[FoRK] The Decline of Empires..

Gordon Mohr gojomofork at xavvy.com
Mon Jan 3 21:58:57 PST 2005


Ian Andrew Bell (FoRK) wrote:
> On 3-Jan-05, at 2:03 PM, J. Andrew Rogers wrote:
> 
>> Given this, is it any surprise that so many people are no longer
>> interested in dumping any more of their money into these issues?  You
>> could funnel the entire GDP of the US into these issues and I doubt it
>> would improve the situation.  After many decades of ratcheting up the
>> public spending with no return on that increased spending, people are
>> going to lose interest in putting their money there.
> 
> 
> Wow, this is simply a ridiculous, circular, self-defeating argument and 
> it really saddens me to hear you attempt to use it.  This is like not 
> voting because your party never wins, which as we know a large number of 
> people do as well.
> 
> Think the money's being wasted?  John the school board or the PTA.  Help 
> the school's music program.  Coach the football team.  But opting out 
> ensures the system's long-term failure.  It's everyone's responsibility 
> to make the world around them better, not to simply pull the plug when 
> the efforts of others fail.

You could make this same argument to a dissident in a Soviet regime.

"Comrade, your objections to our regime are a ridiculous, circular,
self-defeating argument and it really saddens me to hear you attempt to
use it.  This is like not voting simply because there's only one candidate
on the ballot, which as we know a large number of people do as well."

"Think our system is unjust? Join your local Communist Party! Help
draft the next 5-year plan! Work extra hours in the farming collectives
to help us end the food shortages this year! But opting out ensures the
system's long-term failure. It's everyone's responsibility to ensure
the success of the worker's revolution, and not simply pull the plug
because of a few decades of famines and purges!"

No, I don't think the public schools are quite as bad as Soviet Communism.

But after serving 17.5 years in America's public schooling, I know it's
largely dominated by ugly, inefficient, prison-like, soul- and intellect-
destroying institutions, especially at the K-12 level. No amount of elbow
grease or funding bumps will change that without massive structural reform.

And most of the suggestions of the mainstream left and right -- federal
involvement and more standardized testing and centralized curriculum
design -- are steps in the wrong direction.

No person has an obligation to pour their valuable time and money into
a system that's so flawed their effort will be wasted. The obligation is
to dismantle all the failed bureacracies and let some real experimentation
occur at every level, knowing there's a risk involved, but honestly
realizing the risk of the status quo is greater.

A good start would be the New Zealand reforms:

     http://www.joannejacobs.com/mtarchives/014311.html

# Kiwi choice
#
# New Zealand transformed its failing school system by instituting choice,
# says Maurice McTigue, a former Member of Parliament, in Imprimis. Before
# the change, New Zealand had been spending more on education with worse
# results. Consultants reported that 70 percent of education spending was
# going to administration.
#
#     Once we heard this, we immediately eliminated all of the
#     Boards of Education in the country. Every single school
#     came under the control of a board of trustees elected by
#     the parents of the children at that school, and by nobody
#     else. We gave schools a block of money based on the number
#     of students that went to them, with no strings attached.
#     At the same time, we told the parents that they had an
#     absolute right to choose where their children would go to
#     school. It is absolutely obnoxious to me that anybody would
#     tell parents that they must send their children to a bad
#     school. We converted 4,500 schools to this new system all
#     on the same day.
#
# Under the new system, parents could spend their education dollars at a
# public or privately owned school.
#
#     Again, everybody predicted that there would be a major
#     exodus of students from the public to the private schools,
#     because the private schools showed an academic advantage
#     of 14 to 15 percent. It didn't happen, however, because
#     the differential between schools disappeared in about
#     18-24 months. Why? Because all of a sudden teachers realized
#     that if they lost their students, they would lose their
#     funding; and if they lost their funding, they would lose
#     their jobs.
#
# At the beginning of the change, 85 percent of students went to public
# schools; that dipped to 84 percent after one year, then rose to 87 percent
# three years later. New Zealnd students, who'd been "14 or 15 percent below
# our international peers" in educational attainment now are 14 or 15
# percent above, writes McTigue.

- Gordon


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