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We Wouldn’t Let Government Control Our Grocery Stores. Why Do We Let Them Control Our Schools?

Everyone I know wants to ensure that children have access to a quality education that will set them up for success.

Jan 15, 2021
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 28: Children wave their hands at a private nursery school January 28, 2005 in Glasgow, Scotland. The average price of pre-school care has increased over the past year, sending child care prices to an average of GBP200 in parts of the southeast. Many working parents in the UK have called for pre-school childcare subsidies such as those in France where nearly 100% of three-year-olds are in pre-school education, despite the fact that school attendance is not compulsory until they turn five.

The debate over how to best provide such opportunities has raged for decades. In simple terms, one side desires greater choice and freedom, while the other insists that improved education can only be achieved through strict government control of schools. 

Rather than rehashing the same old arguments, let us instead engage in a thought exercise regarding government’s involvement in another important aspect of our lives — access to food and nutrition — and see if we can draw some relevant parallels. After all, while access to education is important, it can be argued that access to food is just as important — if not more so. With that in mind, what would happen if we put the government in charge of grocery stores? 

Let’s say that at the height of the depression, the government decided to set up thousands of grocery stores across the country. Instead of shopping where you wish, you would be assigned a government grocery store based on your address. Instead of selecting what items to put in your shopping cart, a government agency would be responsible for determining what groceries were best for you and your family, citing a “scientific” approach to necessary caloric intake and dietary recommendations. Of course, if you are unsatisfied with their recommendations, you would be able to lobby your state or federal representative and ask that certain products be added via a legislative process. But, like all lobbying strategies, money generally speaks louder than the voices of consumers. As for those employed by the government grocery store, none of them would be rewarded for their work ethic, innovation, or creativity. Instead, they would be rewarded solely for their seniority.

Now that we have built this hypothetical system, when asked whether we would prefer such an approach, the vast majority of us would likely decide against a government takeover of our grocery stores. Then, we must ask, why are we happy for this level of government control to be applied to our education system?

The government assigns your child to a school based on your address. Parents have little to no say when it comes to the curriculum offered in schools. Problems or concerns regarding the quality of education or selected curriculum are addressed through a legislative process rather than consumer choice. Teachers are not rewarded based on the quality of the service they provide but their level of seniority within the government system.

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