The history of mankind is the history of ideas. For it is ideas, theories, and doctrines that guide human action, determine the ultimate ends men aim at, and the choice of the means employed for the attainment of these ends.
—Ludwig von Mises
Money and Education
Study after study has found little link between per-student spending on education and student performance.
For example, school board revenues in the city of Chicago have increased 33 percent in the past four years. The average salary for Chicago teachers is $38,409, up 33 percent since 1987. Per-student spending in Chicago is the sixth highest among the area’s 35 school districts. Yet the average American College Testing Program (ACT) score for the district is 17.0, the worst of any district in the metropolitan area. Sixty-nine percent of parents with children in the Chicago public schools say they would send them to private schools if they could afford it.
In Virginia, per-pupil spending and teachers’ salaries in the public schools have risen 55 percent since 1982—and scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) have steadily declined after a slight increase between 1982 and 1985.
The average private school in Virginia spends only $2,645 per pupil—far less than even the lowest-funded public school district in the state. Yet average SAT scores in the private system are 951, compared with 900 in the public system.
Per-pupil expenditures are not always indicative of how much actually is spent on teaching, however.
In Virginia, 52 cents of every education dollar goes to overhead, administration, and other non-instructional expenses.
In Georgia, 50 cents goes for non-instructional expenses. Non-instructional spending in Georgia increased by 264 percent from 1980 to 1990, while spending on classroom teaching went up by just 96 percent.
Outlawing the Sweet Tooth
Some time ago I had an interesting conversation in the checkout line at our local discount store with a young mother whose five-year-old son was proudly buying two candy bars with his own money. She was purchasing a helmet for him to wear when he rode his bicycle.
“It’s the law now, you know,” she said.
“Yes,” I replied, “but I think it’s unfortunate that the state forces parents to do this.”
“But it’s a good law,” she countered. “It’s for their own protection.”
I agreed that it probably was safer to wear a helmet than not. “But at the same time,” I continued, “the issue really isn’t whether helmets are a good thing. The issue is who should decide what’s good for your children—you or the state.”
After a brief pause, I went on somewhat impertinently, “Do you take vitamins?”
Instead of telling me to mind my own business, she politely replied: “No, they’re too expensive. But I feed my kids right, so I don’t think I have to worry too much. I take them to the doctor, and they get their shots and stuff.”
“But what if someone in the Department of Health got hold of a legislator and they decided that, since health care costs are so high, it would be best for everybody to take vitamins as part of a state-wide program of preventive medicine. Or,” I continued with the rudeness of a typical zealot, “what if the state decided to outlaw candy bars out of concern for the public’s dental health?”
“That’s different,” she said defensively. “My kids don’t get candy very often, and, besides, the state would never do that.”
“Don’t be too sure,” I replied. “If they have the power to force you to put a helmet on your child’s head, they have the power to forbid you to feed him candy bars.”
I’m wondering if that young mother read the item with a Washington dateline in our local newspaper this morning which began: “The Agriculture Department will retain a limit of six grams of sugar in each ounce of cereal provided to supplement the diets of low-income children and pregnant and breast-feeding women.” The justification for this was that “the majority opinion of health and nutrition professionals suggests that the intake of sugar . . . is related to dental cavities and other health problems.” Can the abolition of candy bars be far off?
—Wilma J. Moore
The Fallacy of Equal Opportunity
We are constantly told, it is true, that there ought to be an equal opportunity for all the children in the United States; therefore, it is said, federal aid ought to be given to backward states. But what shall we say about this business of ”equal opportunity”? I will tell you what I say about it: I am entirely opposed to it. One thing is perfectly clear—if all the children in the United States have equal opportunities, no child will have an opportunity that is worth very much. If parents cannot have the great incentive of providing high and special educational advantages for their own children, then we shall have in this country a drab and soul-killing uniformity, and there will be scarcely any opportunity for anyone to get out of the miserable rut.
—J. Gresham Machen