Cultural Revolutions

Bureaucratized Education

American education is today so bureaucratized that every increase in tax monies poured into the system produces less real learning. We now spend approximately 33 percent more in real terms ($5,638) per capita on students in elementary and secondary schools than we did ten years ago, but all valid measures show a decrease in learning with each ratchet-up in tax expenditures. Americans are especially anxious and frightened by our students' plummeting test scores precisely because we are still passionate believers in the value of schooling, and most Americans still believe more money is the answer. But informed observers know this is not so.

Vouchers and tax-deductions for education expenditures are obviously the simplest means, and the most politically acceptable means right now, for beginning a great "restructuring" of American education. Parents can use their tax vouchers or tax deductions to send their children to any school they deem the best. Education entrepreneurs of all kinds, from the dedicated young volunteers who love teaching to high-tech nerds bent on creating "interactive video programs," are paid to produce the greatest possible learning per dollar and the greatest investor satisfaction—that is, happy learners, parents, and taxpayers. The early experiments in vouchers for elementary education have been promising; in fact, even liberal educationists, the descendants of the Great Bureaucratizers,...

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