Equality - Not a Good Idea

Equal opportunity and rights under the law are noble goals, but expecting equal outcomes is silly, impractical and pernicious. Everything we value creates or results from inequality. Diversity, choice, variety, multicultural and tolerance of differences all are either causes or consequences of inequality.

Equality of outcomes is incompatible with equality of opportunity. If people have opportunities they will make different choices and if they make different choices, they will produce different outcomes.

Inequality in desire is the basis of exchange. If everyone wanted the same things, all deals would be zero sum and there would be no reason to make any. Compulsion instead of cooperation would be the basis of all transactions. Freedom both creates and requires inequality.

Inequality in talent is the basis of personal fulfillment. We all want to develop our natural gifts, do what we are good at doing, do what we like to do. We hope we will be better than others at the things we do well and assume others will excel us in their particular areas of expertise. This latter attribute is the basis of the synergy in teams. Pursuing our dreams and talents both requires and creates inequality.

Different people, with different talents and different aspirations will not only produce unequal results. They also require unequal inputs to help them all achieve their potential.

Pursuing equality of results and inputs can cause the most harm when dealing with young people and education. I suggest you all view or read the recent 20/20 report on being stupid in America.

Our goal should be to help all children live up to their potentials, not to make them all equal. It is just as unfair to deprive unusually talented or intelligent students of the advanced stimulus they require as it is to deprive below average students of what they need to become productive adults. We should be concerned that no child be left behind and that includes those on both ends.

Should we hold Mozart back so that Salieri can catch up? If you find real equality, you can be sure everybody has been deprived of opportunity. Let's make choices while we can and forget the nightmare of equality of results.

Posted by Jack at January 14, 2006 9:57 PM
Comments
Comment #113286

What was said? Our kids are right up there at the top until after 4th grade?
What does that tell us?
To me it shows that by the time our children are at that age we should be able to figure out their interests and talents.
Once our children reach high school age they should have an opportunity to go into the area of education they will enjoy more, appreciate more, and possibly excel in.

Public school should be available ‘as usual’ BUT parents should be allowed to use the federal funds allocated for their child to enter a private school with a specialty - such as work study - or vocational training.
Why would choosing an alternative school be any different than choosing an elective?
As it is now … most kids give up on their education by the end of high school for reasons such as boredom OR they don’t see how it will benefit them in the ‘real’ world.

Posted by: dawn at January 14, 2006 10:28 PM
Comment #113294

I also watched the program last night on 20/20. As a high school educator in, what from most perspectives is a failing school in an urban area, I found most of the information to be true. We are lacking teachers who truly care about their job. One reason for this is many our driven out of the field by lack of money (beginning teachers make less than 25,000 a year in the South where I teach) and by bad politics. Those who do stay are given restrictive pacing guides that cannot realistically be taught in our schools. What I did find disturbing in the T.V. program, however, was the lack of parental responsibility for any of the problems. Teachers are not miracle workers or magicians. Many of our students come into our classrooms very behind starting as far back as pre-school. The gap gets bigger every year. When we are placed on these pacing guides we do not have the chance to remediate. Also, we have many special needs children placed all in the same classes (I teach one class where 2/3 of the students are labeled as special needs ranging from learning disabled to behaviorally disabled). When you put all of those children in one class you are most likely going to end up with behavior and learning issues that usually result in less material being learned. We label these children then put them in reg. classes without much help. In addition to that, the state puts restrictions on how many students can be suspended and/or expelled. This results in problem children returning to our classrooms and further disrupting the classroom with no consequence to their actions. Don’t get me wrong. There are bad teachers but they are only the tip of the iceburg. Having a choice program may help some but it can’t fix the problem. It’s like putting a band-aid on an open flesh wound. The education system in this country needs a complete overhaul.

I agree with you Jack. We get so worried about making everything equal for everyone that we take the options out of education. But I don’t think a choice plan is going to fix that. The snippets they showed of Belgian schools were slightly misleading. It’s not just a choice of schools but also school pathways. In Germany, for example, all students go to school together until 5th grade. After that there are 3 main pathways the children can end up on (university bound, career bound, or career tech bound). The end result for each leads to specialization while still in K-12 school. In order for us to accomplish something like this we would have to be willing to accept that not all children are college bound and not all children need to take college prep courses (at my school it is the only option for students). Unfortunately, I think we are a long way from that mentality.

Posted by: Kris C. at January 14, 2006 11:57 PM
Comment #113302

I agree with your assertion Kris. We do need change in the goal structure of our education system. With a high school diploma, the majority of opportunities are supposed to be there upon successful completion of the requirements. However, since most of the modern paradigm is that all kids should become college graduates, and those that don’t are left to fend for themselves.

I have wanted to become a business/econ teacher at the high school level for a long time. However, in the state of California, there is one year of student teaching required before the credential is awarded. Problem is, it is unpaid. It also does not take into consideration any life experience. I know going in that the money is not great, but there is alot of time off, some really decent benefits and if I do my job right, that certain fuzzy feeling that comes from helping someone overcome fear and ignorance of the necessary things to live.

Auto shop can teach a person to turn the wrench, but who teaches how to fill out a loan app? Who teaches how to balance the personal as well as the company checkbook? Who teaches about small business and/or personal retirement benefit plans. Who explains about the necessity to incubate the all important credit rating?

In almost every other business arena, the current level of job senority, wisdom, experience are transferrable to the next position whether it be a lateral move, promotional move or a demotional move in order to affect a change in the career path. In other words, you don’t typically go from the current employement level to another entry level position.

I am not saying that oversight is not necessary, and well as any specific education requirements. Thats the easy part, the internet and night school help there. I am not afraid of pressure and performance, if after the evaluation period and I am found to be incompetent, I would expect to be unemployeed just like any other probationary work period.

Thank you for slogging it out. Heres looking at a paradigm shift.

Posted by: Scott at January 15, 2006 1:04 AM
Comment #113307

jack,

You could just as easily ask…should Salieri be held back just because he’s not Mozart? Equal oportunity is what it’s about, not equal results. If I miss your meaning, is it because I did not have the same educational oportunity or because I did not take advantage of it when it knocked…?

Posted by: Marysdude at January 15, 2006 1:48 AM
Comment #113319

Jack, I’m not sure who you think wants “equality of results”. Americans just want equal opportunities.

Adding to what some of what’s been posted, there’s a really interesting book called, “The Two Income Trap”. One of the major themes is that people buy houses they can’t afford so they can send their kids to better schools — and end up bankrupt. The author’s solution is public school vouchers that allow kids to get into any public school regardless of the district they live in.

Kris, I recently heard Australian Prime Minister Howard encourage 10th graders to “Drop out and get a trade” job. Apparently, there’s s shortage of low-skilled workers in Australia and the PM is trying to fill it with high school dropouts rather than importing cheap foreign labor… Maybe Jack’s on to something. :/

Posted by: American Pundit at January 15, 2006 4:48 AM
Comment #113353

Jack made a very dangerous philosophical statement when he said : “Freedom both creates and requires inequality.”

Careless tossing about of important sounding words like these have been known to result in millions of deaths, torture, and suffering.

I understand what your theme in this article is, Jack, and the quoted words above don’t belong in it, or need constricting definition.

Freedom? From whom or what, Jack? Freedom is most often associated with the relationship between a population and their government or some ruling organization.

Freedom creates inequality? Is that true in the eyes of the law, Jack? Is your statement intended to defend the premises of Orwell’s “1984”. Or “Animal Farm”? Are you subtly arguing for separate and unequal schools, Jack, one’s for slow kids and others for fast? Are your proposing we segregate society according to their talents and treat them differently according to class?

Freedom requires inequality? Do you mean like the wealthy having unequal and greater access to legislators, Jack, to shape the laws and policies of this country? Is that what you mean by Freedom requires inequality? Or, do you mean that in order for some people to live in freedom others must live in slavery, Jack, otherwise the concept of freedom has no meaning? Is that what you mean, Jack.

Your words are very dangerous, Jack. I should think you would want to give them context and definition and contextual constraint in order to insure that such words are not used for the wrong purposes.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 15, 2006 8:32 AM
Comment #113362

David,

I think freedom does create inequality. We have the freedom to pursue any job we like. Inequality will come out of that because we’re not communists who pay the same for any job that you do. Also people have the freedom not to work or to work part-time. With freedom comes choice and with choice comes a variety of results.

