Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stupid in America

This John Stossel report is 40 minutes long, but very enlightening.


David Montané said...

Stossel does a great job of demonstrating the problem that our public education system has now, and has been struggling with for well over a hundred years. However, his solution of diverting a portion of education tax revenues toward "school choice", meaning charter schools and vouchers, does not strike at the root of the problem. "School choice" would transform our socialist education system into a fascist education system, not a capitalist one. The analogy he uses of breaking up Ma Bell into several phone ocmpanies is flawed.

For a proper analogy, one must imagine that telephones are mandatory, but only for a certain segment of the population, say all 35 to 55 year old people, because "it's good for business". When you turn 35, the state issues you a clunky, grey, rotary-dial, home phone. There is a lot of static on the line, but hey, at least the state pays for your phone and service for 20 years. Everyone has to pay a phone tax, but the only other age groups who use telephones on a regular basis are the very wealthy, or small, closed communities. It is widely understood that 35-55 is the prime age for telephone use, and it's a very expensive technology, guarded closely by the phone workers unions who are accustomed to their wages, which are higher than the few small private phone companies.

Then some people start clamoring for "phone choice". They want the government to offer phones in different colors and push-button phones like some of the innovative, wealthy phone users have, or to get government subsidies for new phone businesses that would tie into the government phone system.

A free-market solution would stop the requirement that every 35-55 year old must have a telephone, and would stop forcing everyone to pay for a minority of the people's phones and phone services, and would allow private businesses to provide phones and cable and internet according to individual desires and willingness to pay.

DaQuan Smiff said...

Personally I am all for vouchers. Anything to get my kids out of the current morass they call a school system. Smart, eager, bright kids should have the opportunity to separate themselves from those that would hold them back.

David Montané said...

Really, Parent Smiff? Anything?
How about private schools or home schooling? Parents have that opportunity right now! If parents became actually responsible for their own childrens' educations instead of handing them over to the state, our state and local taxes could be reduced by 60%! Not only would parents be better able to pay tuition to a school of their choice, but non-parental community members would also have more funds to voluntarily contribute to the children or schools of their choice, or could use it for their own education if they choose.

What parent does not want "free" public school education or tax vouchers to subsidize their children's education? What school administrator or teacher does not want the extra pay, reduced work hours, lack of accountability, job security, and early retirement that a government job affords?

The problem is that the money to support all this is forcibly taken from the income and outgo of producers (both laborers and capitalists). Your child's education is being paid for by income taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. Income taxes are forced from everyone's paychecks through a process called "Tax Withholding" which was proposed to the government by John Stossel's hero, Milton Friedman! Property taxes are a lien against all "private" property, a lien which vill not go unpaid. Sales taxes are forced from us at the cash register everywhere we go, including on our groceries!

Libertarians are for "Educational Choice for Everyone", not vouchers or charter schools. Educational choice for everyone means if you want tutoring, classroom instruction, books, movies, seminars, coaching, simulations, software, or whatever way you think will help you and your children get ahead in life, go for it! This would be a free market, so just pay for it yourself or persuade someone to help you pay for it. If it's in their interest, they will!

DaQuan Smiff said...

Let me repeat myself, I'll type s l o w l y. "Personally I am all for vouchers. Anything to get my kids out of the current morass they call a school system. Smart, eager, bright kids should have the opportunity to separate themselves from those that would hold them back."

Yep, bout says it all.

Cerebration said...

David - as always, I'm intrigued by your perspective. I agree on many points. Thing is, how do we 'get' the poor, uneducated, illiterate parents we have so many of in our society to take action to get their children educated? The reality is, many of them would not school their children at all -- then just how stupid would people get?

Jen Finkelstein said...

DaQuan thanks for typing slowly. I chuckled. I agree, vouchers for sure.

David Montané said...

Cere, children have a natural desire to learn, a natural curiosity, that's why 2-year olds are always asking "Why?", and they don't mind hearing stories repeated over and over. All that needs to be done is to add fuel to the flickering flame, yet what public schools often end up doing is dousing the flame instead.

What we need is independent, life-long learners, not welfare adults who have been taught to work the system to get other people to pay their and their children's way.

Let's break down your question, "how do we 'get' the poor, uneducated, illiterate parents we have so many of in our society to take action to get their children educated?" The 'we' to which you refer is the state, who does not trust citizens to educate their own children. The state wants compliant workers and voters who do not criticize their political and corporate masters. This requires institutional bondage in the formative years. This requires a system that replaces the teaching of critical thinking with rote learning and dependency training.

So how did the state 'get' the poor, naive, illiterate parents to hand over their children so that they become ever poorer, more naive and more illiterate? And how do they fund this humongous, nation-wide operation? Many decades ago, they threw into motion exactly what we have today. Now the only thing that can be done is for parents, one at a time to begin taking responsibility for their childrens futures, and teaching their children to take responsibility for their own future.

