By Andrew Longman
There is no greater argument for school-choice vouchers than the willful cover-up of child rape perpetuated by Pennsylvania State University.
With the release of former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s report on the willful negligence of Penn State officials, and a recent lawsuit filed in Los Angeles against the culture of cover-up in their public schools, one cannot be in doubt that public education has no competition.
Competition, in the marketplace, equates to accountability. We have all met people who have a “government job” and who are utterly untouchable. You know the kind I’m talking about –ones that can’t be fired. Every year that money rolls in from the state. Regardless of what kind of job they do, they get their pay anyway. And their pension. And their health insurance. And vacation. And, and, and.
And when you have no pressure from competition, you get sloppy. With no pressure, employees slowly become convinced of their untouchability. They start to take liberties. Human nature is this: The dole corrupts.
When that disease creeps along, libertine metastasizes into megalomania; Joe Paterno was worshipped as a demigod. And when public schools combine demigod success with longstanding monopoly, you get Jerry Sandusky; no fear; no child left behind.
The Paterno family objects that Freeh’s report is in error, that really what happened is no one knew the extent of Sandusky’s felonies. No one saw the full depth of his activity. No one looked far enough into the matter. In other words, there was very little energy put into scrutiny, and everyone was unmotivated to find out hard truths. Classrooms full of raped little boys just, you know, didn’t register.
And the Paterno family objection, if taken as word-for-word truth, makes my point.
Government institutions with no competition don’t self-analyze. They don’t dig. They let it ride. The local culture becomes, “Yeah, whatever, don’t worry about it.” Deceivers hang out on the payroll for decades. Why? Because the local culture knows that there won’t ever be any consequences to bad behavior. Success, in a public institution, is about not rocking the boat. So long as that old boat doesn’t attract attention, the automatically generated paychecks just keep rollin’ in. Performance isn’t the issue, preserving your image is. So concentrate on positive things and ignore negative news.
These days we are all angst-ridden, as a culture, about managers in businesses who were negligent and took a laissez faire attitude towards watching where the private money was going. But business has a self-correcting mechanism for those kinds of people and the concomitant bad habits – schmucks get fired.
And they go bankrupt. Private industry either has good managers that are awake and vigorous, or the whole company goes down. Bad CEOs, in a sense, fire themselves. But American education, which is a government monopoly, has no such protective feedback mechanism. If you are Jerry Sandusky, and you are part of a successful government school, you can rape little boys until you are a senior citizen. And he might have gone right on if not for some accidental confluence forfeiting his evil racket.
So, I have a solution for this nationwide, “don’t-worry-about-it” corruption that gave us child rape at Penn State and the Los Angeles Unified.
Shut their doors. Fire them. Defund them. Take away all the money. Place the property up for public auction.
And then voucherize every single dollar spent on education in America. Let the free market reign in education.
But while we’re on the subject of government involvement, how many times did Sandusky have dinner with the governor?
Voucherizing education dollars isn’t enough. It was the top-level government officials in Pennsylvania who looked the other way. So when we create competition in education we’ve got to limit by law the ability of the government to influence private education. The Penn State fiasco proves that “government accountability” is a contradiction in terms, a horror.
Only when these schools compete will they be held accountable. No more special money for state-controlled failures. In industry you’ve got to produce or you’re out the door. And that performance scrutiny is a fact of life in every non-government job a graduate will ever have. If we educate our students in a bubble where all their role models have no accountability, and where all teachers are under no pressure from competition, we are conditioning graduates for only government jobs. Jobs where they might turn into Jerry Sandusky if only they are “successful” enough.
But when the government isn’t allowed to influence within private institutions, and when the natural force of competition is always allowed, and when schools must convince hundreds of parents or thousands of collegians that teachers are doing a sincere and excellent job, then cover-ups by high-level government won’t protect child rapists. The first time the bastard gropes he will be fired, sued and imprisoned. The free market does not incentivize keeping pedophiles on the payroll.
Look, you can’t change human nature. But you can design a structure that uses it to your advantage. Penn State officials covered up child rape because the dull block walls of a public school building do not let the sunshine in.
School choice will give us that sunshine, and parents can pick out the picture windows.
But government monopoly gives us Jerry Sandusky.
Andrew Longman is a Christian and an applied scientist.