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.


Why school? (Part II)

Why does the State compel attendance at school? This "why?" question has three interpretations: 1) The historical "why?". What events coincided with the State's entry into the education business? 2) The welfare-economic "why?". What does society gain from a State role in the education industry? 3) The political science "why?". What do those politicians who support the State's presence in the education industry gain from their support. Today we consider the third version.

Two legislative sessions ago, the Democratic majority of the Hawaii State legislature passed Act 51 in response to Governor Lingle's (R) proposal to decentralize Hawaii's State-wide school district. Under Act 51, the system, already the most centralized in the US, assumed responsibility for payroll and pensions from the Department of Budget and Finance, and assumed responsibility for Repair and Maintenance from the Department of Accounting and General Services. Until the ascent of a Republican to the Governor's office, the majority (D) had indicated no sense of urgency to move these functions under the DOE wing. With Republican appointees exercising oversight of DAGS and B&F, suddenly the majority (D) recognized a need to move these functions into the union-dominated DOE bureaucracy.

For reasons the Agenda's author will discuss later, he does not expect to see honest coverage of the DOE budget from The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, or The Honolulu Weekly.

Just go here.


Richard Epstein on the Florida Voucher Case

David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy linked this post by Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School faculty blog, on the Sopreme Court of Florida voucher ruling.

While the Agenda's author is in no position to criticise anyone's spelling and typos, we hope that Epstein was dozing when he wrote...

"The last feature of Bush v. Holmes that is so distressing is its ready embrace of the story that the use of voucher programs necessary diverts needed resources from the public school system. That view of the world is hopelessly static, especially in connection with a constitutional provision that actually cares about efficiency and high quality education. Viewed dynamically, the removal of children from public schools has at least two effects above and beyond the simple diversion of resources. The first of these is that it reduces the obligations of the public school systems, especially when the per pupil cost of education within the state system is higher than the cost of education within the public system, as I suspect it is in Florida."

The "state system" is the "public system", as we use the adjective "public" to modify "school" in the USA, right? Epstein meant to contrast "state" and "private" systems.

"What is so horrible about a higher level of funds on a per capita basis for the students left behind."

Petty criticism: he needs a "?" here.

"In addition, the private school options, secular or religious, injects.."

Should be "inject".

"...a measure of competition. The public school teachers and their unions now realize that they are in competition with a nameless set of some and versatile..."

Professor Epstein hit the "post" button when he meant to "save as draft", perhaps. Edited at 0430, local time, probably. His thoughts are always worth attention (Takings, Forbidden Grounds) and the Agenda's author hopes Professor Epstein will complete his thought here.

"...institutions that they cannot control with the drop of a hat." The only way they can maintain their market share is to provide, as the Florida Constitution requires, a high quality education in an efficient fashion. For all its blunders,
Bush v. Holmes has this silver lining. It is likely that this decision will be followed in other states whose constitutions contain similar language. Too bad that this won’t help the hundreds of kids who deserve better than being trapped in state run system that has proved itself, even after strenuous efforts of Jeb Bush, to be so unresponsive to its needs."

Why is this a silver lining, unless Professor Epstein meant to say "(i)t is unlikely that this decision will be followed..."?

Put criticism of typos aside. Consider the Supreme Court of Florida (SCOFLA) ruling.
Why did they do it? With a robe, no capacity for shame, and an allegiance to some faction or political ideal, judges abuse plain English to achieve the results they desire. Some years ago the Hawaii Supreme Court overturned an initiative which would have prevented residential development along a stretch of East Oahu coastline. The rationale given by the court was that the amendment to the Hawaii Constitution which created the citizens' right of initiative did not mention its use for zoning purposes. Isn't that the point of any new legislation, whether created by initiative or by the legislature, to deal with unanticipatyed events? The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled, in Baer et. al. versus Miike, that the Department of Health policy which restricted marriage to heterosexual couples violated "equal protection" requirements of the Constitution. This ruling amounts to a redefinition of "marriage". When the court gives to itself the power to repeal laws and to redefine ordinary English words like "marriage" and "private property" (the PASH ruling. Don't ask), it renders the legislature superfluous. We may as well use The Adventures of Peter Rabbit as the statute book. Open at random, select any paragraph, and interpret as the current political situation requires. Only people confident of their ability to manipulate the Court will invest given such a legal environment. Small business will not thrive in such an environment. Democracy, in the sense of broad public influence over government policy, does not thrive in such an environment.


Why School ? (Part I)

Internet etiquette. The conversation "Choice, Decentralization, and other Odds and Ends" got convoluted and abstract at Jenny D's place, so the Agenda's author dragged it here. Is this hijacking or a disinclination to impose on the hostess? Anyway...

