Although I have already written this week, I see that this parent-is-best thread is getting some attention. I couldn't help but add to it.
Rothsbard suggests my tutelage as a child would be best managed by parents. My experience brings that argument to question. If I had begun to learn the saxophone at age 9, or began singing, I would have learned from a nationally recognized music program. Instead I decided with my parents that music was not my forte. Never mind the studies of developmental psychology that show improved mental development with involvement in art and music programs. At age 11 I was placed in the advanced track Mathematics program. After 3/4 of a school year, my annoyance with homework convinced my mother to drop me to the regular track math program. Instead of considering my clear aptitude for mathematics, decisions were made based on parents responding to complaints from a child. Never mind studies showing the young mind must be challenged to meet its potential. Never mind what has been proven to result in the best developed and therefore most efficient person our society could produce.
Now, at 21 years old, I am struggling to motivate myself to learn guitar. I staggered in calculus after years of disengaged coasting in mathematics. I have started reviewing economics (which I also shirked), but I have some ways to go. Rothbard says this is good: as an adult I am choosing to pursue my own interests and applying my skills where I see fit. Fine. I do wonder what the opportunity costs of these missed experiences has been.
My mother might not have fully considered my educational options while raising three other kids and working >full time. Her GED may not have given her the best background for understanding the benefits of these programs, or the process for college applications, but my mother taught me to learn from better informed people. Maybe the decades my Father has spent working manual labor were not the best background to help me make educational decisions, but he did teach me to demand the best from myself. I think Rothbard made an excellent point by distinguish the role of formal education from societal education. You cannot be taught work ethic in a lecture. If you give the same resources to different people you will have different results. Education is no different.
I'd say if we measure it by student knowledge and performance, the best policy is to get kids to spend more hours and more days in school until we have maximum performance. I'd say every student should learn english and spanish in elementary school, since bilingual children are shown to perform better in life. I'd say programs can be influenced nationwide without turning into No Child Left Behind, because there is no reason to say past failures make failure inevitable. There is no reason to say that tenure cannot be reformed, and no reason we can't double the national funding for education by cutting a fraction of military spending.
And yes, we could privatize the entire system and start over again. Theoretically we eliminate massive bureaucratic waste etc etc, but what about implementation? What about convincing 300,000 Americans that the answer is to give their children to corporations for education? Baby with the bathwater?
Now, I've rambled. Please feel free to beat my arguments like a nerd in the high school locker room.