Say’s Law and Education

This afternoon I was listening to a panel discussion on for-profit education, as part of some research I’m doing for offering Kindermusik classes at the School of Performing Arts. While much of it probably won’t interest most readers of this blog, one thing did stick out at me as particularly thought-provoking.

One of the panelists spoke about the ability of the private sector to educate far more efficiently and effectively than the public sector—a truth with which I couldn’t agree more strongly!—making reference to Say’s Law, which states that “supply creates its own demand.” His point was that innovative people create things which no one has yet “needed” (e.g., fax machines and cell phones), and this in turn creates demand for that good or service. In this case, educational entrepreneurs develop educational products (e.g., Kindermusik) which are proven effective over time, becoming both beneficial to society and profitable for the entrepreneur.

What I found most fascinating, though, was when he went on to describe public schools as “necessarily conservative”—in the sense that they “must not be subject to the vicissitudes and fads of the moment”—whereas education, to be successful, requires “the entrepreneurship of people with new ideas, flexibility, agility, imagination, energy, the willingness to run risks, and also a desire to make a little money.”

I’ll admit that when I think of public schooling, the word “conservative” typically does not come to mind. But as I thought about it, I realized the panelist was correct in his assessment. With an increasing push for standardization of student outcomes and the emphasis on a “common core” in government schools, the options for teachers and parents are quite limited in public education. This really is a conservative mindset, albeit a mind set on conserving values more commonly labeled “Liberal.”

Private and home schools, meanwhile, are at liberty to pursue whichever methods are best in a given context, giving parents and teachers the freedom to choose whichever educational options are best for their students. As the supply of excellent educational choices increases, it will create its own demand among those who haven’t yet realized what they are missing. This truth is what makes me so excited about my work at the music school and at Highland Rim Academy!

So what do you think? Are public schools “necessarily conservative”? Is school choice the key to better education for all? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.


In the same discussion, Kindermusik CEO Michael Dougherty also stated that his “driving mission” was to prevent music from becoming “the next Latin,” something vital to a child’s education which has been “snuffed down in the lives of children.” As a huge fan of classical education, I thought that was a pretty cool connection to make!

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