Adam Smith on Public School

On a recent family trip to the library (what else do you expect from a group called the NerdFamily? 😉 NerdDad found a great book. It is P. J. O’Rourke’s On The Wealth of Nations (Books That Changed the World). Now we here in the Nerd Family are huge P.J. O’Rourke fans, and we can speak of his greatness further in the future, so NerdDad checked it out and found that Adam Smith had his opinions on school and how it should work.

This piece got NerdDad’s attention and then he had to share with me;):

Adam Smith was only a tepid fan of public education. As he went on to explain in book 5 of Wealth, he thought that some government subsidy of education was needed so that “even the common labourer may afford it.” Teachers, however, should be “partly, but not wholly paid” by the state. “In modern times the diligence of public teachers is more or less corrupted by the circumstances, which render them more or less independent of their success and reputation,” wrote Smith, making his modern times sound like ours. And Smith believed that certain very prestigious institutions of higher learning were teaching “a mere useless and pedantic heap of sophistry and nonsense.” Was UC Berkeley even around back then?

O’Rourke then goes on to further expand on Smith’s views. About how there was value in an ability and not just being a highly (or overpaid) specialist. This is all tied into how our economy works and what should be valued.

To me this further proves that merit of the public school educational experience isn’t the education because the public education system can be skewed by itself, its beliefs and its own social agenda. The public education system is not at all driven by what would be considered useful knowledge or what is good and productive. Just as God created man in His image, the public education system is trying to create a society of its own ideals and creation rather than concentrating on the knowledge it is getting paid to pass on.

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