And, yes, this country does need to offer more choices in education. This one size schooling fits all is laughable at best. All so we can say every child has the same opportunities. Well, we all know that isn’t true because every child has different parents with different things that they teach their children. Not every child needs to pretend that they’re going to be a doctor or lawyer. Let’s be realistic and actually prepare them for the reality that they will face. You can still offer them the same opportunities and let them pick their pathway, but something has to be done.


American Pundit,

As for equality of results, what I took that to mean was by only focusing on a small section of our kids, and what their needs are (a college education), we are doing little to provide an equal education to the rest. Not everyone needs to analyze Shakespeare or learn quadratic equations. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t be teaching the kids about what they do need to know for the field they’d like to end up in. I think we’ve become too politically correct to admit that all of our children aren’t the next Mozart. But that doesn’t mean their education has to be any less rigorous or important. But simply ignoring it should no longer be an option.

Scott,

If you were willing to move across the country other opportunities await you. In North Carolina alone roughly 35% of our teachers are what is called “Lateral-Entry.” What this means is they have a degree in the field that they are teaching in but they have no educational certification or experience teaching. They do not student teach. They are assigned a mentor teacher and go to classes (which the school pays for) and after their 5th year become fully licensed teachers and receive tenure.

Posted by: Kris C. at January 15, 2006 10:05 AM
Comment #113363

If Jack’s words need constraint for fear of contextual misuse, so do those in opposition. I guess bussing children was meant to do something. But as is the case with any monopolistic government entity, being all things to everyone as the goal, is to strive toward mediocrity. Lets teach bland toast, don’t have enough time to dress it up for those that see it as toast and would like more and not enough time to teach the ingredients to those that don’t see it as toast yet. So move ‘em along we can worry about it next year.

The government can and should come up with national, state and local standards for accredited graduation. Put the money with the children and let their parents choose.


Posted by: Scott at January 15, 2006 10:09 AM
Comment #113364

Kris,

Thanks for the heads up. Love to move, but am an involved divorced dad, kids trump career at the moment. However, love to see that program here in CA. As soon as the kids graduate 12th grade, I am free to go.

Posted by: Scott at January 15, 2006 10:33 AM
Comment #113368

David

I understand your point that words can be powerful and we have to be careful with their results in the real world where I would say that the idea of equality is even more dangerous. Many of the millions of people murdered by fascists and communists were the victims of the idea that they deviated too much from the group. They were creating equality.

For both David and AP

Equality under the law and equal opportunity are important. What I fear is the shift to equal results. Google “disproportionate impact” and read some of the four million pages.

In a few weeks the Olympics will begin in Turin. If this year is like others, a nation of just over four million, Norway, will win most of medals in cross country skiing. Many much more populous countries won’t will any. How do we stop this injustice?

Marysdude

People have different talents and desires. There are some things a person can easily do. Some things that come with difficulty and some things that don’t come at all. If you try to create equality among unequal things you just deprive everyone.

I have no musical talent, but I have studied languages intensively. I have been in small groups where we intensively study language, all with similar language ability overall, but different skills. I can read and understand easily, but speaking is a challenge. I had a colleague who could mimic whatever she heard, but didn’t know what it meant. We both ended up learning the language, but we had to break up because we needed unequal inputs. If I waited for her to learn the reading, I would be too slow to learn to speak. If she waited for me to learn to speak, she couldn’t spend the time learning to read.

In too many classes the teachers hold back the fast learners to let the slow ones catch up. Sometimes if you slow the smart kids enough, they get bored and become dull.

AP

Vouchers for other public schools are good too. Choice will improve schools.

Re “unskilled” workers, the guy who came to fix my furnace told me that he could not get anyone to apprentice with him. He said that he could promise that the kid would be making $80,000 in about five years. He also said that he wanted a kid about 18 with no training.

A friend who took time off his fancy pants job to help his extended family rebuild their homes on the Mississippi coast tells me that ordinary labor is getting around $40 an hour, while skilled plumbers and electricians can demand hundreds.

My father, a blue collar high school dropout, managed to instill in me a prejudice against NOT going to college. It has taken me years understand that this is wrong. There are plenty of training programs that require and allow the application of intelligence. University education is over applied in the U.S.

Of course I still beleive that if you have not managed to learn some useful skills by the time you are forty, there is something wrong with you.

Posted by: Jack at January 15, 2006 11:13 AM
Comment #113374

Jack, at 18, I didn’t feel I needed to go to college. My parents forced me (I was the first in my family to get a degree), and now I make far more than $80,000. That’s good money for a trade skill (if you can get it), but I’ll be providing my son with a college education.

I googled “disproportionate impact” and found a bunch of articles about the impact of climate change, AIDS, STDs, and environmental health threats on the poor and uneducated. I’m not sure what that has to do with the topic… Unless you’re saying those people should shut up because us rich educated folk don’t want to hear about it.

Personally, I’d rather just make sure they get the same opportunity for an education and good-paying job that I had.

I think we’ve become too politically correct to admit that all of our children aren’t the next Mozart. But that doesn’t mean their education has to be any less rigorous or important. But simply ignoring it should no longer be an option.

Kris, are you saying you think kids who don’t want a college education are given a worse education in our public schools than those who would like a higher education? I’ve never heard of kids who express a preference for not attending college all of a sudden being “ignored” by their teachers.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 15, 2006 11:41 AM
Comment #113375

Jack,
By 40??? The last time I checked Societal Standards the age a male in America was 10. At that age he is to be held to be Right by Nature regardless.

Also, A good attempt at spinning the issue of Equality; however, you last paragraph Should we hold Mozart back so that Salieri can catch up? If you find real equality, you can be sure everybody has been deprived of opportunity. Let’s make choices while we can and forget the nightmare of equality of results. grabbed my attention. Especially since you wanted to link it to Education and Freedom. So let me if I can show you How and Why your spin does not fit Today’s Society.

First, Real Equality begins and ends with the Individual’s desire and freewill to learn, understand, and know how and why “Everything” works together for it is with this Cardinal Knowledge that true Freewill & Freedom begins. See, today, thanks to the Democratic and Republican School Broads, our entire Education System is departmentalized. An expert for every field of Knowledge and then some, even our political parties have departmentalized their operations. And this flaw in our Parents Thinking on Society was made prevalent during the 9/11, Iraq War, and Katrina/Rita/Wilma. Lack of imagination I think is the political Blame Game word. How the Republicans want us to “Believe” that any such ideas would be “Thinking out of the Box.” Now, I should say that I am sorry first, but the last time that I check All the Known Laws of Our World such things are a possibility in our realm of thought are they not? I ask this not out of being mean, but to demonstrate the flaw in critical thinking of your party’s leadership and show why America’s Teacher need to be allowed to the our children The Truth about America’s History beginning with the Thomas Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty and the Six Nations of Iroquois Tree of Peace

No, the Founding Father of America were Right when they stated in the Declaration of Independence We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.— However, it is in the Realm in which you look at the meaning of the words that the Right and True of it is seen. Every Man, Women, and Child is endowed by their “Creator” with certain unalienable Rights among them is to Breath, Drink, and Eat (i.e. Consume). Thus, as Consumers of Nature’s Beauty and Bounty, every Individual in America has the duty and responsibility to strive forward so that someday one of America’s Generations will learn how to design and build an Unlimited Sustainable Economy where all Consumers can afford to pay for what they need and want in a manner that does not allow the Beasts of Nature can not harm our citizens. In fact, one of the reasons given for our National Forests at the turn of the last century was so that our generation would be able to see the Raw Beauty and Strength found in Nature. IMHO, I think that is the best legacy the Children of the 70’s could do considering it was our generation that has had to deal with explaining to our parents and grandparents why they were all wrong in the 60‘s & 70‘s.

You than ask if we should hold back one Human over an other Human can catch up. Well, in America that is exactly how our Society is suppose to work. In this manner no one group of citizens can get wiser than another. This fact of life can be seen in Americans willingness to change over to the metric system. Yes, those few citizens that have learned to ride the wave of society has profited greatly as the rest of society has spent the last 35 years realizing that Life is more than a paycheck and a hot meal. Yet to listen to some Republicans talk, the starving can go hunger because society lacks the ability and knowledge to ensure them an opportunity to live a simple productive life. So should we hold back Mozart so that Salieri can catch up? Ask the telecommunication business why is it that President Bush stopped all release of cooperation and technology In early 2001 of such companies like Rhythms so that The Bells of America could catch up. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t that go against what the Republicans preach?

