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South Carolina Honors College

Education’s Invisible Hand: South Carolina’s Panacea

Elijah Lawson 

 It is a melancholy subject, the decline in educational efficacy in South Carolina. I am contrite now at its discussion, though it is necessary to burden myself with it again as I have recently gained a certain sophistication of thought and certain insight of perception. Galvanized by this contest’s prompt, I began to delve into a means of amelioration. What I came to realize was that our current system failed to harness a specific aspect of its students’ potential – a facet innate and unique within each individual. Something so very apparent yet so very neglected. Our schools have egregiously failed to see such a conspicuous panacea to their degeneration: the student’s value as a commodity.  

Schools as factories – it would be the quintessential combination for growth: the amalgamation of the Leviathan and capitalist. Why should we not apply it in our schools? It is apparent that there are working aspects of the factory system already in practice here – the standardized tests and the class rankings – and do we not hold them in the highest regard? However, Adam Smith did not wish for the government to lessen aspects of its control of products – he wished that they be freely manipulated. Students are to be treated as such then, held to the same gold standard, subject to the laissez-faire demand of colleges, and molded with the same interchangeable parts. Schools must reflect these ideas so they can benefit from the transformative effects of the free market. We must, as South Carolinians, realize the only way to promote the betterment of our education system, and thus our state, is to discover the true potential of students as cogs of a greater machine.    

But still, some students in the education system protest that its capitalistic aspects are inequitable, inefficient, and dehumanizing, and even the better students, though less insolent, feign provocation from time to time. They fail to realize a factory works not for the products but for profit. As we have learned from the Homestead Strike, profit does not always involve the benefit of all associated groups. Nevertheless, the steel companies continued to demonstrate massive profit though they did not capitulate to unionists. Those students cause uproar just as the steelworkers did – it is obstruction. It is of necessity that I enjoin you to return them to the classroom, put them in uniform, and make clear their rank. For steel to continue to be made, we must put down such dissidents. Should we not, free enterprise and thus growth will cease to be maintained. The rearing of these students is a practice of order, discipline, and compliance. They must be acquiescent for a reasonable profit. 

If we should make those recalcitrant students acquiescent, I envision a fulfillment of centuries of socio-economic development. I see a school of only elites; I see an assembly line of only premium products. A social contract between the students and the school that their worth is predicated on their percentage, that the highest echelon they can reach is executive subordinate. I see a Darwinian system in which students are pitted against students for the acquisition of prestige by academic fiat, in which the new gentry are defined by their intellectual birthright. Should we succeed, I can see a system defined by its capitalistic roots and exemplary of the zeitgeist of the Gilded Age. The free market will mold South Carolina’s education system into a paragon of academia. We all know of capitalism’s innate ability to cause growth in all it touches. All we must do is see our students as what they are – commodities.   

I will finish in optimistic terms: I see this future on our horizon. Though I speak of nebulous concepts, I assure you that what I argue for meshes into the weave of South Carolina’s education system. Strict regulation in dress codes, assembly lines in classrooms, gold standards in tests. Education is industrializing before our very eyes! I assure you, South Carolina’s panacea is already taking effect. Our only present objective should be to maintain the status quo so education’s invisible hand can mold our schools into factories of the market’s desire. South Carolina’s education is nearing a golden age, but it requires time for the necessary infrastructure to assemble and for our export goods to be complete. As such, I suggest a simple call to action: wait. It is only a matter of time before students become products and schools become factories.  

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.