Monday, March 05, 2012

The Educational Octopus

"Every politically controlled educational system will inculcate the doctrine of state supremacy sooner or later. . . . Once that doctrine has been accepted, it becomes an almost superhuman task to break the stranglehold of the political power over the life of the citizen. It has had his body, property and mind in its clutches from infancy. An octopus would sooner release its prey. A tax-supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state." 

~Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine (1943)

"Through education and training we develop skills and abilities to improve our human capital, which is our investment in the future. The productive capacity and standard of living of a country depends on the quality of human capital available. Therefore, there is no more important responsibility than the education of our children since this is our investment in the most important resource of all–human capital.

There is no surer way to guarantee that our children continue to receive an inferior education than to continue educating 90 percent of our children in the public school system. Education is far too important a responsibility to leave in the hands of a government bureaucracy whose monopoly status allows it to be insensitive and unaccountable to parents and students.

Public education is a bad investment in human capital. We need to break the stranglehold of the “educational octopus” before it is too late."

~The Educational Octopus, my article in The Freeman, 1995

50 Comments:

At 3/06/2012 3:51 AM, Blogger steve said...

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At 3/06/2012 6:10 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

public education is the absolute worst thing in the world - until you look at the alternatives!

How about we name the top3 competitors to govt-sponsored public education?

I'm in full agreement that we need some competition but these kind of rants invariably have no better ideas that actually exist and are in effect somewhere in the world.

Every single industrialized country and most developing countries in the world have a govt-sponsored education system.

The only ones that do not are the worst of the worst 3rd world countries.

 
At 3/06/2012 7:13 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Larry G: "How about we name the top3 competitors to govt-sponsored public education?"

How about a question that is rooted in reality? How can you have a competitive system for anything when there is a government run monopoly preventing competition? When you have a system where competition is impossible and you can't then claim their are no competitive alternatives.

The public schools are dying, just like the post office. They will go the way of the used to be all important telephone company, and when they're gone we'll wonder why so many people thought they were so important.

People educated their children before there were government schools. They will educate them after government schools are gone.

 
At 3/06/2012 7:13 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Larry G: "How about we name the top3 competitors to govt-sponsored public education?"

How about a question that is rooted in reality? How can you have a competitive system for anything when there is a government run monopoly preventing competition? When you have a system where competition is impossible and you can't then claim their are no competitive alternatives.

The public schools are dying, just like the post office. They will go the way of the used to be all important telephone company, and when they're gone we'll wonder why so many people thought they were so important.

People educated their children before there were government schools. They will educate them after government schools are gone.

 
At 3/06/2012 7:19 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Larry,

What's wrong with private schools? Your Bishop Stang High Schools and Boston Latin Academies of the world? Your Harvards and TCUs and all those?

Correct me if I am wrong, but I am reading your comment as these private schools are inherently inferior to the public educational model. In what way are they?

 
At 3/06/2012 7:20 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

" How can you have a competitive system for anything when there is a government run monopoly preventing competition?"

HUH?

you have over 200 countries in the world - now and in the past in all stages of government formation ....

and none of them went the non-govt route and ALL of them decide to go the govt route?

If the world is a laboratory for different kinds of country governance and institutions - how come they ALL end up with govt education?

just saying...

is saying that they were all "forced" by govt really begging the issue?

are you saying that EVERY govt in the world refuses to represent what their citizens really want?

 
At 3/06/2012 7:37 AM, Blogger Broll The American said...

Pontifications about octopi are entertaining but this is just idealogical rhetoric. The article criticizes the fact that 90% of our population will receive an inferior education through public schools. The alternative would be that maybe 20% receive a great education while 80% receive nothing at all?
The "problem" with public education has very little to do with education at all. MP is all about charts and graphs... find a chart that plots the average amount of study outside of class over the past few decades vs the amount of time spent watching TV, playing videos games and time spent online and texting. I'm sure you'll see the lines going in divergent directions. Add to that the spread of drug use (20 years ago pot was common drug the suburban middle class HS student... now there's an epidemic of prescription drug abuse). Let's not forget the increase in students who are on prescribed anti-depressants at higher rates than in the past.
Given all these issues, there's little wonder why we are not happy with the achievement of our students.

