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An old debate

Posted By: Larry Willmore on September 30, 2004
 
This is an old debate. John Stuart Mill, in his 1871 textbook, Principles of Political Economy, expressed concern with possible government monopoly of the schools of his day and, consistent with his liberal philosophy, defended parental choice:

One thing must be strenuously insisted on; that the government must claim no monopoly for its education, either in the lower or in the higher branches; must exert neither authority nor influence to induce the people to resort to its teachers in preference to others, and must confer no peculiar advantages on those who have been instructed by them. Though the government teachers will probably be superior to the average of private instructors, they will not embody all the knowledge and sagacity to be found in all instructors taken together, and it is desirable to leave open as many roads as possible to the desired end. It is not endurable that a government should, either de jure or de facto, have a complete control over the education of the people. To possess such a control, and actually exert it, is to be despotic. A government which can mould the opinions and sentiments of the people from their youth upwards, can do with them whatever it pleases. Though a government, therefore, may, and in many cases ought to, establish schools and colleges, it must neither compel nor bribe any person to come to them; nor ought the power of individuals to set up rival establishments, to depend in any degree upon its authorization. It would be justified in requiring from all the people that they shall possess instruction in certain things, but not in prescribing to them how or from whom they shall obtain it.

[Excerpt from _Principles of Political Economy_ (1871), Book V, Chapter XI, paragraph V.11.27.]

In recent years, liberal economists such as E.G. West, Herb Gintis and Joseph Stiglitz have followed Mill in opposing government monopoly of publicly funded education.

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 Research Opportunities by Ronald Nuttall on July 2, 2002
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