[FoRK] The Decline of Empires..

Mark Day mark_s_day at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 4 12:24:51 PST 2005

> We do not need to compare the US education system with other 
> countries,
> we can compare it to itself.  In constant terms, the efficiency of the
> system has declined with time.  I'd be happy if we simply returned the
> efficiency to what it used to be e.g. by cutting the massive amount of
> bureaucratic fat that was not there before the teacher's 
> unions started
> feeding from a bottomless trough.

But everyone's much-beloved decentralization means that in the U.S. this
characterization is completely accurate about some big-city systems and
totally-off-the-mark in others.  

For example, my small town has a weak teacher's union, low per-student
spending compared to many other towns in the Boston area, and reasonable if
not stellar student performance as measured by things like MCAS (our
Massachusetts comprehensive testing), SAT scores, or advanced placement.  In
spite of that, we have had a miserable time every recent year with our
school budget because:

1. State aid keeps dropping.  (After all, tax cuts are better than local
2. State-mandated spending on classroom staffing and special education keeps
rising.  (After all, we need higher standards to be competitive.)
3. A sizeable fraction of the town's electorate thinks as you do and assumes
that the schools are awash in corruption, waste, and bureaucracy.  (After
all, it didn't cost nearly that much when *I* went to school.)

This notion of achieving excellence through cutting spending is just a
Dilbert / Al Dunlap scenario shifted from the corporate world to the
educational world.  It's just as unwise to blindly apply it in schools as in


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