And while it is true that not all Humans do learn in the same approach, the very vast of the majority “Get It” when the proof is Self-Evident. So while Inequality will always be a part of Nature, the balancing act between Right and Wrong has never changed unless you want to count the Republican calls for America accepting “The Wimp Clause” in the Written History of Humanity’s Civilization.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 15, 2006 11:47 AM
Comment #113377

Jack,

“A friend who took time off his fancy pants job to help his extended family rebuild their homes on the Mississippi coast tells me that ordinary labor is getting around $40 an hour, while skilled plumbers and electricians can demand hundreds.”

More than half the cost of those laborers is the cost of doing business. If those laborers are working for a company they actually make less than $18.00 an hour

I am a freelance technician, and I make good money, but depending on how good a year I have a large percenage goes to taxes. I also have to pay for my own benefits.

As far as the article’s remarks about teachers;
If the parents incapable of controlling their own children, how can we expect the teachers that have no authority to be able to do so?
Teachers have to compete with cell phones, text messaging, and video games, how do they make a classroom environment exciting with all the distractions?

Children need to have learning skills, and if these aren’t taught at home, how can we expect a teacher to handle a large classroom of children with varying skills?

I am against school vouchers for all students. I allready pay for a public school system, and that system is floundering. If a private school wants to offer scholorships for those students that are capable of fast track learning, fine, but don’t ask me to pay for two systems for all students.

Posted by: Rocky at January 15, 2006 12:05 PM
Comment #113398

Ugh, these articles, like their titles are simply to raise ire and provoke. They’re not insightful, they’re inciteful, and I’m pretty bored with reading these opinions that are so ridiculously obtuse and meant to be linearly narrow in scope. I’m off to find a conservative blog that’s actually about discussion and exploration…

Posted by: Michelle at January 15, 2006 1:52 PM
Comment #113408

Jack said: “Many of the millions of people murdered by fascists and communists were the victims of the idea that they deviated too much from the group. They were creating equality.”

That is a clever use of words, Jack, but deceptive. The fascists and communists you refer to were not creating equality as you well know, they were eliminating differences. An entirely different concept. Equality by definition is a relationship between two distinctly different entities. A fine point you seem to miss in this discussion.

I agree with you that equal results from any policy amongst recipients of that policy is logically, intuitively, and realistically not a plausible expectation. Which raises, the point, why do you raise the point when it is so obvious?

But to grant, as our founding documents profer, equal opportunity and treatment at the hands of government, has been a hallmark of greatness inherent in the ideal of America. Why do you subtly attempt to subvert that all important theme? This is a political blog, therefore it seems appropriate for readers to project a political context upon your views.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 15, 2006 2:48 PM
Comment #113416

I think I need to move from Wisc. I came here with a BA in business and because I didn’t have a minor I have been going to school for over 2 years taking the classes associated with a minor and the teaching classes. Talk about frustrating!!!

Even when it comes to something like NCLB there is a problem. States are mandated to create tests and then use these to determine the schools that are not performing up to standards.

Everyone knows which are the “bad” schools. The money is tied to a dog and pony show that makes people feel better because of the perception of “accountability”. What a waste of time and money pretending that we don’t know which schools need the funds.

Charter schools and private schools are not the answer. The differences are just to great to compare. I have listed them before on this site but I will do an abbreviated listing here:

Private/Charter
1) Can cherry pick their candidates
2) Are not required to perform the stat tests per NCLB
3) Are not mandated to admit any children with disabilities so even a child in a wheelchair can be denied because of access issues
4) Can ask any student not “performing” to leave
5) Can make English competency mandatory

Public Schools
1) Must teach all children
2) Must accomodate all disabilities
3) Must keep child regradless of “performance”
4) Must deal with children who have English as a second language

Taking public money from public schools is not an answer. I would say that the money that in voucher plans that follow the students is “margial cost” money… so that all the fixed and most of the variable costs are set and the addition or subtraction of a student into a classroom does not effectively make a dramatic change.

But, when you let the money follow the student to a private shool that is a significant loss to the school. Especially if you multiply it times the number of students lost. It doesn’t take long before that is very real money being lost.

Because most revenue for schools comes in the nature of property taxes it fairly easy to see which shools need the assistance.

Some say that giving money to the poor schools without giving equal money to the richer schools is not fair. Meeting the needs of the students is fair, not a balanced amount of money. If the poorer school needs more money for infrstructure maintenance or teachers, then that is where the money should go.

The Feds pretending that no one knows which schools needs the help is silly.

I do not have problems with teacher accountability. However, you need to filter out the issues beyond the teachers control when you determine a way to measure a teacher’s performance…. Otherwise, why should a teacher put their license up against a school with serious challenges when they can go to a better school and help those students score high on standardized tests?

Every conservative I have met and talked to have said the same thing. They respect teachers, but… Their respect is always qualified.

I respect them but I don’t like their liberal philosophy of teaching. I don’t like their union. I don’t like their ….

There is no political litmus test to the teaching license. All are welcome to take the loss of pay and the heartache and rewards.

What I have has as replies are that Republicans are too much of the entrpenuers and it wouldn’t be a good fit… which I have translated into caring more about making money and would rather complain then be a part of the solution.

That is okay. They can watch shows like 20/20 and shake their heads as if this is all new to them.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 15, 2006 3:33 PM
Comment #113417

We are a country formed in response to the inherent unfairness of a monarchy. The Founding Fathers wholeheartedly believed societal standing should be based on merit instead of birth. As such, it was and is important to try to level the playing field as much as possible from the start and provide all citizens with an equal opportunity to succeed. Equality of result has never been an issue nor should it be.

And anyone who thinks our system provides equal opportunity is living in fantasy land. “Savage Inequalities”, though decades old now, should be required reading for all. And the Bush Administration has succeeded in creating our very own aristocracy. Never before has so much wealth been concentrated in the hands of so few. And the chasm between rich and poor or rich and middle class has never been greater. This should surprise no one who has followed the Bush Administrations budget and tax policies, the most recent of which gives tax breaks only to those making over $1,000,000 per year and simulataneously cutting loans and grants available to college students. It seems the current administration has more in common with King George than George Washington.

What ever happened to “We the people”?

Posted by: Voltairean at January 15, 2006 3:35 PM
Comment #113420

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nobody ever said anything about helping them achieve them.

All Americans should be treated equally under the law, but the law’s intrusion into out lives should be limited. The problem we have had in recent years is expansion of the government to include too many entitlements. That leads to government decisions about allocations of resources and is the road to totalitarianism and serfdom.

A good analogy is a road. The government builds a road and makes it available to the community. It will inevitably benefit some people more than others. It is incumbent on the government only to make it available, not be sure everyone is in a position to use it. Precise distribution of favors is beyond the government’s ability to understand.

Re the communists and fascists, these types o of collectivism are what the idea of equality can turn into when it gets to use the sharp weapons of the state.

All men are created equal. After that things happen to change that. When we stop trying to produce ideal equality, we can produce real opportunity.

Some people say that it is in human nature that we can never be equal, but that it would be good if that was possible. If I had the power, I would never decree equality of results. It would not be good. I would rather play the game and lose than constantly have a draw. Besides in American the game is never over and there are many games to play. If you can’t find several to your liking you just aren’t trying very hard.

AP

I always thought to send my kids to college too. Two out of the three will do that. My middle kid just doesn’t get along well with school. He doesn’t like anything about it and as he approaches 18 we have to help him find alternatives. 80K a year is a good wage. If he can learn a skill that earns him that much, I will consider he made a good choice.

Rocky

Your situation is inspiring. It is great to do what you do well and find the art and meaning in your work.

RE voucher, you would not be paying for two systems. Money could follow the child. If it costs your school system $6000 per year per pupil, just let the student take that wherever he/she goes, whether it be a private or public school. Most kids would probably continue to go to their neighborhood school. But the very fact that the COULD move would make those schools better.

BTW the big waste in schools is in the administration, not the teachers. The teachers deserve blame only to the extent that they support the egalitarian nightmare of their unions.

Posted by: Jack at January 15, 2006 3:44 PM
Comment #113421

Again, the Red Column worries in vain, having bought its own propaganda.

