TCS Daily


Education and Entrepreneurship

By Arnold Kling - December 1, 2006 12:00 AM

"...we need a completely new stream of teachers to staff a new vision of what our high schools should look like."
-- Carl J. Schramm, The Entrepreneurial Imperative, p. 181

I have been losing interest in the contests between Democrats and Republicans in Washington. I am more anxious about the outcome of the struggle between innovators and incumbents in the field of education.

The incumbent policy is more of the same. Both parties in Washington champion more government involvement in primary education and more subsidies for existing colleges and universities.

The innovative policy is to support any alternative to our current education system. Ultimately, we would trust consumers to keep the best alternatives and discard the rest.

Wizard-of-Oz Diplomas

One politically popular idea is to try to send more young adults to college. This may seem appealing, but in reality we already have too many students in college who lack sufficient basic skills.

In November, after grading a batch of papers, I posted the following notice to the web site for an economics course that I teach at George Mason University:

Many students did poorly with writing quality. If it were up to me, a lot of you would be taking remedial English classes. I would advise everyone to think twice about using the word "on." For example, it is wrong to say, "The book discusses on economic growth" when the proper sentence is "The book discusses economic growth."

My recollection from my career in government and business is that written communication skills still matter. Out of over 100 students in my class at George Mason, no more than a handful could function in any capacity in a job that required writing a memorandum. Over half of the students are utterly incompetent when it comes to grammar and syntax. They have no ability to communicate complex ideas. Yet I do not fail these students. I feel that I must reserve my F's for the students who do not turn in papers at all.

I fear that many of the students who pass will go on to earn Wizard-of-Oz diplomas, which signify nothing. Students will claim to be educated, but employers will know otherwise. The phenomenon of the Wizard-of-Oz diploma has discredited the college degree.

My oldest daughter discovered that her degree qualified her for secretarial positions. She soon decided to try law school instead. As her experience illustrates, although the average salary differential between college graduates and non-graduates remains high, the marginal college graduate is earning little or no premium.

More Differentiation

While politicians champion more homogeneity in education (national standards; send everyone to college), my guess is that what we need is more differentiation. Students are heterogeneous in terms of their abilities, learning styles, and rates of maturation. Putting every student on the same track is sub-optimal for large numbers of young people.

Some students -- probably more than we realize -- are autodidacts, meaning that they teach themselves at their own pace. One of the brightest students in my high school statistics class simply cannot handle the structure of a school day. He is motivated to learn on his own (he was curious to read my book on health care and asked me for a copy), but he is demotivated by most of his classes.

Some students are not suited for academic study. We speak of the proverbial auto mechanic, but in fact the best career path for many of these students in today's economy would be in the allied health fields. Unfortunately, this career path is blocked by occupational licensing requirements, which prevent many otherwise capable students from pursuing careers in dental hygiene, physical therapy, or similar professions. If we had the equivalent credentialism at work in auto repair, you would need four years of college plus two or three years of post-graduate education just to work on a car.

Carl Schramm, quoted above, believes that many young adults would benefit from courses in entrepreneurship. Certainly, this would be at least as developmentally beneficial as the community service requirements imposed on so many students today, particularly if the entrepreneurship classes were hands-on and not merely theoretical. If it is difficult to imagine today's educators providing entrepreneurial experiences to students, then Schramm would argue that the solution is to replace many of today's educators.

In my economics class at George Mason, the first exercise I give students is to plan a start-up business. My goal, however, is not to teach them to be entrepreneurs. It is to help them appreciate the central role of entrepreneurs in the economy and to understand that a business is not a rich uncle, but an enterprise that wrestles with sales and costs in an attempt to make a profit.

Another educational issue that ought to be subject to experimentation is the mix among lectures, small classes, and self-paced instruction. Computers and the Internet create possibilities that did not exist 20 years ago. In theory, I could bring outstanding economics lecturers to my students over the Internet, and then break my class into discussion sections for close personal interaction.

