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For the first time ever, a sitting U.S. president is going to visit Sweden this week. President Obama is stopping by Stockholm on Wednesday before traveling to the G20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Thursday and Friday. Among the issues to be discussed is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, (TTIP), (which Young Voices recently commented on).
The Obama administration has had a tough year. With the support for ObamaCare struggling, the global NSA scandal still on people’s minds and a pending U.S. strike on Syria stuck in Congress, it’s clear that Obama needs some good publicity. What better way than to visit Sweden: a social welfare state where healthcare is free and warrantless wiretapping of telephone and Internet traffic is legal. A country which claims to be the happiest on Earth.
Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible for a low-income person, student, or new entrepreneur to find a place to live near any major Swedish city. Due to a highly regulated real-estate market it’s both difficult to build any new houses or rent the ones already in place. In addition, most rentals are part of a severe governmental rent control scheme, which has resulted in long queues for housing. If Mr. Obama were to give up his presidential salary, and donate the rest of his fortune to charity, it would take him 24 years to get a rental apartment.
Faced with the defeat of being homeless, at least Mr. Obama wouldn’t have to fear the terrorists. Much like the U.S. has the NSA, Sweden has the FRA. It’s a legislative package that authorizes the state to wiretap all telephone and Internet traffic that crosses Sweden’s borders, without any warrant. What again were the words of one of the United States founding fathers? “They who can give up essential safety to obtain a little temporary liberty, deserve neither safety nor liberty.”
When Mr. Obama finally finds a home, on the outskirts of Stockholm, he might like to bring his family here to live with him. In that case, we can only hope that there is a suitable English-speaking school in Mr. Obama’s neighborhood, since homeschooling is illegal in Sweden. Private schools are allowed, although highly regulated and supervised by government authority. The point is to protect! No dangerous parental indoctrination is allowed. The government on the other hand takes its job to enlighten the rabble very seriously – from the cradle to the grave.
Sweden is a country where the largest employers are the municipal and county councils. Since the 1950s Sweden more than doubled its taxes, regulated the labor market and for a while implemented marginal taxes over 100 percent. In recent years the country lowered it taxes somewhat, and tried to follow a more liberal path. Unfortunately, the battle fought in Sweden is no longer between liberty and collectivism but between state-individualism and state-collectivism. The individual has no say, no role and can always be compromised, for the “greater good,” for the sake of the government.
So, Mr. Obama, if you sincerely believe in “he didn’t build that,” we suggest that you take your family and move to Sweden. If not we suggest you end — not start — wars, cut spending and cut down on both private and public sector corruption. Implement the principles of liberty that once made the United States one of the greatest nations in history – a breathing space for anyone who believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I’m not actually going to take issue with the basic premise of If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person. Allison Benedikt argues persuasively that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. And Benedikt is not looking to outlaw private schools. She’s just trying to guilt parents into quitting them.
Benedikt wants every school full of parents with the time and energy needed to improve it. But that’s a pipe dream. What isn’t is a public education system open enough to accountability and change that even working parents can get a good education for their kids from their local public school.
With few exceptions, public schools are better in the wealthier suburbs and rural areas. There, parents with the will and means to get a good education for their kids live close together and by turns force and help local schools to do their jobs. Rich, educated parents get much better results from public schools because doing so requires a ton of work. Bake sales and PTA meetings don’t run themselves. And school boards and administrators don’t do a good job of keeping themselves accountable.
In less wealthy inner cities and rural areas, schools operate poorly, with little assistance or oversight from parents who are struggling just to get by.
Much as we might want to think of them as exceptions, public schools are service providers, and parents are customers. Demanding customers get better service.
But part of the reason being a demanding customer is so demanding itself is that public education is so mired in bureaucracy, opacity and other impediments to competition and reform. It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. There is absolutely no way to know how public schools spend their budgets. Public education is one of the most top-heavy institutions in the United States.
Innovation in any industry, including education, requires two things. First, there must be flexibility to innovate. Things don’t improve which can’t change. Second, there must be impetus to innovate. Doing things differently is risky. No one will take risks if they don’t fear losing what they’ve gained to competitors who will. What excludes public education from this fact of life?
And how are schools supposed to innovate when states and unions set standards for school days, school years, curricula, teacher pay and more?
What we’ve seen over decades of skyrocketing spending on public education and flatlined educational outcomes is that no amount of money can replace a concerned, active, informed parent. Where parents are involved, schools produce a great education. Where they aren’t, schools fail. This is independent of spending. That’s why Benedikt understandably wants kids who do not have involved parents to benefit alongside the kids who do. It’s a laudable goal and a beautiful vision.
But any solution that requires people to deny their kids the best education possible out of guilt over the kids for whom that’s out of reach is doomed to fail. What could work are a few simple reforms to make getting schools to do their jobs require less time, money and energy in the first place.
Moves like ending teacher tenure, shining light on school budgets, allowing schools to innovate and legalizing charter schools and vouchers to open up competition will give concerned parents a clearer and easier path to improving their schools. They will make it easier for parents to demand, and get, better customer service.