President Trump wants education funding sent directly to parents to pay for whatever school they choose for their children–including “home school.”
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President Trump wants education funding sent directly to parents to pay for whatever school they choose for their children–including “home school.”
CatholicVote posted the following video on YouTube:
©All rights reserved.
Pope Francis said teaching children about being transgender is a moral problem which he calls “ideological colonisation”. He said explaining gender theory to youngsters is wrong because it can change their “mentality”. The pontiff shared, “A father asked his ten-year-old-son: ‘What do you want to do when you grow older?’ The child replied: ‘A girl’. The father realized that in the school books the gender theory was taught. This is against the natural things.” Pope Francis declared gender theory is part of a “global war against the family”.
Unexpected voices like renowned feminist professor Camille Paglia are saying well-meaning adults transgendering minors is child abuse. Professor Paglia actually called it “evil” to help troubled kids make permanent decisions for which there is no turning back. As commonsense normal thinking adults, our response to Ms Paglia’s comment is, “Well dah”.
Public radio show host Jesse Thorn identified his two-year-old son as a girl; dressing his son as a girl and calling him a girl name. Ponder that folks, a two-year-old. We all know this is insane child abuse. When comedian Owen Benjamin compassionately said Thorn was abusing his child, LGBTQ enforcers crushed Benjamin’s career. His tours were canceled and he was blacklisted in Hollywood.
Benjamin has a comedy special. Here is the headline of a hit-piece written to end Benjamin’s career. “Why is Amazon promoting this anti-trans alt right troll’s comedy special?” Do you see how this works folks. Benjamin courageously exposed the abuse of a child and he is branded an extreme-right nutcase hater. LGBTQ enforcers seek to shame and destroy anyone who dares to state the obvious truth that gender theory is child abuse hiding in plain sight.
American College of Pediatricians president, Dr Michelle Cretella, wrote, “Transgender Ideology Has Infiltrated My Field and Produced Large-Scale Child Abuse.” Dr Cretella said transgender ideology is not rooted in reality. She said sex is hardwired before birth and it cannot change. Dr Cretella continued, “By feeding children and families these lies, children are having their normal psychological development interrupted. They’re being put on puberty blockers which essentially castrates them chemically – followed by surgical mutilation later on. This is child abuse. It’s not health care.”
Dr Cretella said we need to nurture children through natural puberty. “Our job as parents and physicians is to help children embrace their healthy bodies. And when this is done, once they get past puberty to late adolescence, as many as 95% will come to embrace their bodies – and identify with their biological sex.”
Dr Cretella made this important point. “See, according to most mainstream medical organizations, if you want to cut off a healthy arm or a healthy leg, you’re mentally ill. But if you want to cut off healthy breasts or a penis, you’re transgender. Dr Cretella enraged LGBTQ enforcers by saying, “No one is born transgender.” Dr Cretella is under severe attack.
Folks, can you believe we live in such a crazy evil time in which stating scientific facts and publicly expressing a desire to protect children could cost you your livelihood and even your life (death threats)?
Every time I write about LGBTQ enforcers bullying the masses into submission, my frustrated wife Mary says, “Let people know they are only 3 percent of the population.”
So this is where we are folks. We instinctively know LGBTQ indoctrination is child abuse. And yet, far too many are afraid to say it out loud. LGBTQ enforcers are using government, corporations, the medical profession, social media and mainstream media to bully the mainstream into allowing the abuse of children. How did such a tiny segment of our population (3%) obtain such dictatorial power?
God will severely judge those who lead new believers and children astray. “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
God instructs parents to loving protect and raise their children. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) God does not want government usurping parental authority over America’s children.
It takes courage to stand in a culture which humiliates and high-tech executes all who refuse to kneel in worship to their god of debauchery. Shouldn’t abusing children be our red line in the sand?
Aveda and others show new way to follow your passion.