Entry Barriers

Education suffers from major barriers to entry. Any industry that has strong entry barriers will suffer from a lack of innovation and sub-par productivity.

Some of the entry barriers are natural. Reputation is important in affecting the choices of parents and students, and the costs of building a reputation as a school or university are high.

However, many entry barriers in education are artificial. One of the biggest entry barriers is that government aid to education is given to incumbent institutions, rather than to parents and students. It is difficult for an entrepreneur to compete with a school or college that receives a hefty subsidy from the government. Changing the form of government aid from institutional assistance to vouchers would be a major step toward removing entry barriers in the field of education.

Another entry barrier is the accreditation process, which is controlled by the incumbents. Imagine what would happen in another industry, such as supermarkets or landscaping services, if in order to start a new business in that industry you had to become accredited by a board consisting mostly of incumbents in that industry. Nobody likes competition, and it is easy to think of excuses not to accredit a newcomer, especially an innovative upstart. If we had such an accreditation system in place in other industries, competition would be stifled, and the incumbents would be under no pressure to improve service or reduce costs. Creating a consumer-oriented accreditation board would help to lower this important entry barrier.

In my view, the key to improving education is removing entry barriers and allowing alternative schooling experiments to flourish. From this perspective, the politicians of both parties who are most strongly "pro-education" are in fact the biggest obstacles to improvement, since their policies serve only to entrench the educational establishment.


Categories:

57 Comments

Advanced Degrees
My daughter had a similar experience after graduation from college. She had to get an MBA to get a decent job. Maybe a B.S. in engineering from a good tech school is still worth something.

Not many young people seem to be able to, or even want to read. If you don't read a lot, it's unlikely that you'll be able to write well.

Evils of Profit
"t is to help them appreciate the central role of entrepreneurs in the economy and to understand that a business is not a rich uncle, but an enterprise that wrestles with sales and costs in an attempt to make a profit."

I was raised and worked on a dairy farm. A small socialist business, (the government controlled many aspects of the the dairy industry, and still does).

But it wasn't until I took a business class at Weber State College in the late '80s that I realized that business and making a profit was not 'evil'. And I already had a BS in Engineering Physics. It also may not have helped being a Norwegian Lutheran in a small town.

So the sooner you can get across the idea that business is a win/win proposition and is not an exploitive endeavour, the better we all will be.

No refuge in engineering.
I have a friend with an MS in Mechanical Engineering. His specialty is machinery design-his employer is encouraging him to "expand his horizons", because of the fact that manufacturing is outsourced -and- increasingly, engineering talent is as well-equations are equations and the language barrier is less of a problem in a heavily quantitative discpline, according to this individual.

Actually things are circling back around now.
In the IT field. I have seen many project return to the US because the money saved was not worth the pain of telacommuting.

Unions
Asking unions to care about something other than their members jobs is like asking water to be something other than wet. It's the nature of the beast.

The only way to solve the problem is to introduce competition into the labor market. Companies need the ability to pit one union against another so that unions have to compete. As it is now, the only way to get rid of an abusive union is through corporate bankruptcy. Which of course almost never happens in academia. What happens there is that as employee costs go up, govt just increases the per student subsidies.

Funny thing that
Back in the 80's there was a big push to bring in foreign programmers. The same thing happened. Companies found out that the problems of coordinating design staffs on different continents ate up most of the savings from lower salaries. Add to that the longer lead times due to coordination issues, etc.

One of the features of any dynamic system is oscillation. Swing to far in one direction, over correct on the way back. If technology and sociology/politics were to ever freeze, corporations might eventually settle on a happy medium. But each new technological breakthrough causes people to get over enthusiastic about the prospects. The same with the opening of new markets and new sources of workers.

While both private companies and govt share the same tendency to get over enthusiastic about new prospects, at least private companies have the ability to recognize when they have over reacted. Govt just assumes they haven't thrown enough money at the problem and raises taxes to compensate.

