Milton Friedman Was Right to Call Them 'Government Schools'

Today is Milton Friedman’s birthday. He was the 1976 Nobel-prize winning economist who promoted free-market ideals and limited government. The Economist called him “the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century…possibly of all of it.”

He died in 2006, but one of his lasting legacies is EdChoice, formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the organization Friedman and his economist wife, Rose Director Friedman, founded in 1996. The non-profit strives to “advance educational freedom and choice for all as a pathway to successful lives and a stronger society.”

It is fitting that today Friedman is mentioned in The New York Times, but it’s not to offer birthday wishes. Instead, today’s opinion article written by journalist Katherine Stewart, author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, criticizes Friedman and his current education choice followers.

Friedman’s Take

Stewart alludes to Friedman’s influential 1955 paper advocating education choice and school vouchers for parents. In that paper, Friedman offers the foundation for modern school choice theory. He begins with a statement as true today as it was then:

The current pause, perhaps reversal, in the trend toward collectivism offers an opportunity to reexamine the existing activities of government and to make a fresh assessment of the activities that are and those that are not justified.”

Friedman goes on to advocate for the “denationalization of education” through choice and vouchers. He writes:

Given, as at present, that parents can send their children to government schools with out special payment, very few can or will send them to other schools unless they too are subsidized. Parochial schools are at a disadvantage in not getting any of the public funds devoted to education; but they have the compensating advantage of being run by institutions that are willing to subsidize them and can raise funds to do so, whereas there are few other sources of subsidies for schools. Let the subsidy be made available to parents regardless where they send their children – provided only that it be to schools that satisfy specified minimum standards – and a wide variety of schools will spring up to meet the demand. Parents could express their views about schools directly, by withdrawing their children from one school and sending them to another, to a much greater extent than is now possible.”

“Government Schools”

In her op-ed today, entitled “What ‘Government School’ Means,” Stewart writes at length about the term “government schools,” a phrase Friedman used and that many of us use today to describe compulsory, taxpayer-funded, government-controlled schooling. She argues that referring to public schools as “government schools” is rooted in a racist past of “American slavery, Jim Crow-era segregation, anti-Catholic sentiment and a particular form of Christian fundamentalism,” and she attacks the marriage of those advocating economic and religious freedom. Stewart writes:

Many of Friedman’s successors in the libertarian tradition have forgotten or distanced themselves from the midcentury moment when they formed common cause with the Christian right.”

In its modern usage, as well as Friedman’s use of the term, the phrase “government schooling” is often used to draw attention to increasing federal and state control of education, and the corresponding weakening of parental influence and choice. For instance, in his 1991 Wall Street Journal op-ed, former New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto, writes:

Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents.”

In her article today, Stewart links compulsory government schooling with democracy: She concludes:

When these people talk about ‘government schools,’ they want you to think of an alien force, and not an expression of democratic purpose. And when they say ‘freedom,’ they mean freedom from democracy itself.”

But for Friedman and his current school choice followers, freedom from a government-controlled, compulsory institution is a fully democratic expression that widens opportunity and expands liberty. School choice beyond government schools also frees many young people from what can be an oppressive childhood mandate.

Facilitating Freedom with School Choice

As a teacher for 30 years, Gatto saw first-hand the harm that compulsory government schooling can cause. In his Wall Street Journal article he writes:

Good schools don’t need more money or a longer year; they need real free-market choices, variety that speaks to every need and runs risks. We don’t need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it. I can’t teach this way any longer. If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know.”

School choice measures can promote freedom and opportunity, and reduce harm to children. They can also help to limit the role of government while augmenting the role of parents and educators.

Friedman concludes his 1955 paper describing how school choice measures can facilitate freedom. He states that these measures would lead to “a sizable reduction in the direct activities of government, yet a great widening in the educational opportunities open to our children. They would bring a healthy increase in the variety of educational institutions available and in competition among them. Private initiative and enterprise would quicken the pace of progress in this area as it has in so many others. Government would serve its proper function of improving the operation of the invisible hand without substituting the dead hand of bureaucracy.”

Happy Birthday, Mr. Friedman. May your legacy endure.

Kerry McDonald has a B.A. in Economics from Bowdoin and an M.Ed. in education policy from Harvard. She lives in Cambridge, Mass. with her husband and four never-been-schooled children. Follow her writing at Whole Family Learning.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

On the radio program Tuesday, Glenn Beck broke down today's inflation, explaining what it is and giving proof that those at the top — politicians and world elite — continue to take advantage of our declining economy to advance their own agenda. He also revealed how a recent decision by Citibank and powerful investment management company, BlackRock, not only puts the U.S. further behind but also allows for China to gain worldwide control.

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For the first time in the history of "The Glenn Beck Program," former President Donald Trump joined Glenn to give his take on America's direction under President Joe Biden compared to his own administration. He explained why Biden's horrific Afghanistan withdrawal was "not even a little bit" like his plan, and why he thinks it was "the most embarrassing event in the history of our country."

Plus, the former president gave his opinion on China's potential takeover of Bagram Air Base, the Pakistani Prime Minister, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Glenn asked President Trump how similar the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan was to his administration's plan.

"Not even a little bit," Trump answered. "We had a great plan, but it was a very tenuous plan. It was based on many conditions. For instance, you can't kill American soldiers. ... You have to understand, I did want to get out. But I wanted to get out with dignity, and I wanted to take our equipment out. And I didn't want soldiers killed. ... What [Biden] did was just indefensible. He took the military out first and he left all the people. And then we became beggars to get the people out. I had a plan to get them out very quickly. But first, the Americans would go out."

Trump told Glenn that his plan included maintaining Bagram Air Base and explained why he would not have left "a single nail" behind in Afghanistan for the Taliban to seize.

"We were going to keep Bagram open," he explained. "We were never going to close that because, frankly, Bagram is more about China than it is about Afghanistan. It was practically on the other border of China. And now we've lost that. And you know who is taking it over? China is taking it over. We spend $10 billion to build that base. It's got the longest, most powerful runways in the world. And China has now got its representatives there and it looks like they'll take it over. Glenn, it's not believable what's happened. You know, they have Apache helicopters. These are really expensive weapons, and they have 28 of them. And they're brand-new. The latest model."

Glenn mentioned recent reports that Gen. Milley, America's top military officer, made "secret phone calls" to his counterpart in China while President Trump was in office.

"I learned early on that he was a dope," Trump said of Gen. Milley. "He made a statement to me — and I guarantee that's what happened to Biden — because I said, 'We're getting out of Afghanistan. We have to do it.' And I said, 'I want every nail. I want every screw. I want every bolt. I want every plane. I want every tank. I want it all out, down to the nails, screws, bolts ... I want every single thing. And he said, 'Sir, it's cheaper to leave it than it is to bring it.'

"The airplane might have cost $40 million, $50 million ... millions and millions of dollars. So, you think it's cheaper to leave it than to have 200 pilots fly over and fly all the equipment out? ... I said, you've got to be nuts. I mean, give me a tank of gas and a pilot and I just picked up a $40 million-dollar airplane. It was amazing. So, I learned early that this guy is a dope. But what he did, is he hurt our country ... and he shouldn't have been allowed to do it. And bad things should happen to him."

Watch the video clip below to catch more of the conversation or find the full interview on BlazeTV:


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In a shocking but underreported conversation ahead of the G7 Speakers' meeting in London last week, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admitted that the administration knows China is committing "genocide" against the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, but thinks working with the regime on climate change is more important.

On the radio program, an outraged Glenn Beck dissected Pelosi's speech and broke down how — along with the Biden administration's abandonment of Americans in Afghanistan, and the Democrat decision to follow measures of medical "equity" — the far left is revealing how little they really care about human life.

Glenn played a video clip of Pelosi making the following statement:

We've always felt connected to China, but with their military aggression in the South China Sea, with their continuation of genocide with the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province there, with their violation of the cultural, linguistic, religious priority of Tibet, with their suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and other parts of China, as well – they're just getting worse in terms of suppression, and freedom of speech. So, human rights, security, economically [sic].

Having said all of that ... we have to work together on climate. Climate is an overriding issue and China is the leading emitter in the world, the U.S. too and developed world too, but we must work together.

"We have Nancy Pelosi admitting the United States of America knows that they're not only committing [genocide], they're continuing to commit it. Which means, we've known for a while," Glenn noted. "And what does she say? She goes on to say, yes, they're committing genocide against the Uyghurs, but having said that, I'm quoting, 'the overriding issue,' is working together on climate change.

"Would we have worked with Hitler on climate change? Would we have worked with Hitler on developing the bomb? Would we have worked with Hitler on developing the Autobahn? Would we have worked with Hitler on his socialized medicine? Would we have worked with Hitler on any of his national, socialist ideas?" he asked.

"The answer is no. No. When you're committing genocide, no! She said 'we have to work together on climate,' because climate is the 'overriding issue.' The overriding issue? There is no way to describe this mindset. That, yes, they are killing an entire group of people because of their ethnicity or religion. They are systematically rounding them up, using them for slave labor, and killing them, using their organs and selling them on the open market. They are nothing more than cattle. For us to recognize it and do nothing about it is bad enough. But to say, 'we recognize it, but we have bigger things to talk to them about,' is a horror show."

Glenn went on to urge Americans to "stand up together in love, peace, and harmony," or risk watching our nation become the worst plague on human life yet.

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The fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008 marked the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history and economic collapse was felt throughout the world. But now China's own version of Lehman Brothers, Evergrande, is teetering closer and closer to that edge, too. On the radio program Thursday, Glenn Beck gave the latest update and predicted how it will affect Asian markets and what it could mean for America's economy.

Glenn explained why he believes a major collapse that is happening now in China will have a cascading effect into a "controlled collapse," a managed decline that will dramatically change America's economy and the way we all live.

"You will not recognize your lifestyle. Hear me," Glenn warned. "And that's not a right-left thing. That's a right-wrong thing. We're on the wrong track. I'm telling you now, there's new information and you are not going to recognize the American lifestyle. ... It could happen tomorrow. It could happen in five years from now, but it will happen. We are headed for a very different country. One where you don't have the rights that you have. And you certainly don't have the economic privileges that Americans are used to."

"The same thing that happened in 2008 is now happening in China," Glenn continued. "This time, it's going to take everything down. When it collapses, it will take everything down."

Watch the video below to hear Glenn break down the details:

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