Bureaucrats vs. Parents — Who Should Choose Where Children Are Educated?

A glimpse into the public school establishment's mindset

Normally spokespeople for the public school establishment are extremely careful and very good about sticking to their talking points.

But recently at a House Education Committee hearing about expanding parental choice, Debbie Squires of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association let this slip (video below):

Educators go through education for a reason. They are the people who know best about how to serve children. That is not necessarily true about an individual resident. Not saying that they don't want the best for their children, but they may not know what actually is best from an education standpoint.

The idea that four years of pedagogical training is all it takes to identify the best interests of all students is absurd. No group of politicians, government bureaucrats, school board members, union representatives, superintendents, principals, classroom teachers or other “experts” could obtain such knowledge.

(Of this group, classroom teachers have the best chance of making good decisions on behalf of kids, but they’re also the least likely to impact what gets taught, how it gets taught and who teaches it. Those questions are largely determined by bureaucrats, politicians and empowered special interest groups.)

Many parents are offended by this type of mentality active within the public school system — and rightfully so.

If state policy were based on it, all forms of educational choice would be outlawed, including homeschooling, private schools, public charters and open-enrollment amongst public schools. Even the most basic form of choice — choosing a school by choosing a home — would be forbidden. We’d have a system instead that one might expect to find in Brave New World: Bureaucrats and politically chosen “experts” would manage every education-related decision pertaining to every child.

Of course, anyone familiar with economics, especially Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” would recognize the fatal flaw in this type of system. No one person, group of experts, or system can obtain all the knowledge necessary for making the best decision for each unique child.

This is one of the many reasons why competitive education marketplaces are far superior to those that are tightly managed by the state — parents are best suited (although still imperfect) to make educational decisions for the immensely diverse interests, desires and needs of children.



Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.