Prosperity and Education
I would like to see educational achievement based on objective testing. If you seek an MS in Mechanical Engineering, you must pass certain tests and complete specified projects. The same would be true of philosophy, chemistry, accounting and most other current degrees. If degree achievement is based on common, updateable performance criteria, then a student would have many options. A student could self study, hire private tutors or attend an established educational institution. Educational institutions would then have to compete for student enrollment based on their relative competence to prepare students to achieve their degree goals. In addition to college degree standards, I believe standards should also exist for high school admission and high school graduation.
Testing would primarily be designed to establish baseline competencies, but advanced levels most certainly would be demanded and developed.

Under such a results based educational accreditation process, a 14 or a 70 year old could get a masters degree in astronomy. Age, race, sex, etc…would not matter. One does not have to be accepted to a college to get a degree, just pass the tests. How one passes is their problem.

I recommend that the Dept of Education, based on a new education mandate from Congress, end its micro management of the methods of education and work with ETS and other private companies to develop national standards for educational achievement. Based on standards, the market will bring innovation to bear on education at all levels. Prices will decline, more Americans will be more educated, and productivity will improve. And as for those college students who cannot write, they would never have passed the high school admissions test…much less BE in college.

Prosperity is a performance business. It is time for market based education founded on objective standards to drive American prosperity as opposed to fueling American inflation.

Unions
Unions care neither about results nor about their members. Unions care about dues. Members are only those irritating but necessary dues generators.

In some, probably many cases.
Using foreign beancounters was to put it mildly, a clusterf*ck. US GAAP, despite all FASB efforts to become a franchisee of the IASB is still different and what you say about the numbers is as important as the numbers.

I always suspected IT would be a huge problem, as well. You might be the best coder in the world, but IT also involves the production of written material: specs, documentation, user manuals, etc. Its hard for good programmers to write good peripherals (rightbrain/left brain)-imagine when the user base speaks a different language.

Engineering is now the latest industry to try. Ironically, its not India or China, where my friend's company is going, but Eastern Europe, specifically, the Slovak Republic. Many folks there speak English well enough to do the task-and once you get past the crossed barred sevens common in Europe-the numbers are the same. I suspect this will work better but not perfectly.

I still wish I had worked harder and got past the killer courses-statics and dynamics.













Great Idea
An excellent alternative to current dysfunction. Entrenched interests, though, will fight tooth and nail to prevent it. Advocates of moderate student choice or academic standards are already engaged in a war. What you propose, with which I essentially agree, would require an armed revolution.

Accreditation
Accreditation is a form of consumer protection, like certifying safety of cars or competence of doctors. The people who certify cars must know something about cars and the people who certify educational programs must know something about education i.e. have been involved in education.

As for the voucher system, that's what we have. Pell grants and other financial aid are portable, available to the student to pay for education at any accredited institution.

Let's agree that even economics students need to know how to write, at least at the level of "Elements of Style". They probably should know something about history, certainly calculus, and at least one foreign language. And maybe they should learn economics from an expert, someone who himself or herself has extended our understanding of the field. Pretty soon we are looking at a traditional university education with traditional distribution requirements and faculty.

Entrepreneurship Classes
Arnold, again I like this article, but as someone who took high school and college level entrepreneurship courses I'd like to offer a different alternative.

For class work start some low startup cost businesses like: T-shirt design and sales, lawn care, web design, low-end retail (carts or even ebay based), and such. Let them form partnerships to manage them. Let them do direct sales, keep the books, pay the bills, deal with customers. Maybe let them switch between the companies. Then let then succeed or fail.

This would be so much more valuable than the worthless drivel I was taught in the classes I took. Every one focused on how to find a niche and write a good business plan. Two skills I've found to have absolutely no value in the real world.

Generalized Standards, and Idiot Monkeys
Using some kind of generalized standard for degrees and qualification that is unconnected to specific institutions is probably a good thing long term.