Scene one: I needed a haircut and someone suggested I go across the street to the Aveda Institute. Fine. My hair was cut by a student who was grateful to be working on a regular person, not a manikin. She had another six months in training to before she could become a certified cosmetologist with a credential to work at any salon, cosmetics counter, or spa in the country. It was my first exposure to this institution that was founded initially as a cosmetics line.
Scene two: I met a brilliant young woman with top scores and a great chance for admission to a top college. Her goal from childhood had been to become a physician. Then one day she realized that this future actually sounded miserable. She didn’t want to hang out in dingy operating rooms, struggling with bureaucracy. What she really loved was hair, makeup, and fashion. Why not follow her dream? Instead of college, she enrolled in the Aveda Institute. She can’t be happier.
Scene three: I’m getting my haircut somewhere else and I ask the lady cutting my hair where she moved from. Washington, D.C., came the answer. How did she end up cutting hair here? It was closest to her house that she bought in Atlanta because she liked the neighborhood and the house was affordable. So she could choose to work anywhere she wanted? Yep. Why? She graduated from Aveda, which is the best credential she can have in this industry.
So I’m thinking about this. Here is a school (there are dozens around the country) at which enrollment lasts about one year and costs between $15-20K to attend. This compares to the four years and $100-400K you will spend on a college degree. Many people who leave college are lost and confused, with few skills, no work experience, and no network to tap into for jobs. Aveda graduates have real skills, can work anywhere, and tap into a vast network.
It was the first I’ve heard of this school. The more I look at it, the more it seems inevitable that such models are going to replace college for many people in the years ahead. It makes no sense to spend all that time and money getting a degree that has marginal benefit in the job marketplace. Yes, it is necessary if you are pursuing a career in medicine, law, accounting, engineering, or academia.
That accounts for a small percentage of people who pay for college degrees. We keep hearing about how a college education is connected with higher earning power but the cause and effect relationship here is complicated at best. Some people argue that it is entirely illusory. Meanwhile, real-life experience in fields outside those requiring college credentials is showing something very different.
Meanwhile, Aveda seems to be thriving, and its students and graduates seem very happy, with as much upward mobility as they desire. The one in Atlanta that I visited was teeming with male and female students, all working very hard to master a trade. There are others in New York, D.C., Chicago, Nashville, and many other parts of the country.
I thought I could easily do some research on when these schools started and how many people attend them. Not so. Not even the Wikipedia entry on Aveda mentions their highly successful training programs. It seems to be flying beneath the radar, growing based on industry reputation alone. I’m sure their products are great, but the schooling is the disruptive innovation here.
Scene four: I was invited to attend a data science meetup in Atlanta. It was held at the headquarters for the General Assembly, which is a training camp for the management of digital properties. The meetup was fun, but what really stood out was the very existence of this institution. General Assembly teaches front-end development, project management, beginner website creation, social media skills, and high-level coding. Their classes range from one evening to three months. The pricing of the service depends on the class. The resulting credential is impressive on the resume, and, like Aveda, you tap into a vast network of people.
Unlike the typical university, General Assembly seeks close connections with the surrounding business community. They host socials a few times per week. They bring in business leaders and technicians to give lectures. Many of the teachers here are actually workers in real world enterprises around town. General Assembly is there to facilitate an exchange of knowledge between practitioners and aspirational workers.
It turns out that there are other such institutions in town, including Iron Yard. And around the country there are Code Camps. The tech industry is the fastest moving and among the most profitable in the country, so it makes sense that the industry would demand actual credentials and skills, none of which are provided by the stodgy old-world institutions of colleges and universities.
The tech industry may have given rise not only to all the wonderful new technologies that have changed our lives so fundamentally but also to a new form of education itself. These camps could point the way toward a new path after high school. Why precisely should a person spend yet another four years sitting in a desk, listening to a lecturer, when he or she could be working while training and getting better at a skill for which there is a real market demand?
