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Introduction Our elementary and secondary educational system needs to be radically reconstructed That need arises in the first instance from the defects of our current system But it has been greatly reinforced by some of the consequences of the technological and political revolutions of the past few decades Those revolutions promise a major increase in world output but they also threaten advanced countries with serious social conflict arising from a widening gap between the incomes of the highly skilled cognitive elite and the unskilled A radical reconstruction of the educational system has the potential of staving off social conflict while at the same time strengthening the growth in living standards made possible by the new technology and the increasingly global market In my view such a radical reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system--ie by enabling a private for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools Such a reconstruction cannot come about overnight It inevitably must be gradual The most feasible way to bring about a gradual yet substantial transfer from government to private enterprise is to enact in each state a voucher system that enables parents to choose freely the schools their children attend I first proposed such a voucher system 40 years ago Many attempts have been made in the years since to adopt educational vouchers With minor exceptions no one has succeeded in getting a voucher system adopted thanks primarily to the political power of the school establishment more recently reinforced by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers together the strongest political lobbying body in the United States 1 The Deterioration of Schooling The quality of schooling is far worse today than it was in 1955 There is no respect in which inhabitants of a low-income neighborhood
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