One-Size-Fits-All Education Ain\'t Kosher

Will Wilkinson has a great piece on state monopolized education and the unintended -- albeit inevitable -- controversies that follow.

Imagine you live in a town where you are required to pay several thousand dollars of taxes each year into a public fund that is used to buy food for the entire community. There is a publicly elected “Menu Board” that determines each year’s offerings. You wanted rye this year? Sorry! The Board voted for Wonder Bread. Again! You could, in principle, opt out of the public food system and buy rye, pumpernickel, or seven grain oat-nut crunch at a fancy private store. But you’ve already paid thousands in taxes, and can’t afford to pay twice for everything you eat. The Menu Board picks it. You eat it.

Imagine the controversy. Vegetarians (“You’ll get lentil loaf and like it!”) will lock horns with the Atkins lobby (“You can have my bacon when you pry it from my dead cold fingers!”) to wrest control of the Menu Board. The kosher set will fight against shrimp-lovers; Mormons will rail against the Starbucks crowd; Hindus will agitate against the forces of barbeque. ...

The question we should be asking is not whether we should be worried about stickers on textbooks, but, rather, why we do education this way in the first place. We live in an incredibly diverse society, and there’s no way we’re all going to agree, even if some of us really are right about the best way to do things. Suppose you knew with absolute certainty that there was one objectively best diet. Would that justify forcing shrimp down unwilling throats? Why treat schools differently? ...

A voucher system might also provide our children with better education. Maybe defenders of evolution should take the theory of natural selection to heart. Species become well-adapted to their environments through a history of selection over variation. Mother Nature experiments; traits that work stick. Our system of public schools imposes on everyone a relatively uniform model of curriculum and pedagogy, and crowds out private experimentation. No variation, no evolution. No wonder our schools are so dismal.

Read the whole thing.

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i've written a long comment

i've written a long comment about this at my blog sorry no permalink. Short version:
I got lentil loaf and liked it.

aa, True, the choices aren't


True, the choices aren't always easy, and secular socialism is preferable (to me, at least) to theocratic socialism. But I think after this recent election, Democrats might be a bit more open-minded about the benefits of federalism and school choice, given that they can not count on winning based on raw political power alone.

Aardvark, that post was

Aardvark, that post was charming.

Though I hate to be anti-religious, I suppose, if pressed I'd pick secular socialism over theocratic socialism as well. Utopia isn't an option, after all. But socialism, even secular, still falls far short of being acceptable.

I don't understand the blind

I don't understand the blind loyalty many people have to the public school system.

I actually know other parents who rather than send their children to the public school in their area[which they consider a 'bad' school district] pay an amount that is about equal to their property taxes to send their children to public school in another town.

The public schools I grew up in are in at least as bad a shape as the schools in Detroit, no busing[anywhere], no sports, no music or extra-curricular programs of any sort, no gifted/advanced programs, and the buildings themselves are a shambles.

Why people won't give up the public school ghost beats the hell out of me.

Good post, Micha.


I was reading the new

I was reading the new left2right blog (aaagggghhhhh......). I think you're right Diana, that it's puzzling how people just won't give up on the public school idea. But reading one of the threads on that blog, a lot of people were weighing in with the idea that a just society should have equality of opportunity for everyone, and they see the public schools as the main vehicle for achieving this. They can't imagine how most people would have a chance to get ahead in life without public schooling, and seem to picture society without it becoming rigidly class stratified, with the people who can afford education on top.

We've actually been talking

We've actually been talking a good deal about the public education system and it's failings on the local radio show I co-host out here in eastern NC. Surprisingly, a good deal of people I've talked to are very open to the idea of at least ending all federal support for public education, and some are sympathetic to abolishing the public system completely.

A lot of that, however, I contribute to the politics of the people who live in this area. Most are very religious and see public schools as an organ of secular left wing propaganda. I think that if the schools put out the message that Jesus was the man and that the solution to all problems is moral leadership and reverence to the military, conservatives would embrace it as an indispensable national institution.

[...] xperimentation. No

[...] xperimentation. No variation, no evolution. No wonder our schools are so dismal. HatTip: Catallarchy.

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