In BLOG, Education

by Kerry McDonald

Last weekend, I spoke at the Students for Liberty (SFL) Northeast Regional Conference here in Boston. SFL is a loosely-organized network of campus groups that focuses on the concepts of liberty, including bringing together liberty-minded students for conferences and connection.

I arrived early to the Boston public library branch where the conference was held, and was able to listen in on some of the presentations that preceded mine. That was very helpful because I quickly discovered that much of the audience consisted of general community members who were interested in hearing from some of the Boston city councilors who the student-host invited. I got the sense that the host’s goal was to try to find common ground between far-left progressives and libertarians, particularly on issues such as ending the war on drugs and criminal justice reform—two issues on which we are very much aligned.

But the similarities seemed to stop there.

When some panelists endorsed rent control and “people over profits,” many audience members cheered.

Oh boy, I thought, wondering how my presentation on education entrepreneurship and free-market learning models would go over with this group.

It turns out, it went over really well.

The same people who applauded rent control policies embraced my talk on how education entrepreneurs are building new learning solutions and how parents have been re-empowered to take control of their children’s education from government bureaucrats. They were enthusiastic about school choice policies that enable more parents to more easily exit an assigned district school, and they were receptive to my ideas about reducing government regulation within the education sector to make it easier for entrepreneurs to launch new micro-schools, learning pods, hybrid home schools, and so on.

I learned something really important from my talk: The gap between the people who cheer for rent control and those who cheer for free markets is actually smaller than we might think. Sometimes all it takes is helping people to understand what government policies like rent control actually do and how reducing government involvement in the marketplace is the better path toward lower prices, higher quality, greater abundance, and more diversity of options.

Individual empowerment is the common theme that can bring us together. The key is to help free-market skeptics recognize that less government involvement, not more, is the way to maximize individual empowerment and choice, and unleash innovation and abundance.

I doubt I changed anyone’s views on rent control, but I definitely helped more people who may be sympathetic to issues such as rent control to recognize that, at least in education, promoting free-market solutions yields more creativity and variety of education possibilities.

It’s a good place to start.

If you are interested in hearing my presentation, you may want to register for the upcoming, online Liberation of Education conference. I will be delivering the keynote address on Tuesday evening, April 26. If you register before tomorrow, and use the promo code LiberatED15off (case-sensitive), you can attend the online conference for free!

To hear more about the Liberation of Education organization and its upcoming conference, check out last week’s bonus episode of the LiberatED podcast!

And on the podcast this week, I talked to Corey DeAngelis, one of today’s most influential school choice advocates. It’s a great episode.

Until next week, Kerry

Kerry McDonald, Senior Education Fellow, Foundation for Economic Education

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