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Pay up, peasant, you're not going anywhere - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Aug. 28th, 2003

11:24 am - Pay up, peasant, you're not going anywhere

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In a discussion with slit about the virtues of tax-subsidized schooling, she expressed concern that without tax-subsidies for education, working class women will be forced to either give up their jobs and stay home to take care of their kids ("ghettoized"), or not have kids at all. Here's my (edited) response:

I want women and children to get out of the ghetto too. However, I think that tax-subsidies for schools are a big part of the reason people remain in the ghetto.



We both agree, I think, that tax-subsidized schools have many failings. Why do those failings persist, despite decades of political promises to "reform" the schools? In my view, the fundamental problem is that of all state-enforced monopolies: if your customers are forced to pay, what incentive do you have to change crappy policies? After all, you get the money either way. (Also, politicians like schools for indoctrination purposes.)

I expect that as long as schools are allowed to force people to pay, they will continue to perform poorly. If schools were freed, however, I expect innovation to bloom, and costs to go down (as less money is wasted on bureaucratic layers). In the end, I think "ghetto" kids and mothers would have a much better chance of breaking out of poverty than they do now.

I wrote:


If my mate and I can't afford to pay for daycare/education, and if both of us want to work, then the appropriate decision is not to have the kid in the first place.


slit responded:


It's not possible to make such a one-time decision with any kind of confidence. Spouses die, or become disabled. People divorce. Partner A might lose a good-paying job, forcing Partner B to pick up the slack.


Yes, this is true. Life involves risks. However, how do you know that subsidizing the risks of childbearing is the best way to spend the money? For example, how do you know that it wouldn't be better spent investing in new businesses? After all, if people have good jobs, they can afford to pay for schooling themselves. Or perhaps it would be better spent reducing other risks--for example, perhaps I would use the money to fund peace activist work, which might, in turn, help prevent the U.S. from waging a costly war.

Even if I were to spend the money on hookers and beer, on what ethical basis do parents have a higher claim to the money I've earned than I do? As far as I can see, the basis of the claim is: "There are more of us than there are of you. You have three choices a) pay b) move c) go to jail." While that is better than justifications of times past--"God says I'm King. Pay up, peasant, you're not going anywhere."--I prefer social relations that are based on voluntary trade ("Let's trade because we'll both be better off if we do.") rather than implicit (or explicit) threats of violence.

Comments:

From:joe_tofu
Date:August 26th, 2003 10:08 pm (UTC)

i disagree

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I think that the state should pay for education as much as possible, and enable people to pay for their own education (like with stafford loans) in all other cases.

If we are going to have a free country, we need to make sure that everybody has the tools and ability to succeed. That is, nobody should be handicapped for life because their parents couldn't afford or didn't care to educate them sufficiently.

So I support using taxpayers' money to pay for education. I also think there should be certain educational standards. Everybody should be able to read at a certain level by a certain age, and have a certain exposure to math and science and other important topics before they reach 18.

However I think you and I agree that the government should not be forcing people to take their kid and their kid's free money to a crappy school that they don't choose. We need school vouchers for the kids going to schools, and some system of reimbursement (or debit card?) for homeschoolers.
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From:new_iconoclast
Date:August 27th, 2003 08:32 am (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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If we are going to have a free country,

. . . then we need to force people to cough up their money and give it to others, against their will.

Do you not see the contradiction inherent in this?

Pragmatically, we had a free country (in fact, a much freer country) before we ever thought of compulsory government education. In fact, compulsory education was explicitly instituted as a means of social control - the exact opposite of a "free country."
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From:sarahshevett
Date:August 27th, 2003 08:46 am (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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After we pulled our son out of school to homeschool I got a completely different view of just exactly what education is and should be.

What do you think a child/ person really needs to learn/ know to be a successful/ happy adult?

The skills needed to succeed are rarely taught.
I like the list Crasch originally posted, but these are usually NOT what people mean when they want their children to get a "good education"

Most of what is learned in school is how to play the game, or how to get around it. Social skills are learned from peers ( not the best) and time wasting, paper shuffling, memorization are what is rewarded.
Social control; exactly.

The best thing we did was to get our son back into our home and teach him OUR ways.