 
At 3/06/2012 8:35 AM, Blogger Aiken_Bob said...

Interesting comments - but from my point of view it is not so much gov't schools it is what level of gov't. A long time ago it was local control, local school boards, local taxes, and local teachers. As more control goes to the individual states and then to the federal level we get what we have today -- a system that is not effective, not responsive, not accountable -- i.e. like all other federal programs.

 
At 3/06/2012 9:43 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

Public schools were good enough for your grandparents and your parents...but now it's total crap and must be eliminated? WELL DUH!. If you have a good thing and starve it to death you get you what you get. Don't blame public schools - blame the slow starvation it's been put through. in city Chicago, the public schools no longer have stall doors in the restrooms or supply toilet paper. Good luck getting an education kids...

 
At 3/06/2012 10:19 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

"public education is the absolute worst thing in the world - until you look at the alternatives!"

you're joking, right?

the US has amazing private schools.

systems like the harmelm children's project have taken over terrible PS's and made them excel for half the money.

voucher systems were working well in dc till obama killed them.

kids should come with money. parents should send them where they like.

we spend around $12k/student/year on elementary and high school in the US, more than anywhere elese in the world.

and we are getting poor results.

time to add competition to the system and make it work.

larry, you argument is the same foolish luddite argument that those who refuse to change always trot out: "this is how we do it. this is how they do it. you cannot change that!"

that's just ridiculous. we'd all still be using travois poles instead of that new fangled "wheel".

pointing to how it is done now is not an argument. you could use that against abolishing slavery or granting women's suffrage or switching to an internal combustion engine or moving manufacturing to an assembly line.

all progress comes from disrupting the existing paradigm.

and your argument about serving the populace is just rhetorical nonsense.

you think that people in the US feel like the government is doing a good job with schools?

that for $240k a year, you cannot teach a class of 20 well?

you are making a deliberately false and distorted argument.

the public schools in the us are a dismal failure, a massively inefficient use of capital, and are not run for children, but for teachers unions.

they have been insulted from any competitive pressure at all for a ages.

you have to pay for them even if you do not use them.

imagine how well bmw's would sell if you HAD to buy a ford first even if you didn't want to drive it.

make the schools and teachers compete, and they rapidly improve, like harlem. free up curricula and hiring and firing for staff, and schools rapidly improve, like finland. give kids money and let them go where they like, and the best and brightest thrive, like DC before obama shut it down.

you seem to think the schools should be run like the post office.

it's been a terrible failure, yet you cling to ideas of "this is how it's done".

the solution is very, very simple.

taxes and expenditure remain the same. every kid gets money. that money goes to whatever school he/she attends.

schools compete for kids and kids compete for schools.

do you really not believe that competition among providers leads to better quality products at lower prices larry?

because that's the argument you are, perhaps unwittingly, making.

 
At 3/06/2012 10:19 AM, Blogger Broll The American said...

I agree with Bob...

NCLB and RTTT create a self-fulfilling prophecy. The general public's distrust of Federal government and the belief in its inefficiencies has been used as a tool to undermine what were once satisfactory institutions under local control. Federal involvement has tainted the product, breeding contempt for public education. Now that sentiment will be exploited as a reason to trash the entire system in favor of private alternatives. There will be a handful who will profit hugely off this while the rest of us will not ultimately receive a better educational product or a better deal in terms of cost.

 
At 3/06/2012 10:44 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

broll-

that sounds like a ton of apologist dogma.

the system trashed itself. it was hijacked by teachers unions whose massive political donations and clout have allowed them to negotiate predominantly with politicians they bought and paid for for decades.

the system is run for and by teachers, students are a distant second or third priority.

consider what running a system entirely by tenure does.

dead wood can never be culled. and why would a young and capable individual want to get into a career where merit is not rewarded but tenure is?

why would any good employee seek to work in such a system.

it's not federal taint that is the problem, it's unaccountable and untouchable teachers. they have ZERO incentive to do their jobs. they cannot be fired for being lousy.

public education is a stagnant backwater because of this.

 
At 3/06/2012 10:45 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

One thing to keep in mind is the public education thing is a fairly new concept. Until Horace Mann came along in the 1800's and founded the first public school in America, most schools and universities were run either by local churches or children were home-schooled.