However, its critically important that said standard not be written by idiot monkeys. This shows up in high school curiculum, where teaching methods and standards bear no discernable relation to how people actually learn, or what they need to know.

Long run, I'd actually prefer that accreditation of any kind no longer be legally required for [insert profession here]. Rather, you would need to openly declare your credentials, or lack thereof, and the consumer then decides for himself whether he wants to get [insert service here] from the provider.

accreditation was never about consumer protection
There are many, more effective ways of doing that.
Accreditation has always been about provider protection. Ensuring that few enough people enter any given field that the incomes of those currently in the field are not threatened.

This subject touches on my life
School was wasted time for me. I remember nothing at all from junior high school except for getting my stomach punched and some nasty jokes the boys made, and crushes I had.

I don't remember the first two years of high school, except for the football jocks who would tease and humiliate people. And this one funny joke about master-debaters. I went on a foreign exchange in senior year and remember quite a lot about that, but really only social things and learning the Swedish language.

I don't remember anything I learned in college except learning the Spanish language, and how badly I wrote and how I couldn't get logic or algebra, and the people I met while protesting the evil world-dominator, Ronnie Raygun. Now that makes me laugh.

I know how to write because of one stinkin' ornery professor who knew how to teach, and that was Slager at the University of Utah.

They let me go through college because I had the baksheesh. I was a waste of their time and I dragged down the whole college system, and took the place that would have been better-served by a smart person.

That being said, I'm so very grateful I got to do what I did. I learned languages and writing, finally, and I'm still not a very good reader. I'm a skimmer.

My point? I ended up a homemaker, like my mother before me. I could do that effortlessly right from the start. I can make a souffle, I can bake bread, I can do sauces, I know how to clean and iron, I am an excellent second-fiddle. What would have been quite useful is a class in entrepreneurship to use my in-bred homemaking skills. If I had a professional kitchen and a chef's license I could be running a granola-making empire or a personal chef business.

This article is good. These times of turmoil are perfect for change and innovation. I wish my boy didn't have to sit in school. He is also an autodidact and school is killing his mind and spirit. We should just admit that school is wasteful, and come up with some way to let kids get some sort of proof they have a basic education, and then let them do what they naturally do anyway, for a living. (I know, there is no professional x-box league!!)

more differentiation...can be accomplished only one way
"While politicians champion more homogeneity in education (national standards; send everyone to college), my guess is that what we need is more differentiation."

Differentiation can only be achieved via decentralization which can only happen by getting all governments out of all schools. Only private schools can achieve widespread and perpetual success.

Sell all government schools to private entities and then refund all taxes--fed, state and local--even remotely connected to "education". In addition, the proceeds from the sale of the schools should also be returned to taxpayers. The billions upon billions accruing to taxpayers would allow people to fund their children's private education.

Sidestepping acredidation
I've always thought the way to solve the accredidation problem was to go around it. Imagine a testing service that offered AP-style exams to demonstrate that you'd actually mastered the material covered in your courses and your degree wasn't of the 'Wizard of Oz' variety.

In time, scores on these certification exams could easily become more important than (probably inflated) grades -- especially for those graduating from 2nd and 3rd tier schools without reputations. And it would simultaneously open the possibility of people preparing for the tests in alternate ways. On their own, for example. Or in colleges and universities who didn't do any grading of their own but worked to prepare their students for the 'university-level AP exams'. Lastly, legislators could step in and require that particular levels of achievement in the tests would be legally equivalent to 2 and 4-year degrees.

public education a waste
let's face it. public education os just a jobs program for those that did not have the grades to become a doctor, engineer, lawyer, etc. i went to school with many that fell into the field because they ran out of options.

college ed:
most of it is a waste unless the student decides to put forth the effort to learn the subjects. i went to a school that relied heavily on teaching assistents to teach the class. unfortunately, english was a 3rd language for them at best and they could not convey the info! professors were too busy doing their research and publishing to care about the students.

accreditation:
why not have a "video professor" style CDs with testing sites online?
this would eliminate the huge expense for the universities and their nonsense.

real world:
over the years, if there was a skill i needed (database, communication, programming languages), i would find a book and teach myself.
i have found that many that graduate know very little and education is a very minor point. there are many in our group that have associates degrees that out do those that have a masters degree.