We all know people in their twenties who look back at their college years and wonder why it all happened. For many of them, the time they took off to get their degree was misspent. Many graduated without any real awareness that jobs actually do require people to bring value to the firm. No one is going to pay for an undergraduate degree. Employers pay for services rendered, not a resume. The only purpose of the resume is to signal the highest likelihood of success at doing a real job.
Stay in School?
For a very long time, young people have been told that the key to success is to “stay in school.” But what happens when life experience begins to tell them the opposite? Or perhaps the definition of what constitutes school needs to change. Work can be school. Education can be combined with work. Education should be structured not just to impart abstract “knowledge,” but actual know-how. And what if it turns out that doing things differently also turns out to be more fun in any case, not to mention more financially rewarding?
By analogy: for generations, Americans were also told that the single greatest and safest investment they could ever make was to buy a house. That illusion blew up in 2008. Now people see houses for what they are: good for some purposes, bad for others, and by no means a guarantee of high future income.
So it is for college. The difference is that most people don’t know it yet. Meanwhile, these many institutions offering real training for the real world are thriving as never before.
Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE and CLO of the startup Liberty.me. Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Email.
The Philadelphia school district is in a near-constant state of financial crisis. There are many factors contributing to this sorry state — particularly its governance structure — but it is compounded by fiscal mismanagement. One particularly egregious example is paying six-figure salaries to the tune of $1.5 million a year to “ghost teachers” that do not teach. Pennsylvania Watchdog explains:
As part of the contract with the School District of Philadelphia, the local teachers union is permitted to take up to 63 teachers out of the classroom to work full-time for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The practice, known as “release time” or “official time,” allows public school teachers to leave the classroom and continue to earn a public salary, benefits, pension and seniority.
These so-called ghost teachers perform a variety of jobs for the PFT, serving as either information officers for other teachers or carrying out the union’s political agenda.
“Teachers should be paid to teach,” attorney Kara Sweigart, who is arguing ghost teacher lawsuits for the Fairness Center, a free legal service for employees who feel they’ve been wronged by their unions, told Watchdog.
“At a time when school districts are hurting financially, districts should be devoting every tax dollar to support students,” she said, “not to pay the salaries of employees of a private political organization.”
According to public salary data available through Philadelphia city agencies, the school district is paying 16 ghost teachers $1.5 million this year. All of them are making at least $81,000.
PFT Vice President Arlene Kempin, who has been on release time since 1983, is among the highest paid at $108,062. Union head Jerry Jordan, who has also been on release time for more than 30 years, is earning $81,245, according to district payroll logs. The 16 ghost teachers on the books this year are making an average salary of almost $98,000.
The “ghost teacher” phenomenon is far from unique to Philly or even the education sector. Such “release time” subsidies for ghost teachers, policemen, firefighters, and bureaucrats of all stripes are common features of public-sector union contracts nationwide. Last month, a Yankee Institute report found that Connecticut provided unions with $4.1 million to subsidize 121,000 hours union-related activities, “the equivalent of more than a year’s worth of work for 50 full-time employees.” Meanwhile, the Goldwater Institute in Arizona is in the midst of a lawsuit against the city of Phoenix for unconstitutionally providing millions of dollars in release-time subsidies.
According to the most recent report from the federal Office of Personnel Management, the federal government paid more than $157 million in 2012 for federal employees to work for their unions for a total of 3,439,449 hours. And those are just the direct costs.
In his book, Understanding the Teacher Union Contract: A Citizen’s Handbook, former teacher union negotiator Myron Lieberman explained how difficult it is to account for the full amount of subsidies that taxpayers provide to the unions:
Most school board members are not aware of the magnitude of these subsidies. In school district budgets, the subsidies are never grouped together under the heading “Subsidies to the Union.” Instead, the subsidies are included in school district budgets under a variety of headings that may or may not refer to the union…
School districts pay for these subsidies from a variety of line items in the district budget: payments to substitute teachers, teacher salaries, and pension contributions, among others.
