Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fiat Diplomas Reducing the Value of Education

By now, most people who have weaned themselves from their dependency on corporate mass media and news, and even some who haven't, understand the concept of fiat currency and how such systems reduce the value of money. Quite quickly, fiat money is money by decree, or legal tender laws where the government forces everyone to accept paper money in exchange for products and services. Value is lost as money is printed from thin air. This, combined with the practice of fractional reserve where debt is used to create more money, has created the current worldwide financial crisis we find ourselves in. As more money chases the same amount of goods, the value of that money is reduced.

This same phenomenon can work for other goods and services as well. The fact of the matter is that as things become more available in the marketplace, they become less valuable. It only makes sense when you consider that what most people are really trading in order to get things is labor. In fact, that really is, in the long run, what the economy is all about. It's about labor of some form or another. It's about working to provide fellow human beings with goods and services that are needed and desired. It's not about money, or gold, or silver, or oil or any other commodity. Those things are just tokens of exchange. It only makes sense that the easier it is to obtain something, the less work needs to be done to get it.

A long time ago, a formal education was a rare thing. Then again, a long time ago no one was ever truly sure from year to year whether they would have a good harvest or not. Only the very rich could afford to get a formal education. Only royalty and those claiming the divine right of sovereignty could afford to hire tutors to come educate their children in the basics of math, science and reading. The rest of the world was struggling just to survive. Of course, that doesn't mean that children weren't learning, it just means that poor children were learning how to survive while rich children were learning how to manipulate the poorer classes. People learned what they needed to survive. A formal education was a luxury.

As time went by, societies grew and civilizations progressed. Classes of people became more of a continuum than a straight division. Trade flourished, products and services improved and people with certain skill sets were in demand and well paid. As a result, formal education was more in demand. Merchants and other highly paid professionals became able to afford formal education for their children. Yet many people in well paid professions needed no schools or formal education to make a better life for themselves and become productive members of society. Many would carry on their parent's business or obtained an apprenticeship.

The roots of our "modern" educational system lie in the Prussian school system that was instituted in the mid eighteenth century. It is a system that is so antiquated that the country where it was developed no longer exists as an independent nation. Prussia was one of the many Germanic nations. It developed a certain infamy for its army which eventually helped to form a Germanic empire that unified Germany and eventually became the German nation we are familiar with today. Back in the eighteenth century, however, at the very earliest stages of the industrial revolution, Prussia needed young men who would be uncompromising in their love for the state and obedient to authority without question or hesitation. They needed good soldiers. They needed sheeple. They took a page from the ancient Spartans and developed a school system that would mold young minds in just such a way, only they were far more subtle about it than their Greek counterparts. This is the school system adopted by the Bostonians in the mid nineteenth century that spread throughout the United States and is still used to this very day.

Now we are more or less stuck with a state run compulsory system. As a consequence the value of that education has greatly declined. One has but to look at testing from earlier this century and compare it to testing in the same grades that goes on now to see just how little is actually taught these days. So why is it the value of education seems to decline so much the more centralized it becomes? Why is it that one needs a high school education in order to get a job where before little or no formal education was necessary? Why is it that, on average, it takes even more than a bachelor's degree these days to get a decent paying job? The reasons, in my humble opinion, are in large part due to the fiat nature of the school system. They are due to the laws that force all children to attend school and get a certain amount of formal education. They are due to the laws that force everyone to pay for the formal education of other people's children.

The modern school system seems a perfect example of government's standard "one size fits all" solution to a problem. It seems to me that they have a tendency to think of children as robots that need to be programmed to operate in society rather than as individuals each with a different and unique set of emotional, psychological and physical needs. They seem to want to teach children what to think rather than how to think for themselves. The "No Child Left Behind Act," a centralized federal program meant to improve the quality of education in this nation, has done just the opposite. It has lowered the educational level of all, slowing down the speed at which children are educated so that slower learners can keep up. It has taken the children who would have otherwise excelled in school and turned them into a bunch of bored watchers waiting for the others racing along at a snail's pace to catch up. It has churned out a population that might be able to regurgitate facts, but are unable to analyze many of the possibilities of what those facts might mean.

While this system hurts the common folk and tends to dumb down the nation, there are those who benefit from it. The cost of college is artificially high because the demand is artificially high. This benefits the colleges and universities and those employed by them. The cost has become so high that most people can't afford a higher education without obtaining a loan. This benefits the banks which are the real power behind government. This also illustrates another failure of government. The excuse used to prop up and support public schools is that everyone deserves a "free" basic education so that the poor have equal opportunity to get ahead, but a modern high school education hardly qualifies one for equal opportunities these days and most have to earn a bachelor's degree or beyond in order to open the doors of opportunity. The poor are still left behind due to the expense of higher education.

Despite all this, many still defend public education as a necessity in this nation. They seem to believe that if there was no public education we'd be a nation of idiots. They seem to believe that if it wasn't for public education we'd be a nation of criminals and thieves. Those people have obviously never met an average home schooled child. Home schooled children are notorious for outperforming publicly schooled children. So are the children whose families are able to afford the wealthiest private schools. Public schools are not only not necessary in this nation, I contend they are holding back the quality of formal education in this nation.

If one asks how the average family could afford a formal education without government help, I would suggest one consider how much they'd save if they didn't have to pay that portion of their property taxes that go to schools in their district. If one had that amount of money to use to decide where to send their child for a formal education, would one be able to afford it? Consider that there'd likely be several options and education businesses competing for that money. They would likely come up with different ways to save money to efficiently deliver that education. The best would rise to the top, the worst would fail in the marketplace and go out of business, and the costs would likely go lower and lower as technology improves and the marketplace determines the best options for the individuals seeking such services. It seems that government monopoly and fiat education, on the other hand, have been shown as the most inefficient ways of delivering education services.

Supply and demand of any commodity, product or service is what determines its value. That's about as basic as economics get. There is a huge supply of formal educational services in this nation. Because of this supply, there is also a huge demand that has been artificially created. Modern formal education has cranked out a population that has a tendency to not think so much as believe. It has cranked out a population that has a tendency to not question authority. It has cranked out a population that has a tendency to just go along to get along, to believe what they hear from authority figures, and to not strive for their full potential but reach for mediocrity. The fiat nature of our modern education system has resulted in creating twelve wasted years of youth. It has made education in this nation just about worthless. Decentralizing education and getting the federal government out of the schools would be a good first step in reversing this trend. Eliminating the Department of Education would also help balance the budget and save taxpayer money, money that could be spent on private educational institutions that would pop up in a free market.

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