Hmmm.. College: First Taste of Irrational Delusional Leftwingers or: Oh What Fun It is to Ridicule L
While Liberal Goodman made his typically snotty remark about "even economics" majors needing to be able to write-I had to burst out laughing. In three classes I remember really well-Public Finance, Industrial Organization and Monetary Theory and Policy, 2/3 of the class involved writing. Oh yes, I own an econ degree.

The great thing about economics, is that it provides you the analytical tools that are obviously missing from LG's indoctrination. the world is full of writers whose substantive knowledge about the topics they choose to write about- is nil. Perhaps "even English majors" should be required to attain proficience in introductory macro and micro.

As for college writers: The day after the election in 1980, my freshman comp teacher went on a tirade with this remark. "I hope you are all happy, since you guys-are as much responsible for this (sic) as anybody else-I hope you are all as happy when you are sent by Ronny Ray-Gun to Afghanistan next year.

His Grades:

Diligence: F
Paid to teach writing, not pout about elections.

Statistical Inference: F
You cannot infer a sample from a population. In fact, in that school, I'd bet the class (of 15) probasbly went 9-6 Carter. In any case, he didn't know the composition of the class's vote.

Originality: F
Much like the libs today, the fact that so many libs locked on "Ron(ny) Raygun" as an emblem of enlightment actually only demonstrated their abilities as parrots.

Analytical Skills: F

We never were drafted or sent to Afghanistan.



















And..
The hurried, grammar and spell unchecked, colloquial cr*p I put up here - bears no resemblance to what I commit to paper when IT MATTERS.

mind readers
Wingers might be good at something, but it isn't mind reading. My "even economics students need to know how to write." was just agreement with Kling's comment that he was dissappointed at the writing of his economics students. I could equally well have written "even engineers need to write".

atecmc wrote:
> accreditation: why not have a "video professor" style
> CDs with testing sites online? this would eliminate
> the huge expense for the universities and their
> nonsense.

I've wondered about this too. Of course, you don't need a fancy professor on a DVD, a simple book will do. Why hire professors to explain the book rather than reading the d**n book? I don't know. But I do know that most people would rather have a live instructor, and that those who try to learn without a live instructor usually, but not always (there are some very smart people out there) fail.

Excellent
Great thinking. I love it when people recognize the dynamics of economies...

I see several issues
First, preparation for college is the function of primary education which in the US for the most part means public education. The primary problem with modern public education is the "need" to educate all individuals. Since the poorest and least capable student is thrust in class besides the most capable student the curriculum must be tailored for the poorest student. Hence the material is both dumbed down and the transfer rate of information is slowed. Hence the most capable student misses the benefit of a more complex education and a rate of education commensurate with his abilities. He gets bored.
Second, I have always found it appalling that secondary education treats students like it is a privilege to be at whatever school the student happens to attend and thus there is no avenue for the student to express dissatisfaction. I see the student as the customer, paying for an education and thus the university as a vendor. In a free market they compete for students and dissatisfaction is treated as a customer complaint. In fact there exists certain elitism in universities which I find absurd. Like the student is a little minion to be guided instead of rational and growing minds and a customer.

Public schools are the product of socialist dogma and unions protecting political power. It is time politics aside the students are allowed choice and innovation in primary education which will allow those who truly seek secondary education the opportunity to be prepared as needed.

reading
I think many students know the mechanics of reading but don't know how to engage their brains in what they're reading.

About the Ronny Raygun thing
I'm not going to explain.

Most important class to get ahead: Powerpoint
If you can make pretty Powerpoint presentations, you will go far in any field today.

Mind you don't have to say anything, just make it look good.

We hire a piece of paper...
Education credentials achieve traction on the Curriculum Vitae. Perhaps we should not be quite so cynical...but higher education for most people is about getting a job.

Unless we actually know any of the candidates personally we start off looking at resumes when we are hiring. In fact we look at hundreds of resumes. We cut this mountain of paper down to a manageable stack and then we decide which hopefuls to call in for interviews.

Educational credentials jump off the page. Of course, degrees are reasonably easy to verify. Nevertheless, many resumes tell "the great lie". It's surprising how many people did not go to an Ivy after all.

Even when a candidate actually did earn the degrees listed near the top of his first page we seldom ask for a transcript to make a judgement about how well this character did at University. Fundamentally, a great degree tells us that the kid had his act together when he was 17 and applying to schools.

The few really smart kids who were good at higher education and actually applied themselves went on to get PhD's. We seldom see that paper. The candidates who are using their educational credentials to compete for jobs mostly did not learn much that we care about while they were in college.

Still, we need to look at something to start the hiring process. If a kid went to a good school then we need to figure he enjoyed one moment of clarity during his youth. If he put a few solid jobs on his paper after school then there is further evidence that we might have a winner.

We throw out otherwise acceptable candidates when they cannot spell... on their own resumes...for crying out loud! We look to see if the candidate took the appropriate first job after four years at a good school. We do the math and see if the student was on the "seven-year plan". Much of this screening process is a matter of reading quickly through one or two pieces of paper and watching for fatal mistakes.

Ultimately, we fall in love with several images of perfection. How could these guys be so wonderful? The interview is the candidate's opportunity to blow it. Many of them do. (One guy we were looking at actually wore a bra under his suit to our all day series of interviews at headquarters. You could see the strap across his back...single hook! I asked the headhunter who sent him in what the deal was? He said his guy probably felt like it was an important opportunity...and he wanted to be at his best. And that boy went to a very good school.)

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm
1. I agree that letting every student have a say is impossible. However, rather that a single tier to satisfy the masses why cannot schools be tailored to the students rather than one student fits all?

2. Are parents the paying customers? Can I not fund my own education? What, if any relevance does who writes the check matter to the argument? My argument rather, or so I thought, addressed the lack of variety in secondary education. My experience, limited I am sure, is that the university model is fairly homogeneous. Perhaps I am wrong? It is an observation and not an assertion.
3. Are we not all paying customers? Why the distinction?

A bra?
I have to ask. Did he need a bra? I mean, it was a male right? If so I never cease to be amazed. I am sure my last employer felt the same. They screened me out and relocated me. They were relentless and my history was flawless. Alas, I hated the position and the atmosphere. It was smothering to someone who was used to innovation rather than conformance. They hated me and I hated them. A match made in hell. Yet I was a great candidate. I bet they rethink policy? Since I had started a side business I had no choice but to go it alone. How rewarding it has been. Hence I am tainted material. However, bras are reserved for my wife I am pleased to say :)

There are options
Technical schools are considerably different. There are, despite all the ranting, decent colleges out there but you have to look. There are military academies and religious schools as well. The research is work though. I don't know of any easy place to get much good information. Campus visits are really a must.

I went to a small college called Rose-Hulman. It was quite good and the only left-wing conspiracy was in the Humanities department and was only a handful of professors. I was required, if I remember right, to take 8 of these courses (we were on quarters). I only remember two classes where the ideology really got in the way. My sister went to a state school and it was as bad as people have described here.

YES!
I couldn't agree more. I also feel for childless all the childless. When schools provided education, one could argue that they benifitted from the education of their neighbors kids. Now schools are providing childcare, health services, mental health services, social services, and a variety of other things. If I didn't have kids, the $400/month we pay here (in property taxes) would frustrate me even more than it already does.

True
Curiosity killed the cat :)

Yeah, well he took a shot...
It was a funny day. We used to do "cattle call" interviews all day long with 10-15 really good candidates for our operations planning consulting practice. Ideally the young managers would have an MBA and 5-10 years of industrial experience. This was in the mid-1980's. I used several NYC headhunters. I think I saw every piece of paper on the East Coast all the way to Chicago that year!

On this particular day one of the Partners was presenting our practice to the assembled candidates at the beginning of their day with us and I stepped into the back of the large room to count heads. As I scanned from side to side counting I saw one woman (bra strap outlined against the back of her jacket as she leaned forward on the table) and when I got to the other side of the room there was another girl! We only had one woman coming in that day (they were rare in operations middle-management 20 years ago) so my eyes shot back to the first one. The guy with the bra.

No. He was not that well built that he needed the extra support. I am certain he thought we would not notice. Under his suit and all. Nevertheless, our clients were Fortune 50 heavyweights like General Motors and the Partners felt like we were asking for trouble with a guy who wore ladies undergarments and was sloppy enough to get caught at it during a job interview.

Like I said, this candidate had great credentials, interviewed well and should have done fine for us. In the process of hiring people, however, you are watching for fatal mistakes. Negatives are lousy criteria. We should be looking for raw talent, motivation and credentials. But we don't really know these candidates. The only thing positive we have to go on is the paper. Lots of bright-eyed mediocre players interview like a dream. So you cannot go with that either.

Dad
My father was a Fortune 500 Exec in the era when you wore a blue suit. He passed all this on to me. I have managed to do what I want as apparently my technical talents are in great demand. However, I have yet to interview in less than a blue or grey suit. One has to consider the client. I read once about a woman that interviewed for a medical position. Apparently she was smart, articulate and well dressed. The main reason she didn't get the position was she wore a 6 inch nose ring. Before I became self employed we had a engineer that wore a chain out his button jeans that was apparently connected to his gentials in some fashion. Needless to say, that didn't last long. Management complained. Us minions on the other hand simply felt a compelling need to jerk his chain which would have been very painful I am sure. It was really quite amazing. People can be bizzare.

Are you sure it was a bra and not some other brace or perhaps a cardiac device?

Separate but billed together
Yes, they are separate, but we get them in our property tax bill. I'm actually in an unusual place that pays property taxes to one city and school taxes to the neighboring city, but I get just one bill.

Wow, Joanie, I'm getting taken advantage of, but you're getting mugged. $600/month would buy alot of beans. Anyone else getting it as bad as Joanie?

I keep thinking I should move to optimize my tax situation.

Texas sounds really good.

Idea for a School
Make a middle-through-high-school where kids learn through doing. They clean and maintain the school, they cook and clean up after their own lunches, they purchase supplies, they make the copies and do the laminating. They go up through a hierarchy where they learn the basics first, and when they pass muster they get to do the more complicated and technical things. They have to read the instruction manuals for everything and write a report on what they understand about it, or pass an oral board review. They learn how to plan balanced meals, fix plumbing, work on field trip logistics, etc.

BTW if your thoughts upon reading this are along the lines of, "this would never work," Don't bother writing it, I KNOW. DUH. People aren't open to this much innovation.

But It Could Work
Lisa,

Actually, your idea is not far from a general idea I have been toying with, that of having the students in a school responsible for a lot of the day to day activity of running the school.

In most public schools in America there are about 50% of the adults on staff who have non-teaching responsibilties, that is administrators, cafeteria personel, office workers, custodians, etc. Indeed, in my own home town, a recent elementary school opened up where they boasted that almost 50% of the staff were instructional personnel.

Imagine the cost savings if students in middle and high school did many of the tasks that you note. I am not ready to have students make the food, but they can certainly serve it to their classmates. They can answer phones, sweep and mop floors, and many, many other tasks. Aside from keeping costs down, it does make students understand what it takes to run a school and would likely give them a greater pride in their school.