The truth is, the Right has been far better at tearing down folks. They tear down the communicators when they do not say what they want them to say. They tear down the scientists when their scholarship does not fit their agenda. They tear down the academics for their free thinking. They tear down war heros when they don’t praise the wars the right starts, they tear down economists and generals when they don’t say the things that help the Republicans further their agenda.

No person, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise, is free from green-eyed envy. It is human to want what we haven’t earned. Most people, though, conservative or liberal, recognize that impulse for what it is, and endeavor to earn their keep.

The social policies that the Democrats favor, in fact, are about getting in the way of people taking what they haven’t earned. The Republican policies seem to be about giving it right to them, or looking the other way when they take it. They confuse the indulgence of greed with the industriousness to earn more. They confuse being uncharitable with discouraging laziness, confuse discouraging dishonesty with mollycoddling folks on the risks of business.

What we want is to not have to fight so hard to be told the truth in business matters. We want the market to work as intended, to the extent it can: Informed people making decisions according to their self-interests.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 15, 2006 4:01 PM
Comment #113422

Darren,

I have read your last 4 paragraphs 3 times now and have no idea what point you are trying to make. Is is that unqualified support of teachers and their unions is acceptable; no critique of the tenure system is ok? Not trying to put words in your mouth just trying to understand your point.

Also, you say, “Taking public money from public schools is not an answer. I would say that the money that in voucher plans that follow the students is “margial cost” money… so that all the fixed and most of the variable costs are set and the addition or subtraction of a student into a classroom does not effectively make a dramatic change.

But, when you let the money follow the student to a private shool that is a significant loss to the school. Especially if you multiply it times the number of students lost. It doesn’t take long before that is very real money being lost.”

Your argument doesn’t seem to jib. The first paragraph states that the money is only mariginal. I’m assuming by this that your saying that the money lost for that student only represents the cost of teaching and providing for that student, not the fixed costs of maintaining the building, etc. Yet in the next paragraph, you seem to make a point that the money lost is no longer going to just the marginal costs of educating one student.

Just so I understand, I’ll cite an apolitical example, and let you respond. The school receives funding on a per child basis of $100 for education expenses. They also receive a capital budget of $10,000 to pay for infrastructure.

In 1990, the system had 100 students and a budget of $10,000. That $20,000 was divided 50% for capital costs and 50% for education costs. The system serves a rural population that has had a hard time attracting young people over the past 15 years, so now there are only 60 students in the system. They now have a budget for education of $6,000 and a budget of $10,000 for capital costs.

If anything they seem to be in better shape now than they were before. What did I miss in your critique?

Posted by: Rob at January 15, 2006 4:03 PM
Comment #113451

AP-

“Kris, are you saying you think kids who don’t want a college education are given a worse education in our public schools than those who would like a higher education? I’ve never heard of kids who express a preference for not attending college all of a sudden being “ignored” by their teachers.”

That is precisely what I am saying. I work in a high school where 52% of our incoming freshmen will drop out. And of the 48% who graduate only 18% will go on to a 4 year college. So, what this comes down to is most of the students have been spoon-fed a college prep curriculum and not many need it. What they do need is some training for fields they will end up pursuing. And, it’s not that we (the teachers) don’t want to give the kids the education that they need and deserve, but our time is eaten up teaching these kids how to take standardized tests which test them on things they don’t really need to know in the first place. We’re wasting our time and money by ignoring the reality of the situation. My state has gone so far as to take away the regular classes and label them all CP (college placement). Now, we didn’t get rid of all the regualr students, we just re-named them and gave them an education that doesn’t work for them. So, to answer your question, yes, we are ignoring them.

Darren-

Money for schools is not the answer. My school just won a case against the state and was given hundreds of thousands of dollars and we’re really not much better for it. All the money in the world put into my school isn’t going to change the fact that 83% of the students are on free and reduced lunch. Unless we find a way to magically change the situations that these kids grow up in, school cannot be the one thing being held accountable.

Scott-

“The government can and should come up with national, state and local standards for accredited graduation.”

No no no no no! Thats preceisely the problem. We’re trying to make a one test fits all and it’ll never work. It makes the teachers focus solely on the test and much less is learned. One reason is because teaching to a test is extremely boring and as someone else has pointed out kids are hard enough to entertain these days. I’m one of only a few teachers at my school who manages to keep the kids on task for the majority of the period simply because I do approach everything differently. And, I’m young. But the more restrictions we keep putting on these classrooms, the higher the dropout rate will go. Not to mention that instead of offering only one outcome for a student who graduates, let’s differentiate. For our career tech students, give them a practical application test if we have to have a “test.” For our college bound students why not be more specific? In Germany by the time you reach 11th grade you are req. to pick 2 “majors” and 8 “minors.” You focus on what you’re good at and you get better at it. We don’t all need to take calculus and we certainly don’t all needed to be tested on it. But, some do. We need to help these kids specialize in fields rather than limit it by a one test for all the masses.

FYI to all-

Funding varies from state to state. Not every state relies on property taxes. In fact many have done away with that because of the inequalities that it creates (I know most if not all of the South does not use property taxes for education whatsoever). Also, in the South, unions are illegal. We don’t have them. So the tired argument of teacher unions being the problem is just that. Tired. And, furthermore, I don’t think they’re entirely bad. If you look at the states with the biggest and most influencial unions you will also see a correlation to the highest test scores, lowest dropout rates, highest teacher pay and retention rate. I know most of you don’t agree with the tenure system but there is something to say about a school if it can keep its teachers. Many people come to the South because it’s a guaranteed job (even if we do make 8,000 less than the national average). However, few stay. This causes more discipline problems, and general distrust from the students. Unions aren’t all bad. They are, however, an easy target.

Until we start making laws on parenting and child-raising we can’t really accurately judge the true problems of schools and why they don’t work.

Posted by: Kris C. at January 15, 2006 8:21 PM
Comment #113488

The one extremely successful domestic program of the current Bush Administration is No Child Left Behind. Because the NCLB law has been even more disasterous than even the most dire predictions, states are now confronting the difficult decision of whether or not to opt out of the federal mandate entirely. Hence, NCLB (along with tax cuts for the rich) may be the only pieces of domestic policy that have achieved there intended purpose.

None of this is particularly shocking since the law was designed to emulate the so-called “Texas Miracle” where Houston schools under than Governor George W. Bush, were supposedly able to close the race-based achievement gap in schools. But it turns out that the Texas Miracle was really more smoke and mirrors than miracle as test scores were inflated, poor students were kicked out to improve performance and those who went on to college were ill-prepared. Houston schools were actually worse off by most accounts. Imagine basing an entire national policy that will effect generations of Americans to come on a bunch of lies.

But on the bright side, NCLB should shrink the federal budget as states opt out which should allow for some more tax cuts for the rich. Good thing too because the private schools where the rich send their children to get a first rate education that public school children only dream of, can be very expensive.

Spinnin’ wheel got to go ‘round
Talkin’ ‘bout your troubles it’s a cryin’ sin
Ride a painted pony let the spinnin’ wheel spin

You got no money and you got no home
Spinnin’ wheel all alone
Talkin’ ‘bout your troubles and you never learn
Ride a painted pony let the spinnin’ wheel turn

Posted by: voltairean at January 16, 2006 1:20 AM
Comment #113536

Commenting on Kris’s post: Having just recently moved from Germany after living there for 3 years with my German husband, I have to disagree with the German system. A German friend who was also studying to be a teacher also thought the system to be archaic. Basically at the age of 9 or 10, kids are segregated off into 3 different directions. Everyone realizes that the kids going to the “hauptschule” or the “realschule” are the not as bright kids, and that the kids who go to “gymnasium” (who have the opp to go on to university) are. Of course, technically, kids can move up to gymnasium if they improve and their teacher recommends it- but seriously, as a kid you’re already stigmatized by the fact that you went to a lower school first, and then you’ve made friends and are comfortable in your school- not many kids ever actually move out of their schools.I personally think 9 is much too young to have your future determined. Besides that, a degree from the hauptschule or the realschule is almost worthless in modern Germany.
I think that the model of schooling that I went thru worked out well: until middle school (or jr high) kids are taught the same subjects as a class: art, music, english, history, etc. As kids get older, certain of their classes are left to their own choice: with a requisite in certain areas. I think it’s important to educate everyone in a variety of subjects, as this results in more well rounded adults.

