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NeoNotes — effectiveness of public schools

There are two assumptions here. First that public schools are doing their job now and are inherently better than any private alternative. We know that isn't so. I think much of it has to do with making schools compulsory and making them operate much like prisons, but that is a conversation for another time. The thing is public schools are proving less and less effective, even in the few cases where judges took control of funding and spent much more per student than even the most effective schools.

The second assumption is that with competition driving the costs down, there wouldn't be better alternatives. Better in this case means cheaper, faster, more effective, more distributed, etc. Just as one example, our school year is structured around a distorted agrarian cycle which isn't suitable for much else. We know from trade schools, community colleges, heck, even internet courses that there are alternatives that work cheaper and faster. We also know as an example that college tuition has far outstripped inflation. We also know that almost nothing in our current system teaches thinking but compliance.

We're so conditioned to accept public schools as a Good Thing™ that we resist looking at options.

You're right, but not everyone makes that distinction about the Shahada. Not even every Muslim.

Education has improved out our quality of life, but we don't know how much public schooling has. Compulsory public schools shut out the competition. It's like saying that Popeye's brand spinach is a social good without acknowledging that there are other brands of canned spinach, that fresh spinach is good too, and that there are other vegetables. Over time competition makes things better, faster, cheaper, and better distributed. Competition means that no one is forced by gunpoint to buy a bad product or service.

Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy In America makes special mention of how well Americans were educated in comparison with the average European. This was well before the public education movement. Alternatives can work, but we'll never know how well as long as our public system discourages any choice.

There's been talk and money spent on American public education reform since I was in school with few measurable improvements. Aside from competition (which I talked about before), government and public schooling measure their results differently. It depends on gathering attention and public monies spent. Gains in education and ability are secondary. The thing is politicos want to be re-elected and technocrats want a bigger budget for the next year.

With competition things can change. But most government action limits competition in everything from a "national curriculum" to textbooks to teacher standards.

How do I know this? Because it works in everything from cell phones to socks to religion. Yes, religion. We have the religions we have now because government is mostly restricted from interfering. We're better off when people make their own choices as long as they take responsibility.

Public schools are funded and managed by politics. Regardless of what they do or how effective it is, they still get money and they still get their direction from politicos and bureaucrats.

You and others here have made a point that public schools need to be fixed. But what incentive is there to improve? They still get paid. The politicos get to make speeches and show concern. There's a problem, it has to be fixed, and they are working on it. But nothing gets done.

As you know I'm not fond of blaming Republicans because they are Republicans or of excusing Democrats because they are Democrats.

Since the problems in schools have persisted for decades, maybe politics aren't the answer. Especially since the public school system actively discourages alternatives.

What we know is that the public schools aren't working now. We should ask if the goal is better public schools or better education.

Maybe we should start by asking why it is not working here.

Your choice of course. I feel I am addressing facts. It's not that I am not compassionate, it's that I don't trust government to do the job given their past performance.

As Franklin said, "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins."

Leaving aside the issues with the public school system during the Clinton and Obama administrations, if the public school system needs to be fixed, why not hire a reformer?

Leaving aside the issue of taxes and the affordability of public schools, private businesses don't generate profits by setting their prices high. They want as many people as possible to choose their company, so they work to keep prices low while trying to increase benefits to the customer. This is how companies stay ahead of (wait for it…) the competition.

Leaving aside the issue of if government knows best or even if government knows mostly best, one thing we do know is that private companies tend to produce more choice for the customer.

I understand that my words here have brought you frustration and possibly pain. I won't apologize for sharing what I think is truth. I believe that no one person and certainly no one group has THE truth, at best they have only A truth. If we really want to solve problems, we should accept that we don't have all the answers and open ourselves to the possibilities.

We do know that national test scores have been falling for decades. We also know that even high school graduates often don't have basic math or reading skills. It's not unusual for colleges to run remedial courses. Is this universal? No. Is it a major concern? Yes. Is that a gross oversimplification?

I agree that the tax issue is a huge part of the problem. But you can't talk about that without getting into how some local governments decide which businesses they do and do not want in their jurisdiction. That doesn't even include things like "sin taxes," crime rates, stadiums, transportation, zoning, rent controls, occupational licensing, or a hundred other factors that will influence the property tax base.

I agree that the "basket cases" are nearly a hopeless cause and I don't have any easy answers. The problem is that we are failing these kids now AND we can't base our "universal" solutions on how we deal with them. I'd argue that government intervention over decades locked these folks into a poverty cycle and the solutions will not come in a year but over decades. I also think that a "universal" solution doesn't exist except as a justification for centralized control.

Yes we have competition from charter schools. Sometimes. There's a real battle in some places to bring charter schools under more government control. We do know that where charter schools deliver the best results, there are long waiting lists to get in. Yes, you are right, it's a mixed bag. That happens with the free market and choice. But over time, the average gets better and the bad goes out of business.

Profits are not necessarily a bad thing. Well run business use profits to maintain and expand their facilities and hire more and/or better people. I don't like cronyism and I think that as long as government is involved, corruption can't be far behind.

One thing you didn't mention was home schooling. That's also a mixed bag and requires some pretty intense time commitment from the parents.

I won't argue that there are some questionable people pushing for school choice. But I do think it won't turn out like they think it should.
NeoNotes are the selected comments that I made on other boards, in email, or in response to articles where I could not respond directly.

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