Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Compelling Interest?

Travis and Dobber posted an interesting collection of opinions about obsticales to enhanced school choice. Clearly everyone in this group believes that increased choice is imperative in the education market, but it seems that the group breaks into two divisions based on whether they believe that society, through government, has an interest in insuring that every person has some minimum level of education.

So, here is the question for you guys, does society, through government, have a compelling interest in guaranteeing that every person has a minimum level of education?

If the answer is yes, then tax funded charter schools and voucher programs are an appropriate solution to providing competition to government run schools. However, if the answer is no, then the tax funded primary and secondary education system should be privatized.



Don Bangert said...

I think your question assumes too much. Your first question mark should have landed after "Does society, through government, have a compelling interest?" I presume by your choice of words that you feel government has a role in the education of people. Why? Where is it written that government knows the best avenue to take in the education of citizens? My line of questioning is not meant to be adversarial, I just want to understand why we always think it a proper role for government to educate the masses. I'm always leery of government sponsored education mainly because the biggest proponents are usually socialists/fascists.

How about a third option: Kick all government out of the education process and let the private sector compete for your education dollars. At least that way, you can vote with your wallet. With our current system, we're pretty much stuck with whatever spoon-fed curriculum our government decides is "good enough" for our children.

DOBBER said...

don bangert i'm confused by your "third option" of privatizing...that is exactly what michael bangert was saying in the original post, his second option.

First I'll answer michael's question of "does society, through government, have a compelling interest in guaranteeing that every person has a minimum level of education?"

The answer is yes. American society is better off with each individual being somewhat educated. We can argue over what the "minimum" should be. Currently the minimum is continuous education, passing or failing, until the age of 16, when a person can legally drop out with a permission slip from mommy. Sure, whatever, I have little opinion on the minimum.

Michael said if yes, then tax funded school choice is an appropriate solution. I certainly agree with that. But I also think that the answer could be yes, and therefore education should be completely privatized! The reason I think this, is that parents will want their children to be educated, and will pay money to a company (for-profit school) to achieve that.

I do agree with Don's implied cynicism in his comment: "Where is it written that government knows the best avenue to take in the education of citizens?"

I claim a few things:
1. I do not know the best avenue for education
2. The government does not know the best avenue for education
3. Bureaucrats in washington certainly should not be making decisions about a child's education thousands of miles away!
4. School choice, and therefore market forces will push education toward that best avenue if allowed to work
5. The best thing that could happen now, as the system currently stands, is more school choice. The best possible thing to happen for school choice is the destruction of the federal department of education. Every time the federal dept of education gets bigger, we have less say in what goes on with our own children's education.

The last thing i'll say is i was recently talking to travis about this subject and he thinks homeschooling is the best thing to do for now....as of now i agree!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the notion that education should be privatized, as it could facilitate competition between and among schools to work to achieve the enrollment of the local students. In a capitalist society, that is how we thrive. Can you imagine if there was McDonalds without Wendy's, or Coke without Pepsi? Competition with other schools in the area would force teachers and administrators to work harder for the school to be successful versus the competition.

However, this notion is not without potential adverse events which may prevent equal opportunity among American citizens. Privatizing schools and getting rid of the public school system would contribute to a greater dichotomy among economic/social classes. The lower and lower-middle classes would only be able to affotd the least successful schools, with the least competent teachers, equipment, and facilities. Consequently, their children would have less opportunity to get into the top universities and obtain good jobs. Moreover, the next generation of childrent would need to placed in the cheapest school and this futile cycle would continue.

Nevertheless, something needs to be done to improve the current system. Many public school teachers realize they are guaranteed "customers" (students) no matter how poorly they teach. Similarly, the outstanding teachers who work hard for the love of their job receive far less compensation and recognition for their effort. Currently, parents will not know that Mr. Brown teaching algebra reads the newspaper while his students answer worksheets; or that Mrs. Green gets all of her students to love algebra and works hard each night to make the most entertaining lesson plans for her students.

Perhaps a viable solution would be to privatize schools and allow low-income families to receive scholarships to the top area schools. Or, there could be a minimum standard that each school must meet for number of students from low-income families. Schools can be given government grants to recruit the best teachers (like Mrs. Green) offering to pay her a better salary and schools could dismiss Mr. Brown.

Anonymous said...

Im going to cheat, and say yes.

I am how ever still worried about if we did privatize schools, how exactly lower income families would get in. The scholarship Idea is good but there's still flaws.

Homeschooling is the best answer for all of this. Isn't it the parents job to teach the children whats right from wrong until the age of pre-school. Why not continue this. The way schools are now there are way to many Mr. Browns sitting around anyway. But this is also because they have lost there passion for the kids and to teach them due to standardized testing. I should know, My Dad was forced out of teaching for being a "Mrs. Green" and making up creative teaching methods that the kids would enjoy.