What the rest of us, who are concerned about illiteracy and naivete in our communities, what we need to do is constantly provoke thought and questionning, to cast doubt into the minds of those who think reforms, which have been attempted over and over and over again, are going to somehow revolutionize and overhaul our current system. We need to demonstrate that private education and home/online schooling are well worth the extra effort. Whenever we have a chance we need to vote NO on unending, ever-increasing taxation, such as the November 8 SPLOST vote.

David Montané said...

Let me type s-l-o-w-l-y, Mr. Smiff. Really? You'll do ANYTHING to get your children out of public school? Great! When are you going to do this?

Are you going to tell your children they don't need to go to school tomorrow after all because you are going to work an extra job or stop spending your money on something you have grown accustomed to spending it on, so they can go to private school? Or are you or your wife going to stay home and teach them?

From the tenor of your response, I suspect that the 'anything' to which you refer is that you'll wait and see if the state hands you a voucher.

Anonymous said...

David, having taught in the inner city with parents who find it difficult to get up in the morning to get their children to school, and would rather collect a government pay check and sit at home and watch tv, than work and do something productive,disagree with you.

Being a white teacher who has taught predominantly in black schools-student population and teacher population, I can't tell you how many times I have been accused of trying to make a child white, when I all I wanted to do was to educate the children in my classroom with the same rigor and excitement that I would want for my own children.

When children grow up seeing their parents not caring about learning and living off the government and doing pretty well by the poor standards around the world, that is what many strive for. It takes a very strong individual, with a strong inner desire to break that cycle and make it out.

I grew up poor. My father worked, doing whatever he could to put food on our table and a roof over our heads. He did not go to college and only went to school when his farm chores were done, often not getting homework done unless it was on the school bus. My father loved to learn. He read constantly. I have never seen my dad without a book, and he usually read two or three at a time. He read books, magazines, and watched documentaries. We did not have cable and my dad rules our black and white tv that was permanently (or at least it felt that way) set to PBS. He was my roll model for learning. Most children who are poor do not have that kind of roll model.

Our schools are failing our children. Our school systems have become bureaucratic nightmares that waste copious amounts of money with no regard for the job that they were created to do. Vouchers and true charter schools give all parents a way to better educate their child. Competition is a great thing. Having worked with many charter schools throughout the country, I am often fascinated how they are able to do more with less.

Homeschooling, something that I will do if we cannot afford a private school, is truly not feasible for many parents today, especially those families with single parents. Private schools are unaffordable to most families, especially if they have more than one child.

Charter schools and vouchers empower parents and give our children a chance to get a decent education, something that isn't happening in many of our public schools, especially those in poor areas today.

Frankly, I am tired of paying my tax bill to DCSS, as they do nothing but waste millions and millions of dollars. Even though I live in a "good" DCSS school, it is not good enough for my child, not because I think that I am better than anyone else, but because I know what really goes on and how our children throughout the district are miseducated and indoctrinated into a way of thinking that is good for the state. This indoctrination is only going to get worse with when the national standards are put into place. We will have more useful idiots, which is something, that as an educator, parent, and US citizen, I am desperately trying to avoid for my child and any other child in the US.

Square Peg said...

We can look to other countries to see what happens when public funding for education is greatly reduced and families are expected to pay more for schooling. (Hard to find examples of countries that go all the way and completely eliminate it, as David advocates.)

See this article "A crumbling promise in China: access to school"

It describes a 10-year-old boy who is part of a disturbing trend: city kids so destitute that they cannot go to school. The boy's mother has taught him some math, but she herself has only an elementary education and can hardly homeschool him; he hasn't learned Chinese reading and writing.

Moving toward a market economy, Beijing has been reducing education subsidies, even as schools enroll more and more students. In many parts of urban China schools are decrepit and overcrowded, beyond what we can imagine. To compensate for reduced government support, schools continually raise tuition. The result is that in a time of rising urban unemployment, fewer families can afford schooling.

Or read this excerpt from a World Bank report on user fees in primary education.

"Nonprofit community schools have increasingly become critical vehicles in some Central and West
African countries for parents to meet their aspirations to educate their children when the state has made inadequate or no provision for primary schooling in a particular area... More than 35 percent of primary school children in Togo attend such schools, with even higher proportions in Chad, where local communities have played a significant direct role in financing and operating schools since the education system deteriorated due to the 1979-82 war and continuing economic weakness.

Community schools charge fees... Payment of these fees can play an important role in building local ownership of school-related activities.

The experiences of Chad, Togo and Mali, however, illustrate that community-based approaches are
hard to sustain in times of economic downturn... "

This might be the kind of society David thinks is best, but it's not the one I want to live in.

David Montané said...

To Anonymous Thursday at 10:55 PM:

Your father and mine sound similar. My father was born in a little village in Mexico. He made it through the sixth grade, but played a lot of "hooky". When he made it to America at age 19, he taught himself English by reading a lot. He has a much larger vocabulary than most Americans. He established a successful janitorial business, working so hard he could hardly stay awake when he came home. He got his private pilot's license and instrument rating. He went to dental laboratory school and switched careers. He paid tithe and taxes. He paid private school tuition for my three sisters and me until we were old enough to pay our own way. He is 78 years old now and still working to support himself and my mother.

