2009/04/09

Why School? (Reprise)

I left this comment (with a small modification in this version) at Ken DeRosa's place.

(Ken): "A portion of everyone's taxes goes to schooling the children of others. For those that have children, a portion of taxes goes to educate their own children. So I don't see why at least that portion should not be controlled by the parents so long as it is going to educate their children."
(Dick): "Because it's about everyone's children, not just about 'my' child. The public schools serve a social/acculturation function. Some place no value on the civic/common good. I personally favor open enrollment in all public schools, which would turn every school into a 'charter'. "

We are all public citizens and private individuals. Children in independent or parochial schools are as much "the public" as are children in the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools. Unions, even "public sector" unions, are private 501-c(5) corporations. What you call "the public school system" is a policy which restricts parents' options for the use of the taxpayers' pre-college education subsidy to schools operated by dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel. There is no coherent welfare-economic argument for this restriction.

In abstract, the education industry is an unlikely candidate for State (government, generally) operation. Children vary widely in their interests and abilities. The possible careers they might pursue vary enormously. Systematic expertise in "education" matters far less than local knowledge about individual children's interests and abilities.

Per pupil costs rise as school districts increase in size. Beyond a very low level, the education industry exhibits no economies of scale at the delivery end. The education industry is not a natural monopoly. "Natural monopoly" is the usual welfare-economic argument for State operation of an industry.

Abundant evidence supports the following generalizations:
1) As institutions take from individual parents the power to determine the curriculum and the pace and method of instruction which their own children will experience, overall system performance falls.
2) Political control of school harms most the children of the least politically adept parents.

The "public goods" argument for a State role in an industry implies subsidy and regulation of an industry, at most, not State operation of that industry. The State cannot subsidize education without a definition of "education". Given the argument for subsidies to the sub-adult education industry, the issue then becomes: who best represents taxpayers' interests in determining who shall receive that subsidy?

I reason axiomatically here.
1) Most parents love their children and want their children to outlive them.
2) If you live among people, there are basically three ways you can make a living: (2.1) you can beg, (2.2) you can steal, (2.3) you can trade goods and services for other people's goods and services.
3) Most parents accept proposition 2 and prefer 2.3 for their children.
4) Therefore, most parents want from an education system what taxpayers want from an education system, that children be educated to assume productive lives.

The interests of insiders of the State-monopoly school system differ systematically from the interests of parents and taxpayers. Insiders have a direct interest in inefficient delivery of services. Thus, we see the increase in the span of compulsory attendance and systemic hostility toward self-paced instruction. Teachers need to be needed.

Please read this one page Marvin Minsky comment on school and this article on artificially extended adolescence by Ted Kolderie.

Although vouchers, tuition tax credits, and subsidized homeschooling (as in Alaska) would be large improvements over the State-monopoly school system, for various reasons I prefer a policy I call Parent Performance Contracting.

2009/04/02