In most situations, the union subsidy is lumped together with other expenses paid for under the same line item; for example, the costs of hiring substitutes for teachers who are on released time for union business may be included in a budget line for substitutes that also covers substitutes for other reasons, such as replacing teachers on sick leave, personal leave, maternity/paternity leave, and so on.
Taxpayer dollars allocated for education should be spent on items and activities that assist student learning, not to promote the interests of private organizations (especially when their interests often collide with the interests of students). Union work should be paid out of funds the unions collect through dues and donations, not funds expropriated from unwilling and unwitting taxpayers.
The last 100 years have seen drastic technological innovations — from the way we communicate to the way we travel to the way we consume entertainment. One thing that hasn’t changed is the way we do school. Teacher, chalkboard, lesson, test, move up a grade, repeat.
Maybe the best argument for school choice is that we have no idea what kind of innovations could improve education until we allow radical competition. After all, if government ran the entertainment industry, we might still be watching black and white movies and listening to phonograph records. Instead, we stream films and songs online through a galaxy of services from Netflix and Hulu to Pandora and Spotify.
Where We Are
Think about how many features of our existing education system are wrongly treated as inevitable:
These are just three routine features of school that we barely notice, let alone question.
Once we do question them, alternatives quickly come to mind. One could imagine, for instance, a school that didn’t teach math, science, and history as separate disciplines but found creative ways to teach them in combination — or schools that aren’t automatically structured by age.
School choice allows schools to experiment with different curricula and teaching approaches, but it also allows them to experiment by modifying some of those features that we often take for granted but probably shouldn’t.
How We Got Here
To fully appreciate the need for experimentation in educational spaces, let me introduce two terms, one from behavioral psychology, the other from economics. The first is status quo bias, which sounds like what it means. Behavioral psychologists have discovered in people a marked (often unconscious and uncritical) acceptance of the way things are. When we experience the world a certain way, we often become attached to that way without even realizing our attachment. Of course students are divided into grades based roughly on age. Of course we teach science and history in different classes.
The second term, from political science, is path dependence. Path dependence is the idea that certain things come to be the way they are because past decisions affect the range of available subsequent choices. Picture a business spending lots of money on a certain software program that everyone at the company learns. The business and employees will become so invested in the current program that it will be hard to switch to a different one later. Even if a much better program comes along, the cost of switching may become prohibitively high, so the company will stick with what it knows.
Path dependence caused the unquestioned features of our education system to evolve the way they did. Why are schools open in fall, winter, and spring but closed during summer? The myth is that this schedule has to do with the days when kids were expected to work on farms, but really the shape of the school calendar is a vestige of the pre-air-conditioning era.
With widespread air conditioning, why do we continue to adjourn for summers? Because we have structured so much of our social fabric on the idea that kids and teachers have summers off. Theme parks, summer vacation destinations, and other business interests depend on kids having summer breaks. Parents plan for their children to be off during the summer. Summer break has a cultural inertia akin to a company’s commitment to legacy software. Once we get used to schooling done a certain way, we come to think of that as how school should be done, which ensures that even things like summer break continue well past their usefulness. That’s path dependence.
Status quo bias factors in when we become so used to schools having a summer break (or operating from early morning to mid-afternoon, Monday through Friday) that we fail to think of this system as anything but the way it has to be.
The Way Forward
Surpassing the educational equivalent of legacy software is precisely what makes school choice important. Competition allows some people to experiment with different ways of doing things while others can stick with what’s familiar. Markets also disrupt the kind of lock-in that path dependence often creates. While it may be costly for our imagined business to switch to the new software, other businesses may find it easier, and the market will help decide which decision was wiser.
One could object, of course, that new alternative schools — with their different schedules of operation or different approaches to curricula — will get things wrong, to the detriment of students. Yes, some schools will try what ultimately fails. But unlike big centralized bureaucracies, businesses learn quickly from their failures and adapt — or they go broke. Contrast that process to the time it takes for government to abandon a program everyone knows isn’t working.
Unless you think the current school system is doing fine, the only way forward is through innovation, and innovation requires the sort of experimentation that happens naturally in the free market.
