Students: In Service of Concrete Purposes

Written by Muriel McGregor on October 28th, 2009

Two words: public education. The goal of public education is to produce competent and contributing citizens. What comprises a competent and contributing citizen, however, is subjective. Thus, the government mandates a certain curriculum of what it deems to best shape a student into a competent and contributing citizen. All students are then held to this standard if they are to be considered smart and of worth to the nation. This method for public education is opposite to what Hayek said will actually produce the best citizen. Quoting Adam Smith he states, “Every man, so long as he does not violate the laws of justice [being] left perfectly free to pursue his own interests in his own way” (56). Yes, some may argue that since children do not have a lot of knowledge nor full reasoning capabilities, they consequently need their education to be mandated and monitored through such things as standardized testing. This system, however, is counterintuitive. As Hayek says, “Any such restriction, any coercion other than the enforcement of general rules, will aim at the achievement of some foreseeable particular result, but what is prevented by it will usually not be known” (56-57). By imposing a certain curriculum on students, the result is a bland citizen. Those who had more potential to learn were held back in order to coincide with the other students. Those students who struggled with the mandated curriculum were not allowed the freedom to fully develop their talents (which were not seen as important in the curriculum). In both cases, the government, by coercing students down a particular trajectory of learning, ends up creating less diverse and dynamic citizens. 


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