North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Public Education as a Social Welfare Program -- What is the principle: Indiv

Public Education as a Social Welfare Program -- What is the principle: Individual Rights? Or The End Justifies the Means?

Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 169
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In the discussion thread entitled “Moment of Silence,” I suggested that the issue of separation of church and state would not come up in education if we did not have socialized education. After my initial suggestion, Travis and Santiago made a few posts back and forth on that thread regarding the pragmatic pros and cons of public education, until Travis ("Lathanar") posted on March 19, 2006 the suggestion that we should not highjack the "Moment of Silence" discussion thread for this topic. I think Travis made a good “point of order,” so I am starting a separate thread here to continue the discussion regarding socialized education.


Picking up from Travis's post on March 19, 2006, Travis wrote:

I love the talk of stolen and extorted money [to support public education]. Such animosity. As for proof, show me a society of strictly private funded schools that has better or even same levels of education our nation has. It may be out there and I don't know about it, and I'd like to see how they do it.

As for our being a leader of education, I don't know if there would be any way to prove if our quality of education is better, there are so many points you could argue about what constitutes better. I do know we churn out more doctorates than any other nation, which I'm sure many would say is irrelevant.

If you're advocating that only those that can afford to go to private school go, and everyone else relies on charities to get educated, I can't see that as having any beneficial outcome. If you see it, I'd love to discuss the next meeting how that would work.

I, too, would like to discuss the issue of whether or not we should have public education at our next meeting. In preparation, I would like to suggest that we consider how the discussion should be framed.

On the one hand, we can discuss the principle of individual rights, such as the right to property. This would address issues such as whether or not people should have individual rights, where they come from, and what they mean, and can they be taxed or otherwise compromised.

On the other hand, we can discuss pragmatic issues. For example, are we the leader of global education? Do we graduate the most PhDs in the world? If we do, is that worth compromising or giving up individual rights? If we don't, should we abolish public education? What about the poor who can't afford to pay to educate their children? Without public education, would we end up with hordes of uneducated people? If millions would be uneducated, should we keep public education and give up individual rights? If it would only be a few thousand here and there, should we abolish public education but keep all other welfare programs open for discussion? How should we force people to pay for public education? Should people in Highland Park, a relatively rich area of Dallas, be forced to pay for the education of people in poorer areas of Texas? What about education in Somalia? Education there would be a good thing, too, but would it just be too expensive for us to pay for? Or we don't have to pay because the Somalis can't force us to pay for their children's education, but the people in other parts of Texas can force those in Highland Park to pay?

Most of us would probably agree that property rights are a good thing. Most of us would probably agree that education is a good thing. So how do we choose whether or not we should have public education? Does the end justify the means? Who decides the end and the means?

-- Todd
Santiago Valenzue...
sanjavalen
Dallas, TX
Post #: 55
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Its quite simple.

Theft is wrong, no matter who does it and what its for.

Taxes are money that is taken from you under the assumption that if you do not give it without making a fuss, the government will just take it from you. It is theft, and it is wrong. Ergo, publically funded schools are wrong.

A school funded by charity does not need the government to oversee it.

A school funded only by the people who attend it and which has no power to coerce money from nonattendants does not need the government to oversee it.

If someone honestly thinks it would be in everyone's best interests to fund, say, a charity to put young people from families who could not normally go to school through school, well, why not try to convince us of that and get us to voluntarily give said charity our money instead of pointing a gun and saying "Its for your own good!"

I've had quite enough of this "its for your own good" nonsense already, I don't want any more of it.
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 15
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Looking forward to the discussion.

- Travis
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 170
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Hi Santiago,

In fairness to Travis and others who are learning about Objectivism, I have the following comments:

First, I don’t think it’s that simple. You have only offered the premise of your position, which is that: “It [taxation] is theft, and it is wrong.” I think Travis and others may have questions about the validity of this premise, which means they question all the rest of your argument. The premise may seem obvious to you, but you have not made or referenced an Objectivist argument for it.

Second, in an earlier post on this topic you have raised pragmatic arguments about what would happen under a school-voucher system (which I agree with) and that a private system would work better. Travis responded with some pragmatic arguments and questions. We can certainly discuss these, but let’s recognize them for what they are. Once we recognize them as pragmatic arguments, we should also first consider whether pragmatic arguments are even relevant to making a decision on issues of public education as a welfare program, why or why not, and if they are relevant in any way, how they might be relevant.

Finally, I don’t know what to make of your statement that you’ve had quite enough of “its for your own good” nonsense and that you “don’t want any more of it.” Do you mean that you are unwilling to further discuss these issues?

-- Todd
Chris Jones
gearjammer351
Dallas, TX
Post #: 26
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I perceive Santiago's statement to mean that he is tired of the attitude that if something is "for your own good" it justifies theivery to support it. If this is in fact his position I must say that I agree. I will attempt to posit an objectivist argument though I anticipate being wrong. The "for your own good" crowd tend to use "your" as a substitute for "society", and societal good is not an objectivist goal. I do not see how paying thousands per year in tax to a school system where I do not have a child being educated serves my interests. Claire and I are incapable of having children, and neither of us want any, so we receive no benefit (and never will) from the money being taken from us. I am not opposed to all forms of public services. If my house were on fire the fire department would come extinguish it and even rescue me if possible; for this service I am willing to pay taxes. There are other public services that I either use or have possible need for-such as public streets and emergency services. It is the services that I have no use for that I resent paying for.