 
At 3/06/2012 11:03 AM, Blogger bix1951 said...

what bothers me is the idea of "human capital" We are not just factors of production. We are people!
The goal is the pursuit of happiness
not the pursuit of good workers

 
At 3/06/2012 11:05 AM, Blogger Broll The American said...

morganovich - I know many teachers personally, as well as those that have taught my children and I find that they are more dedicated to their profession than anyone else that I know working in other fields. Most teachers despite how you want to paint them do go into the profession with a genuine desire to educate children (something our society desperately requires). It is not a "job" to them as are the careers to some many in the regular workforce.
I agree that unions use their influence over politicians. But is that not the point of a union? Its their job to ask of the moon... it is the politician that must be held accountable if they agree to it.

 
At 3/06/2012 11:23 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

broll-

i also know a large number of teachers. if you are fortunate enough to live in a wealthy community with good schools, then you get better quality.

but try looking at the public schools in san francisco. they are dire and full of retread teachers with zero accountability.

new york? same.

detroit? puh-leez.

the system is designed to create this. it's where all the incentives lead.

the simple fact is that the US spends more per pupil than any notion on earth and is getting terrible results for it.

attributing that to "a federal taint" is indefensible. it's the teachers and their unions. perhaps you have noticed how violently they resist any sort of merit based pay?

seriously, how can you expect results in a system where compensation is not tied to performance?

would you invest that way? would you hire a house cleaner that way?

the problem is that, faced with no competition, the schools stagnate.

tenure based systems deter the best and brightest who want to compete on merit.

anecdotes about teacher dedication are meaningless in the face of the aggregate results we are getting. you cannot build a system on altruism.

this knee jerk defense of teachers is part of the problem.

for every wonderful dedicated one, there are 5 retreads. that's why our kids test so poorly.

it can take 5 years to fire a teacher in new york city, and the schools mostly suck as a result.

in harlem, they make teachers compete and fire them for non performance.

those schools went from the worst in new york to the top third in a few years and for half the money.

the solutions here are obvious and tested.

can you seriously believe that competition hurts education quality?

if the teachers are these wonderful committed altruists you describe, they should WELCOME performance based pay and have their skills and dedication finally recognized and compensated.

instead, they fight it tooth and claw. that pretty much tells you all you need to know about the truth of the matter.

those who actually perform do not seek to avoid performance measurement and performance based compensation.

 
At 3/06/2012 11:40 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Morganovich and Broll:

Let's assume, for the sake of this argument, that every teacher is a shining pillar of virtue and each and every teacher in the nation only wants to educate his/her students. They don't care about pay, politics, test scores, or anything but educating students.

Does that change anything? I think not.

Here's why: Choice.

The way the public school system is set up in America, if you want to attend a public school, you must go to the one near you. For example, if you lived in Wareham, the only choice for a public high school was Wareham High. WHS will have a constant stream of students, regardless of whom they hire. So, just like anyone who faces a budget, they will attempt to hire the lowest cost teachers/administrators. If (and this is an "if") this leads to a lower quality of education, what incentive is there to improve? They have a steady stream of students.

On the other hand, private schools must compete for students. They must hire the best teachers they can afford to make the school attractive. If they do not, then students don't come and they dissolve.

In my opinion, this is the major flaw with the system we have now: no accountability. I feel a better system would be to give each family a voucher with $X amount (whatever we spend on educating children per year) and allow parents to decide where to send their students. Schools will need to compete for students. I promise you, if we adopted a system like this, the quality of education will go up in America.

The argument against business monopolies is they reduce competition, charge higher prices for inferior goods and resources are wasted. Why are we willing to tolerate that in education? It seems to me that, if we are going to be consistent in "trust-busting", we should look at all monopolies, not just the unpopular ones.

 
At 3/06/2012 11:57 AM, Blogger Paul said...

"Its their job to ask of the moon... it is the politician that must be held accountable if they agree to it."

The problem is the public sector unions often elect their own politicians to later "bargain" with. In the ’70s, chief union boss of NY proclaimed, “We have the ability to elect our own boss.” When John Corzine was running for Governor in 2006, he promised to "fight for a fair contract" to a cheering crowd of government union workers.