Do not assume that school teachers know more about anything than you do.
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From:new_iconoclast
Date:August 27th, 2003 08:55 am (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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I assume you meant to respond to joeclark, since I'm saying the same thing you are. My wife is a former government school teacher; both our fathers are retired government school teachers. We homeschool, and I would agree with you totally. The only public school teacher I ever met who knew more about educating my kids than I do is the one I married - and she got out of the system! :)
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From:joe_tofu
Date:August 27th, 2003 08:28 pm (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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I don't think you get my objection. I agree that public schools are crap. I went through particularly crappy ones myself. However that doesn't mean we can throw all the kids to the wind and let whatever happens to them happen. The idea of some kid working in a factory from age 8 and never learning to read because his parents are poor immigrants with no time or money to teach him... just makes me shudder. Children are helpless and if the state does anything at all, it should be helping them to reach adulthood without handicap.
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From:new_iconoclast
Date:August 28th, 2003 06:55 am (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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I think the state could provide encouragement and incentive for parents to start taking responsibility for themselves and for their children. Of course, that also means the state would have to start providing incentives for people to stay married and raise their kids. Becomes a pretty deep problem, and one that goes far beyond funding of government schools.

I don't want the state deciding what constitutes a "handicap," what constitutes a decent curriculum, or what constitutes educational progress. I think that the state should'nt be involved in these things (i.e. it's immoral), and more to the point, I think the state can't do any of this competently. Today's dismal government school system is proof positive that government is incompetent at doing the very things you are saying they should be doing. How would you work the miracle that makes them suddenly able to do it right?
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From:joe_tofu
Date:August 28th, 2003 10:18 am (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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I think my home state (Maine) was pretty good at the "setting educational standards" bit. I can't remember exactly, but I recall we took tests in 4th, 8th, and maybe 11th grade that were similar to SAT tests - testing things like math skills and reading comprehension. Also the state required certain subjects be taken in high school: at least one year of algebra, one science, one fine art or music, geography and i think history. Schools were required to offer 2 foreign languages but i don't recall that students were required to study them.

I don't think it's a half bad set of standards -- considering that it is designed to evaluate schools, not individual homeschool curriculums. The part of government that sets educational standards works pretty well... they have a lot of expert knowledge and precedent to draw upon, and no regulations to restrict them (they are setting the regulations of course!).

The place where all this broke down was in implementation. Often those regulations themselves were a problem. For instance, a rural school that could not produce two foreign language native-speakers had to spend so much to meet that requirement that they could not afford a music teacher! My father is a school district superintendent and he tells me stories about how bureaucracy blocks him in ways that it doesn't block private schools. For instance, a recent "ergonomics" law stated that if a teacher found his/her chair uncomfortable, the district had to spend the money to replace it with a very expensive chair. The teachers union, being a union, immediately got every teacher in the district to claim this. So, the kids lost out on thousands of dollars worth of something.

So, I think governments can still succeed in overseeing and evaluating education. We can debate what people should be required to learn, of course. (absolute minimum: reading and writing before adulthood) But the gov't should get out of implementation, and only step in in dire cases.
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From:crasch
Date:August 27th, 2003 05:40 pm (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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Well put!
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From:joe_tofu
Date:August 27th, 2003 08:36 pm (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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If we are going to have a free country,
. . . then we need to force people to cough up their money and give it to others, against their will.


What's your objection to taxation and services? A country needs a few things. A military is one that I think is pretty important. Education is essential, too. I agree about compulsory government education. People should be free to educate their kids any way they want, but they have to educate their kids.

And purely from a practical point of view: government-guaranteed student loans have enabled millions of Americans to go to universities than would have been otherwise possible. This is part of the reason our economy is the strongest on earth. That benefits everybody by creating jobs and increasing our standard of living. Cutting of government funding for primary and secondary education would totally sabotage our economy. I say, the taxpayers give money to the parents (or the kids directly? hmm) and let them decide how to spend it, with minimal checking up.
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From:new_iconoclast
Date:August 28th, 2003 07:07 am (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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I don't recall that the topic was taxes and services; I thought it was crappy schools. How do you think the government schools are funded? They take my money, that's how. And they waste it, and the objective is not accomplished.

