Bringing the Argument Home

Matthew Ladner's "Let Me Help You Out", on Jay Greene's blog, analyzes a claim of reduced school funding in Arizona. Harriet followed the link and contributed 2 cent's worth (that's $3.75 in inflation-adjusted dollars) to the comments. As Harriet observed in that exchange, detailed discussion of State K-12 budgets misses the larger point of whether taxpayers benefit from any State role in the education industry. Those who wish to focus on budget details find larger-scale considerations an annoying distraction. One annoyed party responded. Harriet is nothing if not considerate. So the argument continues here instead of there.

(Lisa): "There are plenty of websites out there where you can unleash ideology without letting the facts get in the way. This isn’t one of them..."
"Ideological" is an uncomplimentary way to say "systematic". I try to be systematic. The antonym is "scatter-brained".
(Malcolm): "...a majority of students take tax support to independent or parochial schools in Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, and the Netherlands (World Bank statistics say otherwise, but they disagree with several sources and I suspect they rely on an idiosyncratic definition of 'public')."
(Lisa): "...as someone whose own children attended ‘government schools’ in Ireland, I can tell you that your attempt to characterize their system is wildly off base."

You have the advantage of personal experience. I have never been to Ireland and I am not a parent. However...

The Encyclopedia of Comparative Education and National Systems of Education
Ireland: "The administration and management of schools in Ireland involves a complex balance of private and public interests, local and central control. Each primary school is managed by a local board, made up of representatives of a church, parents, and teachers. At second level, secondary schools are private institutions. Most are owned and managed by religious bodies."

Education at a Glance (1996)
"The structure of the system of education in Ireland owes much to history. Irish schools are owned, not by the State, but by community groups traditionally religious groups. It is, in general, an aided system: the State does not itself operate schools (with a few minor exceptions), but assists other bodies, usually religious, to do so." (p. 287)
"Secondary schools, educating 60 per cent of second-level students, are privately owned and operated." (p. 289)

(Malcolm): "In the US, the term 'the public school system' describes a policy which includes:
a) compulsory attendance (truancy) statutes, applied to students
b) compulsory attendance (educational neglect) statutes, applied to parents
c) Constitutional provisions (in some US States) and laws or district policies (in other US States) which restrict 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
d) minimum wage laws and child labor laws which place on-the-job training off limits to most children.

This policy originated in the impulse to indoctrinate children into the State religion (google-search 'That Olde Deceiver, Satan Act'), fed on anti-Catholic bigotry, and survives on dedicated lobbying by current recipients of the US taxpayers’ $600 billion+ K-12 education subsidy."
(Lisa): "While I want to steer clear of your wild (and quite frankly, offensive) allegations about cartels and 'Satan Acts', I think it is relevant to respond to your main assertion, which is – I think – that we’d be better off without ‘government schools’ and organized education."
(Malcolm): " 'That Olde Deceiver, Satan, Act' is so called because 'That Olde Deceiver, Satan' appears in the 'whereas' part of the bill for compulsory attendance in colonial Massachusetts (c. 1644)."
(Lisa): "We aren’t debating whether or not public education is Satan’s work or not."

If the issue is whether your State government spends enough on schools, one reasonable consideration ought to be, seems to me, whether the education industry is a likely candidate for State operation at all.

(At this point, Harriet announced the intention to move the argument to The Harriet Tubman Agenda. What follows did not appear in the Arizona Education Network comments.)

The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition). In the British colonies of North America, the policy of compulsory attendance first appeared in the Massachusetts Bay colony. The stated motivation (the "Whereas" part of the statute) was religious indoctrination. Prior to the American Revolution, some colonies compelled attendance at State (government, generally) schools, some polities subsidized attendance at schools of the parent's choice (usually Church-operated), and some polities did not compel attendance. When waves of Catholic immigrants provoked an allergic reaction in the resident Protestant majority, the (wealthier) Protestant taxpayers in those polities which compelled attendance faced a dilemma: maintain support at current aggregate levels and see the per-pupil budgets supplied to their own children fall or maintain per-pupil budgets at current levels and raise taxes on themselves. They chose neither. Instead, they restricted subsidies to schools which taught that part of the Christian religion common to all (Christian) faiths (hence, the "common" school) and, so as not to prefer any faith, they had students read the Bible themselves and determine its meaning. This was Protestant doctrine. Catholics took their Bible in Latin and salvation required the intercession of a priest. The Catholics bailed. Problem solved.

