Freedom of Opportunity
MAY 01, 1958 by DARRYL JOHNSON
Mr. Johnson teaches mathematics at Hialeah Senior High School in Florida. He described this article as "one of the three-minute lectures I generally give at the beginning of each math class."
One of the characteristics of our educational system in the past decade or so has been its preoccupation with the welfare of the "slow learner," or poorer student. This has resulted in "passing" many who should have failed. We are now beginning to realize that the granting of such unearned benefits to the intellectually poor or the plain lazy has only compounded and perpetuated the difficulty.
Concentration on the poor student has been accomplished only by a corresponding neglect of the better student, and this neglect has been costly. The lesson to be learned is that excessive concentration on the welfare of the intellectually poor has not only failed to help him but that such policies have had an effect of causing the intellectually rich to lose initiative in providing brain power for progress.
There is no way for schools to "give" an education. An education must be earned. Schools provide the opportunity for education, but that is all. If schools "guarantee" that you will pass, why learn? If God guaranteed heaven, why be virtuous? If government guarantees a living, why work? Of course, none of these things can be guaranteed. The schools and the government are incapable, and God is too wise. All that can reasonably be provided is opportunity.
The Same Holds for Government
These policies and the lessons to be learned from them have an important parallel in the field of government. Socialism, with its pretended concern with the welfare of the poor, "social equity," and the like, has the same results. Progressive taxation and other schemes supposedly designed in the interest of the poor do not actually aid the poor at all, but result in loss of initiative on the part of the better and more successful members of society, so that the total contribution to the material welfare of the whole is diminished.
The alleged humanitarian motives of socialism constitute an argument which is beginning to wear rather thin. No amount of commendable reasons behind certain actions can excuse the actions themselves, especially when such actions have proven destructive for century upon century. If we really want to help the poor have adequate housing, good medical service, and other advantages, let’s try something that works…which involves keeping the dead hand of government out of these things and making sure that private enterprise is not paralyzed by taxation.
The next time anyone says, "We ought to tax the corporations more and spare the people," let us remind him that you cannot tax a corporation as such, or a state, or anything else except people, and that his words really mean, "We ought to tax those who were frugal and saved and took the risk of investing those savings so that a corporation could be formed, so that jobs could be created, and so that the things we all want and need could be produced." Viewed in this light, such policies appear to be what they actually are — a direct attack on the very mainsprings of our welfare.
To promote true welfare, let’s do all we can to preserve the one characteristic that only freedom can provide — OPPORTUNITY.