 
At 3/06/2012 12:10 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

here's another way to look at it:

you get what you pay for.

if you set up a compensation and employee retention system that rewards performance, that's what you get.

if you set one up to reward tenure, well, that's what you get.

this has a doubly pernicious effect as those who can perform do not wish to work in a system where such is not rewarded.

teachers get paid and get job security and position choice by seniority, not by capability.

imagine running a sales force that way. you'd be BK in no time, saddled with a bunch of chair warmers and unable to incent any hot young talent to join.

we need not just competition between schools for kids, but among teachers for jobs based on merit and results, not years in a chair.

the results of this in harlem have been very dramatic.

until you link pay and job security with performance, you've got a real problem.

 
At 3/06/2012 12:34 PM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Larry G: "are you saying that EVERY govt in the world refuses to represent what their citizens really want?"

The government is not the citizens. The government represents the people in the government and those that support the government.

Are you saying that people are free to NOT support the government schools when they want (i.e., they can withold their taxes from the government schools)?

The best you can hope for is being allowed to send you children to a non-government school while still paying for the government one (and not even that in some countries).

That is not competition. That is monopoly.

 
At 3/06/2012 12:36 PM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Broil the American: "The alternative would be that maybe 20% receive a great education while 80% receive nothing at all?"

How long did it take you to invent that number?

 
At 3/06/2012 12:38 PM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Kevin: "If you have a good thing and starve it to death you get you what you get."

LOL! Public school receive more money today that they ever did in all of history.

 
At 3/06/2012 12:41 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

The city of Seattle has very liberal voting pattern. One would expect parents to send their kids to public schools, in support of liberal agendas.

Over 25% of children in Seattle are sent to private schools, in support of a better education.

Seattle Public Schools has some excellent teachers and staff, but constant social experimentation and student disruptions(discipline is getting harder to enforce), bring chaos and a weak education to most of its schools.

Even Seattle liberals, recognize the added burden of private school expense is worthwhile and necessary.

 
At 3/06/2012 12:45 PM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Broil the American: "NCLB and RTTT create a self-fulfilling prophecy. The general public's distrust of Federal government and the belief in its inefficiencies has been used as a tool to undermine what were once satisfactory institutions under local control."

Really? Those Federal programs just materialized out of thin air? There weren't any problems with government schools before that? It was all a big plot by conservatives? Progressives didn't have any hand in it?

If government schools are so poisoned now, why not go back to less government involvement? Why not allow for choice and vouchers? I'm not a big supporter of those either, but if you're acknowledging what we have now doesn't work, then why defend it so vigorously?

 
At 3/06/2012 12:58 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Geoih,
I talking about public schools on planet earth - you should visit there some time.

 
At 3/06/2012 1:09 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

no kevin, you are just making up facts.

us public schools are among the best funded in the world. only siwtzerland and austria spend more.

they get about $10k/student/year.

are you seriously going to try and tell me that $200k a year is not enough money to teach 20 5th graders, because if so, i'm gonna call BS.

that is A LOT of money.

our schools are fattened like fois gras geese, not starved, they just spend it so badly and with so little accountability that no amount of money would help.

look at DC where per student spending is $18k. the schools are still among the worst in the US.

seems to me that you are the one in need of an earth tour, not geo.

 
At 3/06/2012 1:15 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Don't let the facts hit you on your way out.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/school-finance/

 
At 3/06/2012 1:32 PM, Blogger Ken said...

How about we name the top3 competitors to govt-sponsored public education?

Dong Boudreaux answers this question by asking what if grocery stores were ran the same way public schools are? The obvious answer in this case is Giant, Shopper, and Food Lion are three ways to provide food better than government. It is obvious to anyone who has thought this through that privatizing education and allowing parents to choose any type of education for their children they see best is superior to a group of people with no connection or stake in a child's future decide what he should learn and when.

I'm in full agreement that we need some competition but these kind of rants invariably have no better ideas

No better ideas? Are you an idiot? Privatize education!!. This is a far better idea than a government monopoly.

Every single industrialized country and most developing countries in the world have a govt-sponsored education system.

