their very own tech companies. This is hopelessly unrealistic. For some children, training that prepares them to work menial service jobs may be the most valuable educational experience.

I don’t want to defend the current education system, but I’m not sure getting everyone to drop out of school and start a business when they’re 13 is going to lead to better aggregate results.

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2 Responses to Libertarians on education

  1. Carter says:

    “Parents are not interested in producing the ‘complete man’ any more. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the modern world. You can hardly blame them, can you?”

    “Oh yes,” said Scott-King. “I can and do.”

  2. […] “Foseti’s Multicultural Weekend“, “The Obsidian Grudge Match“, “Libertarians on Education“, “Apologists for Government“, “HBD and […]

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