James Buchanan (1919-Oct.-03 to 2013-Jan.-09)

Don Bourdeaux observes: "Jim died this past January.  Were he still alive, he would today celebrate his 94th birthday."

James Buchanan attributed his success, in part, to his education in a one-room schoolhouse. Since the teacher could not instruct all students simultaneously, she allowed those students who could study on their own to work through the material without her help.

Self-paced, well-scripted curricula would demonstrate the irrelevance of a large swath of the public-sector workforce and so threaten the $500 billion+ per year revenue stream that flows through the "public" school system. 


Incentives and Insiders

One interesting read here:
Eighty to 90 percent of people are not negatively affected by drugs, but in the scientific literature nearly 100 percent of the reports are negative,” Dr. Hart said. “There’s a skewed focus on pathology. We scientists know that we get more money if we keep telling Congress that we’re solving this terrible problem. We’ve played a less than honorable role in the war on drugs.

The point applies to as well to climate science, foreign aid (which isn't aid) and development (which isn't development) economics, allegedly crumbling infrastructure, education (which isn't education) policy, etc.
Now read Robert Higgs, "All Government Policies Succeed in the Long Run":
Many people, for good reason, have concluded that the surest test of whether a politician or public official is lying is to ask, Are his lips moving? An equally simple test may be proposed to determine whether a seemingly failed policy is actually a success for the movers and shakers of the political class. This test requires only that we ask, Does the policy remain in effect? If it does, we can be sure that it continues to serve the interests of those who are actually decisive in determining the sorts of policy the government establishes and implements. Now, as before, “failed” policies are a myth in regard to all policies that persist beyond the short run. The people who effectively run the government, whether from inside or outside the beast, do not run it for the purpose of hampering the attainment of their own interests; on the contrary.

"All of us have sufficient fortitude to bear the misfortunes of others."
Francois de La Rochefoucauld 

And if one is a politician, to inflict them for a sufficient consideration.


It's Love

A link in a comment on a discussion of Common Core at Jay Green's blog led to "How Long Before Duncan and the Media Speak Out Honestly?" by Sandra Stotsky at the Pioneer Institute. 
Legislators might ask questions like: Why are we doing this if there is no correlation between national standards and student achievement? Who is going to pay for this? What are the legal dimensions of states using a copyrighted set of standards? Who will amend the standards? What do parents, teachers, or institutions of higher education do if they find problems with the standards? Good questions one and all. ...Of course, Common Core proponents can’t say that lowering academic standards is their goal. ...Their major selling point is how poor our K-12 public education system is in too many states. The fault of the teachers in them? Of course not. The fault of education policy makers who enjoy being Lord High Central Planners? The fault of the education schools and the professional development “providers” that “trained” them for the last 50 years? These possibilities have been outside the bounds of public discourse and beyond the grasp of the media. Besides which, what could be done to the keepers of the “cash cow?” Prospective teachers need some pedagogical training.
Common sense this rare deserves deeper and wider appreciation. Links within the Pioneer site led to
4 Steps to Upgrade Teacher & Administrator Prep Programs.
The part of public education that has received the least attention for reform is the most important: whom our education schools admit and how they are prepared to be teachers, administrators, education researchers, and education policy makers. Although there is very little high quality research on these topics, useful information for reforming education schools came from the massive review undertaken by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel for its report in 2008.  
It found no relationship between student achievement and traditional teacher education programs, certification status, and mentoring and induction programs. That means that teachers who have completed a traditional teacher preparation program, hold a teaching license, and have participated in an induction program get no higher student performance on average than other teachers.


The Gatekeepers

Accreditation agencies protect the education industry from the market forces that raise quality and reduce costs in competitive industries. Unelected and largely unreported, they define "quality" in terms of inputs and so protect the jobs and revenue stream of the US K-PhD education industry. The role of accreditation agencies receives attention here and here.  Credit by exam would bust this racket.


Is Water Wet?

Katherine Beals asks: Are Grading Trends Hurting Socially Awkward Kids?

Yes. Next question?

