WSJ on the decline in US education

A nice WSJ opinion piece (reported by Mahalonobis) about the policy mistakes that have led to the decline in American education:

What America has done, these past 50 years, is invest in more teachers rather than better ones, even as countless appealing and lucrative options have opened up for the able women who once poured into public schooling.

I find the basic point that less teachers, paid more, would do a better job quite believable. Given how govt works, I'm a little skeptical that such studies were done before making the policy decision. We probably just assumed "smaller classes are better" and tried to reduce class size, rather than using that as one of many inputs to improving education. (or did many studies and kept only those which supported the prevailing political opinion).

Note that a voucher or private system would let schools experiment with these variables, and at least optimize for parent preference, rather than the output of the political system. (which should not be mistaken for the input - people's political preferences). Not that parent preference is necesarily the best maximand, but its at least better than Senator+President preference. For one thing, it allows for different preferences, and different educations matching different childrens. Perhaps Susie is self-directed and thrives in a large class, while Johnny is a troublemaker who requires a lot of attention. It would be nice to have a system that let different schools address their different needs - as well as seeing which methods do the best in general.

Share this

Don't forget Patri that

Don't forget Patri that there is an advantage to politicians in decreasing class size and increasing the number of teachers (not to mention administrators). These are all, because of how we run our school system, in essence, union members and civil service employees. This is good for the political oligarchy in all sorts of ways, not the least of which is increasing the number of people who have a vested interest in the status quo. When's the last time you heard anyone in "public education" seriously advocate political change OR education reform?

Interesting point, Eric.

Interesting point, Eric. The NEA, like most large unions, is frighteningly self-interested at the expense of everyone else.

This just fits right in

This just fits right in within the self-perpetuating oligarchy that has one party with its two wings pretending to be two parties that we have today. Not that all of our "elected representatives" are that venal, but enough of them are that I'm sure they see the value in increasing the number of teachers and administrators. The ones who don't consciously get it still are not stupid and probably do it unconsciously. And, of course, the NEA wants more teachers and administrators. What most people don't seem to understand is that you have to question their desire for that when it so clearly benefits them.