But the only way such a school can exist is through either a private school or in a charter school.

Excellent example
This is a perfect example of the down side of unions; and the education unions may be the worst (certainly in the top 5).

Such schools exist
I remember reading about just such a school, some time back. It was a charter school. The kids did the janitorial work, as well as a good bit of the cafeteria work, along with other general tasks.

I don't remember where the school is located, but it was in a major city, I believe.

I am a high school science teacher who is frustrated with the dumbing down. I have students who, frankly, don't have any business past 4th grade, but are sitting in chemistry classes. The few students who could truly master the material never get the chance.

Makes me want to start a charter school.

I agree with all of this, on one level
We all want lower taxes. But, if they had to pay tuition at the present Public-school, Per-student A&B level, many families would have to choose not to school their kids. Presently it would cost between $5,000 and $10,000 (depending on which state and school district you are looking at) per year to keep a kid in school. Privatization may reduce this some, but it is still going to be a major expense.

I know a lot of people making less than it would cost to put three kids through school, there is no way they could afford to put even one kid through school. The idea is "all good" for those making enough to live well; it might mean an SUV every other year instead of every year. But, face it, they are not the majority.

Tell me then.....
just what did people do before the advent of public schools? Ever seen the examinations taken by eighth graders in the mid 18th century? I consider myself a well educated man...but I would not do well if I had to take it today.

What you have failed to take into consideration is the magnificent power of a competitive market to deliver goods and services at reasonable prices. Under a completely private system there would be a wide selection of schools--some catering to the bright, some to the less bright, some costing more, some less. The thing is there would be choice.

The figures you have quoted are simply what the states throw at their schools--and all they have to do to "increase tuition" is to up the tax bite. Hence, they waste money because it is not theirs and they bear no personal responsibility for that waste. So when looking at the figures on per student cost we must remember the source of the expenditure--a bloated,spendthrift state. Just imagine the quality of computers if the government tried producing them.

Finally: In my opinion, "free" and compulsory public "education" means just one thing---the totalitarian idea that children belong to the State rather than to their parents.

Preaching to the Choir
I couldn't agree more to all of this. But there must be some way to help the least of us; especially in these times. Being rich, or at least well to do, should not be the main pre-requisite to getting an education.

While I agree that the present socialist educational ideal should not be the do-all, say-all for education anywhere; I also think there must be something that works for those without the means.

This is why I like the voucher system to start with. I also like the idea of competitive schools and to getting the government out of education as much as possible (perhaps all the way with a good plan).

University High School
There was a school like that. It was the model school at the University of Northern Colorado, and the kids ran the lunch room and things like that. It was the pride of those who went there. The school was also oriented to the deaf students in the community, and the teachers used sign language at the same time as they taught. Those who didn't like it said it was too touchy-feely. Those who graduated from there have the best memories. I'm jealous.

What happened to this school was, the University said it was too expensive. So, to get funding, they signed on as a charter school and took state money. Then they had to use the state's standards for school lunches (eeyuck.) and the kids couldn't work anymore. Now that school still has the teachers signing, but it doesn't have good advanced programs. They built a new building far away from the college and they now have a football team. That's progress, I guess...

In Fort Collins there is a school that's supposed to teach through activities. I don't know the name of it--something grand like Excursion or something like that. I'm jealous of it too. My kids are in public school and I just make sure they do all their homework.

I can relate to that
I agree with all you say here and, to some extent, that is my point. It could certainly be done; but it would have to be incrementally. I think the public school system has the opportunity to work with a voucher system, some definate performance related pay scales and job security also based on performance, etc.

I certainly don't think there is just one answer, nor does one answer fit all situations. But it would be nice to see something start to change in this area.

A revolution may be brewing, acceptance and straight opposition rule today, no middle solution.

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