As reported by The Telegraph, Stephen Hawking has apparently told Google’s Zeitgeist conference that, because philosophers have not kept up with recent developments in physics, “their art is dead”. This, of course, is itself as philosophical a statement as any that has ever been uttered (and certainly not one that could be derived from any physical theory; those who disagree are reductive physicalists – in other words, philosophers of a sort). By declaring philosophy to be dead, Hawking has proven it to be quite alive. And kicking.
I suppose it should come as no surprise, but two of the most anti-public education governors – Walker of Wisconsin and Corbett of Pennsylvania – are scheduled to address the American Federation for Children’s second annual policy summit Monday. As I previously posted about this organization after receiving a robo-call from it supporting State Senator Randy Hopper (one of the Republicans – currently facing a recall election – who voted for Governor Walker’s union-stripping agenda), the American Federation for Children actively supports political candidates that will further their goal of diverting public education funds to for-profit private schools (a practice otherwise known as corporate welfare). As WFMJ reports–
Both [Walker and Corbett] are expected to talk about school choice. Walker has proposed expanding a school voucher program in Milwaukee. Corbett is proposing cutting $1.6 billion from public education while also pushing for vouchers, which would allow students in poor-performing public schools to transfer to private schools.
There is no doubt that public schools can be improved, and that part of that improvement probably requires changing some of the provisions of contracts negotiated by teachers unions (including, perhaps, seniority provisions). But none of those changes require giving corporate welfare to private educational companies. If there were any empirical evidence that charter schools or publicly subsidized private schools do a better job of educating children than public schools (when such factors as student selection are controlled for, as Diane Ravitch emphasized in this post), I’d support it. But I’ve seen no evidence of that.
The “free market” is a wonderful thing, especially when it comes to supplying people with all sorts of non-essential goods. I want to be able to freely choose between multiple types of computers, cars, and guitars, and if that requires that they be made by for-profit companies, fine. But when it comes to essential goods that every citizen must have to survive (let alone to flourish) in a society such as ours, education and health insurance, it seems to me that, absent any good argument to the contrary, a government such as ours should supply them in a non-profit way, and as efficiently as ethically possible.