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Covid Is Working With Milton and Rose Friedman

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In today’s Wall Street Journal David Henderson has a splendid op-ed [2] in which he predicts at least one huge benefit arising out of the covid calamity – namely, a genuine and significant decrease in the power of America’s K-12 government-schooling racket. Let’s hope that David is correct. I’m cautiously optimistic that he indeed is.

David blogged at EconLog about his op-ed [3]. And pasted below is a slightly amended version of comment that I left on David’s blog post (with links added):

Excellent op-ed, David. (Because I subscribe to the WSJ I was able to read the op-ed in its entirety.)

Reality is indeed stranger than fiction. If your thesis is sound – as it seems to me to be – 2020’s covid calamity will wind up doing more to promote school choice than was done by Milton Friedman and his wife Rose’s intrepid efforts to reduce the power of the K-12 government-schooling racket [4]. I do not here intend to diminish the importance of the Friedmans’ efforts. Their criticisms of the K-12 government-school monopoly, along with their explanations of the benefits for children and families that would arise as a result of increased competition among schools, surely will play some positive role in sustaining the coming decentralization of schooling that you predict – as will, no doubt, Thomas Sowell’s newly published book on charter schools [5]. (Let me put in a pitch here also for Sheldon Richman’s wonderful book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America’s Families [6].)

But in this case parents’ actual experiences will, as you explain, supply most of the thrust toward improved schooling.

As maddening as it is to behold the arrogance and greed of teachers’ unions, your essay allows me now, in a somewhat perverse way, to enjoy reading about, and hearing of, their efforts to prevent children from returning physically to classrooms. These “teachers” are likely overplaying their hand. Soon (again, if you’re correct) they’ll be down quite a few chips.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke with the manager of my favorite local restaurant. He’s got two young children – six and eight. He’s angry that Fairfax County school officials want to “teach” his kids on-line. “That’s crazy!” he exclaimed. Understand that this guy isn’t at all political. He’s a normal, decent guy – mid-thirties, I think – working hard in a business that is hard in the best of times and agonizing in this bizarro time.

This guy likely has never heard of Milton and Rose Friedman. But the reaction to covid is now opening his eyes to the ugly reality of the K-12 government-schooling racket. And as you eloquently explain in your WSJ op-ed, he’s not alone.