Sp-ed costs above the regular-ed per-pupil average provide one more reason to offer credit by exam for all courses required for graduation. Moving all children through the one-size-fits-all curriculum at a uniform pace creates expensive problems out of potentially low-cost students who will happily work faster alone. 


Missy Gray

Missy Gray of the wonderful Heartschooling blog died in childbirth six years ago today. Remember. I stumbled upon her blog just a few weeks before she passed. As a non-parent I couldn't use most of what she wrote, beyond her example of compassion.


To My Legislators

Education and the State Budget
Governments at all levels have made more promises than they can keep. Governments will default. Governments with the authority to print money will disguise default through inflation (a tax on savings that makes private-sector investment difficult in proportion to the uncertainty in the rate of inflation). Governments without the authority to print money may either default openly through legal bankruptcy or disguise default through ex post reductions in promised benefits. Some people claim that the US debt does not matter because "we owe it to ourselves". Default will matter to people whose retirement plans include pensions and health care benefits that they will not receive. The Tax Foundation ranks Hawaii ninth among US States in per capita bond debt.
Unfunded pension obligations will constrain future State spending: "Moody’s initial numbers have revealed which states face the largest problems once unfunded public pension liabilities are accounted for: Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey and Rhode Island all face the highest levels of indebtedness."

The range of options narrows as governments defer addressing debt and spending issues. Remaining options become increasingly unpleasant. Governments cannot raise taxes to cover their debts. Higher rates will drive productive activity overseas or underground and reduce funding for productive private-sector activities that support all services, including government. Either government's share of total GDP falls or total GDP falls. Government planners will not effectively address this issue hunting quarters under sofa cushions. Well-intentioned government planners will reconsider major budget items sooner or accept the consequent forced reductions later. The biggest ticket in the Hawaii State budget is the government's K-PhD school industry. NCES puts direct support for Hawaii's K-PhD schooling at 28% of combined State and local budgets.

In 2008-2009 Hawaii's direct expenditures on K-PhD schooling totaled $3.557 billion, out of a $12.638 billion budget.

The Cost of the State's K-PhD School System

"The public school system" (K-PhD) includes land and buildings that are thus unavailable for other purposes. "The public school system" (K-PhD) includes a tax-generated revenue stream (and consequent deadweight loss due to taxation)."The public school system" (K-12)" includes compulsory attendance statutes (truancy) applied to children and compulsory education statutes (educational neglect) applied to parents. "The public school system" (K-PhD)" includes policies that restrict parents' options (K-12) and students' options (post-secondary) for the use of the taxpayers' K-PhD budget to schools operated by dues-paying members of the UHPA/HSTA/HGEA/UPW cartel. $3.557 billion understates the cost of this system. The cost of this system includes the opportunity cost to students of the time that they spend in school, the cost to society of the lost productivity that students might have generated in gainful private-sector employment, the lost innovation in educational technology and methods that a competitive market in education services would generate, and losses due to crime.

Roland Meighan
"Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of its Implications"
Educational Review (1995)
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.
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.
In Hawaii, juvenile arrests fall when school is NOT in session. Consider this.

Numerous lines of evidence support the following generalizations:
1. As institutions take from individual parents the power to determine for their own children the choice of curriculum and the pace and method of instruction, overall system performance falls.
2. Political control of school harms most the children of the least politically-adept parents.

