30 April 2008

Time to Revisit Education

Time to bang the school choice drum again.

Not that we ever stopped.

And the more we think about it and read about it, the more convinced we are that Teachers' Unions (not CEO's or oil companies--today's "Robber Barons) are the bad guys. Seriously. Education spending has increased exponentially even under a Republican president and grad rates and test scores continue to plummet.

Don't confuse this with an out and out bash on teachers. We know lots of good teachers who work hard to teach their students. This is an attack on teachers' unions. Their priority is not students, it's self-perpetuation. We'd appreciate an economic evaluation from one of our econ student readers on the implications of a union in an industry with a government guaranteed & run monopoly. Seems like a recipe for disaster to us.

Anywho, read the first article by traditional conservative George Will on the failure of public education:

Education Lessons We Left Behind

This next article talks about something we first addressed back in January--the potential urban appeal of choice and school vouchers. Refresher:
Public education overwhelmingly fails minority students. Given the opportunity, minority parents--especially African-Americans--have taken their child and voucher and gone to better schools. With the Democrats and adversarial teachers' unions joined at the hip, this is an opportunity where Republicans are uniquely positioned to capitalize. What's more, it would not be a case of pander-politics. Conservatives already believe in vouchers and school choice, they simply need to explain how they benefit minority students.
This might be our favorite public policy topic.

McCain's School Choice Opportunity

No, the author of this article does not cite us.

Public education? Less government, please.
Free market! Free market! Free market!

If you have tips, questions, comments, suggestions, or requests for subscription only articles, email us at lybberty@gmail.com.


buruboi said...

Great points. This could prove to be a politically expedient policy for McCain especially if Hillary gets the nomination (get it?).

If government can guarantee that participating schools abide by certain standards then I'm fine with vouchers (I wouldn't want to waste my time and certainly any kids with creative design in science class or graphic sex ed. in second grade).

I went to school in the boogie down Bronx. The difference in quality is considerable. Good students (not me) can get a fair education, but distractions abound.

Matt said...


Why does the government need to guarantee that schools abide by certain standards? Are we so whetted to government involvement in everything we do that we can't bear to imagine it any other way?

Suppose government makes no guarantees. Won't the schools simply reflect what their consumers want? If I want my children to be taught graphic sex education, there may be a school for that. (Incidentally, I saw "Definitely, Maybe" last night. Terrible flick, but there is a scene where parents at an uppity Manhattan gradeschool are picking up their children who, to the parents' dismay, have just learned all about sex. "At least it got them reading again!" suggested one parent.) But if not, there is certainly a school for me--one that will give me what I value and demand, like high test scores, entrance into a good college, maybe even (gasp!) disciplined children.

The point is that the competitive process will eliminate the need for government intrusion, assuming parents by and large want a good education for their children, one that will help them get into a good college and obtain a good job.

Matt said...

I meant to say "wedded." A thousand apologies.

buruboi said...

Because in some places the demands of the majority of consumers infringe on the rights of certain minorities. In the South, for instance, there are many private schools that double as anti-everything-not-protestant schools. Say you’re a Hindu, Muslim, or a Mormon, you’re experience is going to be one of ostracism and an extracurricular glass ceiling (examples of this exist). If the government requires standards that curtail such ceilings (or other adverse effects like, sticking with the South, segregated schools), small minority groups lacking large enough of a demographic to create a market for a different type of school won’t be left out to dry. This is admittedly a minor issue, and I haven’t looked at statistics or read much on it. But, I think it is an issue important enough to consider. Moreover, a small set of standards wouldn’t, I think, be considered excessive government intrusion.

The federal government would set a few standards and provide funding to state governments who would carry out the voucher system. If a state abides by federal standards, they would receive a full government subsidy. If they didn’t, then a degree of that subsidy would be detracted. In this way we create a voucher system that is by and large dictated by the free market while reducing adverse effects like the one illustrated above. So, again, with a few standards, I’m all for a voucher system.

You’re anecdote about the TV episode in which parents were up-in-arms about their children’s whacked out education reminds me of a few studies I recently came across. One, despite attempting to prove otherwise, concluded that no correlation existed between classroom performance and dollars spent. Contrastingly, another study did find a correlation between classroom performance and parental involvement. I think an apt moral of the TV episode would be this: be as involved in your child’s education as prudence allows. Voucher system or not, they’ll be better off this way. With that said, I think the voucher system makes sense since it gives parents and their children more and better options.

As for the latter question, Yes, I am wedded to government intervention, so much so that hearing someone utter the term ‘government intervention’ lends me to wet my pants in excitement. Oopps!...brb…(sorry, I just got back from changing into a pair of dry underpants).

Are you serious?!? Did my suggestion that government intervene by guaranteeing certain educational standards indicate an addiction to government intrusion or extremism in economic and political orientation? Considering your tendency to misunderstanding everything I say, I should mention that the previous paragraph was entirely tongue-in-cheek.

In the outside chance that you are serious, I can’t speak collective, but personally, no, I’m not wedded to government intrusion to the point that I can’t bear to imagine it any other way. For the most part, I believe the free market offers far more efficient outcomes than does the government. I’m an advocate of free trade. I like NAFTA. I’m veraciously supportive of the free trade pact with Columbia especially considering the potential it has to significantly increase the economic output of New Orleans and Louisiana. But even these free trade agreements involve government intervention in a limited form. There are standards set which are monitored by participating governments. Is this a bad thing? Or excessive? I don’t think so. A fusion of a mostly free market with minor government intervention can be a very healthy thing. To draw on Aristotle, moderation in all things.

I would return the favor and ask you a similar question: are you so wedded to capitalism that you can’t bear to imagine someone proposing limited government intervention in the free market? But, that wouldn’t be as much a favor as an insult. So, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you don’t hold irrational and extreme opinions on economics or government. You should try it, too, sometime.

Warren Jeffs said...

I agree completely with Matt. I am sick and tired of the government trying to come in and tell me how to raise children in my religious community. We know what is best for our children, and we don't need the godless government trying to tell us what we can and can't do.

Matt said...

I suppose my question about government intervention was not meant to be taken as an accusation, just a collective rhetorical question, meant for introspection. I do, in fact, agree with you on nearly everything you said. My original questioning was simply a reflection of my frustration with the attitude that government MUST be involved in setting educational standards--this is still something with which I do not totally agree, though I'm open to other arguments, which you provided. Nowhere do I suggest free market dogma or no-holds-barred capitalism.

Re-read the post. It's actually quite reasonable. The readers of this blog could deal with a strong dose of the chill pill, perhaps intravenously.

Ben Treasure said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben Treasure said...

I agree with Warren Jeffs on this one. Keep them out of our roads, transportation, and everything else. Tell the kids to go talk to "the market" if their schools are dysfunctional. If they can't understand market economies at a young age, let the little monsters drown. We need a nation of economics majors, not Godless crybabies who whine about a government whose sole purpose is apparently just to print money and ignore disparity.

Ben Treasure said...

Oh and I also agree with Matty that I'm getting sick of people not seeing the brilliance of my arguments on blogs, to the point where I have to counter by telling them to go read it again. If you can't get my mind-blowing intellect the first go-around, clearly you just missed something because I don't make bad arguments. I just don't.

RD said...

Ben and Warren are right! Down with the governments! Tools of Satan! Jesus preached the Free Market! Survival of the fittest! Efficiency or bust!

PS, In all seriousness, Ben, I must take issue with your economics statement. In reality, the world's most accomplished economists are the ones that are currently criticizing the religion of free markets and hands-off government. Many Republicans would have you believe that the economists are on their side, but they aren't. These economists (I recommend reading Stiglitz first, if you have time) point out two major flaws with the laissez-faire ideology: (1) Truly free markets, like the pretty ones you drew in your Econ 110 class, don't actually exist in the real world, so the models aren't accurate; and (2) Even if they did work, basic microeconomic models demonstrate that free markets really screw the people who start with nothing. The first point has been talked about since Keynes, and most economists have advocated government intervention to fix inefficiencies. The 2nd point doesn't seem to bother most capitalists, but I wonder what Jesus would say....?

And, I'm all for school vouchers if, as buruboi has argued, they are held to standards just like public schools. After all, the government is subsidizing the voucher. It can have a say in how the money is used. But I like the voucher idea, because it inserts competition into the education market which, if properly regulated, will increase the quality of teachers.

Ben Treasure said...

Fair point. All the more reason why I find it amusing to hear anarcho-capitalists making continued assaults on any form of regulation.

And in terms of Mr. Jeffs and his crew in Texas, I was pro-tank.

Wendle said...

“We know lots of good teachers who work hard to teach their students.” Thank you in behalf of the hard working teachers out there.

I am very much in favor of school vouchers. First of all, why not provide a better educational opportunity for those who may not be able to afford it? Second, schools and teachers would be forced to become better because they would want the funds coming to their school. It’s like you said Matty, the schools would reflect what their consumers want.

I just don’t think our system would allow for a change as great as removing all government. Buruboi brings up an interesting point about the majority infringing on the minority. I would be interested to hear more about the problems that has caused in schools. I think it would be best for the federal government to set certain standards and be somewhat involved just to make sure that education survives in all areas of the country.

Charter schools are an excellent way to start bringing in some choice for parents. They’re free, available to anyone, federally funded, have to meet certain state requirements and they all have their own little niche-- meaning parents can choose their child’s learning environment and focus.