Posted by: Buffie at January 16, 2006 7:11 AM
Comment #113537
So, what this comes down to is most of the students have been spoon-fed a college prep curriculum and not many need it. What they do need is some training for fields they will end up pursuing.

Kris, I had a couple buddies in that position. They opted out of high school and attended a vocational school to get the non-university-path education they wanted. We also had work experience programs where students could apprentice a trade rather than attend classes.

That was in California. Your students may have similar options in your area. Perhaps you could check into it for those you feel are being ignored.

The problem we have had in recent years is expansion of the government to include too many entitlements.

Ahh… Here it is, Jack. Precisely which entitlements do you believe promote “equality of results”? The Social Security system that we pay into? Medicare assistance for the elderly? Medicaid for the men, women, and children who can’t otherwise afford doctors and medicines? Seriously, Jack, get specific.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 16, 2006 7:21 AM
Comment #113552

AP-

“Kris, I had a couple buddies in that position. They opted out of high school and attended a vocational school to get the non-university-path education they wanted. We also had work experience programs where students could apprentice a trade rather than attend classes.

That was in California. Your students may have similar options in your area. Perhaps you could check into it for those you feel are being ignored.”

We do have those programs but they are not in replacement of a hs diploma they are in addition to. So, the kids are still required to take many useless classes and then they can also take those “electives.” Many of the students at my school don’t opt for this program because it’s still too difficult for them and they get caught up in the repeat mode. It’s also about to get worse. Starting next year any student who fails an end of course test (req. in most core classes) will be forced to repeat the class. So the students who barely get by in the current system will have a much harder time and all for the guise of No Child Left Behind.

Buffie-

Well, I guess I’ll just have to disagree with you. Germany is ranked 2nd in the world in Education. One of the reasons for that is that every child’s needs are addresed. And Hauptschule and Realschule are far from a waste of time. I have had many friends come out with the education that they needed. And I also know of ones who later switched to Gymnasium. Being realistic is not archaic. A German education from the Gymnasium is better than a 4 yr. college degree in the States.

Posted by: Kris C. at January 16, 2006 9:08 AM
Comment #113554

I quit a lucrative job as a plant manager to teach fifth grade. I enjoy helping young people learn how to deal with reality, obtain the skills needed to succeed, and offer support to those who have really irresponsible parents. I also needed to spend time with my kids as they hit the middle school/high school age. They are nearly all in college now.

I have to decide now if I will remain in the teaching profession. From an insider’s point of view I will tell you there are many rewards to being a teacher who is successful with most of the kids that come through their class. The rewards are not monetary, however. I find many conservatives in my school. They have just as much trouble with out of control children as anyone else… AND they mention their values just as much as any other teacher is able. Believe me, there is no time to pontificate one’s religious belief system, or lack of one for that matter. All teachers end up imploring kids to work harder, invest time in their education, avoid drugs, alcohol, and gangs, and pressure to have sex. ALL responsible teachers of both the liberal and conservative mindsets do this.

The problem in education today is not the teachers. Yes, there are teachers who went into the profession hoping to make a difference who have given up. There are some of these who are just biding their time until retirement. But they didn’t go into the profession with that attitude. The problem is that many children come from homes and communities where parents do the bare minimum and children often run the house, telling parents what is going to happen, not the reverse! I seem to have at least one child each year (ten-eleven years old now mind you) who is the most responsible party in their families.

We have a serious problem. It cannot be solved solely by teachers. I can run a good charter school. Since I don’t have to take every child who lives in my district, I can expel any who give me serious trouble. Local schools are seriously hampered in this regard… and just a few wild, unruly, kids can ruin a school’s atmosphere.

Good luck solving this problem, America. I’m currently doing my share to help out a tiny bit at a time, but I’m thinking like a good conservative on this issue and considering going back to three times the pay and half the headache.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention… when all these charter schools start up… and we allow religious pontification back in our schools… and we start giving vouchers to private parochial schools, don’t be shocked when your inner cities fill with Muslim schools along with the evangelical Christian schools. Likely, they will do a superb job of raising achievement scores… and who know what else they’ll be raising. My guess is people that will have been taught to have a fear/hatred of people like me.

LibRick

Posted by: LibRick at January 16, 2006 9:15 AM
Comment #113557

The framers of the Constitution did not have a public education,and neither did America for 150 years or so.America was better educated before and more patriotic and moral when the ‘neighborhood’schools were run and funded by the ‘neighborhood’.

Posted by: RDAVIDC at January 16, 2006 9:45 AM
Comment #113560

RDAVIDC-
Do you have anything other than nostalgic romanticism to back up this claim? We have all these shiny notions of the past, conjured up by TV shows and movies that show us little of the third-world conditions that our ancestors had to live in. Try getting a warm bath when your water heater breaks. Try living in 90 degree heat when you’ve not got air conditon, in 20 degree weather when you don’t have central heating. See how much you enjoy cooking or washing the dishes when you got to do so the way they did in the old days.

The average child in Elementary school today learns more in a lifetime than many learned in their entire lifetimes. As for moral education, that is a problem indeed, but not one that can be solved by going back to the dead past. We must live our values now, not by rote example, but by critical examination of ourselves and our world.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 16, 2006 10:25 AM
Comment #113569

To anyone:

Just a viewpoint about education and choice from the city of Milwaukee:

“The irony is that public educators in Milwaukee believe choice has helped improve all the city’s schools. “No longer is MPS a monopoly,” says Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent William Andrekopoulos. “That competitive nature has raised the bar for educators in Milwaukee to provide a good product or they know that parents will walk.” The city’s public schools have made dramatic changes that educators elsewhere can only dream of. Public schools now share many buildings with their private counterparts, which helps alleviate the shortage of classrooms. Teachers, once assigned strictly by seniority, are now often hired by school selection committees…

Milwaukee schools are still struggling, but progress is obvious. Students have improved their performance on 13 out of 15 standardized tests. The annual dropout rate has fallen to 10% from 16% since the choice program started. Far from draining resources from public schools, spending has gone up in real terms by 27% since choice began as taxpayers and legislators encouraged by better results pony up more money.”

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 16, 2006 10:59 AM
Comment #113579

AP

Re entitlements - I believe we should set up a floor with government programs. We can assure minimum standards, as SS does. You can live on SS, but not well. We should not try to make people equal. People who saved (or were just lucky) will live better in retirment than those who don’t. Good.

We can’t make it equal anyway. The saddest group of old people are not the poor, but rather the childless. How would you address that? Maybe some people have less money because they had children, but they are better off than their richer and lonelier neighbors.

Posted by: Jack at January 16, 2006 11:31 AM
Comment #113611

Rob,
“Is is that unqualified support of teachers and their unions is acceptable; no critique of the tenure system is ok? Not trying to put words in your mouth just trying to understand your point”

What I am saying is that my experience with conservatives in regards to education is that they sit on the sidelines and criticize.

I was not talking about the grades as such. I was talking about the “liberalism” in the teaching field. The, “they don’t teach family values” and they teach that “homesexuality” is okay and on and on and on.

My point? If you don’t like it… then go to the nearest college and sign up for a teaching license.

Let us keep this really simple… No matter how you cut it, you take $3000 that goes to a private school with the student and that is $3000 lost to the public school.

Kris,
I agree that more money is not the answer… but less money definitely does not help the issues that schools are attempting to deal with.

I just fear that when people say that money isn’t the answer they are also going to think that money is not important.

RDAVIDC,
I am not sure that it is a fair comaprison to compare education then and now. Besides the 3 R’s there wasn’t nearly as much as we are trying to teach today.

Possibly the student to teacher ratio was different too. There are just so many isues. To say that they were better educated can be misleading….

When we comapres public schools to private or charter or even foreign schools there is so much more than just the raw numbers….

Please consider who goes to the higher grade school classes. Consider the differnce between public schools in America that have to accept every child compared to other types of schools.

We are testing every single child of America compared to schools that have selective enrollment (in the case of private schools) and schools that only accept a portion of the total student population in some countries.

They cannot be read straght across the graphs without taking into consideration these types of things.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 16, 2006 4:05 PM
Comment #113634

“Until we start making laws on parenting and child-raising we can’t really accurately judge the true problems of schools and why they don’t work.”…..What kind of laws do you suggest?

