[FoRK] The Decline of Empires..
andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Mon Jan 3 23:27:12 PST 2005
On Jan 3, 2005, at 4:10 PM, Ian Andrew Bell (FoRK) wrote:
> You voted for a president whose idea of progressive social programs
> were pretty much limited to "they're out to get us" and "keep the
> queers from marrying".
I assume you are referring to Bush? Whatever gave you the idea that I
voted for him? Just because I'm not guzzling the god-awful Democrat
Kool-Aid does not mean I'm putting on the kneepads for the Republicans.
Given the atrocious track record of several decades of Democrat
progressive social programs, they represent a really lousy return on
investment; no sane person interested in solving social problems would
have instituted programs as they have. We could have solved a hell of
a lot of problems with that money, had it been applied more
effectively. When the number of mulligans approaches triple-digits, it
becomes time to re-evaluate the game.
I object to heavy-handed social engineering at the point of a gun,
period. I do not care whether it comes from the Left-Wing Democrats or
the Christian Right, and both of which love this kind of madness and
are rabidly intolerant generally. I doubly object when they take my
money to engage in such stupidity. If they want to spend their own
money, I'm okay with that.
> You obviously haven't established this, and I gave you a pass when you
> mentioned this idea earlier, but you seem to take it as a given that
> we all agree that money is not the problem.
The US education system is one of my favorite topics. :-) Even within
the US, there is little correlation between money spent per student and
quality of education. And the average money spent varies widely
between States and only loosely tracks cost of living. The average
cost of private schools approaches half of the average cost of public
schools per student.
Public school teachers make above average US wages (not that it ever
stopped the whining of the teacher's unions), though in private schools
far more of the budget goes directly to the teachers on average than in
None of us are old enough to remember, but we had an *excellent*
universal private education system in the United States for a long time
-- even De Tocqueville wrote quite a bit about it. It was correctly
viewed as a great public good and so private citizens took it upon
themselves to make sure everyone was educated. Per capita book
consumption in the early Americas was stunning, and unparalleled at the
time. Everyone who wanted an education got one, rich or poor, with
some limited exceptions out in the frontier where the population was
very sparse. Not perfect, but if measured by results, excellent. More
interestingly, there was a period of about 30 years in the mid-19th
century where some political busybodies set up free government schools
in a few States that were created as an alternative to the private
education system that everyone used -- for the poor people, doncha
know. The problem was that in the couple decades of that experiment,
even the poor people refused to go to the public schools which sat
empty, seeing as how there were plenty of fine no-cost private schools
that offered a superior educational experience. Like now, the public
schools during that experiment were lambasted in the legislatures and
in the press as being monumental wastes of money and obviously inferior
institutions to the private schools.
Of course, that story ends with a legislative battle to kill the
albatross of public schools, which no one wanted except the progressive
faction that got them funded in the first place, and ended with a very
clever slate of laws by the backers of the government schools that
regulated the private education industry out of existence except on the
fringe, forcing people to use the public schools. The first state fell
to the progressives of that time in 1851 (Massachusetts) and the last
state fell in 1920 (Wyoming IIRC). It is a cold irony that by many
metrics, literacy rates declined following this forced wholesale switch
to government schools.
Ignoring the inadequacies of the public schools, a first good step
would be banning the teacher's unions, which has actually been done in
a couple States. It is hard to come up with a game theoretic scenario
that makes teacher's unions good for the education of the students.
The goal is not to provide high-paying jobs for teachers, but to
For obvious reasons, we could not just privatize the entire school
system. What we could do is what has been done with good results in a
few other countries in recent years, which is to go to a parallel
system, a cross between vouchers and what was done in the US in the
mid-19th century. If you let the people decide, the market will sort
itself out (but then, that's what they said in Massachusetts a century
and a half ago...)
> The US spends more on education quite precisely because things COST
> more in the US. If we paid educators more then I'm sure more skilled
> people would choose to become educators. As it is, it seems that the
> best educators today earn higher pay in the private school system so
> clearly, if that's true, this is an effective system.
Invalid assumptions. Private educators make substantially less money
on average than public school teachers. According Department of
Education figures I've been able to find from the 1990s, public school
teachers make ~30% more money than their private school counterparts.
Which makes some sense since the per student funding is dramatically
less on average in the private sector.
And as is well-documented in the Department of Education statistics and
many other places, teachers earn average wages that are comfortably
above the US average, at least in public schools. Again, largely a
side effect of campaigning by the teacher's unions.
I have a couple teachers in my immediate family, and a number more in
the extended family. None of them is underpaid, and considering that
some of them are still in their early- and mid-20s, they are very
*well* paid -- that all of them have bought respectable houses in
places like California at that age says something. They do far better
than the sob stories that are routinely trotted out by the unions every
time they try to raise taxes.
The US education system is one of my most favorite targets for
wholesale slash-n-burn, primarily because education is so important.
What we have now is badly, badly broken, and if you study the history
of how we went from a private education system that was the envy of the
world to a the public education system we have now, it is an
unfortunate accident of history resulting from some questionable
ideological political maneuvering in the mid to late 19th century.
j. andrew rogers
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