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by Christopher Chantrill
November 14, 2005 at 3:36 am
GOVERNOR Schwarzenegger learned an important lesson last week when his four voter initiatives to reform California state government went down to defeat. If you try to take out the government employees in a massive World War I style offensive you wont succeed. Instead of a decisive breakthrough you will suffer a decisive defeat. But we knew that, didnt we? No general would accept battle on equal terms against an entrenched enemy unless he had tactical surprise or an advantage in position.
The modern strategy to use against an entrenched enemy was first developed in 1915 in the Argonne by the German General von Mudra. It was a strategy of slicing off small sectors of the front using tactical surprise and local artillery superiority. The attacks were small enough to be individually harmless but cumulatively, they ended up advancing the front and chewing up the enemy. That must be our strategy in rolling back the tax-eating welfare state.
But how do you implement such a strategy, for instance, against the one-size-fits-all education system? Surely the system will fight any attempt to introduce flexibility and choice into its centralized government monopoly?
In fact the system does respond to small-scale efforts for change, partly because liberals want special programs for their children even as they insist on one-size-fits-all for everyone else. In the US every city worth its salt now has a High School of the Arts where kids must compete to get in. In West Palm Beach, for instance, the excellent Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School for the Arts is right next to the downtown CityPlace shopping district, its trendy boutiques, and attractive city square. You can see the merit of the Art School concept. In a world that hates streaming by ability, the Arts School conveniently streams the children of liberal parents into special liberal-friendly schools. Liberals get their kids into special, segregated public high schools while still being able to boast that they send their kids to public school.
In Washington State homeschooling parents worried about sending their kids to high school can skip it altogether by enrolling their kids in the Running Start program at community college. Its a two year program that you can enter at 11th grade and end up with a community college associate degree. When rumor has it that 25 percent of the kids at a local high school have STDs, whats not to like?
Although the government schools want to be centralized one-size-fits-all, they do provide some choice. Alert parents can obtain a limited cafeteria service from the central school kitchens.
But why not expand the limited cafeteria service into a food court? Why not turn our factory schools into education malls? We could have each mall with its big anchor tenants, the equivalent of our unionized, everything-under-one-roof schools as recommended by James B. Conant a generation ago in The American High School Today. But the government anchor tenants could be surrounded by specialized boutiques like the Kumon Math and Reading Centers and Sylvan Learning Centers. Maybe what America needs is not retail-office centers but retail-office-education centers. Then kids could go straight from school to their part-time jobs at the mall.
But there is another reason why the education mall could be the vehicle for real reform in education, turning it from an expert monopoly into a customer-oriented service industry. It would transform education into a woman-friendly shopping experience. Anyone who has listened to mothers chatting about their childrens education understands that the conversation often turns upon the discussion of hard-to-find education specials: how one mother managed to enroll her child in a special science program at Martin Luther King Middle School, or how another mother managed to get her child into a special language arts program at the Nathan Hale Language School. This is education as shopping. It is what women want.
It is what women used to have. Back in the nineteenth century before schools were municipalized and before parents were forced to send their children to the government school mandated for their catchment area, parents sent their children to the school of their choice. Mothers learned about the best schools from their network of friends.
But all this talk of education malls is jumping the gun. What conservatives need to do is learn from General von Mudra. School choice doesnt just mean fighting a punishing offensive for charter schools and school vouchers. It means winkling new programs and options out of the current monolithic system, chiseling decoration into faceless walls and growing grass in the cracks. Slowly but surely we can transform the system.
And if we turn education into a shopping experience, the women of the world will never let the education blob take it away.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, Letter to Lord Lytton
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel