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Ravitch on Education


Another excellent podcast over at Econtalk.This week is Diane Ravitch of NYU, talking about education.

This is what I was going to write on the comment section but decided not too. Instead I’ll put my comment here.:

I have to thank Russ for this episode. After reading the description, I thought I’d oppose everything Ravitch would say, surprisingly I found myself in agreement with a lot of what she said about the problem.

Vouchers:
I did love hearing her talk about how bad choice and vouchers are, saying that they aren’t the “panacea.” Like any one thing is going to drastically improve our school.
After 50 years or since Reagan, 30 years, or start with Chubb and Moe and say 20 years of education for vouchers–we have 30,000 children with vouchers–somehow the odds don’t seem like it’s with vouchers as a solution.

Didn’t she say that vouchers didn’t even start until 1998? How is that 50, 30 or even 20 years of experience? She complains about the lack of data, then goes on to say that the data shows they aren’t the cure all….well no duh!

I wouldn’t expect anything better from a ivy league educated bureaucrat.(She did sound really proud to tell Russ about her degree from Columbia!) I’m coming to the conclusion that the so-called “Experts” don’t know jack. (I know such a startling revelation, indeed.)

The experts, especially in education reform, almost always favor a top-down reform model. They have the “fatal conceit” that they and they alone, know how to “fix” the system. Ravitch, fits this model perfectly. She never answers Russ, when he asks about getting Government out of schools. She criticizes other top-down solutions, but never comes to the conclusion that maybe it’s the Top-Down approach that is the failure.

There are hundreds if not thousands of Federal, State and Local mandates on the schools and not one iota of progress. You think more mandates are the answer? Ever heard of Sisyphus?

Probably not, because the central allocation of power that Government provides appeals to “experts.” Experts have no incentive to advocate for a system that didn’t need their expert advice. Why would they? They want a system that requires their “expert” advice.

All we are doing is trying to come up with more centrally planned, government mandates solutions (Pushing up the Boulder in the morning) to problems that were created by previous centrally planned, government mandated solutions (It falling back down at night, ready to be pushed back up the hill the next day.)

Of course Thomas Sowell talks all about this in Intellectuals and Society. When are we going to see him on EconTalk again?

So instead of that comment, which I though was too condescending, I posted this one.

I have to thank Russ for this episode. After reading the description, I thought I’d oppose everything Ravitch would say, surprisingly I found myself in agreement with a lot of what she said about the problems. But a few thoughts:

There is no Panacea! The problem with the educational system is complex, she even mentions a few of them. It’s pop culture, parents, inept teachers, incompetent school districts and school boards, bad tests, it’s socioeconomics, it’s language, etc. Does she think that any one thing is going to change all that?

She dismisses vouchers as an option because they haven’t worked for over 50 years, then explains that vouchers did even start until 1998 after lengthy court battles all the while complaining about a lack of good data. Even though she says that a voucher program has never been fully implemented. Do they teach logic at Columbia? I’m wondering if that Columbia degree she flaunted at Russ is worth the paper it’s printed on?

I don’t mean to sound overly harsh, but do you expect a central planner, which is what she is (Assistant Sec of Educ as well as her work on National Standard and in Poland), to understand that the problem is with the central planning of education?

All those Fads she derides in the beginning…all solutions proposed by so-called “experts” like herself. All the product of a central planning body, all thinking that they and they alone know how to “fix” the problem. Should we expect any better outcomes from No Child, another product of central planning?

They all should read Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit. They all need to read Mises on the failures of central planning. No one person can possibly know enough to “fix” what is wrong with out schools. The problem is far too complex. We need the experts to be honest with everyone and start saying the three hardest words in the English language, “I don’t know.”

If people would start to realize that the experts with their fancy degrees from Ivy League schools, didn’t know jack. They might stop relying on other people to fix their problems and start coming up with their own solutions, that would be real market type innovations, not the pseudo-market oriented solutions that even more central planners are coming up with, which (I think it’s Russ) right points out.

I don’t know which one is the more condescending of the two.

Needless to say, I liked the podcast, but definitely don’t think that more Government Mandates are going to fix anything in education. I’m a big fan of vouchers but realize that Government are not going to fully implement any system that, if it works, would mean the abolition of Government run schools system. Governments and School Boards aren’t going to ruin the nice monopoly they enjoy, they are going to impede anything that takes away their power.

Look at homeschooling and the constant attacks from the Left, School boards and Teachers Unions. They know that homeschooling represents a threat to their power. They could care less that home school kids do better in college than public school kids. They only want to keep their monopoly control on kids.

Here’s a good article from Reason, on school reform.

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Categories: Elitist, Schools, Socialism
  1. April 12, 2010 at 23:55

    We home school and it is a battle to keep government from destroying it. They do see it as ‘out of their control’ and they hate it.

    School in General:

    The youth receive a 12 year pogrom that, in their most formative years, teaches kids about the need and benefit of centralized violence and force to guide their lives.

    As long as the “Yellow School Bus” runs, freedom is fighting an ever-losing rearguard action against the Progressives. Public school is their most powerful weapon – and until that is wrestled from their control, civilization is under dire threat.

    Remember this: Mao’s Cultural Revolution (100 million dead), Pol Pot’s Killing Fields (2 million dead), the Taliban (means “Students”) – all came out of their respective “Public” school systems.

    Vouchers do not work for they merely allow you to chose a school among a bunch that teach the same things. It is an illusion of choice. “We have thousands of different crayons, all colored red – you have the choice to pick any crayon you like!”

  2. yttik
    April 13, 2010 at 08:00

    Locally to improve our schools we’ve worked on choice, free market solutions, LOL. Vouchers are a piece of the puzzle, but so much of it really has to do with changing attitudes. We want parents and kids to believe they have a choice, to take control of their education, and if it isn’t meeting their needs, we want them to be able to go elsewhere. We have strong home school programs, we have alternative public schools, charters, out of district transfers. People need to feel as if they own their schools and can design them to fit their needs.

    The worst thing in the world is to have kids who think they have to go to school, parents who think they have to send their kids to only one option. When you do that everybody feels trapped and resentful.

    It’s certainly not perfect where I live, but one thing that sure seems to predict success is those kids and families who really embrace the fact that they have a choice. It’s more important then their economic background or their family circumstances or anything else. That’s why our home schoolers are always winning the spelling bees and our charter schools are always pulling in all the scholarships. Families and kids that believe they have a choice are invested in their education.

    We’ve created a situation in this country where education is mandatory and parents need the childcare in order to work. Those two things interfere with people’s ability to really take some control and exercise some choice.

    • April 15, 2010 at 03:23

      I think the big problem is with parents. They just don’t have any skin in the game. I know this sounds cynical but back in the day parents not only provided for their kids out of love, but also out of economics. They didn’t have SS or any government help, they knew that at some point they had to rely on their kids for support, pay back for 18 years of hell =) Also there were severe cultural taboos against the drive by parenting we have now. Parents had to face shame by their friends and community if their kids were slackers…now not so much. I think we should repeal a bit of the property taxes used t pay for school and make parents write a check. Parents expect the best when they write a check for a $1500 big screen, they raise Cain if they had to write a check to the school and get the kind of quality we get now.

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