What is government ("The State")? What is "democracy"? What is
"education"? To the extent that you, individually, can influence the State's education policy, what goal are you trying to achieve? Is the instrument you have chosen (the policy you recommend) likely to achieve your stated end?

The government of a locality is the largest dealer in inter-personal violence in that locality (definition). Weber defines government as the monopoly on legitimate violence. Since monopolies are seldom absolute and the State itself gets to define "legitimate", the Agenda's author prefers the first formulation. Experts concur: "Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master" (George Washington), and "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" (Mao Tse Tung).

"Democracy" names a class of feedback mechanisms, those government policies which designate some channel by which people may influence their government. This class includes elections, initiative, recall, and referenda. These are not the only conceivable democratic mechanisms. For example, a legislature of sufficient size, selected by lot like jury duty but without peremptory challenges, would provide "democratic" feedback to an executive branch bound to obey that legislature. Federalism is a democratic feedback mechanism when people have the "right" (a promise from the State) to "vote with their feet". The market, a policy which gives to individual customers the power to take their business elsewhere, is a democratic feedback mechanism. Anti-State violence may be a democratic feedback mechanism (hence, the Second Amendment).

Education is an investment, a sacrifice of current consumption made in anticipation of greater income later. "Income" is material or "psychic" (e.g., enhanced appreciation of Shakespeare). When an individual invests in his/her own education s/he sacrifices resources (usually time and often money) in anticipation of enhanced income, from his/her education-enhanced skill, later.

Whether you see any State direction of resources as an "investment" from "the public's" point of view depends, in part, on how you compute the public's interest in (income from) the result of the State's expenditure. Practically, whether or not State agents invest "in the interests of society" depends on whether or not democratic feedback mechanisms work.

This is all just brush-clearing, preparing the ground for a discussion of education policy, and it's getting tedious, so we break here to consider a few items in earlier posts by Jenny and her guests.

Jenny begs to differ from David Friedman on the case for a State role in education.

Jenny D:"I want children who will be citizens of the US to be indoctrinated with the values of the U.S. ...(O)ne must learn to live in a democracy, it is not obvious. For proof, check out Iraq."

For proof that State-operated schools are not necessary to create a democracy, consider the US. Few of the members of the Constitutional Convention attended State-operated schools. For proof that majority attendance at State-operated schools is not necessary to maintain of democracy, check out Ireland, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The violence of some Muslims, or the advocacy of anti-social violence by some Muslim schools is just as much an argument against a voucher-subsidized free market in education as the violence of Ted Kaczynski, John Walker Lindh, or Jose Padilla is an argument against State-operated schools. Is "critical pedagogy" likely to produce citizens accepting of the existing social order?

One of Jenny's guests works as a teacher and union agent. TMAO supports the current system.

TMAO: "We educate -- publicly, nationally, compulsorily -- because... We do so to..."

"To" is a statement of intention. The question: "Why school?" has three interpretations: 1) the historical "why?", 2) the welfare-economic "why?", and 3) the political-science "why?". 1) The US "public" school system orginated in anti-Catholic bigotry. 2) We argue welfare-economic case here. 3) The system survives on well-funded and assiduous lobbying by current recipients of the taxpayers' $400+ billion k-12 dedicated revenue stream.

Ragnarok argues from a generally libertarian point of view.

Ragnarok: "Perhaps I could reiterate one of my pet themes, that the parents be required to put in some money of their own in order to give them a stake in the result? We could use a sliding scale, what's important is that I believe that people value things that they pay for."

Parent involvement is good. Not every argument for parent involvement is a good argument. Would Ragnarok not value a kruggerand found in the park? The Agenda's author will happily accept donations of any windfall readers experience. People will value a thing if they expect to realize a return from their concern for that thing. Giving to parents dollar-denominated school vouchers from which they could keep the difference between whatever tuition they pay and the dollar value of the voucher would give to parents an incentive to shop for a cheap school. Making eligibility for the voucher in the following year contingent on their child's performance at the end of the current year would create an incentive to shop for a good school.


Violence: What do you expect?

They're talking violence over at The Ed Wonks

Why does school violence surprise anyone? If you treated an adult the way we routinely treat young people, you would be lucky if all you got was a black eye. Herd thirty adults into a room, and tell them that for six hours per day, 180 days of the year they will remain in their seats, do as you say, ask for permission to visit the lavatory, and speak only when spoken to or you will blight their lives with negative referrals to colleges and future employers: if they could not overpower you in class, they would slash your tires or torch your house. It's a testament to the instinctive decency of most people that so few children emerge from this system homicidally enraged.