Instead of fueling the fire of the learning they just throw a bunch of worthless papers on it that smuther it.(insert goverment paid for add of a smiling child that passed his test and is now happier and realizing that with that he has bettered the community)

So whats the point in the end, both teacher and student dont want to be there at all.

Privatize, homeschool,and vote libertarian

OX Lashley said...

My question to you all is, where did you put that silver spoon you obviously were fed with all your lives? Kicking government out of our schools is not the answer. The real problem in our school systems is not who’s running it, it’s who supporting it! Parents are to blame. What you find in this day and age are:
1. parents who care, sit with their children and work on homework and projects. These kids excel.
2. The parents that use schooling as a day care send their kids to school and then let them roam the streets until they are made to sleep, so not to bother mommy and/or daddy! These kids are the ones who fail. So when you are thinking about what is wrong in the schools think less than government, think parenting!

As for schools becoming privatized schools are not a competitive creature. Competition, at least in the business world, thrives on the ol' mighty dollar. Schools will never generate revenue and thus competition is not logical. What we need to do is persuade our government that education is not a race or a completion. Education is individualized. Each student is special and learns in a special way. THUS get rid of all the F--KING testing and go back to letting kids learn at their own pace. We are not China, Japan or Germany; we do not need to compete with them. Their are toooooo many kids in eight grade that can’t multiply two numbers. This is not because teachers are not working. Trust me 99% of teacher bust their asses trying to come up with fun and interesting ways to motivate kids to learn. It’ because teachers have to race to complete a set curriculum. If teachers could teach to the needs of their students at a pace they can handle, students would learn.

Scratching what we have now is illogical. What would spending a bunch of money to start thousands of new school do? Why not use that money to make smaller classrooms, buy more books and hire more teachers! Forget the raises most teachers under their breath would probably agree that having more help in the school would be better than getting big raises. Privatizing schools is not going to solve the problem, there are too many poor students out there to afford the better schools. All privatizing would do is make the cheaper/public schools prisons or day care.

Those of you who say differently, why don’t you stop your bitching and volunteer in a school. You make the difference! Read to a kid or have them read to you!

Anonymous said...

Ox...why the hostility? You said that education is not a competitive creature. Where does that opinion stem from? What do you think colleges and universities do; and even private schools? They compete for the business of recruiting students and interestingly enough the United States leads the world with its quality of higher education (colleges and universities) and is failing with public schools, etc...As you mentioned; there are 8th graders who can multiply two numbers.

…And your stat,..."99%” of teachers work hard to come up with creative ways to make the stringent curriculum more enjoyable for students; where did that number come from?...Actually, 84.5% of all stats are made up spontaneously I believe. I guess the schools I went to were extreme outliers. There are definitely some great teachers, but they get rewarded the same as the lazy ones. And even the lazy ones might become better teachers if the current system didn't enervate them, rendering their motivation lifeless due to the difficult position to succeed.
As for privatizing schools turning the low-income schools into prisons...well, 1) what would you say the low-income, inner-city public schools are like now? 2) Scholarships and minimum requirements set to enforce the more expensive schools to meet a criterion standard of students from low-income families to attend -- could actually afford those kids an opportunity of which they are currently excluded.

Lastly, you say "Education is individualized. Each student is special and learns in a special way." Well, if you want to get rid of testing and allow students to get individual attention, a private school system would have the ability to "bend" the curriculum to teach to students the best they can; as compared to resilient state and federal policies upheld in a public school system. Homeschool may be a nice way to individualized education, but most families have 2 working parents; who can school the child?

As far as having to start all over and revamp schools so that they can be privatized it is certainly a large endeavor; but could be practical. Again, look at the amount of private funding that comes into universities...there is some extreme wealth out there donating dorms, and athletic facilities and such to colleges to contribute to a worthwhile cause (education) enabling these aristocrats to see their family name up on a building. Public schools would certainly be purchased by wealthy entrepreneurs and/or interest groups and then managed privately. After being purchased the owners would evaluate curriculums, teachers, facilities, etc.... Then compete with the other local schools to offer the best education, teachers, security, technology, transportation, athletic programs, (etc) in the area so that they can try to "win" your business. The more students enrolling into a school, the more funding the school could receive from the private sector and from the government; that could drive costs down so that families can more easily afford the school tuition.

Its time we take the blinders off and open our minds to some alternative possibilities to improve education. Some trial private-school competition-based programs are in some small communities in the Midwest conducted by educational researchers which hypothesize these ideals and have the specific aims of their research focused on the rationale I’ve layed out above.

The following is a quote on privatizing schools from Milton Friedman who is a senior research fellow for the Hoover Institute and is a Nobel Prize winner in economics…kind of a bright guy….

