Music: “It will test your head and your mind, and your brain too.”

A quote deeper than my hole of lies. Here I am, alone in my apartment with the warmth of twinkly Christmas lights the only thing breaking the cover of darkness. It’s only 7:30 on a Friday night and the evening has potential, so I pregame with the Melvins, writing about our public education system and watching my Sprite bubble. Skin Horse is seeping into my ears– the chipmunk voice is haunting.

My whole body is tingly. My mom characterized this band as “end of the night heroin music”, but I’ve never needed heroin (or anything else) to get the trip. Nuns can veg out to sludge metal too. Everyone needs that release!

Remember the movie School of Rock? Of course you do. The way Jack Black looked in those shorts at the end scarred me at a very young age (he is responsible for many years of therapy). The movie may have been wholly unrealistic, but after watching it earlier this week it actually made some points that stuck out to me.

In the movie, the kids learn a lot outside of school. Not just about music, but life. How things work. How people interact. What if someone wanted something more like this kind of education for their child, but was not allowed it through the current public system?

In 2010, the United States spent $11,000 per elementary student and $12,000 per high school student. It topped the list in spending (as a percent of GDP) when stacked against other countries, so you’d imagine our test results topped it as well.

Nope. We are about as mediocre as it gets. But with our budget, it isn’t mediocre at all– it’s a horrendous failure.

Is this a cultural problem? That surely ties into it, but can that be solved with just more money?

Education reform has a long history. We have seen it happen several times in recent years:

Carter created the Department of Education in 1979. Reagan declared a national campaign to restore excellence in education during his service. Bush set goals for education in America 2000, which was built upon by Clinton in Goals 2000. And who could forget GW Bush’s No Child Left Behind? Today, we’ve got Common Core.

So if these reforms work… why do we need so many of them presidency after presidency?

A lot of fighting happens in politics, just slightly less than on one episode of America’s Next Top Model. How do we spend all of this money we are taking from citizens!? More vacations for congressmen! ROADS!

Specifically, there is a huge debate over cutbacks on music and art programs in public schools. There is the question of whether or not it is the public’s responsibility to handle music and art– or should they be treated like religion? Often times to combat this accusation defenders of the arts will offer reasons music is different by stating its benefits to other areas of education. It helps with math, English, cognitive development, etc. Good Lord.

It should be clear that I was once a Music Ed major, and I find it really important and potentially life changing. This tactic bothers me because music shouldn’t have to be treated like a supplement to other subjects. It should be taught solely because it is music.

But I understand why they use these arguments– it’s like a final hope to keeping their beloved arts funded by the government. Not everybody gets it, they want something that increases test scores and that’s it. However, that’s the point… not everybody gets it.

Students are individuals. They are all different. So why are we creating a one size fits all system to educate them?

Choice is an interesting word. Lefty statists often define themselves as pro choice, but really only when it comes to abortion. Everything else? Nah. But choice is what makes everything work, improve, rock, and roll. That’s why school choice is important.

Instead of fighting over what we as individuals want funded, why not allow schools to privately focus on certain areas, such as music, and let parents decide what is best for their child? All while being funded at a lower cost by the state governments, while operating in a free market environment.

So how do we implement this idea of school privatization? The Friedman Foundation of School Choice describes it pretty well:

“School choice is provided a variety of ways. Vouchers, education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships, and individual tax credits/deductions are the programs currently in operation in various states.”

First, a voucher system would allow the freedom of choice by parents to decide which school they want to send their child to, using funds allocated for education by the state government. The voucher could be used for partial or full tuition of a private school. Additionally,

“Education savings accounts allow parents to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but multiple, uses. Those funds can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, and other higher education expenses.”

The entire idea of school choice is moving education to a more financially efficient platform and creating a better environment for students of all races, income levels, and talents. We get to choose everything from food to clothing brands– we should hold education to the same expectation.

Some say that privatization will lead to schools acting like companies– treating students like money making products instead of people. But that is a misguided view of how the system works. The teachers and curriculum are the products. Students are merely the consumers, and with competition in the market, schools will be eager to please them. How do you get more customers at your school? Be a damn good school.

There could be all different types, targeted to all different kinds of people with different needs. Just like everything else in the free market.

Liberals claim to celebrate difference. Everyone has a different gender, sexuality, style and taste. So I challenge you, America’s left, to accept difference in education as well. Because it exists. School choice creates more individuality in the classroom and forces higher standards. It would also offer a way for teachers to earn based on merit, judged by their boss and not standardized testing. Equality is the enemy of progress.

Arguments against privatization bring up the students that will somehow be left behind or fall through the cracks. But as Dr. Larry Reed has pointed out, in our current government system, millions of kids fall through the cracks every day. And for an absurd cost.

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