Sunday, January 21, 2007

More on our crappy public schools

I forgot about Joanna, she's speaking to my heart on school choice issues. And she's trying to do something about it. 50 years after Milton Friedman first proposed vouchers, who are these people defending the status quo? I mean besides the douche bag politicians, who are the special interests behind them? Is the teacher's union responsible? Joanna, somebody, tell me who's responsible, and show me some of their pictures.

Here she shows the typical arguments against school choice, but it seems to me most of us are apathetic and don't even bother to consider the arguments. This leaves policy to be dominated by special interests. A la public choice, I assume union members get the concentrated benefits, in the form of higher salaries, job security, light teaching loads, etc., while the rest of us suffer the dispersed costs of poor education.

Addendum: So I met one of those advocates of the other side at church today. Her name is Amy, and she is also the wife of our rector, Father Lane Davenport. Anybody know how to delete a post? OK, taking to heart Sam's very nice sermon on fear, I'll leave this up for now. Amy, if you find this, please join in the debate. It sounds like you know of what you speak.


Max said...

Have you ever talked to Sushi Dave about his experience teaching Middle School in DC? It's pretty hilarious.

Roger said...

McBride, I'm glad to see you've found something to do with your free time besides drinking beer and sleeping until noon.

Will McBride said...

Yes, Sushi Dave has some great stories. Like the one about his last day on the job. He said he got so stressed out in class that he thought he was having a heart attack. The principle excused him and he never went back.

Joanna said...

Wait - so did Amy change your mind? Or are you embarrassed about your pro-choice stance being known by church members?

Will McBride said...

Whoa, Joanna, that's plain crazy! Amy did not change my mind, she hasn't commented yet. I'm merely eager to hear her side. I'm still with you on individualism, but I've never been a strong advocate either way on abortion, both because it's a mess and I really don't have strongly held beliefs. But here are some comments I left on marginal revolution regarding abortion and discount rates:

First, here's the link:

I, like many of you, claim not to be a utilitarian. But it seems only Jane and John are appealing to a procedural theory of justice, while the rest of you are maximizing some social outcome, be it population size, or average utility, etc. Individual rights do not extend to a right to abortion, not completely anyway, for the same old reason claimed by the wacky pro-life crowd: it impinges on the rights of another individual, the fetus. Even assuming, as Michael does, that a fetus has no preferences, the effect of the fetus on the mother's preferences is important. Isn't the mother the best judge of these factors? I'm not sure. To me, that is equivalent to assuming the murderer is the best judge. Murder is worse than abortion, I suppose, but only because norms against murder are well established.

Will McBride said...

OK, that may come across as strongly pro-life, but, I stress, it is a weakly held opinion. Just don't kill me.

Megan said...

I'm being a devil's advocate here, but there are some valid points behind the arguments against school vouchers/ school choice:

1. The voucher system, at least currently in DC, isn't a fully open market, as many private schools won't participate because the current system is lottery-based and the schools want the right to handpick the students they want to admit.

2. The fear exists that the private schools will refuse to admit students with learning, emotional or physical disabilities, leaving those students stuck in public schools who are legally obliged to educate them. This would place undue burdens on the student, their family and the school system.

3. Has anyone looked closely at Boston, where all the schools are open enrollment? Yes, the active parents do get their children into the best school possible. However, many parents send their children to their neighborhood schools because their home situation creates barriers to sending them anywhere else. My brother taught 1st grade in Boston for a year in a not-so-great school and some of his students' lives were just flat out chaotic. Something as simple as getting the kids to a school outside the neighborhood was too much for many parents because they didn't have a car or the time to accompany them on public transportation.

Will McBride said...


1) Yes, like most privatization/deregulation programs, the voucher program in DC is a half-measure. It gives both sides something to blame when it fails. I'm for fully privatizing schools.

2) I don't see how the burdens would be any worse than they are now. Firstly, I think many of the "disabilities" are created within our public schools. Secondly, it's not clear that those with real disabilities, eg birth defects, also have parents that don't give a shit. I figure their parents care too, and they have money, and so a private school would arise to accomodate them in the absence of "free" public schools, and it would serve them much better. Even if we do assume that kids with disabilities tend to have parents who don't give a shit, and that they'll leave them with whatever sorry public service is available, then under vouchers, the sorry public service should have more resources available, since the able kids go to private schools.

3) Don't know about Boston, but again, I bet it's a half measure. If it were completely private, then there would arise numerous schools in each neighborhood, at different price points and different quality levels. There would be no reason to rely on a car to get across town, just as you don't currently need a car to shop for clothes downtown. Don't underestimate the creativity of free people.