No one disputes the critical value of good education. Without it, people suffer, economies deteriorate, and nations decline in influence.

More Americans than ever have chosen to get involved in the process of education, reflecting heightened concern that something has to be done to turn a number of unhealthy trends around. Several states have developed pioneering innovations designed to revamp the system of public schooling. Much of this activity is all to the good, but in many respects the work needed to promote excellence in education is just beginning.

In Michigan, both public debate and public policy have lagged behind trends in the more innovative states. Here, the central focus still is too often on superficial or peripheral issues that avoid the need for far-reaching and fundamental restructuring. Too much attention has been devoted to equalizing funding of schools and redistributing government aid. And all too often, dismay with the current system has given rise to counterproductive scapegoating and personal attacks on certain individuals or interest groups.

We believe that everyone has a vested interest in a well-educated populace. It's time for that universal interest to take precedence over any parochial concern about maintaining the status quo. The time to question long-held basic assumptions and to embrace fresh notions of meaningful reform has arrived.

This book makes the case that meaningful reform starts with "freeing up" education. As noted herein, many educational ills today stem from a system which puts a premium on self-preservation at the expense of children, a system which performs poorly not because it employs bad people, but because it restrains and penalizes excellence.

America's essentially free economy has produced more goods of higher quality for more people than any other economy in history. Vital pillars in that remarkable performance are the virtues of consumer choice and market competition. A sure­fire prescription for mediocrity – even failure – in almost any endeavor is to deny individuals the power to choose and to foist upon them a single supplier. These are truths from which all of us concerned about education have much to learn.

Education is simply too important to be insulated from the potent powers of choice and competition. In Michigan and across America, we must come together to find ways that infuse these time-honored virtues into the education of our children. If this book serves to activate creative minds to that end, it will serve its basic purpose.

Lawrence Reed and
Harry Hutchison,
August 1991