Is it really a surprise that those in power recognize the easiest way to maintain power is to control the public school system where it can be taught to every child how important it is to have a strong powerful government.

The only ones that do not are the worst of the worst 3rd world countries.

Third world nations and dictatorships usually have the most stringent public schools. This is the only way they can indoctrinate the entire population on how wonderful their shitty nation is.

 
At 3/06/2012 2:21 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"public education is the absolute worst thing in the world - until you look at the alternatives!"...

An alternative like people paying for their own children's education and that means they have a direct investment in the outcome larry g?

 
At 3/06/2012 2:33 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

kevin-

those are not facts, those are opinions.

it's clear you cannot tell the difference.

further, it's not even correct.

here are the facts:

http://www2.census.gov/govs/school/09f33pub.pdf

go to page 15.

contrary to your article, us per pupil spending is over 18k in ny state.

the national average is well over $10k.

so again, you tell me, how is $200k a year not enough money to teach 20 5th graders?

you could pay a teacher top dollar, and have PILES of cash left.

you simply parrot the teacher line that "we need more money"! no matter how much they have.

i have presented you with clear evidence that they have TONs of money.

they are just not spending it well.

a class of 20 in ny state gets a half a million dollars a year. for that, i'd expect these kids to be speaking 4 languages and proficient in multiple sciences and math instead of being barely literate.

at $18k a kid, every 5 kids could have their own $90,000 tutor. that's not enough to get results?

you have to be kidding.

 
At 3/06/2012 2:47 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

further, per pupil funding has increased massively in the US.

even in inflation adjusted dollars, per pupil spending has DOUBLED since 1975 and tripled since the 50's.

http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/10facts/edlite-chart.html

yet test scores are dropping and we keep having to make the tests easier.

sorry kev, but the data here is all against you.

upping real spending has coincided with worse results. if money was the issue, why did we test better on half the real expenditure in the 70's?

you are just flat out making stuff up and ignoring very clear data.

money cannot fix this. there is plenty of money in the system and it used to do far better with 1/2 as much.

it's the system itself that's the problem.

there is no other possible interpretation of those facts.

 
At 3/06/2012 3:08 PM, Blogger Mike said...

As this is an opinion, I'm sure it'll be met with some disagreement, but I think the increasing money schools get (and more time we spend debating it in the public forum) makes the schools and teachers completely responsible for the education of children in the minds of average and below average parents.
When people spend more and more for a service, the less they feel they should do themselves

I think one of the biggest benefits to school competition would be on the psychology of parental competition.

 
At 3/06/2012 3:19 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

mike-

if your theory is correct, then why does the same thing not happen in switzerland and austria, both of whom spend more per pupil than we do?

why do parents who send kids to private schools not also evidence this pattern?

surely, given that they are paying twice, they would REALLY expect full service.

 
At 3/06/2012 3:28 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Morg,
I think that's a valid point, and I could be totally wrong, but I feel there are significant cultural differences between here and there.

 
At 3/06/2012 4:05 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Morg,
I just realized I didn't answer your second question.
Private schools are the competition I'm talking about. I think the parents are fully invested in time and money...making a consumer-based choice alone projects certain expectations to everyone in the unit. I'd also guess, based on some personal experience, that people who send their kids to private schools have a tendency to do a lot of early education in the home and those trends are likely to continue.

 
At 3/06/2012 4:14 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

public education is the absolute worst thing in the world - until you look at the alternatives!

How about we name the top3 competitors to govt-sponsored public education?


Private schools. Home schooling. Charter schools. All work better.

 
At 3/06/2012 4:21 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jon M: "One thing to keep in mind is the public education thing is a fairly new concept. Until Horace Mann came along in the 1800's and founded the first public school in America, most schools and universities were run either by local churches or children were home-schooled."

Except that his interests weren't so much in educating children, as in indoctrinating them, and making them "good citizens".

For example:

"Arguing that universal public education was the best way to turn the nation's unruly children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens..."

"Mann hoped that by bringing all children, of all classes together, they could have a common learning experience."