You beg the question by saying that "government-guaranteed" student loans have enabled millions to go to college. Would there be no loans if the government didn't provide them? Would the cost of college be so high if there wasn't so much painless money out there? How critical is a college degree in many professions - how many people actually work professionally in their majors?

Cutting of government funding for primary and secondary education would totally sabotage our economy.

Huh? How so? You equate the end of funding with the end of education; that's simply not a supportable assertion. The money that would flow back into the economy from tax savings, even after parents had spent on education, might well make up for it.

All that said, I'm all for vouchers as an interim step.
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From:joe_tofu
Date:August 28th, 2003 10:28 am (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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I don't know. I'm afraid we'll have a world where the rich people can afford good education for their kids but the poor kids will be trapped for life because their parents can't afford to educate them well. I think everyone should make it at least to 18 with a clean slate and the ability to make themselves into whatever they want.

Would there be no loans if the government didn't provide them?
Not exactly. There would be loans, for kids who are good credit risks. That is, children with two cohabitating parents in the middle-class or above.
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From:new_iconoclast
Date:August 28th, 2003 11:38 am (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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One way we might accomplish this would be to "devalue" the bachelor's degree. The availability of easy loans have increased the number of four-year graduates to the point where getting a degree is "cheap" in absolute out-of-pocket terms, since so much of it can be covered by loans/grants, and the degree itself is consequently worth less. Not many college grads work in their academic fields except business majors and professors.

If we are to level the playing field, we might want to examine how we offer degrees, what they're actually good for, and how people could get good jobs and lead productive lives without them.
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From:new_iconoclast
Date:September 3rd, 2003 06:33 am (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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Here's one article that touches on the subject, from the Independence Institute. One quote:

Thus, the rise of public, or government, schools was not a response to an inability on the part of society to provide for the education of its children but rather a manifestation of what later came to be called the "Progressive" mindset, the belief that life increasingly needed to be subject to control by experts and central government planning. As education historian Joel Spring has written, "The primary result of common school reform in the middle of the nineteenth century was not the education of increasing percentages of children, but the creation of new forms of school organization."

I can also recommend Joel Spring's Conflict of Interests and John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down. Here are some good excerpts and Gatto links, and a Yahoo or Google search on either of these two names will have you reading and browsing for quite awhile. Have fun!
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From:new_iconoclast
Date:September 3rd, 2003 11:13 am (UTC)

Purpose of Compulsory Government Education

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You didn't ask about the start date of public education. I had posted about the purpose and philosophy behind modern compulsory government education, you wanted sources, and the cites I indicated address this.

The date at which the first public schools show up is irrelevant, as is the percentage of children who attend (attendance, as modern government schools amply prove, as not proof that a child is "educated" as you imply).

Nor is the quality of education relevant to its stated purpose and goal, i.e. social control. On a per student basis, which strikes me as the only rational way to measure educational outcome, it would be hard to argue that (voluntary) public schools of 130+ years ago worked better than today's. I am aware that women and children were not as often educated then; however, had they been, they would have been better educated than their descendants today.

You missed the point, not only of my original comment, but also of your own challenge for sources.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 14th, 2003 03:52 pm (UTC)

Re: i disagree

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I am homeschooling my 4th grade daughter this year. She hade difficulty in school because of her obcessive compulsive behavior. The only help the public school gives is a cluster program, which I found out is for emotionally handicapped children due to divorce,etc. My concern is the public schools have no concern with children with certain disabilities beyond their control. We, the parent, need to homeschool these children. It is the only way. Unfortunately it is not in everyones best financial interests to do this. I know that it is becoming increasing difficult for me as I cannot afford all the things she needs. I agree with a reimbursement for homeschooler. Especially for those whom really need homeschooling
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From:jozafiend
Date:August 27th, 2003 09:31 am (UTC)
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Also when you have to pay for something, you appreciate it more. One reason schools are glorified babysitting services is because kids and parents take it for granted rather than something they have to earn, respect and appreciate.
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From:crasch
Date:August 27th, 2003 05:51 pm (UTC)
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Agreed!
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