In Hawaii, the process was somewhat different. The Ali'i (hereditary rulers) had recently been pagan. Massachusetts-based Congregationalist missionaries preceded Catholic missionaries to Hawaii. When a recession on the mainland US in 1837 reduced contributions to overseas missions, the Congregationalist missionaries talked the Ali'i into subsidizing their schools and excluding the Catholic schools. Richard Armstrong, the second Superintendent of Schools, was a friend of Horace Mann, the principal motive force behind the Massachusetts school system. Both Armstrong and Mann rode waves of anti-Catholic bigotry into positions atop State-subsidized bureaucracies.

The State-monopoly school system originated in the impulse to indoctrinate children into the State religion and fed on anti-Catholic bigotry. Taxpayers get nothing from the State-monopoly school system that they would not get from a competitive market in education services or from an unsubsidized, unregulated market except drug abuse, vandalism, and violence.

State-operated ("public") schools are an expensive historical accident.

Does any of this matter? Definitely. The structure of an industry affects the cost to society of maintaining that industry. From the taxpayer's point of view, an efficient structure would deliver high performance at low cost. Across the US, costs rise and performance falls as districts increase in size. There are no economies of scale at the delivery end of the education business. Education only marginally qualifies as a public good as economists use the term, and the "public goods" argument implies subsidy and regulation, at most, not State (government, generally) operation of an industry. Numerous lines of evidence suggest that students, parents, real classroom teachers, and taxpayers would benefit from a diversified, competitive market in education services. Departure from that diversified, competitive structure imposes costs, which rise directly with the degree to which the structure departs. Hawaii's single, State-wide monopoly school district does not qualify as diverse and competitive. Consequently, the system imposes large costs on taxpayers and delivers wretched performance.

In fact, this entire comment evaporated within minutes of its appearance on the Arizona Education Network site. In its place...

"Dear AEN Readers,
We have had to delete several comments that were off topic or contained inappropriate language. Please keep in mind that from time to time, students do access our site.
If you would like to engage in conversation about a different topic, you contact our team anytime at info@arizonaeducationnetwork.com.
Thank You~
Today’s Site Moderator"

End of discussion. Ten to one this gets moderated out of existence.

(Davidson): "AEN~ Stop feeding the trolls. Stop engaging in rational conversation with these crazies. Public Education=work of satan? Please, you are never going to have a rational discussion with passengers on the Crazy Train. Just stop interacting with them. Ignore them. Done."

Someone moderated my response out of existence. That is rude. I have not called anyone "troll". Lisa misrepresented the assertion about the religious motive behind compulsory attendance. In fact, she got it 180 degrees out of phase. The assertion was not that government schools were the work of Satan. Rather, that the " 'Ye Olde Deceiver, Satan' Act" is so called because that phrase occurs in the "Whereas" clause of the Act. The first State schools in the British colonies of North America had an explicit religious motive, to indoctrinate children into the State religion (i.e., to combat Satan).

Further, in response to (a) "(it is unlikely that) in a voucher-subsidized competitive market in education services such default-option schools would enroll more than 10% of the total student population. That is the fraction of students in government schools in Hong Kong and Ireland (HK data from Assistant to the Minister of Education Michael Lee, by e-mail, Ireland data from OECD 'Education at a Glance')" Lisa wrote: (b)"I can tell you that your attempt to characterize their system is wildly off base."

Someone moderated documentation in support of (b) [oops. Harriet intended: "(a)"] out of existence.

If AEN's moderation runs true to form, this will not appear on the AEN site. It goes as an update to my blog, about the dishonesty of State school advocates.

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