Re: Paying for Schools (was: SOCIETY: Re: The privatization ofpublic security)

From: Steve Davies (
Date: Wed Aug 22 2001 - 12:55:32 MDT

-----Original Message-----
From: James Rogers <>
To: <>
Date: 22 August 2001 19:16
Subject: Re: Paying for Schools (was: SOCIETY: Re: The privatization
ofpublic security)

>On 8/22/01 8:35 AM, "Zero Powers" <> wrote:
>> I'm no fan of public education. Particularly the LAUSD and I'd rather
>> worms than send my kids to public school in L.A. But there is a *large*
>> segment of society that cannot afford to pay for the education of their
>> kids. If public school education were to be suddenly eliminated... well,
>> that would be the equivolent of saying "let them eat cake."
>Last time this topic came up, I started reading up on the history of
>education in the U.S. and basically came to the conclusion that public
>education is a bad idea. The nice part is that we have a fair amount of
>historical data to prove it, since the very first state to adopt public
>education was Massachusetts in 1850 and there are lots of good records
>preceding that for at least a century.
>As Alexis de Tocqueville noted many times, the early Americans were
>the most literate and best educated people in the world at that time, that
>the average hard-working American was frequently as well-educated as the
>upper class in most parts of Europe. While the deep frontier only had a
>literacy rate of around 65%, virtually all the settled regions had literacy
>rates in excess of 90%. In some locales, literacy rates were in the 98-99%
>range. It is ironic that the first state to adopt public education,
>Massachusetts, has a lower literacy rate today than when they had when they
>adopted public education in the middle of the 19th century.
>When private schools were the only option, there was fierce competition
>made high-quality cheap education available to essentially everyone. The
>market accommodated every level of society, from the very rich to the very
>poor, such that no one missed out on an education by the lack of resources.
>Education was viewed as an essential social good, but society supported
>through the private market rather than through public institutions. The
>problems started when the states decided that public education was a good
>idea. Because the "free" education was subsidized with taxes, the vast
>majority of private schools at all levels of the market went bankrupt
>a decade of the adoption of public education. In virtually every case, the
>adoption of public education was followed by a rapid drop in literacy rates
>and education in general, drops that in many cases have persisted to this
>After doing some research a while back, I basically went from agnostic to
>being firmly in the anti-public school camp. The track record of public
>education in this country has been disasterous for the most part, but the
>problem is that so many people are used to sucking off the government teat
>that they are unwilling to exercise their right to something better.
>-James Rogers

This is true for other countries as well as the US - plenty of work on the
British case for example. Here we have just officially confirmed that the
under 35s have a lower standard of literacy than was the case before WW I!
On a slightly different point, bearing in mind the nature of this list, is
nobody else struck by how backward education is and lacking in innovation
compared to other areas of life? I'm also struck by the way most people
assume education=schooling. Surely, with modern technology there must be
more that one method of delivering education. it's like assuming there's
only one possible kind of food store. Like James, I think state education is
unbelievably bad at its purported task - a language school can teach most
people conversational fluency in a foreign language in about 80 hours. Most
British pupils can't manage anything like that after 5years of secondary
education. Education is clearly an important "public good" because of the
neighbourhood effects alluded to in another post but we certainly need to
think about better ways of producing it. Steve Davies

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