Policy Documents

Speech by Joseph Bast: Education in the U.S. ... and How to Improve It

February 23, 2013

The speech in the attached PDF was delivered by Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast on February 23, 2013, at the Eighth Annual Wisconsin Conservative Conference, Bluemound Gardens, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. An excerpt is below:

In 2016, in time for the next presidential election, every child now in high school will be eligible to vote for the president of the United States. Who will they vote for?

In 2020, when it comes time to reelect or replace that president, every child now in middle school will be eligible to vote. Who will they vote for?

They won’t vote for conservative candidates if they aren’t being taught real civics. Real civics can be summarized in one sentence: “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

How many recent high school graduates know where that sentence comes from or what it means? Very few, I would say. But if they don’t understand it, why would they vote for a candidate who promises to uphold the principles it expresses?

High school students need to be taught real economics: that true wealth is created by free individuals working hard and taking risks. True wealth requires private property rights and free markets, not governments taking by force from one person and giving it to another.

We have a president who thinks wealth is created by redistribution, that the producers of the world will continue to produce no matter how high the taxes or how heavy the regulations. High school graduates (and college graduates) are taught to think the same way. So they voted for Obama, a man who never created a single job or had to meet a payroll.

The third thing students need to learn is real virtues: honesty, hard work, self-responsibility, faith, hope, and love. Are these things being taught in public schools today? Maybe in some, but not in many.

Here’s my main point: So long as government owns and operates 90 percent of the schools in the United States, we have no right to expect that fewer than 90 percent of students who graduate are socialists.

As Milton Friedman once said, we have no right to expect cats to bark or dogs to meow. So why should we expect government schools to do anything other than produce graduates who support more government? It’s a cruel thing to say, but it’s true.

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