"The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. School days, I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence. They are full of dull, unintelligible tasks, new and unpleasant ordinances, and brutal violations of common sense and common decency." --H.L. Mencken

"The UC Berkeley-Stanford study found that all children who attended preschool at least 15 hours a week displayed more negative social behaviors such as trouble cooperating or acting up, when compared with their peers. The discrepancies were most pronounced among children from higher-income families."
"Children from lower-income families lagged behind their peers who didn't attend preschool an average of 7 percentage points on the measure of social behavioral growth. But children from higher-income families lagged 9 percentage points behind their peers. These wealthier children did even worse when they attended preschool for 30 hours or more: They trailed their peers by 15 percentage points."
" 'It's not clear why children from higher-income families exhibit more negative behaviors than their stay-at-home peers. Fuller speculated their peers might be in enriching home environments that include things like trips to the library as well as dance and music lessons. Other studies have found childcare centers negatively affect children's social development', said Jay Belsky, director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birkbeck University of London, in an e-mail interview."
" 'It is time to come to grips with what all too many have denied for all too long, namely, that all disconcerting news about adverse effects cannot be attributed to low-quality care, which has been more or less the mantra of the field of child development and the child-care advocacy community for decades,' Belsky said." [__San Francisco Chronicle__, 2005-Nov.-01]

"Several studies of maltreatment by teachers suggest that school children report traumatic symptoms that are similar whether the traumatic event was physical or verbal abuse (Hyman, et.al.,1988; Krugman & Krugman, 1984; Lambert, 1990). Extrapolation from these studies suggests that psychological maltreatment of school children, especially those who are poor, is fairly widespread in the United States...."
"In the early 1980s, while the senior author was involved in a school violence project, an informal survey of a random group of inner city high school students was conducted. When asked why they misbehaved in school, the most common response was that they wanted to get back at teachers who put them down, did not care about them, or showed disrespect for them, their families, or their culture...."
"...schools do not encourage research regarding possible emotional maltreatment of students by staff or investigatiion into how this behavior might affect student misbehavior...."
"...Since these studies focused on teacher-induced PTSD and explored all types of teacher maltreatment, some of the aggressive feelings were also caused by physical or sexual abuse. There was no attempt to separate actual aggression from feelings of aggression. The results indicated that at least 1% to 2% of the respondents' symptoms were sufficient for a diagnosis of PTSD. It is known that when this disorder develops as a result of interpersonal violence, externalizing symptoms are often the result (American Psychiatric Association, 1994)."
"While 1% to 2% might not seem to be a large percentage of a school-aged population, in a system like New York City, this would be about 10,000 children so traumatized by educators that they may suffer serious, and sometimes lifelong emotional problems (Hyman, 1990; Hyman, Zelikoff & Clarke, 1988). A good percentage of these students develop angry and aggressive responses as a result. Yet, emotional abuse and its relation to misbehavior in schools receives little pedagogical, psychological, or legal attention and is rarely mentioned in textbooks on school discipline (Pokalo & Hyman, 1993, Sarno, 1992)."
"As with corporal punishment, the frequency of emotional maltreatment in schools is too often a function of the socioeconomic status (SES) of the student population (Hyman, 1990)." [Hyman and Penroe, __Journal of School Psychology__.]

"...(M)any well-known adolescent difficulties are not intrinsic to the teenage years but are related to the mismatch between adolescents' developmental needs and the kinds of experiences most junior high and high schools provide. When students need close affiliation, they experience large depersonalized schools; when they need to develop autonomy, they experience few opportunities for choice and punitive
approaches to discipline..." [Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of Education, Stanford University. American School Board Journal, September 1999].

"Furthermore, according to a report for UNESCO, cited in Esteve (2000), the increasing level of pupil-teacher and pupil-pupil violence in classrooms is directly connected with compulsory schooling. The report argues that institutional violence against pupils who are obliged to attend daily at an educational centre until 16 or 18 years of age increases the frustration of these students to a level where they externalise it." [Clive Harber, "Schooling as Violence",p. 9, __Educatioinal Review__V. 54, #1.

"...It is almost certainly more damaging for children to be in school than to out of it. Children whose days are spent herding animals rather than sitting in a clasroom at least develop skills of problem solving and independence while the supposedly luckier ones in school are stunted in their mental, physical, and emotional development by being rendered pasive, and by having to spend hours each day in a crowded classroom under the control of an adult who punishes them for any normal level of activity such as moving or speaking. (DfID, 2000, pp 12, 13)" Quoted in Clive Harber, "Schooling as Violence",p. 10, __Educatioinal Review__V. 54, #1.

