Monday, December 02, 2013

Ed Comes Clean

Education Realist provides a 13 point plan list of issues that should be discussed regarding public education.

1. The public, not the parent, is the intended beneficiary of public education.

Historically speaking, this isn't quite as insane as it sounds. When the idea of centralized government-run schools was being put forward in the mid to late 19th Century, its advocates were quite candid about their state-uber-alles, all-your-child-are-belong-to-us intellectual premises, and in language that I personally find quite horrifying, especially given what the state has become. But they got their centralized government schools anyway, so it must have seemed like a good idea at the time, perhaps because its intended targets were either in no position to resist or weren't that involved with their offspring anyway.

But I would raise two points. First, public education hasn't been marketed like that for a very long time. And today, neither "the public" nor parents would stand for it. A more moderate position is that the public and parents and teachers and employers and colleges are all stakeholders in the public education enterprise, a view I will stipulate for the time being.

Second -- and I realize that much of this list, especially the parts I support, is a fantasy at present, but a government that ever brought it to fruition would be one that I would, rightly or wrongly, believe to be not quite as hostile to my interests and values as the government that gives us the present public education regime. Still: Ed would do well to consider the possibility that if this first point succeeded while the others did not, and public school students really did become the "mere creatures of the state" that the original government school advocates believed them to be, yet all the other values implied by the policies that both Ed and I despise remained in place? Well, Ed should ask herself whether or not the end result would not be an improvement over the present arrangements.

2. The state should be able to charge immigrants, both legal and illegal, for their K-12 education.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Indeed this is more ambitious than even I dare hope for in my wildest dreams.

3. The state should not be responsible for the education of English Language Learners, whether immigrants or not.

Again, exactly. And while public school bilingualism isn't dead, we have at least stalled its advance.

4. We should consider centralized schools, possibly federal, for educating the organically retarded or any students with physical disabilities requiring significant financial support. The familial retarded should remain as a local responsibility.

As I have written before, while special provision for handicapped students is worthwhile for reasons of humanity, the present policy of higher levels of government mandating that local school districts provide them with a specific level of service without providing funding to support that service is, well, an unfunded mandate that should be abolished. Ed's idea is a perfectly reasonable substitute.

5. Public schools should be able to organize their students by cognitive or demonstrated ability without consideration of race, class, religion, or gender.

So, tracking. Yes. However . . . .

As I have written before, I would probably qualify, by many people's reckoning, as a segregationist, in that I believe (as long as we're dreaming up policies that have zero chance of success) that no white student should be forced into minority status in her own country and that local authorities should be free to protect white students from black ones unencumbered by the Civil Rights Act, whether by black quotas in white schools, vouchers to private schools, or what have you. (Since this is enough for you to hate me already, it probably won't make much difference, but I will state for the record that I am not an absolute segregationist: I do not object to the presence of blacks that meet median white behavioral norms.)

6. High school diplomas should denote tiers of ability, to better reflect a diverse population with a broad range of cognitive abilities.

Transcripts and grades should mean something. If your transcript says "AP Calculus", then you shouldn't have spent the semester reviewing Algebra. And you shouldn't have received an "A" for "C"-level performance and knowledge.

7. Publicly funded college should be restricted as described in this essay, and restricted to the top two tiers of high school diplomas.

Well said. With the possible exception of Harvard, we do no favors to URMs by admitting them to colleges for which they are underqualified, even if they eventually take enough basket-weaving classes to graduate.

8. Adult education, as opposed to college, should be an offering for those who haven’t met the top two tiers.

Good plan. Most hip-hop / gang-banger career aspirations don't pan out well. When that lesson sinks in, there ought to be some provision for allowing the burnouts a second go at the education they blew off the first time around.

9. Immigration’s impact on public education and the job opportunities of the cognitive spectrum’s lower half should be a matter of national attention and debate.


10. Public K-12 education should not include charters, magnets, gifted student schools, or any other specialized resource school that can restrict access.

I'm not exactly sure why separate classes via tracking is A-OK, but separate schools via charters is so anathema. I will speculate (and I should hasten to disclaim that Ed always rejects my characterization of her positions even when I'm quoting her own words back to her) that her objection is that separate schools are more expensive. But I quite honestly don't see how that is possible given that charters receive smaller public per-student contributions to their operations than do regular schools, making up the difference with private funds.

11. Select schools should be reserved for incorrigible students who disrupt education for others—and these school should be educational, but not terribly fun. Hey. We could call them “reform” schools!

At a sufficiently high behavioral threshold, and freed from considerations of disparate impact, this policy could obviate (much of) the need for out-and-out racially segregated schools.

12. Private school tuition should be tax deductible, with a cap. Benefits of deduction should accrue primarily to middle income savers, not the rich. (I’m in favor of this approach for tuition and other investments in education.)

Thank you! In the absence of vouchers and credits, a deduction might be the best we can do. But you have to make a fair amount of money to pay enough taxes to benefit from itemized deductions to which you could add this. So . . . why no vouchers and credits?

13. The federal government’s role in education should be limited to data collection and investigation. I would like very much to learn what, exactly, we can teach people with IQs lower than 100, for starters.

Well said. I would add that since data collection necessarily involves testing, the federal government should have tiers of tests tailored to the school's mission. It doesn't make sense for, say, schools for retarded students, juvies, and the white middle class to all take the same test.

In summary, my sense of it is that Education Realist and I agree on more than we disagree. We both want much of the same thing: changes that recognize that the variation between schools and populations is mostly a function of differences in cognitive ability.


Dexter said...

The state should be able to charge immigrants, both legal and illegal, for their K-12 education.

Those who pay property taxes are being charged.

Those who pay rent are being charged indirectly (landlord's property taxes).

cecilhenry said...

These are good recommendations, I wish government would wake up and make these changes.

But alas, the department of Education like any agency is in the business of ensuring there is a demand for their services and 'skills'

Solving the education problem puts them out of business.

Dr. Φ said...

Dexter: It is true that making all immigrants pay for education is better comported to a philosophy in which taxes are a morally appropriate condition of residency independent of actual government services received or not received than it is to my philosophy. But we shouldn't kid ourselves that the taxes paid illiterate Mexican peasants living ten to a room come anywhere close to compensating their community for the public burden they place on it.

Cecil: The Department of Education is more or less devoted to making education "fair". Since the problem is therefore inherently unsolvable, they couldn't be out of a job even if they wanted to be.

Dr. Φ said...

Oops . . . should have been "taxes paid by illiterate Mexican peasants . . ."

Anonymous said...

Since that same tax is paid by childless couples, business properties (who have no children) and the elderly whose children are already educated, it can be said that the immigrant through his property taxes pays NOTHING to educate his own children above what he is required to pay anyway, even without children.

That said... good luck collecting it.