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The London Libertarian

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Commentary and debate on politics, economics and culture from a libertarian perspective. To Libertarian Alliance Website >

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academic freedom

Education Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 12:01:26

academic freedom Though somewhat contested in its details, this is more or less the idea that *academics ought to be able to research, teach, publish and otherwise communicate whatever subjects, theories or theses they choose.

If this is intended to mean without any *aggressive compulsion or *censorship by the *state, then that is indeed a *freedom or *liberty. However, any academic pursuit based on a *tax-*extorted subsidy or an aggressively imposed *monopoly of tertiary education is an illiberal academic *license rather than a freedom. And the overwhelming majority of academics are in fact exercising this illiberal license while presenting it as academic freedom.

To the extent that the state is the major employer or tax-funder, and this extent varies considerably, an academic institution has no right to proscribe or prescribe anything. Its sole *duty is to stop taking such funds. Though given that the institution will remain a *criminal *organization, it is somewhat less illiberal that its rules reflect the *free market as far as possible. This is impossible to determine in any detail. However, to the extent that a *university or other academic institution is instead *honest, then *contractually prescribing or proscribing certain topics for *religious, *moral, *commercial, or any other reasons does not infringe the freedom of the academic in any aggressive way, though the academic will be less ‘free’ in an unlimited personal sense.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism


Education Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 11:58:55

academics A bias toward *state control is hardly surprising among people who live off other people’s *taxes (instead of making, net, contributions to tax funds) within a state-imposed *monopoly system; most existing academic jobs would disappear without the state. Hence, most academics can hardly pose as disinterested scholars in *political matters. It is to be expected that they tend to exhibit *politically-correct (PC) views to a far higher degree than can be found among most of the *population. This is particularly so in the humanities and social sciences, where academics are occasionally *ideologues doing little more than pursuing their hobbies and *propaganda at the expense of tax-victims.

Because of the way that *universities are predominantly funded by taxation, academics, in conjunction with their universities, are to some degree able to dictate the types of courses available instead of the students deciding for which courses they are prepared to pay. With some PC ideological academics a consequence of their courses can even appear to be that their students graduate with less *knowledge, in the sense of *true theories *believed, than is available to *common sense. The general system of peer-reviewing for articles, funds, and promotion within a very uniform, monopolized system makes for an intellectually unhealthy orthodoxy that discourages bold conjecture and *competition in every theoretical subject (the history of science is replete with the suppression of ideas—such as plate tectonics and species destruction by asteroid impact—later accepted, only to suppress their competition in turn) and practical modus operandi (the number of years for study, courses, etc., shows no great variety).

State academics are not highly paid, despite being grossly overpaid in terms of market *supply and demand and efficiency: for the lack of *free-market allocation means that the wrong academics are being paid to teach the wrong subjects to the wrong students. With a free market pay and conditions will vary, of course. Overall the sector seems likely to contract as people reject the plethora of dubious *qualifications that the state has tax-subsidized; and professors that are PC are likely to disappear. Should *libertarians take such jobs anyway? Yes, but see *hypocrisy.

See *education.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism


Education Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 11:55:14

qualifications Modern *states are keen on promoting formal qualifications (i.e., with study, testing and certificates). These enable the state to make various *welfare-enhancing claims for itself, including 1) that it is educating people better than ever, which is an end in itself, 2) that the growth in the *economy is, or will be, due to its ‘investment’ in this ‘public good’, and 3) that the *public is being protected from unqualified practitioners of all kinds. None of these claims stands up well. 1) The *‘education’ that people receive is often dubious in itself, but the pass rates are manipulated as well. 2) Years spent in education beyond what one really needs or would freely choose to pay for is a drain on the economy, and education is not a *public good in any case. 3) Vocational qualifications exist mainly to restrict who can work, particularly in a *monopoly *profession where *free market *competition is severely restricted.

Generally, there has been an absurd qualificationitis in recent years. It would often be more efficient to learn on the job than take time out to ‘qualify’ first. Employers usually use formal qualifications more as a sorting process indicating the existence of some minimal intelligence and application rather than that anything useful has been learnt. Even where relevant, a qualification is at best more of a promise than an achievement in itself: those who have done best on paper do not always do best in practice. *Academics are particularly prone to overestimate the amount of human *capital produced by further and higher education: these are largely useless or otherwise *consumer goods. See *university.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism


Education Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 11:51:16

universities *State(-*regulated) universities comprise a *coercively *monopolized and *tax-subsidized system. They could be operated *efficiently if all state interference were simply swept away and *free-market *competition were allowed, which is not to rule out *charitable donations and scholarships. Because of this *opportunity cost, these *criminal *organizations are the enemies of the scholarship and *education that they affect to have as their raison d’être.

Contra a long-standing debate, there is no essential purpose for a university other than what might officially be stated by any particular university. And there is no percentage of the population that ought to go to university other than the amount that freely opt into doing so at no one else’s *proactively imposed expense (in the UK 25% drop out from their courses; and the ones who do not drop out are usually even more of a *waste). But however universities are run, the words of Frank Zappa (1940-1993) are likely to remain true: “If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the *library.”