I feel very fortunate to have a father like that. Like you and Cere and others, my heartstrings are pulled by knowing that many children do not have parents like ours. If, as in former times here in this country, we were not so financially burdened by debt, taxes and inflation, we might have enough disposable income to VOLUNTARILY contribute either our time or money to those children’s educations. If there were a free market in children's education, competition would also greatly reduce private tuition costs.

Compare the cost of elective education for which tax-subsidized schools or schools with cheap government-backed loans are not available, for instance real estate school. A 75-hour real estate pre-license class costs only $249, at one of a dozen or so schools. (Among these is a state-run school which charges more than twice as much!)

We are faced with an overwhelming number of people who have been misled to believe that there is a better solution for educating other peoples' children than a free market. Socialism offers an impossible utopia in which "society", meaning the state, can care for everyone's children better than they could care for their own. We delude ourselves when we think we can turn over responsibility for the education of 98,000 children to one superintendent. We are "turning at windmills" to complain when things don't end well.

Even if it were possible for one person to fulfill such a calling, we delude ourselves to think that we can get that person to teach them the things we would want those children to learn. And we further delude ourselves to think that what we or the superintendent would teach them is better for them than what their parents would teach them, what their privately chosen and hired teachers would teach them, or what they could learn on their own.

In attempting to bear the responsibility for raising other peoples' children, we end up killing their spirit to learn. We have also created a socialist bureaucracy which is a huge drain on our finances.

Charter schools and vouchers will only make an incremental difference in this systemic problem. Charter schools, like magnet schools and theme schools, are just another tax-subsidized "brain drain" which will make the bad schools that remain all the worse, and that, in turn, will mean more spending on infrastructure because people think building new school buildings and changing the names will somehow turn them into good schools. All vouchers will do is raise the cost of both public and private schooling and create yet another area of fraud and abuse to clog up our overburdened justice system. Vouchers will also eventually lead to the same homogeneity of teaching methods found in government schools, when what is needed is a diversity of methods.

I prefer to spend my time and energy cutting at the root of DeKalb's education problem (which we share with the rest of Georgia and America) by calling attention to the alternative that made early America the envy of the world - self-responsibility in all things, including education.

Separate school and state!

Bewildered said...

To Anonymous Thursday at 10:55 and David Montane October 16, 2011 12:43 PM

Having been the oldest of nine children in the late 50's and early 60's, as well as an educator, I too grew up in a family where education was paramount, and personal responsibility was modeled and reinforced. Our cultural beliefs and values have changed. Many seem to believe the government is our "savior", and the government seems to perpetuate this fantasy! Personally, I would love to see the dismantling of the Federal Dept. of Education; I'd also like to see the "Fed" get out of the business of education. I'm particularly disgusted with the Social Studies curriculum--what it omits, and what it appears to promotes.

David Montané said...

Square Peg said “We can look to other countries ….” No, we can’t. Peg said why in the next sentence: “[It is] hard to find examples of countries that go all the way and completely eliminate” public funding for education. The example she used from Jilin, China in 2002 was about as far from capitalism as one can get. The sad situation in this communist country was one of double-taxation, in an area which suffered unimaginably high unemployment of somewhere around 33-50%. In addition to taxes, employed workers were paying 1/6th of their income for their child’s education. However, in spite of the situation, one enterprising young father was selling cookies on the streets to earn a living and send his 7-year old to first grade.

The author set the context thus: “With the onslaught of the market economy, China's iron rice bowl - its socialist guarantees of employment, housing, schooling, and medical care - is shattered.” Would that we learn a lesson from this! But the correct lesson is NOT that we should continue down our socialist path to the point we become a communist country, but to fully transition back to a free market economy as quickly as possible!

The story of Togo and Chad may be a little more instructive since their non-profit community schools were local, community-initiated enterprises, spontaneously arising to fill the vacuum left by their governments due to wars and “continuing economic weakness”! By 2002, when the World Bank report Peg referenced was written, attendance at these schools had reached more than 35%. But these countries, having mandatory education requirements and a majority of public schools, are still not valid comparisons with the early American free enterprise system. And the authors learn the wrong lesson when they say these examples “illustrate that community-based approaches are hard to sustain in times of economic downturn.” No duh! What institution isn’t hard to sustain in such poor countries. Togo and Chad have both been under the control of dictators since 1960. Chad has been named the most corrupt country in the world, and is considered “a failed state”. In the absence of government, the people were forced to become responsible for their children’s own education. And they were up to the challenge!

I wholeheartedly agree with Peg that these are not the best kind of societies, nor ones in which I would want to live. It’s impossible to find countries nowadays that offer a complete free-enterprise system. The American experiment with laissez-faire was short-lived. This is probably due to governments not being able to resist the temptation to interfere in every aspect of the lives of their citizens, but it certainly doesn’t help that global, socialism-advocating entities like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund give outrageous amounts of money to third-world dictators who will do their bidding, and withhold funds from those leaders who try to help their country gain or hang on to its independence.