Education, Decentralization, and the Knowledge Problem: A Hayekian Case for Decentralized EducationReport as inadecuate

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Philosophical Studies in Education, v43 p117-127 2012

American public education has become increasingly centralized over the last hundred and fifty years. Everything from curricular objectives and assessment tools to teacher certification criteria (and, often, textbook decisions) are being made at the state level rather than the county, district, or school level. Increasingly, teachers are told what they must teach, what best practices they need to employ, what tests they must give, etc. This paper brings the arguments of economist Friedrich A. Hayek to bear on the problem of centralized decision making in education. Hayek marshaled several arguments against central planning of economies that the author will argue should be applied to similar trends in the field of education. Namely, Hayek argued that there was a knowledge problem in society, whereby knowledge is naturally dispersed throughout society in such a way that attempts to concentrate it into a single planner or planning board are, at best, inefficient and, at worst, impossible. Just as with economies, attempting to centralize the governance of educational institutions necessarily overlooks the essential role of local and personal knowledge (teachers reacting to the particularities of their student demographic, schools revising their practices in response to local conditions, and so forth) in educational endeavors. (Contains 30 footnotes.)

Descriptors: Educational Administration, Administrative Organization, Theories, Centralization, Economics, Decision Making, Knowledge Level

Ohio Valley Philosophy of Education Society. Web site:

Author: Currie-Knight, Kevin


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