See *academics; *politically-correct studies; *qualifications.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism


Education Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 11:48:19

schools It is one of the great myths of the *‘welfare’ *state in the UK that the state’s *education *legislation and schools are largely responsible for educating many people who otherwise would, and whose like historically did, remain uneducated. This view is not borne out by the facts nor usually taught as history, even in state schools. It appears to be something that people simply assume. Or why were state schools introduced? Who would provide them now if not the state? The sentimental *propaganda of Charles Dickens’s novels, especially Hard Times and Nicholas Nickleby, also remains a misleading influence with respect to typical non-state schooling (as well as to the *industrial revolution generally).

As E. G. West (1922-2001) has shown in his iconoclastic books and articles on education, this assumption is the opposite of the *truth. Before the Education Act of 1870 established the first *tax-funded schools, school attendance and literacy rates were well above 90 percent. This was partly through *religious and *charitable schools but not least through the, often unfairly maligned, Dame Schools that existed on virtually every street (Dame School class sizes, which had originally been criticized by the *statists, were typically exceeded by later state school class sizes). The move to introduce compulsory ‘free’ schooling seems partly motivated by a desire to control the ‘dangerous’ growth of literacy among the ‘lower orders’. *Nationalism, religion, *morals and other ‘appropriate’ subjects were to be imposed on them. And even most *liberals thought state schooling would be for the best. But all this was so disliked by the parents that it was only by increasingly *privileging state schools and penalizing the private alternatives that the state was eventually able virtually to *monopolize schooling. There are parallels with the history of schooling in the USA and many other *countries, but England was one of the last to introduce state schooling.

Due to the demise of near-universal *anarchic education, it is now hard for people to grasp the enormous *opportunity cost of the state system. However, certain facts remain clear. There is an ever-growing number of people in the UK and the USA who are not even functionally literate and numerate (and some of them are teachers in the state schools). Today at least one in five now leaves state schooling after many years while remaining *objectively, functionally illiterate. This is the hard evidence of the disaster of state schooling that cannot be disguised by any amount of fiddling examination results, which have come to sound as fanciful as Stalinist production statistics, or by increasing *university places. There are still some state schools that cater for the academically inclined. But most state schools can barely be described as educational institutions any longer. Private, voluntary schools were at worst day-care centres for *children with the bonus of a little education. But compulsory, state schools are more like day-prisons for the *crime of being young. And the violence that occurs in them often puts the children at risk.

Because of their appalling standards—and possibly also the inverted *apartheid of compulsory integration among the *races, ethnicities and religions—ordinary parents are increasingly going private. The simple fact is that people want education for their children and a *competitive *market can, in various forms, provide it much more cheaply and efficiently (partly by dropping the millstone of *political correctness). In this respect, education is just like any other good or service. The whole system could be *depoliticized overnight to the great benefit of all. If the *poor could originally afford Dame Schools, the relatively rich modern ‘poor’ can now afford very much better; though charity, scholarships and home schooling remain important options too.

All that said, it is not likely that continuing schooling to, ever, higher ages will suit most young people (at least in the absence of hothousing; see *education); and it is a violation of their *liberty for the state, or even for parents, to force it on them when they would rather start to work or do anything else (see *child labor; *circumcision, infibulation, etc., of children). Having achieved basic literacy and numeracy they could, in any case, come back to formal education if and when they wished.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism


Education Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 11:42:56

education It is traditional, but now sometimes condemned as *elitist, to distinguish scholarly education (as learning for its own sake) from vocational training (as learning a useful skill). We might even say that education is, therefore, particularly for *persons considered as ends in themselves; while training can, at the extreme, even be given to other *animals (a trained dog is unremarkable; an educated dog would be a miracle). Perhaps it will not seem quite so elitist, not that elitism is wrong, when one realizes that all *professions involving practical skills merely involve a high level of training. Many professionals will thus, in this sense, often not be formally educated beyond school level. However, as much that passes for education in some subjects is *politically correct *propaganda, that does not make them less educated than many people with allegedly *intellectual degrees. Whatever the value of this distinction, a broad sense of ‘education’ clearly includes learning vocational skills.

An important, but neglected, related issue should be mentioned here. If the theory of ‘hot housing’ very young *children is true, then the most important education will take place in the first five years (and possibly even before by stimulating the unborn human, especially with music, in the womb). After five years of age, the complex dendritic connections in the brain will mean that the child will often be bright enough to continue largely self-guided study. Without this hot housing, people are unlikely to reach anywhere near their genetic potential educationally. One explanation for the typically higher IQ of the first born is their natural monopolization of their parents’ attention, particularly the mother’s, and that the first child has a novelty value that will not be shared by any subsequent offspring.

See *academics; *academic freedom; *qualifications; *schools; *universities.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism