Friday, August 14, 2009

Trust, Creativity, Schoolmaking, and The Beautiful Tree

One more plug for James Tooley's The Beautiful Tree, an account of the ways that very poor people around the world are creating their own schools, in many instances better than the ones offered by the state.

Tooley is a libertarian, and some of his book contains the traditional libertarian praise for markets as the makers of good schools. In a time of economic collapse also brought on by something called "the market" it is tempting to toss out his argument for no other reason than that.

But it is worth being precise when we talk about education. And in this case, the market that created these schools, and the market that brought about the sub-prime crisis are hardly the same. In the school market in India, and Kenya, and Ghana, and China the market might be better called a voluntary association. In them, people who care about poor kids, and who are poor themselves, decide to do something about education. So they talk to the parents of kids they know. And they set up a school. Parents pay for it, to be sure, and in that sense it is part of the economic market. But the school's success relies on trust between parents, kids, and the school-makers. And from that trust flows creativity, and endurance, and commitment, and learning.

One lesson the book taught me--the United States needs more schools because it needs more school-makers.

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