Posted by: tomd at January 16, 2006 5:08 PM
Comment #113648

Darren,

So if $3K goes to the private school then it is money lost to the public school. That is quite a simple argument. If the funding for that student is $6500 (about what it is in my State) and $3k goes with the student to the private school then $3500 extra stays with the public school. They now have $3500/ the student population increase in their per capita funding. How can the public school not come out better?

As to the criticism of the right on education. I had a lot of conservative teachers. They didn’t sit on the sidelines, they played the game every day for 30 years or more in some cases. I don’t buy that liberalism or homosexuality arguments though and I’m not that worried about those things.

What I am worried about is that the children most in need in this country have the least choice in their educational opportunities. That’s why I think vouchers should be a conerstone of rehabbing the education system. I’m more worried that we are stranding our Mozart’s in a failing public school system than I am about the consequences of the also-rans when we allow the best to succeed.

Posted by: Rob at January 16, 2006 5:50 PM
Comment #113746

Rob,

“What I am worried about is that the children most in need in this country have the least choice in their educational opportunities. That’s why I think vouchers should be a conerstone of rehabbing the education system.”

Sorry, no one promises anyone a choice in education.
I have said this before. I was private school educated during the ’50s and ’60s. My parents dutifully paid their property taxes AND paid for the education of their 4 children. We weren’t rich by any means. BTW my mother also worked to support our educations.
You want a choice I would suggest that you pay for it yourself. The budding Mozarts will rise to the top on their own.

Posted by: Rocky at January 16, 2006 9:02 PM
Comment #114020

Rocky,

I too went to private school and my parents paid their share for the public school; I have no problem with that. What I’m worried about is those that don’t have the $$’s to pay for the private school. I more than willing for the voucher program to be means tested.

You’re right that no one has been promised choice in previous decades. The major question is why not? If we can have a means tested, revenue program that will allow for it, why not?

So if not a voucher program (I’m fine with it working for public schools as well). What does the left propose? I’m even ok with a solution requiring more revenue (within reason). But I haven’t heard anything other than a defense of the status quo from the left in a while. Surely the status quo is not good enough, is it?

Posted by: Rob at January 17, 2006 11:40 AM
Comment #114029
Re entitlements - I believe we should set up a floor with government programs. We can assure minimum standards, as SS does. You can live on SS, but not well. We should not try to make people equal. People who saved (or were just lucky) will live better in retirment than those who don’t. Good.

Jack, I agree completely. That’s the way SS is, and I don’t know of anybody trying to make it more than that. By your own definition SS is not an “equal results” program.

So now I have no idea what you think is an “equal results” program and your whole article just looks like you’re arguing against a straw man.

Which brings me back to my first post: “Jack, I’m not sure who you think wants “equality of results”. Americans just want equal opportunities.”

Posted by: American Pundit at January 17, 2006 12:09 PM
Comment #114038

“Americans just want equal opportunities”

Right.
And the generally accepted concept that schools ignore the talented to teach to the lowest common denominator?
It doesn’t have to be that way, it’s not what I have experienced, and I dont buy it.

Posted by: Schwamp at January 17, 2006 12:47 PM
Comment #114041

AP

I am too lazy to do a lot of research to give exact quotes, but consider the Florida ruling against vouchers. It was based on the lack of a uniform standard. The disparate impact argument has been successfully used in discrimination suites.

You can read the fulltext, but I found this today.

I think we can legitimately argue about when equal opportunity comes into play. Does it just mean that everyone can apply for a job without prejudice or does it mean that we must ensure that everyone has the means to apply (i.e. education etc.) or does it mean that the results should look like America in terms of gender, race and income distribution? I bet we would have different answers.

My current job required a fairly difficult written test. Most of the people who take it don’t pass. It has been under attack ever since I can remember because it is supposedly unfair. My background was not elite, so obviously poor kids with relatively disadvantaged backgrounds CAN pass. I know that some others have too. Access to the test is free and it is publicized widely. I think that should be the end of the argument. It is not because it is not producing the desired outcomes.

The same goes for SAT etc. These may not be perfect, but we only have a problem because they don’t produce the outcomes we (some of us in any case) desire.

Posted by: Jack at January 17, 2006 12:57 PM
Comment #114091

The choice to go to a private school, when vouchers are not involved, is a private choice made with private money given to a private company. It’s not a choice open to all, but if that were the case, it would be a public school system, and not a private one, wouldn’t it?

Vouchers are socialism, in a way that public schools are not. Private schools compete for students and tuition dollars. Vouchers flood the market, diluting the value of competing for those who can pay on their own. Vouchers can be inefficient when they can given to substandard schools. On the flip side of that, when you start regulating further to improve the standards, you’re making the private schools less private in the process. With the taxpayer dollars comes the taxpayer obligation, and the need for common standards.

In the end, vouchers stand not only to drain dollars from deserving public schools, but to strangle the independence and self-sufficiency that has been a hallmark of private education.

The thing about choice is that public schools have always been about the most important choice that we’ve ever had in this country: the choice to be educated at all. We forget that in times past, if you weren’t the sons or daughters of the gentry or the rich, your education was likely to end at a grade-school level. Public school is the most successful socialism that there is. Employed properly, it makes all other forms of socialism obsolete.

But something else has to be there, and the parents must inspire it in their children, and that is the will to learn. The will to learn meant that I could be educated in a public school setting and come out competitive with those who went to private school, because my learning neither began nor ended with the school system, but only used the free guidance of it to more easily, more cheaply, and more effectively learn things.

My education was a hybrid of public and private, but the public part was truly public, and the private part was entirely my own. I didn’t ask anybody to pay for a private education for me. That I got by reading, by watching educational programing, and by researching things on the internet. In the end, that is the choice people must make for themselves. There are libraries in school and out of them full of books, full of views, and full of our culture, and the choice to experience these things belongs to each and every one of us.

So let’s offer our children the most important choice of all: the choice to be educated.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 17, 2006 3:59 PM
Comment #114123

Stephen,

I’m glad to see that we agree that the choice to be educated is the most important one. I believe that when we send children to a failing school we aren’t giving the children that choice. They have no other option than to do it on their own or live life on an even steeper uphill climb.

A couple of questions:

1) First and most important, do you deny that failing public schools are stranding some of the best and brightest minds of our next generation. Assuming yes, and assuming no vouchers, what does the left propose to offer to correct this problem?

2) Public money has worked wonders in private post-secondary education, why the hesitation in the elementary and secondary schools?

3) Public funding has been used for private foster care providers increasingly over the past 25 years, virtually replacing most public run orphanages. Why isn’t this a similar siutation?

4) Good private schools actually already seek accredidation and review of their curriculum and practices from non-governmental reviewers. It’s a necessity for them to be taken seriously by the colleges they send their students to? Could the government not rely on these established and proven processes to ensure quality?

5) Why are failing public schools deserving of more of our tax dollars when they have proven again and again that they can’t succeed no matter the cost?

Please note, I know that many, many public schools offer a superior education, I’m worried about thost that don’t. I wish I could have gone to Bronx Science or Stuyvesant, they are far superior to my private school. There are many more like that.

Posted by: Rob at January 17, 2006 6:08 PM
Comment #114137

1)The failing schools must be rebuilt with not merely money, but better administration. The damage is more than just a failure of funding, but a failure as such that also brought with it the evils of an underfunded over-demanded system. The solution, though, is not vouchers, for reasons already outlined.

2)Please Clarify. With your wording, I don’t know whether you’re talking about colleges or high schools. Also, please be more specific about the programs, as I really don’t know what you’re referring to.

3)If I’m not mistaken, foster care providers are generally individuals. Correct me, if I’m wrong. As such, we aren’t seeing the government subsidization of a competing industry, but instead a government aided social system that’s not operating for profit like the private schools typically do. What we’re seeing here is people trying to cheat around the generally unpopular idea of shutting down the Public school system by subsidizing sectarian and private institution instead.

4)Aside from seeking private guidance in keeping students in line for entry into college and keeping accreditation, Private schools can do what they want. The use of taxpayer dollars will invite regulations and other controls similar to those imposed on public schools. A few court decisions, and most privates schools may be little different from public schools, and much less flexible than they use to be.

