On National Education Policy
By Arnold Kling
The first point to observe is that “our” college graduation rate is just a statistical artifact, like “our” home ownership rate and “our” voting rate. To people imbued with a central planning mindset, such statistics betoken national success or failure. In fact, the nation isn’t doing anything. Millions of individuals are deciding whether or not to go to college and complete the course of study. Students and parents make those decisions with good (but not necessarily perfect) knowledge of the student’s capabilities, the costs of college, and the prospective benefits of doing so.
In other words, “lose the we.”
Imagine what would happen if education policy were decentralized. In order to have influence, a self-styled education expert would have to convince families that the expert has helpful ideas about how their children ought to be educated. And in order for unprofitable education programs to receive funding, a self-styled charitable giving expert would have to convince donors to support those programs. Instead, what we have is a political process. To get your preferred education policy adopted, you ignore individual families and donors and instead go straight to Congress. If the results are clumsy and wasteful, so be it. “We” must have these policies, just as “we” must have government-guaranteed mortgages. Any other point of view is beyond the pale.