Erik Lidstrom devotes a column at the Federalist website to the problems associated with government involvement in education reform.

In my forthcoming book, “Education Unchained: What it takes to restore schools and learning,” I take a different approach to the role of government in education. I demonstrate that we simply cannot reform the education of “our” children “together.” The good thing is, we could easily make changes that, within a few years, would provide virtually all children with a kind of education superior to anything that has come before. But we simply cannot do it “together.”

In fact, almost no matter what kind of government reform we carry out, the quality of education in the United States, Britain, or my native Sweden will at best remain in its current abysmal state. But most commonly the net outcome of a government reform will be that education quality deteriorates even further. Despite their enthusiasm and good will, charter schools and home schoolers today constitute not even halfway houses towards reform. They are more like a tenth of a way towards it, even though in the future both groups may become the sources of great education.

We must snap out of it and look at education clearly. First of all, education is, or at least ought to be, the outcome we seek. Schools are, or rather should be, mere tools to provide children with education. For various reasons, though, we treat schools as if they are a goals in themselves, as if they are some kind of tribal initiation rite, a ritual everyone has to go through.

Secondly, a hidden assumption is that we “know” what good education is. No, we don’t. To begin with, we all have different ideas about what good education means. Even more importantly, we do not have a meter, an instrument in our brains that can measure quality. Instead, we measure quality by comparing things. A high-quality mobile phone from 2003 is a joke today. Few would buy a high-quality car from 1951. When the government provides us with education, identical for all, by definition we have nothing to directly compare with. …

… The only way we truly progress, or even manage to preserve what we have, is through unchained trial and error. It is important to realize how crucial failure is. Lack of failure blocks innovation like a clogged drain. Competition should sweep away failing schools within weeks.

Thus, to improve education we must liberate it. Government should have no, or hardly any part in financing education, determining curricula or diplomas, or oversight of education. In short, I propose a “free system of education” where parents pay, without any or hardly any government involvement.

For more on education reform ideas, including those involving government and the traditional public schools, be sure to sign up for Terry Stoops’ “Education Update.”