5)The Business Paradigm has its limits. This is a public trust. We can’t simply say that public education has failed, as it is successful elsewhere. Our obligation is to keep this going as well as we can. That means money sometimes, but as I said before, money is not the only concern.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 17, 2006 7:11 PM
Comment #114187

If we use vouchers to fund private schools, and by doing so dilute the ability of those public schools to provide a good education (ie. overcrowding, students lack of intrest), where do we turn to next.
Some of the major reasons that private schools are able to provide a “better education”, is that they can pick the students that qualify, they are able to attract the best teachers, and they have parents that actually care because they have an “investment” (both monitarily and otherwise) in their childs education.

Posted by: Rocky at January 17, 2006 10:40 PM
Comment #114219
but consider the Florida ruling against vouchers. It was based on the lack of a uniform standard. The disparate impact argument has been successfully used in discrimination suites.

The crazy thing is, Jack, you guys are the ones who insisted on higher uniform standards of public education. That’s a Republican issue, and in 2000, it was candidate Bush’s defining issue. He wanted to be the “education President”.

So are you against high standards for public schools now? When did Republicans flip-flop on education? :)

Seriously, I pointed out that public school students have options like vocational school and work experience programs if they’re not interested in learning the “three R’s”. Taking the GED is another option.

It seems to me there are options for everyone in the public school system. I’m still at a loss as to why you brought up this “equal results” straw man. You haven’t given a single concrete example of it.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 18, 2006 4:03 AM
Comment #114238

AP

Set high standards. Let people (private and public) figure out how to meet them. Let them compete, cooperate and copy from/with each other. If the government owned, managed and forced you to shop only at a particular grocery store, do you really believe you would get the best deal? If you were allowed to buy gas only at a specified station, would you get the best price? I shop at my local grocery and usually buy gas at the local station, but without the possibility to do otherwise their quality would drop.

Posted by: Jack at January 18, 2006 8:09 AM
Comment #114241

Stephen,

Following up.

1) Forgive me, but I took absolutely nothing actionable from your plan to correct failing schools. Can you offer a link to any site that lays out a counter proposal to vouchers. I understand that it is easier to critique proposed solutions, but other than defending the status quo from hair brained schemes, what does that get us?

2) Post-secondary education I thought was a well accepted, well known term, I apologize. I was referring to any education after high school. There are a host of programs including universities, junior colleges, and trade schools that accept public funding in their mission.

3) Foster care providers are more and more being organized into private groups (both profit and not for profit) which contract to individual households to provide housing and other services for the children. Also, contrary to your assertion, most private schools are not for profit, they are non-profits with full 501-3(c) status. The for profit private schools are a relatively new initative (late 80’s to early 90’s) that represent but a small portion of the overall private education market.

3) I agree that private schools that took voucher money would be subject to guidelines and reviews; however, because the source of the funding would be varied from locale to locale, I don’t think that we have anywhere near an accurate picture of what that environment would look like to make the sweeping statement that most private schools would look like public schools. See 2 above, there are clearly differences and similarities between Harvard and the University of Michigan and the local junior college. The regulation that makes them similar doesn’t eliminate the institutional culture that makes them different.

5) Again, the question is why continue to fund the status quo? If we are going to continue to fund these schools, and I’m not suggesting in the least that we don’t, what do we do to ensure that we are not throwing more good money after bad?

Posted by: Rob at January 18, 2006 8:41 AM
Comment #114270

1)Look, we already have a workable school system. You look out in the suburbs, and you’ll find them doing just fine. It is a lack of funds and overall neglect that has put inner city schools into failing status, and there is no simple solution for that.

You yourself said that sometimes public school systems outdo private. That itself indicates that your equation of Private/Competition vs. Public/Socialism doesn’t necessary wash. Vouchers, therefore, do not necessarily fix anything. You could end up just pouring your money into other below standard institutions, and if that’s the norm in the local area, that’s the kind of education kids would get.

I say fix the problem, don’t sidestep it by subsidzing private education with public dollars.

2)That’s what I thought. All Universities, whether public (and therefore taxpayer funded) or private, are attended by choice. Higher education is not compulsory.

Primary and secondary school education is required by law. Because of that, there really is no choice to abstain from the market. That is why it’s not such a great sin to offer taxpayer-funded public schooling.

Because both private and public universities, colleges and trade schools are voluntary, there is no reason to deprive any student who qualifies of taxpayer aid where appropriate.

3)My point is that there is a difference between such individual care oriented organizations, and corporate entities like public and private schools.

4)The more taxpayer money a school takes, the less it needs to compete for private dollars, and the more it has to take on the characteristics of a taxpayer-funded enterprise. Ostensibly , the reason to go for private schools is that market forces push them to be the best they can be, and that each private school is free to take a more individual path to the goals of education. Vouchers would erode both the freedom and the competitive pressures that make Privates schools excel.

5)We vote. Public schools are most often run by elected officials. If we keep ourselves ignorant of what’s going on, or we fail to pass bonds to fund our schools, we are the only ones to blame.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 18, 2006 10:54 AM
Comment #114316

And again,

1) We don’t have a workable school system, we have many workable systems and not a few failing systems that have proven that regardless of the amount of money they are not equipped to handle the task. The D.C. school system is a case in point, they now can afford vouchers because their per pupil funding is among the highest in the nation, and there output among the lowest.

2) I’m confused to your point, because it’s the law we have to force students into public schools whereas if it is voluntary tax payer assistance is acceptable? Forgive me, but the logic seems circular. If your point is that public schools will be harmed by having to compete for their students then I can agree to disagree.

But the non-choice argument doesn’t make any since. To draw another analogy by law all children must be supervised if they are young enough to be a danger to themselves. Why do we allow for public money in private daycares then? With your logic shouldn’t every community be forced to open public day care systems and parents that use the private ones have to pay twice and the parents using the public ones be forced to choose the one closest to their home?

3) My point is that there are corporate entities in the foster care business as well. Like schools, they are charged with taking care of our children. Public orphanages used to be the standard, it was changed because it was proven that many (not all, some were superior and some of those are still in business) failed the children they were supposed to serve. We were able to make a paradigm shift in that arena because we thought the children would be better cared for. Why not in the education business?

4) Now this argument has some merit. A similar argument was made during desegregation. Whites made the eerily similar arguments about what blacks would face if desegregation would pass. There was of course truth in both arguments but they are at their roots a defense of the status quo. The reality is that private schools will have to weigh the choice to accept students on vouchers and how it will impact their organizations’ culture and mission.

Similar to doctors that have to decide whether or not they will accept Medicaid patients or stick with those in private insurance. They have to decide if it is something in their mission to serve all regardless of class or race or to stick with those with which they will benefit most.

5) To a degree you are of course right here. However, school boards are like ill equipped boards of directors for corporations. What guidance does the Democratic Party offer them for how to improve their schools. Is there thought leadership on the topic that will help them heal failing schools and systems? After all, these boards are now actually responsible for putting a good enough product out there to prevent the legislature from passing initiatives for vouchers and charter schools that rob them of their oversight and money.

Posted by: Rob at January 18, 2006 12:31 PM
Comment #114482

Stephen
Then let students go to the public school of their choice, but let the money follow the student.

BTW - there is no relation between money and quality in the U.S. or other places. I live in Fairfax CO VA, which has some of the best public schools in the U.S. Across the river is Washington DC with some of the worst. We spend less money per pupil than DC, about a quarter less. Many of those countries that beat us on school quality spend much less than we do too.

Posted by: Jack at January 18, 2006 10:17 PM
Comment #114550

1. Give all principals the ability to fill out his/her salary pool as they see fit. Teachers will get paid on merit and the best teacher could earn significantly higher pay which would attract more qualified teachers.

2. Announce a man on the moon national plan. This time it will by the year 2020 America will be independent.

3. As part of this plan, the gov’t earmarks $500 billion in extra funds to build new state of the art scientific/computer emphasized schools and another $100 towards training new teachers in science and computers.

4. To pay for most of this, no corporation will be allowed to skirt its tax duty.

5. The President must not debunk scientific fact, alter scientific findings or be allowed to develop education policy.

6. President launches a reading campaign where every student in the entire country who can read reads the same book. Harry Potter or something. This will be repeated at the beginning of every school year.

There are 6 fairly simple ideas that in aggregate would help our education system drammatically. As far as all you free market, competition, blah blah blah people go - give me a break. There are plenty of instances where those policies lead to terrible results. The federal gov’t should and must be involved. Put locals in charge and half the country is learning that earth, the center of the universe, was created in 7 days (including the rest). Put private companies in charge and they are cutting corners at every turn trying to pump up earnings - why pay a veteran teacher $70k when we can pay a college grad $24k?

