How To Receive The Public Good

23 June 2004

K-12 Group-think
By Craig J. Cantoni
June 22, 2004

Does group-think result from the government, unionized teachers and a few textbook publishers having a near-monopoly over K-12 classroom thought? And if so, is this a good thing in a free society?

Judging from reader responses to my articles in the mainstream media over the years, the answer to the first question is yes, at least in terms of group-think about public education, government and economics. The answer to the second question is no, as group-think certainly is not good in a free society, especially group-think about the subjects of public education, government and economics.

Millions of readers have read my articles over the years, and hundreds have responded with letters and e-mails. Whether they are Democrats or Republicans, college-educated or not, the vast majority of them think alike about public education, government and economics. For example:

– Most believe that public schools are underfunded, in spite of a doubling of per-pupil spending in real terms over the last 40 years, and in spite of overwhelming evidence that increased spending has not translated into improved academic results. One soccer mom, in a disagreement with me about education spending, forwarded a newspaper article to prove her point that Arizona and Utah rank at the bottom in education spending. But a sidebar to the article clearly showed that the two states rank near the middle when education spending is calculated as a percentage of personal income, which is the most accurate way of comparing spending between states. She didn’t see the facts staring her in the face, because she had been brainwashed for years by the education establishment to believe the canard about the states ranking at the bottom. – Most want an increase in public ed spending, although they have no idea what they pay in public ed taxes over their adult lives. They have no idea because the education establishment does not want them to know the number. Of course, it is impossible to know whether you are getting good value for your money if you don’t know how much you are paying. – Most believe that public school teachers are underpaid, although the facts show that when teacher pay and benefits are calculated on an hourly basis, they are paid more than many professions that require a more rigorous degree. Naturally, unionized teachers are not about to cite such facts. – Most do not know that government spending has increased in real terms by 300 percent over the last century, that transfer payments have increased 20-fold from 2 percent of government spending 100 years ago to 40 percent today, that the cost of government is $24,000 per household, that the cost of regulations is $8,000 per household, that there are about 10 million more wealth-consuming government employees than wealth-producing manufacturing employees, or that future generations will be left with Social Security and Medicare deficits of over $40 trillion. These are not the kind of facts that government schools and unionized teachers are going to stress. – Most are illiterate in economics, because economics is not taught in government schools. Thus, most fall for claptrap spread by such socialist politicians as Ted Kennedy, who claims that nationalized health care will make health care affordable. Of course, costs don’t decrease because something is socialized. The costs simply become hidden and are transferred from one person to the next in a gigantic government-run shell game, with politicians receiving campaign payoffs to referee the game. – Most don’t know that health insurance is unaffordable for millions of Americans because the government killed a consumer market in health insurance 60 years ago. Government schools, which are used by the government to enroll people in various socialized health care programs, are not about to teach this fact. – When I question why it is fair for private school parents to subsidize well-off public school parents through public education taxes, most readers respond with the same platitudes about public education being for the benefit of the poor. It would be a valid point if not for the fact that the vast majority of public ed parents are not poor and can afford to educate their kids without taking other people’s money, just as they can afford to feed, shelter and clothe their kids without taking other people’s money. If they really wanted to help the poor, parents of public-schoolers would pay the cost of their kid’s education out of their own pockets in direct tuition, so that public school taxes would only go to the poor. Again, this is not a perspective that unionized teachers and government schools would bring to the classroom. – Most readers say that I’m mean-spirited and selfish when I write that private school parents and homeschoolers should get a tax credit equal to what they pay in public school taxes for the 12 years that their kids attend private school or are homeschooled. They even say this when presented with the fact that my wife and I will pay $190,000 in public school taxes over our adult lives, although we get no direct benefit in return, because our son attends parochial school. In our case, the tax credit would be about $45,000, thus leaving $145,000 for public school parents. Only someone who has been indoctrinated in socialism can believe that the giver of $145,000 is mean-spirited and selfish but the recipient is not. – Most readers claim that public schools are a public good like highways and parks. Of course, highways and parks are not in the business of teaching impressionable children. Also, in my home state of Arizona, most highway costs are paid by users through gas taxes, sales taxes on cars and various fees—unlike public schools, which are funded by users and nonusers alike. And those who spout platitudes about the public good rarely offer any coherent theory about what is a public good and what isn’t. The extent of their narcissistic thinking is that public schools are a public good, because they and their kids have attended them and received more ”public good” than those who haven’t attended them. Government schools are not about to disabuse them of the notion.

A closing question: Is it just a coincidence that most Americans have attended government schools and that most Americans think alike about public education, government and economics? I think not.

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Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at

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