“For this image to be realized, it is essential that no conditions be attached to the acceptance of vouchers that interfere with the freedom of private enterprises to experiment, to explore and to innovate. If this image is realized, everybody, except a small group of vested interests, will win: parents, students, dedicated teachers, taxpayers-- for whom the cost of the educational system will decline-- and especially the residents of central cities, who will have a real alternative to the wretched schools so many of their children are now forced to attend.
The business community has a major interest in expanding the pool of well-schooled potential employees and in maintaining a free society with open trade and expanding markets around the world. Both objectives would be promoted by the right kind of voucher system.
Finally, as in every other area in which there has been extensive privatization, the privatization of schooling would produce a new, highly active and profitable private industry that would provide a real opportunity for many talented people who are currently deterred from entering the teaching profession by the dreadful state of so many of our schools.
This is not a federal issue. Schooling is and should remain primarily a local responsibility. Support for free choice of schools has been growing rapidly and cannot be held back indefinitely by the vested interests of the unions and educational bureaucracy. I sense that we are on the verge of a breakthrough in one state or another, which will then sweep like a wildfire through the rest of the country as it demonstrates its effectiveness.
To get a majority of the public to support a general and substantial voucher, we must structure the proposal so that it (1) is simple and straightforward so as to be comprehensible to the voter, and (2) guarantees that the proposal will not add to the tax burden in any way but will rather reduce net government spending on education. A group of us in California has produced a tentative proposition that meets these conditions. The prospects for getting sufficient backing to have a real chance of passing such a proposition in 1996 are bright. “

DOBBER said...

i went back to my parent's house to look for the silver spoon but the dang thing was green! i guess the china my dad bought from an estate sale was not what the rich kids call "real silver". I grew up here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dormont,_Pennsylvania

where: "The median income for a household in the borough is $38,958, and the median income for a family is $51,826"

I went to a government-regulated school that hardly challenged me. I can only be thankful for this woman:

She made school interesting for many of us by getting us involved in extra-curricular activites that stressed problem solving, teamwork, creativity...

She has won numerous awards and is loved by virtually every student she ever worked with and all parents. There was a slight problem though. Her position with the school was somewhat "outside of the box" and so the bureaucracy couldnt always find ways to fund her "gifted education supervisor" position. She was fired!

If only a Charter School existed in Pennsylvania at the time that hired teachers....well teachers like you were talking about Ox!

Also, Ox, in order for you to listen to me i wanted to qualify myself.
I was an Americorps volunteer teacher here:
and i was also a volunteer reader at a low-income government elementary school in pittsburgh for a year while going to government funded university of pittsburgh. Have i proven i care?
Now will you listen? Thank you :)

i agree with anonymous and want to echo his best point:
"Well, if you want to get rid of testing and allow students to get individual attention, a private school system would have the ability to "bend" the curriculum to teach to students the best they can;"

when i taught at YouthBuild Philly, if i wanted to change the curriculum, i scheduled a lunch time walk to Temple University track with the school principal so i could ask her about the idea. If she said yes i enacted it an hour later.

how hard would it be for you to say...hmm...cancel achievement tests next semester?

I am not advocating pushing a magic button that explodes every school, fires every teacher, wastes every tater tot, and resets the system! i am simply calling for our government to loosen the reigns a bit! Ox answer this: what does the enormous, wasteful, bloated FEDERAL department of education do for you or your students?

You said:
"Scratching what we have now is illogical. What would spending a bunch of money to start thousands of new school do? "

Triple Woah woah woah!

Half of my argument is to spend LESS MONEY by allowing people to make money creating better schools!

DOBBER said...

ox, belgian kids are smarter than our kids...WTF???


Anonymous said...

big bill's 2 cents:

Ok were throwing around stats now. I do like the anonymous quote about the stats though. OX I love you but Im calling you bluff. I've def had more teachers that did not plan on anything but worksheets.

At this point though Im going to take a back seat and just read. The only thing I have making me qualified to enter this conversation is the fact that both my parents were in the school system. My mom still is and she teaches special ED, and my Dad was but he was the one forced out. He taught science. So everything i say from this point is on a personal level, more than a stats and quotes level.

My Parents did take an active roll in my schooling and they did sit down and read with me everynight. They had to otherwise i would have fallen short on everything. Luckly i got out of middle and high school before the standered tests became standered. The other reason my parents took an active roll in my schooling is because of my learning "disability". I have Dyslexica. This "disability" is just a way to sterotype and child that learns diffrently.

I agree with anonymous:"a private school system would have the ability to "bend" the curriculum to teach to students the best they can"

Just recently I heard that a well know psycologist published an artical saying that every human has a diffrent brain and responds diffrently to stimuli. So maybe now this will be taken into acount what amost all of us have known for so long.

And my spoons were mostly plastic...lol

Travis said...

wow, a good debate here, i guess i arrived too late. :)

I'll just second what somebody said, for get who:

1. I do not know the best avenue for education.
2. The government does not know the best avenue for education.

Better to eliminate number 2 first, because just like individuals spend their money better than government, they will educate their children better as well.