"Mann also suggested that by having schools it would help those students who didn't have appropriate discipline in the home. Building a person's character was just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. By instilling values such as obedience to authority, promptness in attendance, and organizing the time according to bell ringing helped students prepare for future employment."

"Mann faced some resistance from parents who didn't want to give up the moral education to teachers and bureaucrats."

Wow! I'll bet he did.

Mann is not alone in seeing advantages to molding children through state control of education.

 
At 3/06/2012 4:27 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Mike: "When people spend more and more for a service, the less they feel they should do themselves"

While this is certainly true for charitable giving, I wonder how many parents really don't care to play a role in their children's education?

 
At 3/06/2012 4:34 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

ROn,

I agree with you. I was just pointing out that, if people are going to use the "that's the way we do it and the old ways are the best" argument, then it's worth noting that there is little historical presidence for universal education.

 
At 3/06/2012 4:58 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jon M,

Sorry, it's hard to tell sometimes when reading comments, what the beliefs of the writer are, although based on on some of your others I would be surprised if you were a supporter of Horace Mann.

At least it should now be clear how I feel about him. :)

By the way, I think you nailed it with your comment about choice.

"Here's why: Choice.

In my opinion, this is the major flaw with the system we have now: no accountability. I feel a better system would be to give each family a voucher with $X amount (whatever we spend on educating children per year) and allow parents to decide where to send their students. Schools will need to compete for students. I promise you, if we adopted a system like this, the quality of education will go up in America.
"

If there IS to be publicly funded education, and that's a separate argument, then it seems obvious that attaching money to the student rather than their address is a minor change that could provide tremendous improvements.

The only arguments against it seem to involve the idea that parents can't be trusted to determine what's best for their own children.

 
At 3/06/2012 4:59 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Ron,

I don't know that answer, but it sure seems that there are a lot of parents that either don't care, don't know how to care, or may care but haven't had to be as immersed in the process as they could be if they had to make choices that affected their money and daily routine. This is something I hadn't considered until I went to a health savings account and became a consumer in an area that I always felt like I was powerless and mute.

Certainly with the increasing number of single-parent and dual income homes, the all powerful monopoly of public schools, the money spent, political dialogue - and let's not forget the American pastime of always blaming somebody else first - the parental 'peer pressure' here seems to be towards negative (or inaction) instead of self-help or 'competing' with your neighbors for the best outcome.

I don't think I'm on to the great solution, just part of a complicated problem that nobody wants to talk about because they are (or may be) part of the problem. And, of course, if you want to make sure you lose an election, tell the voters that they aren't doing their job at home.

 
At 3/06/2012 5:07 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Ron,

Regarding Horace Mann, I have to say I do owe him something: he founded the school that would eventually become my Alma Mater, Framingham State University.

That being said, I like my schools politics-free

 
At 3/07/2012 11:39 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

mike-

"the parental 'peer pressure' here seems to be towards negative (or inaction) instead of self-help or 'competing' with your neighbors for the best outcome."

i think you are very wrong there. "tiger mom's" etc are all over. kids are under far more pressure to perform than they were. getting into top universities is MUCH harder.

sure, there are loads of parents that neglect their kids education, but that has always been the case. what makes you think this is a new thing?

be careful with such armchair anthropologising. do you have any actual evidence to back that up?

you seem to be making a lot of broad claims based on your anthropological assumptions and then trying to back them up with claims like "well, it's different there".

 
At 3/07/2012 12:42 PM, Blogger William Bruce said...

While well aware that the plural of anecdote is not evidence, I may as well add my experience...

I come from a small Midwestern community, and attended public (high) school there. For every instructor exposing the students to new material, there were nine or ten engaged in remediation. Almost all of us were utterly unprepared for our ACTs, and the few of us that received scores over thirty were considered to be "exceptional." That meant we were outliers, and our success was due entirely to our "natural inclinations." With the exception of two AP-track instructors, everyone was quite convinced of the efficacy and standards upheld by our institution -- including, I might add, the parents.

Without competition, people don't even know what they are missing.