This is my basic text:
Eduardo Zambrano
"Formal Models of Authority: Introduction and Political Economy Applications"
Rationality and Society (May 1999)
Aside from the important issue of how it is that a ruler may economize on communication, contracting and coercion costs, this leads to an interpretation of the state that cannot be contractarian in nature: citizens would not empower a ruler to solve collective action problems in any of the models discussed, for the ruler would always be redundant and costly. The results support a view of the state that is eminently predatory, (the ? MK.) case in which whether the collective actions problems are solved by the state or not depends on upon whether this is consistent with the objectives and opportunities of those with the (natural) monopoly of violence in society. This conclusion is also reached in a model of a predatory state by Moselle and Polak (1997). How the theory of economic policy changes in light of this interpretation is  important question left for further work.
Marvin Minsky
Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery (July 1994)
(Minsky): "...many of our foremost achievers developed under conditions that are not much like those of present-day mass education. Robert Lawler just showed me a paper by Harold Macurdy on the child pattern of genius. Macurdy reviews the early education of many eminent people from the last couple of centuries and concludes (1) that most of them had an enormous amount of attention paid to them by one or both parents and (2) that generally they were relatively isolated from other children. This is very different from what most people today consider an ideal school. It seems to me that much of what we call education is really socialization. Consider what we do to our kids. Is it really a good idea to send your 6-year-old into a room full of 6-year-olds, and then, the next year, to put your 7-year-old in with 7-year-olds, and so on? A simple recursive argument suggests this exposes them to a real danger of all growing up with the minds of 6-year-olds. And, so far as I can see, that's exactly what happens.

Our present culture may be largely shaped by this strange idea of isolating children's thought from adult thought. Perhaps the way our culture educates its children better explains why most of us come out as dumb as they do, than it explains how some of us come out as smart as they do."
Minimum wage laws, child labor laws, and compulsory school attendance laws put on-the-job training off limits to many children. Just as early exposure to language enhances language fluency, so early exposure to machinery enhances mechanical fluency, early exposure to herbs and spices enhances culinary fluency, early exposure to music enhances musical fluency, etc. See Kolderie: "Is it Time to Reconsider the Notion of Adolescence ".
The cost of this system depends, in part, on the annual per-pupil budget, the number of students in the system, and the time that they spend in the system. The simplest, least intrusive way to reduce current costs and taxpayers' exposure to uncertain (but large) future retiree benefit costs is to reduce the number of students in the system. The simplest way to do that is to mandate that the Hawaii DOE administer the GED at age 16 (as the publisher allows) or A-levels at any age and accept that a passing score qualifies a student as exempt from compulsory attendance.

Clive Harber
"Schooling as Violence"
Educatioinal Review
(Quoting) "...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 classroom 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."

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.
E. G. West
Carleton University, Department of Economics,
Ottawa, Canada
"Schooling and Violence"

We conclude that so far there is no evidence to support the 19th century Utilitarian hypothesis that the use of a secular and public school system will reduce crime. Beyond this there is some evidence indeed that suggests the reverse causality: crime actually increases with the increase in the size of the public school sector. Such findings will undoubtedly stimulate further work, and clearly more research would be helpful. But if further investigation confirms the findings of Lott, Fremling, and Coleman, we must reach the verdict that the cost of public schooling is much higher than was originally believed. Published figures show that the conventional cost of public schools, on average, are already just over twice those of private schools.11 When we add to this the extra social costs of increased delinquency, the full seriousness of the inefficiency of our public school system is more starkly exposed.
San Francisco Chronicle (1-Nov.-2005)
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.


Creative Destruction

Here.. Leo Linbeck: "According to the Washington Post (h/t Instapundit), Washington DC’s public school district is planning to close 15 under-enrolled traditional schools:..."
Read and enjoy. The author makes a larger point:
But the subtext here is more important than the top-line. The stories from Washington DC and New Orleans are not about the failure of public education; they’re about the importance of competition in creating a sustainable society.

The great political scientist E. E. Schattschneider, in his seminal book The Semi-Sovereign People, emphasized the importance of conflict (the word he uses for the competitive struggle over a political issue). "The role of people in the political system is determined largely by the conflict system, for it is conflict that involves the people in politics and the nature of conflict determines the nature of public involvement."

The “conflict system.” In other words, the structure of political competition matters.

An underappreciated story of the Progressive Movement and its progeny (The Fair Deal, The New Deal, The Great Society, The New New Deal, and so on) is its emphasis on collaboration over competition. FDR put it this way: "Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off."

This has it exactly backwards. It is cooperation that is useful to a certain point, and then we must rely on competition.
Charter schools offer viable options (when they aren't choked by regulations and budget restrictions). Still, Parent Performance Contracting would work better.