Ron Paul and Education

Hello, everyone! The following is an article that I wrote for helium.com. On Helium, a variety of people can write articles with the same title. There are four under the title 2008 presidential election: Ron Paul’s stance on education issues. The other articles have background information on Ron Paul’s stance on education.

I don’t really document the sources in this article, since I don’t know how to put links to Internet sites on Helium. But I found a column by economist Walter Williams to be very helpful.

I also have reservations about some of what I wrote, though I created the article just a few minutes ago. For example, there is a part of me that would like to see abstinence-only sex education and Intelligent Design in all public schools throughout America. Isn’t that the definition of a Bush conservative? Use the federal government to enforce conservative principles?

Anyway, hope you enjoy this!
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Like libertarians in general, Ron Paul raises some very poignant questions about American education. Does more government spending bring greater educational quality? Should the federal government play a significant role in education, or should it be solely a state and local affair? How can America keep schools accountable?

As far as government spending is concerned, big government doesn’t necessarily mean a good education. According to research by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the District of Columbia ranks second in the amount spent per pupil, but it ranks last in test scores on the NAEP, SAT, and ACT. We can pay teachers more, build fancier school buildings, and create bigger football fields, but these things do not guarantee that students are learning.

But what about the student/teacher ratio? Doesn’t having less students per teacher make for a better education? Not necessarily. New Jersey and Washington, D.C. have few students per teacher, yet their educational performance is not the best in the country (to say the least). And Japan actually prefers larger classroom sizes, but it is outperforming the United States.

Does the federal government have a role to play in education? It certainly has an interest, for America needs an educated work force. So, on one level, education is a national concern. Many who see education as solely a state or local affair argue that students in one area may not have the same educational needs as students in another area. A rural community would prepare students for different kinds of work than would an urban one, for example. But not all students are going to stay in the city or small town in which they grew up, so their education needs to prepare them for work throughout the country. An education in Arlington, Minnesota (which doesn’t exist) should prepare a person for some of the same tasks as an education in New York, New York. That’s why there are supporters of national educational standards.

At the same time, one should take into the consideration the diversity of the United States. A small town in Kansas has a different ideology compared to a big city in California. Some areas want abstinence in public school sex education; others prefer a focus on contraception. Some are open to evolution; others deem it an offensive attack on faith. For the federal government to force the same culture on all public schools throughout the country is rank authoritarianism, plain and simple.

And while education is a national concern, states should be able to experiment with different approaches and compete with one another for educational success, rather than being forced into the same federal mold. Regarding educational standards, I would venture to say that the vast majority of states have the same basic goals: reading, writing, and arithmetic. So we don’t have to worry about schools in a small town having an agenda that’s vastly different from that of a big city, at least not in the subjects that truly matter.

As far as accountability goes, the best approach is school choice, either through tax credits or (for the poor) vouchers. No Child Left Behind has merit in the sense that it at least makes public schools accountable for once, rather than throwing more money at a failing system. The problem is that it is rather rigid and inflexible. A possible solution is to make schools directly accountable to parents and students, not the federal government. Many parents want their kids to attend good schools, and students would like a good education because it is a gateway to a brighter future. Why not let them grade a a school (public, private, or charter) on the quality of education that it provides?

While some might argue that a voucher does not cover all of the cost of most private schools’ tuition, the competition that school choice fosters can bring down the cost of private education. “But what about the students who can’t get into a good private school?” someone might ask. Well, maybe the public schools can focus more on them after other students leave for the private schools. Plus, if there is enough demand for schools that serve special needs students, then there is a good chance that such schools will emerge.

So Ron Paul has some good points on education. More government spending is not the answer, education should be handled by states and local governments, and parents should have a greater choice (though, unlike Ron Paul, I’m open to vouchers).

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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