As a lifelong public school attendee, I have seen first hand the consequences wrought by the subsidization of ideas. In middle school, I was taught the same facts of American history twice – but nothing about the ideas behind it. In high school, I was taught that we cannot have firm opinions at the same time I was taught that only College Board approved authors are literary. In college I have heard ‘intellectuals’ attribute the course of world history to geographical convenience and “white privilege”. When the government decides which ideas to support (or not to support), it is at fault if students are plunged into such an insuperable haze of disconnected facts and platitudes.
These inapplicably vague and contradictory ideas have in common that their proliferation is publicly (forcibly) funded and that their content cannot be chosen by the members of a given public school system. Some school choice systems allow students to attend other public (and in some cases private) schools, but they, their parents, and taxpayers, (including home-schooling parents) are still initially required to pay taxes, and participating schools are still effectively subsidized. In such cases, the element of choice preserved is not whether to pay, but whom to pay.
Government-subsidized ideas are reinforced at the expense of others’ ideas. If professors of a private institution in Massachusetts want to teach students about the benefits of Capitalism, they are forced to compete not with merely another University, but with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which has access to an inexhaustible pool of others’ money with which to fill the sails and coffers of its flagship institution of education.
The validity or invalidity of the ideas taught in a given institution is irrelevant to this discussion; a private institution has the right to teach any ideas it desires, but a public institution does not. Applying the fairness doctrine to education, by forcing publicly funded educators to present Darwinian Theory along side creationism, intelligent design, and scientologist literature, would perhaps be a step toward ideological heterogeneity, but it would not alter the fact that people who would not benefit from or have a voice in the educational system would be forced to contribute.
A more proper first step to establishing a free market in education (and ideas) would be to give citizens the option to opt out of funding and attending the public education system, while maintaining school choice for those who opt in. Educators from all public educational institutions would provide potential patrons with overviews of curricula, teaching methods, and budgets, so that parents and students could make informed decisions as to whether, where, and when to participate in the public system. Such an approach would force public schools to function within their means, afford private institutions with fairer opportunities to compete against them, give public schools themselves more incentive to compete, and remove the burden of funding from taxpayers who will not benefit from public education. Such would be the beginning of the end of the subsidization of ideas.