Never seen a libertarian?

Mike Klonsky’s Small Talk attacks Bill Evers, recently appointed assistant Education secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, as a right-wing political hack and neocon ideologist with anarcho-capitalist roots.

(Evers) was one of Paul Bremer’s boys at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, where he was hired to write propaganda pieces to support the invasion. In other words, he’s a war planner and a counter-insurgency expert.

Klonsky also misreads Evers’ comments in National Review praising the decision to eliminate “social justice” references from the Iraqi Constitution. Evers wrote:

… The drafting committee seems to have realized that “social justice” can become a replacement for real justice. Real justice means rendering to every person his due. A rhetoric of social justice sets the stage for conflict among groups over privileges.

In This Week on Education, which linked to Small Talk, I wrote in the comments that I’ve known Bill Evers since I started on the Stanford Daiy when I was a freshman. Evers is not a neocon or an anarcho-capitalist, I wrote. He’s certainly not a war planner or counter-insurgency expert.

He is a long-time libertarian who has made education reform his main focus for many years now.

Evers went to Iraq to help recreate the education system after the fall of Saddam Hussein. He wasn’t writing press releases. He was driving around to visit schools to make sure the school really existed, deliver payroll to teachers and find out about critical needs (chairs, books, running water). He didn’t want Iraq to be fed a trendy “social justice” curriculum by U.S “experts” who didn’t have a clue what Iraqis need or want. He thought it was important for Iraqis to take charge of education policy.

If people want to attack Evers for being a libertarian, that’s entirely fair. Or if his old Cato buddies want to attack him for not being libertarian enough — he’s very involved in math education not just in school choice — well, OK. Educators could say that he’s a political scientist, not a former K-12 teacher, which is true.

And he used to work for the Cato Institute. A right-wing hack, no.

This sort of attack is dangerous because it implies that education policy is about right-wing Republican Bush lovers vs. left-wing (or “progressive”) Democratic Bush haters. Most of the policy issues out there — such as how best to teach math or reading — predated the ascendancy of George W. Bush and have nothing to do with political parties. Or Iraq. When they talk to each other, people of different political persuasions often agree on education policy. We need more talk, less ranting.

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  1. wayne martin says:

    Bill Evers was until recently on the Santa Clara County (CA) Board of Education, which is an elected position. Santa Clara County is heavily democrat, but Republican Evers ( was able to win a seat.

    Evers was in the leadership of a parents’ revolt against the Palo Alto Unified School District in the mid-90s when the School District was drifting away from a classical math curriculum towards “new math” and the District’s student scores were dropping.

    Klonsky rants and rails like someone who is writing for Al Jazeera. Anyone who has any familiarity with the news in the education industry can easily poke holes in his diatribe (given half a day to do so).

    Freedom of speech means having to wade through a lot of chaff to get to the wheat.

  2. I tried to post this over there, but couldn’t get the comment page to work:

    Alexander Russo wrote:
    to lefties, libertarian just means more right wing than right wing

    That’s the kind of dangerous ignorace that has led some people to condemn The Shadow University, certainly one of the most important works on higher education reform in many years. It always astonishes me that some supposedly politically-active people are unable to realize that there can be more than two choices in life (“right wing” or “left wing”). They need to spend 30 seconds on the world’s smallest political quiz and learn something about diversity.

  3. Hunter McDaniel says:

    Your last comment is right-on.

    The charter schools I helped start in Boulder would never have gotten off the ground without the combined efforts of a founding group that included trial lawyers, accountants, scientists, and computer guys spanning a broad political spectrum. I guess we were fortunate enough to start before love/hatred of GWB became a tribal identification issue.

  4. Michael McKeown says:

    I’m a life-long Democrat and have know Bill Evers for more than ten years. He is passionate about education, and has a record of trying to find what will work to help children to learn more, faster.

    To attack Bill for going to Iraq is to denigrate someone who served where and when most of us would not. Bill was actually doing something to try to make a Iraq a better place. He could have stayed at Stanford and exhorted others. Instead, he did something.

    Not only was he on the Santa Clara County BOE, he was president of the board of the East Palo Alto Charter School. People who know the Palo Alto area know that East Palo Alto is an economically disadvantaged area far different from the rest of Silicone Valley area. How many who carp about Bill’s libertarian past are willing to do as much?

    It is true that Bill is a supporter of knowledge-based education. On the other hand, people who agree on the value of educaation and the weakness of the current system can disagree about what works. The key point is that we can share the goal, and in so doing we should work to find what works, not what we wish would work.

  5. Hunter,
    Do you have any advice on starting a charter school? Specifically, any good sources on the A to Z steps to take? A member of the Republican Liberty Caucus yahoo group I belong to has some ideas, and was able to lead the effort in his home town (I think in Virginia). He is willing to pass on his lessons learned, but I have yet to solicit his advice. I figure if I start now, my newborn will have a charter school to attend if the local schools are horrible by the time she’s 10 or so.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    A libertarian is neither left nor right wing – in my experience we have no wings at all.