The kids are the same now as they were 10, 20, 30 years ago. They are not the problem. The problem is primarily one of leadership. We need a nationaly commitment to education. While Bush has been particularly atrocious on this subject, he is not alone. I can’t remember any president in my life time making a commitment to education that we need. granted I am only 8 years old. We need the same commitment to education that we do to fighting wars.

Posted by: voltairean at January 19, 2006 5:05 AM
Comment #114789

Vouchers, in my opinion, are one of two things:

a)Market oriented people with their hammer, thinking every problem’s a nail

or

b)Sectarian and far-right folks who want their choice of forgoing public education, but don’t consider it socialism when the money’s going into private hands.

I think it’s a bureaucratic culture problem, if money is not in short supply, in which case you’re dealing with people who will screw things up regardless of who loses. When you get a plumbing problem, you don’t tell the water company to cut you off and dig your own well, you fix the pipes and let the water run through a better system.

Nobody takes money from U.T.’s budget to pay Baylor for my going there. Baylor is not made a parasite on U.T.’s public funding.

Vouchers make private schools parasitic on public funds meant to pay collectively for the public system as a whole. It’s a Zero Sum game. More students can go to both Baylor and U.T. without either losing money. Under the voucher system, though, more students can’t chose to take the private school route without draining the Public schools of funding and causing subsequent problems for the public schools.

Which is half the point, I imagine. The problem can arise that competitive forces are used not to encourage greater quality, but as a kind of private social engineering at taxpayer’s expense.

Now, you say, what right does a public school have to shape our kids views, their intellects? Well, the right we give it as taxpayers and voters. That oversight goes out the window when you allow money to go, with no questions asked, to whatever private institution one parent choses. And if you reimpose control, then you’ve compromised the virtue of market choice by putting government strings on the choice.

Let the public school be the public school, and the private school the private. Mix them, and you have a recipe for corruption and strife.

My defense of the current system is a defense of the integrity of the public and the private. Vouchers make a it an public right to attend private school, funded by taxpayer dollars arbitrarily given to individuals who ask for it, regardless of income.

A Public school, instead of competing through its excellence and its pricing for the best students, can instead rest on its laurels and take in these new voucher kids by the busload. Quality becomes a side issue for the school. Doing just well enough not to lose the business becomes the idea.

Public schools are held to their standards by the oversight of elected officials, who in turn answer to us. Private schools are held to their standards by their customers, who have the money to take their kids elsewhere. Vouchers cross the wires by flooding a private market with a government subsidy.

Re: board of directors- Let me ask you a question: Why all this business jargon? These systems do not operate alike. In one system, the leaders are self appointed, or brought on board by votes that can disproportionately belong to one person or a group of people. In the other system, leaders are elected or appointed by those who are elected.

Again, this all seems to me to be an Market as hammer, with all problems being nails. Competition saves all! But with this, market forces seems to be clumsily indirect. Additionally, if you’ve looked out there, markets do not necessarily operate in terms of quality. Cheapness, hipness, and sectarian views can all come together to create situation where subsidized private competition doesn’t equal better education.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 19, 2006 11:28 PM
Comment #114944

Stephen,

First, thank you for continue to debate this issue. It is unusual for a debate to continue this many days after the initial post. I appreciate your view point.

Now, let me take on a few of you comments,

1) “Re: board of directors- Let me ask you a question: Why all this business jargon? These systems do not operate alike. In one system, the leaders are self appointed, or brought on board by votes that can disproportionately belong to one person or a group of people. In the other system, leaders are elected or appointed by those who are elected.”

I didn’t mean to cloud the issue with business jargon. I simply saw a similarity in the missions of both types of organizations. A school board operates in an advisory, oversight function similar to boards of directors. The manner that they are chosen was not what I was taking issue with. I said that they are like “ill equipped boards of directors” because unlike corporate boards of directors that usually have a background in business most school board members don’t have a background in education short of their personal experience being taught. Most communities don’t have access to professional educators who can serve in that capacity.

2) Vouchers make private schools parasitic on public funds meant to pay collectively for the public system as a whole. It’s a Zero Sum game. More students can go to both Baylor and U.T. without either losing money. Under the voucher system, though, more students can’t chose to take the private school route without draining the Public schools of funding and causing subsequent problems for the public schools.”

First, your analogy is only true if U.T. is successful enough to stand on its own feet. As long as both universities are successful, no problem. However, if U.T. were to become a place where no student wanted to be, and they all wanted to be at Baylor, then U.T. will be in a position of declining enrollment and tuition dollars. They will actually be losing budget money to Baylor.

But the beauty of a voucher program is that it’s actually not zero sum. Most programs to not move all of the funding for the child to the private school. They move a smaller amount which actually amounts to the cost of educating that child to the private school. The portion of funding for that child that goes to overhead expenses stay with the public school. The public school is in a position where they have fewer students to serve and per capita more money to do it with.

3) “Now, you say, what right does a public school have to shape our kids views, their intellects? Well, the right we give it as taxpayers and voters. That oversight goes out the window when you allow money to go, with no questions asked, to whatever private institution one parent chooses. And if you reimpose control, then you’ve compromised the virtue of market choice by putting government strings on the choice.”

Actually, I don’t say that. As I have said before there are public schools which do a phenomenally good job at shaping the intellects and values of children, there are others that don’t. Now here’s where I take issue with your assessment, we have two choices for control. The first is one that many, many locales have made which is to allow the parent of the child to enforce the control by choosing the school. Charter school programs go so far as to allow parents to participate in drafting the curriculum. The second choice is to allow the locale to choose which schools can take vouchers. While you lament this option as compromising the virtues of market choice, I wonder when did you become an advocate of complete lazzie-faire capitalism. We make such limits on private organizations all the time, most often you are willing to fight for better control not less. This puzzles me.

4) “A Public school, instead of competing through its excellence and its pricing for the best students, can instead rest on its laurels and take in these new voucher kids by the busload. Quality becomes a side issue for the school. Doing just well enough not to lose the business becomes the idea.”

Assuming that the public school is willing to fully subjugate its mission and culture in exchange for vouchers, you’re right. But again, I’m puzzled. You’ve written eloquently before on why people make decisions for reasons other than money. Surely the people who have formed successful schools and often forgone more money in education in exchange for fewer restrictions will be less willing to prostrate themselves to the almighty dollar. Like public school teachers, private school teachers don’t do it for the money.

5) “Public schools are held to their standards by the oversight of elected officials, who in turn answer to us. Private schools are held to their standards by their customers, who have the money to take their kids elsewhere. Vouchers cross the wires by flooding a private market with a government subsidy.”

What is the next paragraph here? What is the result of these crossed wires? We cross the wires of public and private funding with nearly all of our public programs except education. Why is this one sacrosanct?

6) “Again, this all seems to me to be an Market as hammer, with all problems being nails. Competition saves all!”

First, I will fully admit that this is a conservative, market driven approach to solving this problem. Second, the reality is there is already competition in the public education arena. Bought a house recently? If you have, every listing describes which school system the house is in. In most medium sized or larger city in the country, there are suburbs with better school systems than the inner city. Those suburbs compete with each other for the best school system and housing prices react to the perceived value of the systems. People with enough money to move, can improve the lot of their children. The losers, those who are too poor to have any mobility. The exact population who would be eligible for vouchers. Finally, what is the Democratic alternative????????????? The only true response I’ve seen here is a defense of the status quo.

7) “But with this, market forces seems to be clumsily indirect. Additionally, if you’ve looked out there, markets do not necessarily operate in terms of quality. Cheapness, hipness, and sectarian views can all come together to create situation where subsidized private competition doesn’t equal better education.”

Amen. I was sociology major not an economics major and I fully agree with the first part of this statement. But I’m talking about vouchers to bail students out of failing schools. Schools that by any reasonable, objective measure of quality are deemed crap. At that point, nearly every alternative is at least equal. We will have to allow the recipients the opportunity to make decisions. Just as with food stamps we can make some of the more dangerous choices off-limits, but we can’t make sure that the end result of the program is a healthy diet.

Posted by: Rob at January 20, 2006 3:41 PM
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