Education is Not a Commodity

I’ve read and listened to arguments about how to solve the problem of education in America. Some argue and claim that privatizing education would solve the problems. Turn teaching into a business. Give people vouchers and let them decide. It sounds democratic in theory but it’s not.

My first complaint with vouchers is that my tax dollars would go to churches. I would not want to see a penny of my tax dollars going to a school that teach religious dogma. I’m all for people having their own personal religious beliefs but I don’t believe that people have a right to teach their dogma as fact. I don’t want my tax dollars going to religions with whom I disagree. This is the primary reason for the separation of church and state in America.

I’d prefer the state keeps its nose out of religion at all costs. All kinds of churches could then clamor for vouchers and state hand-outs to run schools if we tore down that wall.

Turning education into a for profit system would be bad for communities but very profitable. This fact is why some are licking their chops at killing teacher’s unions.

If we did privatize education, the costs would skyrocket. Not because teacher’s salaries would dramatically rise, but because stockholders and CEOs would demand fat salaries and bonuses. Educational standards would be subject to the profit motive of a business.

Wages for teachers would bottom out as we went from instructor lead teaching to standardized testing. Standardization is anathema to education.

In a sense, wages for teachers would go up but not in an even or balanced manner. The best teachers would migrate to the school systems that pay the best. Having teachers fight for jobs and good wages would turn education into a cut throat industry.

Think of it like this. If you were to be a pitcher in Major League Baseball, you’d want to play for the New York Yankees. If you were stuck as a rookie reliever for the Kansas City Royals, it would be a waste of your time and talent.  Although, maybe with luck and perseverance, you might get picked up by the Yankees, but I’m digressing.

Rookie teachers would go through the grinder of entry level teaching positions, primarily getting the classes with the problem students. With no hope of getting tenure to teach classes with non-problem children, schools would become teacher mills, constantly churning away teachers.

This brings up a question, is teaching just a job like pushing buttons on a register or is it something else?

If teaching is “just a job,” then privatizing it is really no big deal. We can just plug and play new people into teaching jobs like finding a new person to flip burgers.


If education is something more than a service position, we need to give it some thought about what kind of future we’re constructing.

Do we want for profit diploma mills that give kids gold stars for passing a test, or do we want to create an education system that encourages learning and community development?

Thinking about education merely as an economic problem misses the point of education. Education is not a commodity. Education is what makes us human, and encourages focus on non-material things that give our lives value. Education gives us the ability to figure things out in life.

Knowing that George Washington was the first president is a simple fact. Knowing why he was the first president, what he stood for, what his life was about is what education is about.

Standarized testing and for profit schools simply devolve education into multiple choice queries. Education would become as simplistic as deciding what value meal you want at the local fast food chain. It would be an injustice to have future teachers take several years of post-secondary education in America to earn wages that were below the poverty line.

In a democracy we need more people who can think and fewer sheeple. Privatizing education would give the rich a real education and the masses McEducation.  Citizens of a democracy need to be able to ask questions not simply answer them in a robotic fashion.

To have better public schools we need to focus not on the teachers but on the quality of communities surrounding the schools. Improving the standard of living around all communities would give kids a leg up in society and encourage them to better scholarship. This would give us better teachers all around.

Simply looking for a simple solution to a complex problem does not make the problem less complex. Public schools have to take all kids. Private schools can discriminate. Privatizing education will keep the “bad kids” out. To get better schools we need to ask, why do we have bad kids?

That’s a problem that economics and business cannot answer. Answering that requires education and scholarship. It will require democratic and community oriented solutions.

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