Somewhat off topic, but related: working at a community college I see the results of public education daily. Recent high school graduates whose lack of knowledge is appalling, but they have been well indoctrinated by statists and have loads of (unwarranted) self esteem. Even if I had a child I would send them to a private school where I feel they would be better educated, or possibly home school them. Public school would be a last resort, but I would still be paying tax to support the public schools.

A possible solution for funding, a progressive tax based upon usage of public services? I would be willing to pay fee for service each time I call the police, fire/rescue, or an annual, per-child fee for use of the public schools. Perhpas the 'poor' of the country would reconsider their decisions if they actaully paid for the services they receive, instead of being paid for bad decision making.
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 17
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I perceive Santiago's statement to mean that he is tired of the attitude that if something is "for your own good" it justifies theivery to support it. If this is in fact his position I must say that I agree. I will attempt to posit an objectivist argument though I anticipate being wrong. The "for your own good" crowd tend to use "your" as a substitute for "society", and societal good is not an objectivist goal. I do not see how paying thousands per year in tax to a school system where I do not have a child being educated serves my interests. Claire and I are incapable of having children, and neither of us want any, so we receive no benefit (and never will) from the money being taken from us. I am not opposed to all forms of public services. If my house were on fire the fire department would come extinguish it and even rescue me if possible; for this service I am willing to pay taxes. There are other public services that I either use or have possible need for-such as public streets and emergency services. It is the services that I have no use for that I resent paying for.

Somewhat off topic, but related: working at a community college I see the results of public education daily. Recent high school graduates whose lack of knowledge is appalling, but they have been well indoctrinated by statists and have loads of (unwarranted) self esteem. Even if I had a child I would send them to a private school where I feel they would be better educated, or possibly home school them. Public school would be a last resort, but I would still be paying tax to support the public schools.

A possible solution for funding, a progressive tax based upon usage of public services? I would be willing to pay fee for service each time I call the police, fire/rescue, or an annual, per-child fee for use of the public schools. Perhpas the 'poor' of the country would reconsider their decisions if they actaully paid for the services they receive, instead of being paid for bad decision making.


This is the type of discussion I was hoping to get into. Pay per use has it's merits, and for a lot of things would work well. I have often toyed with the idea of charging tuition for enrolling children in public schools, in some form of a monthly/ quarterly tax type for children enrolled, and removing property tax. I do know though significant portion of the school taxes come from businesses too. Should you remove that, and if so, how much of a hardship will it end up being for parents to enroll their children? I'd be interested if anyone could actually work out what the costs would be if school funding came solely from the parents enrolling children and what that burden would end up being.

I think for myself too, seeing "societal good" not being a goal at all is a hard thing to swallow, and for me education is one of the most fundamental building blocks if a society expects decent growth and advancement. I don't like a majority of welfare type programs, but I guess I just value the impact on education too much.

- Travis


edit- (Figured these out roughly, know I'll never be able to remember them for Sat:
Going off the plano school budget, the property tax collected is $437,531,589 which works out to $8,285 per student, for my family would be $33,140 tuition per year, $41,425 when the next one hits school. The redneck school I went to for a few years would be $6,341 per student for a really crummy education.)
Chris Jones
gearjammer351
Dallas, TX
Post #: 29
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Agreed that there is a social goal in public education, and the good perhaps benefits us all. I was making a point that I am unsure if I totally agree with for the sake of discussion. I am not opposed to the concept of public education, but in practice it seems we are getting a substandard product. We spend more per student than any other country on earth and by many measures it does not seem that we are getting the best results. Although my evidence is anecdotal, there have been many studies that have come to the same conclusion. I am not really sure what the answer is, I just believe than free market competition produces the best and most efficient results nearly every time.
A former member
Post #: 75
In preparation for this discussion, I suggest that everyone read the essay by Ayn Rand on public education in Capitalism: The uknown ideal
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 18
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Can someone bring this to the meeting? I read the bit Amazon has up and am not sure I'll get a chance to get a copy and fully read it before hand, but I find her reasoning very flawed on the pages available, and would like to discuss that.

-Travis
Old Toad
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 172
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Hi Dean,

I hesitate to post in reply because I have not for years read the essay you are referring to by Ayn Rand on public education in her book "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal." As I am supposed to be working right now, I can't look it up.

But by the book's title and if memory serves, that book is about politics.

Travis's interest from his postings appears to be primarily the political and practical. This is certainly understandable, especially as he and his wife have five children to be personally concerned about.

But can we meaningfully discuss politics and public education without discussing the groundwork, which is metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics? If we are not working from the same premises, I am sure the political discussion will be lively, but it will likely be like ships passing in the night.

Assuming Travis will go along with us on the reality and objectivity of existence, and that reason is the standard, is there a more fundamental essay you could recommend to us, perhaps discussing the basis of individual rights?

-- Todd

Edited to correct number of children. Not six, but five is still a lot!
-- Todd
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