"Violence at school is a prevalent problem. According to a national survey of school proncipals (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1998), over 200,000 serious fights or physical attacks occurred in public schools during the 1996-1997 school year. Serious violent crimes occurred in approximately 12% of middle schools and 13% of high schools. Student surveys (Kann et al, 1995) indicate even higher rates of aggressive behavior. Approximately 16.2% of high school students nationwide reported involvement in a physical fight at school during a 30-day period, and 11.8% reported carrying a weapon on school property (Kann et al, 1995)."
"Research on victims of violence at school suggests that repeated victimization has detrimental effects on a child's emotional and social development (Batsche & Knoff, 1995; Hoover, Oliver, & Thomson, 1993; Olweus, 1993). Victims exhibit higher levels of anxiety and depression, and lower self-esteem than non-victims (eg., Besag, 1989; Gilmartin, 1987; Greenbaum, 1987; Olweus, 1993). [Karen Brockenbrough, Dewey G. Cornell, Ann B. Loper, "Aggressive Attitudes Among Victims of Violence at School", __Education and the Treatment of Children__, V. 25, #3, Aug., 2002]

"Results showed that the over-representation of Black males that has been cited consistently in the literature begins at the elementary school level and continues through high school. Black females also were suspended at a much higher rate than White or Hispanic females at all three school levels." [Linda M. Raffaele Mendez, Howard M. Knoff; __Education and the Treatment of Children__, V. 26, #1, Feb. 2003.]

"The issue of social skills. One edition of Home School Researcher, Volume 8, Number 3, contains two research reports on the issue of social skills. The first finding of the study by Larry Shyers (1992) was that home-schooled students received significantly lower problem behavior scores than schooled children. His next finding was that home-schooled children are socially well adjusted, but schooled children are not so well adjusted. Shyers concludes that we are asking the wrong question when we ask about the social adjustment of home-schooled children. The real question is why is the social; adjustment of schooled children of such poor quality?"

"The second study, by Thomas Smedley (1992), used different test instruments but comes to the same conclusion, that home-educated children are more mature and better socialized than those attending school." ...p. 277

"12. So-called 'school phobia' is actually more likely to be a sign of mental health, whereas school dependancy is a largely unrecognized mental health problem"....p.281 [Roland Meighan, "Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of its Implications", __Educational Review__, Vol. 47, No.3, 1995.]

"Criminal violence emerges from social experience, most commonly brutal social experience visited upon vulnerable children, who suffer for our neglect of their welfare and return in vengeful wrath to plague us. If violence is a choice they make, and there- fore their personal responsibility, as Athens demonstrates it is, our failure to protect them from having to confront such a choice is a choice we make, just as a disease epidemic would be implicitly our choice if we failed to provide vaccines and antibiotics. Such a choice-to tolerate the brutalization of children as we continue to do-is equally violent and equally evil, and we reap what we sow. ..." Richard Rhodes, __Why they Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist__.

"I'm sorry I have so much rage, but you put it in me." --Dylan Klebold

"There is too much education altogether, especially in American schools. The only way of educating is to be an example--of what to avoid, if one can't be the other sort." --Albert Einstein--, __The World As I See It__, p.22 (Citadel Press).

"Give into the power of the teacher the fewest possible coercive measures, so that the only source of the pupil's respect for the teacher is the human and intellectual qualities of the latter." --Albert Einstein--, __Ideas And Opinions__, p. 61, (Three Rivers Press).

"Why do I tell you this little boy's story of medusas, rays, and sea monsters, nearly sixty years after the fact? Because it illustrates, I believe, how a naturalist is created. A child comes to the edge of deep water with a mind prepared for wonder....Hands-on experience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge, is what counts in the making of a naturalist. Better to be an untutored savage for a while, not to know the names or anatomical detail. Better to spend long stretches of time just searching and dreaming." (E.O. Wilson, __Naturalist__ p. 11-12).

"Adults forget the depths of languor into which the adolescent mind descends with ease. They are prone to undervalue the mental growth that occurs during daydreaming and aimless wandering. When I focused on the ponds and stream lying before me, I abandoned all sense of time." (E. O. Wilson, __Naturalist__ p. 86-87).

A statistician in the State of Hawaii Office of the Attorney General gave to the Agenda's author a study of juvenile arrest data. A graph of ten years of juvenile violent crime arrests, by month, looks like a cross section of the Grand Canyon, with the floor of the canyon being the months June, July, and August, when school is not in session. Juvenile arrests for drug possession and drug promotion fall in summer (adult arrests for promotion also fall, while adult arrests for possession rise). Reported burglaries fall in summer. According to a study conducted for the Agenda's author by the Hawaii Health Information Corporation, juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall in summer.

Beth Clarkson, a statistically trained engineer and PhD candidate (Math) at Wichita State University found a similar seasonal variation in juvenile arrest rates in Wichita, Kansas.

Across the US, the rate of juvenile violent crime arrests (by State) is positively correlated with the fraction of total State school enrollment assigned to districts over 20,000 (or 15,000, depending on the year of the Digest of Education Statistics you use). Smaller is better. The rate of juvenile arrest for rape is negatively correlated with the age at which States compel attendance at school. Later is better. The correlation is fairly strong for a social science: Corr(age-start, rate) = 0.48.