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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.

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.

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.

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.

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

A Dictionary of Libertarianism