Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has pioneered a bold and liberating approach to giving young Americans the best education possible. She calls it the freedom of education.
Educational freedom is an important concept because it recognizes both the structural and technological opportunities for learning that have emerged since the development of the school choice movement. School choice began in Wisconsin under Governor Tommy Thompson and state Rep. Polly Williams (a former welfare recipient who was Jessie Jackson’s state president and became the most former Wisconsin State Legislator with 30 years of service).
The addition of vouchers was the bold reform of 1989. However, at the time, we assumed that the only learning delivery system was physical schools. The vouchers were intended both to expand opportunities for students and parents to find the right schools for them and to put competitive pressure on unionized public school bureaucracies and force them to improve or lose students.
Since the development of school choice and vouchers, there has been an explosion of new approaches and technologies ranging from individual family homeschooling, group homeschooling cooperatives, apprenticeships and now online learning. At Gingrich 360, we work with Dr. Ben Carson’s American Cornerstone Institute, which created the Little Patriots Program. It’s a great resource for students, parents, and educators who want to learn about American history in an engaging, fun, and informative way. Khan Academy, Prager University and Udacity are examples of other online learning tools to encourage lifelong learners.
Secretary DeVos captured this explosion of choices and the educational freedom they provide in her new book “No More Hostages: The Fight for Educational Freedom and the Future of the American Child.” As DeVos wrote:
“Freedom of education is based on the principle that each student is unique and that each student learns differently. This is something all parents know. Yet we have a school system that essentially treats children as if they are all the same. At its core, my vision for American education is to ensure that all children have the freedom to learn in their own way. This is to give parents the freedom to find the best option and the one that suits their children. … Above all, educational freedom also means giving teachers the freedom to meet the needs of their students in many different learning environments. Currently, teachers in public schools have very limited choice about where and how they teach.
“The positive and ambitious vision of educational freedom is that students are empowered to find places to learn that maximize their potential rather than being trapped in government-assigned zoned schools. Every child has a the opportunity and resources to learn and become a fully productive member of one’s community. Freedom of education honors this vision. It puts the student, rather than the system, first. That alone – making children the center of our education system – is reason enough to advance this cause for every child.
DeVos’ concept of educational freedom has been translated into a new Arizona law that would expand its Empowerment Scholarship Account program. As Steve Moore wrote in the Committee to Liberate Prosperity Hotline bulletin:
“We have been saying for many months that THIS is the school choice moment we have all been waiting for. So we stand at our desks to applaud that the Arizona Legislature has passed what may be the most far-reaching school choice bill in American history.
While praising Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for championing the bill, Moore wrote that the ESA would provide $6,400 scholarships to Arizona students for that they attend the schools of their choice, including public, private, religious or charter. schools. Since 2011, the program has only been open to 11,800 students who had parents in the military, were in foster care, or were Native Americans living on reservations. However, soon all of the state’s 1.1 million students could benefit from the program.
As ALEC and other organizations carry the message — and more and more concerned Americans read Secretary DeVos’ book — we are approaching a real revolution to achieve real educational freedom for all Americans.
No other education reform would do more to help poor children learn, lift themselves out of poverty, and embark on a life of fulfillment and prosperity.
No other reform can more effectively prepare the next generation of Americans to compete with China and have a productive and efficient workforce.
No other reform is so important in helping citizens learn enough to be truly self-reliant and free.
The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.