 
At 3/07/2012 2:40 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Morg,
As I said at the very start, this is purely opinion. However, I have noticed many things in my years with the public being in the media. I'm not comparing today's parents to 'the good ole days' when I was a child, I'm seeing very different styles of living (mostly amongst the lower middle class) than I did just a decade ago. This is an observation and definitely tilted towards to income groups that I have (and did have) the most interaction. I'm talking about a group that may not send their kids to a university at all without a scholarship or grant, let alone a top university, so I believe we're discussing different life groups.

I never said this was a new thing. I think the possibility of school choice becoming a reality is a new thing. It's the existing 'loads of parents' that I'm talking about. Not all of them are neglecting their kids, they are in a semi-helpless state (or believe themselves to be)...all you have to do is move this bunch by a few percentage points and you make a huge impact.

The number of single parent homes, for an example, is rising and that is fact. The priority list at home tends to be on immediate need and what is accessible and/or possible - that's understandable. All I'm saying is that one possible unforeseen benefit to school choice would be increased involvement in the education of some folk's children. If you want to argue with that, I'd guess you just want to argue about something.

 
At 3/07/2012 3:54 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

mike-

oh, i agree that school choice ups involvement, it was your original premise about paying more making parents less engaged i found to be implausible and your response to the swiss and austrian counter examples of "things are different there" to be no answer at all.

the single parent family has certainly become more common, but the wealth of families has also gone up, the social safety net has become stronger, and families tend to have fewer children.

you seem to be repeatedly grabbing one stat and ignoring others.

a family with 1 child focused on them more than one with 3.

far fewer children work than used to.

all that ought to increase scholastic performance.

you seem to be looking only at pieces of the data that fit your preconceptions.

it appears that we agree on the desirability of school choice, i'm just questioning your attribution of causality on the current trends, particularly your first set of ideas about paying more driving less engagement.

 
At 3/07/2012 5:31 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Morg,
I'm not making any statements that I have not already conceded to be anecdotal. All I can say is I'd wager the farm that you and I hang out with different economic classes and I happen to be in a position that puts me in a constant demographic region in social situations (that is part of my job). I can tell you that, while I'm not doing serious number crunching, I have gleaned a considerable amount of information about lifestyle from these groups (this is also my job and I do it pretty successfully based on the results I've gotten).

These aren't preconceptions, it's audience research done without scientific screens or minimum participants, spaced over an undetermined time-frame. You may completely discount it if you wish. All I'm telling you is what I've learned, admittedly in an unscientific, but effective, way.

Most of what I'm saying is based on seeing an unusual/unexpected change in which incentives seem to be driving 18-34 year old females. It can certainly be argued that childbirth is being pushed off later and that I am talking to the 'child moms' of 20 years ago, but they aren't children and the level of support and responsibility for a 26 year old 'child mom' is entirely different from that of a 16 year old (typically).

 
At 3/07/2012 6:01 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Oh, one more thing. I may not have been clear, but regarding: "original premise about paying more making parents less engaged.."

Not what I was trying to say. What I meant was that it seems the more people pay in school taxes and the less voice people feel they have in public education (probably a result of movement into a first-time-home owner situation) the more they allow themselves to shift the blame of poor student performance to the school. I don't know if this decreases the level of involvement, but I see more people complaining than working to solve personal issues.

For example, I hear a lot of people say they're killing themselves to get their kid in a magnet school because their kid isn't learning, but the things they are doing at home don't change. Involvement is there, but possibly misplaced. Purely my opinion, but after talking to these people, I think the only way they'll believe they need to do more is to actually see that the best may not be good enough in their case.

 
At 3/08/2012 9:19 AM, Blogger Junkyard_hawg1985 said...

"public education is the absolute worst thing in the world - until you look at the alternatives!

How about we name the top3 competitors to govt-sponsored public education?

Private schools. Home schooling. Charter schools. All work better."

Well Said Vangel!

 
At 3/08/2012 9:25 AM, Blogger Junkyard_hawg1985 said...

School choice makes a difference. I was lucky enough to grow up in the only county in SC that had an open school district (allowed people to change schools if class space was available). I changed schools my senior year and that allowed me to take Chemistry 2 (wasn't available in my old school). Having Chemistry 2 really helped me as I went on to become a chemical engineer.

It also had a positive impact on my attitude my senior year. I was at the high school I had chosen, not the one I had been assigned to against my will. Freedom is a good thing.

 

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