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Romney Is a Disaster on Education

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What a disaster conservatives are. They preach their old 1950s mantra “free enterprise, private property, and limited government” while embracing every socialist and interventionist program that comes down the pike. A recent example is Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s plan to fix America’s educational woes.

Needless to say, you’d never find a conservative calling for the end of public schooling, one of the most socialist programs you’d ever find. It’s not a coincidence that public schooling is a core program in Cuba and North Korea. Both countries fervently embrace socialism and so it’s not surprising that they ardently embrace public schooling.

Long ago conservatives made their peace with public schooling, notwithstanding their purported opposition to socialism. Conservatives were afraid that they wouldn’t be taken seriously by the media and the electorate if they called for “free enterprise, private property, and limited government” in the area of education. And so they went over to the statist side, even while continuing to preach their free-enterprise mantra.

So, you’d never expect someone like Mitt Romney to call for a total free market in education — that is, a total separation of school and state.

But wouldn’t you at least expect him to call for an end to all federal involvement in education? My gosh, even Ronald Reagan, whom conservatives portray as a paragon of “free enterprise, private property, and limited government,” called for abolishing the federal Department of Education.

According to the New York Times, Romney told a private group of donors in Florida last month that he would reduce the size of the Education Department or merge it into another agency.

That’s not exactly ending the Department of Education, is it? It’s clear that Romney believes that the federal government should continue to play an important role in the education of people’s children. As a conservative, he just wants the role to be more streamlined.

That’s what now passes for conservatism when it comes to education. What a disaster.

But it actually gets worse. Lamenting the horrific results of public schooling, Romney wants to use a “public report card” on each school so that parents can judge the quality of the school. Of course, as the Times pointed out, “It is uncertain how that proposal differs from existing report cards under the No Child Left Behind law under President Bush.”

In one of the most revealing aspects of how conservatives think, Romney wants public school students to be able to choose any public school in the state or any private school and to have federal funds follow them.

Conservatives call this type of thing “choice.” In the conservative mind, this is what freedom is all about: the ability of parents to select from a wide variety of government institutions and government-approved private institutions in which to have their children “educated,” with federal tax monies being provided to the schools of their choice. No doubt that Romney, along with other conservatives, would exclaim how proud they are of this “competitive” system.

Notice something important about this entire system: It has government playing an integral role in it at all levels — local, state, and federal. Within that government system, conservatives do their best to come up with ideas for new “reforms,” which they inevitably label “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.”

As the Times pointed out, “The challenge for Mr. Romney is that many of the ideas he touched on … have already been adopted by the Obama administration, whose education policies have all but co-opted traditional Republican positions.”

And why not? In principle, the only difference between liberals and conservatives is the rhetoric. Conservatives employ free-enterprise mantras while embracing the same statist programs as liberals. Education is a good example, as Romney demonstrates.

Why can’t statists just admit that the reason that public schooling is a disaster is simply because it’s a socialistic program? Socialism doesn’t work, not even when it’s run by American politicians and bureaucrats. It’s an inherently defective system. It cannot be made to work, not even with the most wondrous reforms that conservatives or liberals can come up with.

What will it take for people to finally give up on socialism? How much more damage and destruction must be done to children’s minds before people finally reject educational socialism, once and for all?

Let’s separate school and state, in the way our ancestors separated church and state. End all state involvement in education at all levels, including public schooling. Have a total free market in education, one in which families are responsible for the educational decisions of their children and where entrepreneurs in a free market are vying to provide the best education possible to people.

The free market works and it’s the only system that’s founded on moral principles. When it comes to education, people should reject statism and embrace the free market. It’s the best thing they could ever do for their children and everyone else’s children.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.