Recommended Reading

To those who retain the hope that legislators and school board members may be swayed by "public welfare" cost/benefit analysis The Agenda's author recommends the following:

I. Books

1. Chubb and Moe, Politics, Markets, and America's Schools.
2. Lieberman, Privatization and Educational Choice.
3. Steuerle, et, al., Vouchers and the Provision of Public Services.
4. Ravich, Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms.
5. West, Education and the State.
6. Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom.
7. Spring, The American School.
8. Tyack, The One Best System.
9. Sowell, Knowledge and Decisions.
10. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom.
11. Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation.
12. TIMSS Mathematics Achievement in the Middle School Years (1996).
13. OECD, Education at a Glance.

Chubb and Moe (1991) is the one necessary starting point for an informed school voucher discussion. Lieberman provides a close analysis of the current legal environment and the advantages of a profit-driven education industry. The Brookings Institution/Urban Institute/CED study is not confined to tuition vouchers, and so provides useful welfare-economic background as well as specifically school-related analysis. Ravich will horrify readers with her tale of the stunning arrogance and wilful stupidity of State school advocates. In Education and the State, Edwin West delves into the history of compulsory education in the US and England. The chapter "The Role of Government in Education" in Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom outlines a school voucher proposal. Joel Spring's The American School and David Tyack's The One Best System are histories of the US system. Sowell, Hayek, and Axelrod provide relevant background economic theory. TIMSS and OECD are compendiums of international comparative data.

II. Journal articles

Randall G. Holcombe
"Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable"
The Independent Review. Volume 8 Number 3 Winter 2004

Eduardo Zambrano
"Formal Models of Authority: Introduction and Political Economy Applications"
Rationality and Society, May 1999; 11: 115 - 138.

Mancur Olsen
"The End of the Middle Way"
American Economic Review.

Jack Hirschliefer
"Anarchy and Its Breakdown"
Journal of Political Economy

III. Web resources and articles

One page. Marvin Minsky comment on school. Please read this.

The Friedman Foundation sponsors research on school choice and makes research available.

David Friedman here considers the welfare-economic arguments for a State role in the education industry.

Here Ted Kolderie considers alternatives to the the current structure of K-12 schooling in the US.

Edwin G. West, "Education Vouchers in Principle and Practice: A Survey" provides an economist's overview of the welfare-economic arguments for a State role in the education business. Here West contemplates the origin of compulsory schooling in England.

Caroline Hoxby's page at NBER lists nemerous studies. Browse Caroline Hoxby's papers on the web here.

Joshua Angrist "Randomized Trials and Quasi-Experiments in Education Research" NBER Reporter, summer, 2003, article describes a school voucher lottery in Columbia. Angrist, et. al. discuss the Columbia experience here also. Introduction: "Colombia used lotteries to distribute vouchers which partially covered the cost of private secondary school for students who maintained satisfactory academic progress. Three years after the lotteries, winners were about 10 percentage points more likely to have Ž nished 8th grade, primarily because they were less likely to repeat grades, and scored 0.2 standard deviations higher on achievement tests. There is some evidence that winners worked less than losers and were less likely to marry or cohabit as teenagers. BeneŽ ts to participants likely exceeded the $24 per winner additional cost to the government of supplying vouchers instead of public school places."

A book review by John Ray...

Andrew Coulson's School Choices site contains well-organized analysis, commentary, and numerous links. He also discusses education policy at the Mackinac center. Here, and here, for example.

Lewis Andrews surveys school choice policies and special education across nations in this Policy Review article.

Please read the Ted Kolderie article and the comment by Marvin Minsky.

The list above will provide interested readers with data and analysis relevant to education policy and the behavior of the State. The Agenda's author recommends E. G. West's book Education and the State on the basis of a cursory glance and on the strength of West's other works, cited above. The other books on the list, the Agenda's author has read cover-to-cover and recommends without reservation (except for Ravich, who is overly fond of classical education and insufficiently trusting of parents and markets).

The above material will be of little use to homeschooling families, who have already seen the light and need no persuasion. To them the Agenda's author recommends Dover publications in subject areas of interest, and the enjoyment of youth while it lasts.

Keep homeschooling.


rws1st said...

School choice is at best a meta-solution to the education problem. It is a mechanism where by hopefully the search space for particular solutions can be widened. But by itself it is not sufficient to promote optimal progress.

Neither is the scientific method as practiced by the academic community.. The experimental process described by Joshua D. Angristare is good at finding broad patterns and trends, will not yield specific practices or educationally materials that can be implemented in a practical manner.

What we really lack in education is educational engineering. A program to take the basic principles found by the academic sciences and refine them into specific implementations that can operate under various constraints. Combining a experimental design approach with a build test fix cycle.

I once went to a education convention just when the CD-ROM was getting its start. A new product was displayed that purported to teach math. It was based on a standard math book and added several animations created by silicon graphics work stations. I asked the representative how they tested the materials. She informed me that after they had gotten through the first six chapters of material they brought a computer to a class and let the children gather around to watch the animations. That was it. It's a good thing they dont do that in airplane design.

P.S Love the content here, and yes my wife and I intend to homeschool :)

allen said...

Absent educational engineering, school choice is the solution to the education problem because it addresses not just educational issues but the social and political problems of the public education system.

It addresses the educational shortcomings of the public school system by creating organizational punishment for falling below parental expectations - people leave. If enough people leave then the organizational equivalent of capital punishment is carried out.

The survival of the organization is then strongly coupled to the meeting of parental expectations. That's the incentive to take a hard look at what produces the results parents value. It'll be empirical which isn't as efficient as generating solutions from an understanding of the underlying principles but hey, you do what works.

The incentive to pursue what works also focuses funding on researchers who produce educationally useful results. If there isn't all that much reason to worry about whether education is being accomplished then there's much less in the way of incentive to do research that generates worthwhile insights.

Choice also works to mitigate some of the other problems of the public education system like wasting tax money.

Since it's now obvious that district-based schools are administratively top-heavy as seen by the success of administratively lightweight charter schools, the deleterious effects of excessive taxation can be reduced by getting rid of bags of superfluous personnel and their attendent costs.

Also, parental choice puts an end to the contentious, and educationally destructive, efforts to gain control of the indoctrination function of public education. If you can have your kid taught that the earth was created 6,000 years ago then you have much less incentive to try to force other people's children to learn the same thing.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

If "choice" schools look like conventional schools except for the color of their exterior paint, little is gained by school vouchers. I expect that human engineering techniques would evolve faster in a choice environment. Human engineering techniques could add much to the methods adults apply to the learning environment to which we consign children. Some examples: 1) Interactive, self-paced instruction would address the "drill and kill" argument against memorization and exercise. 2) Diagnostic techniques which identify a child's learning style and tailor instruction to that style, coupled with self-paced instruction, would enhance students' motivation. 3) Individualization of instructional techniques would allow individualization of instructional --goals--. The sequence of Math instruction for an intended Math major, for example, might differ from the sequence applied to the budding engineer.

Compulsory education places compulsion before education. Ever meet a refined bully, outside of Hollywood action movies? Schools do not innovate because they don't have to; because the State assembles their audience at gun-point and extracts their revenue from taxpayers at gun-point.

Thanks for the kind words, rw. There's more to come.

Jenny D. said...

Good list. I would also recommend just for good reading:

Jeannie Oakes, Keeping Track

Vanessa Siddle Walker, Their Highest Potential

The first is about how tracking operates in schools. Has a marvelous chapter on the history of curricula, chapter 2 I think.

The second book is how a segregated high school worked. Interesting.

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