Remember that weird kid in school? I don’t mean the really scary one. I mean the borderline oddball. The one you had to talk to a bit to spot the weirdness. The boy who never knew what TV show everyone was talking about. The girl who, when you asked her what her favorite music group was, answered some long name that ended in “quartet.” The kid who thought you meant soccer when you said football.
How did you treat that kid? (Or were you that kid?)
In “Homeschooling, Socialization, and the New Groupthink,” I suggested that the most useful definition of socialization is “ensuring that a child becomes sociable, that he or she develops the intelligence and social reflexes that promote peaceful and pleasurable interactions.” I also suggested that some of homeschooling’s critics might mean something more sinister: indoctrination into a particular vision of society.
But after reading my article, third-grade schoolteacher Heather Lakemacher, commenting on Facebook, pointed out yet a different meaning of socialization: not seeming weird.
This is the real reason, she said, “why this stereotype of the poorly socialized homeschooler exists.” Whereas I had only addressed adult perceptions of homeschooled children, the true culprit, she said, is other kids:
Many of us who were educated in a traditional school have vivid memories of meeting other kids our age who were homeschooled and thinking, “Oh my god! This kid is so WEIRD!” It’s entirely possible that the child in question grew up to be a happy, well-adjusted, productive member of society. …
However, I think the stereotype exists because of the power of those childhood interactions with a peer who just didn’t behave in the way we were expecting them to behave. That’s not an argument against homeschooling, but data will always have a hard time dispelling emotionally charged memories.
She’s right. Odd kids can make a lasting impression.
Grownups regularly note how polite my homeschooled son is, or how he’ll talk to them at all when so many other kids clam up and fail to make eye contact. Adults find his lack of awkwardness with them charming. But what do schooled kids see?
Diane Flynn Keith, a veteran homeschooling mom and author of the book Carschooling, writes that homeschooled kids are, in fact, “not well-socialized in the traditional school sense.”
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but there’s nothing “normal” about our kids. Your homeschooled child is odd compared to the schooled population because they have not experienced ongoing school-based socialization and standardization. …
They haven’t been indoctrinated in the same way. They have not been steeped in the popular consumer culture to the degree that most schooled kids have been. They are not adult-phobic and peer-dependent. (“Yes, My Grown Homeschooled Children Are Odd — And Yours Will Be Too!“)
And most of the time, homeschooling parents love that about our kids — and about homeschooling in general. We don’t want them to be standard. Whether we admit it or not, we tend to think they’re better than the standard. But it’s true that our socially flexible and resilient children can be puzzling to their traditionally schooled peers, and vice versa.
So why does the assessment of weirdness flow only in one direction? Why don’t homeschooled kids think the mainstream schoolchildren are weird?
One answer is that our kids know the mainstream experience through television, movies, and books. They may not always track the finer distinctions between Degrassi High and Hogwarts, but they certainly know a lot more about schools and schooling than mainstream kids know about education outside a classroom.
But I think that even without the pop-cultural lens on the schooling experience, homeschooled kids are just less likely to see anyone as weird. It’s just not a part of their semantic reflexes. Instead they think, “I don’t get him,” or “I’m not into the same stuff she is.”
As a result, homeschooled kids aren’t just more tolerant of diversity; they’re probably also more diverse. And that’s a lot of what gets labeled weird by those who are better assimilated into the mainstream culture.
What’s probably obvious to anyone familiar with homeschooling is that it’s good for the emotional health of kids who don’t easily fit in. What is less obvious is the damage that a culture of conformity does not just to the oddballs in that culture but also to the kids who conform with ease — and to the liberty of the larger society.
For over half a century, studies have shown that the need for social acceptance not only changes our behavior but can even make us perceive the world differently — and incorrectly.
In the early 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a series of experiments on the dangers of group influence. When presented with simple problems that 95 percent of individuals could answer correctly when free of group influence, 75 percent of Asch’s test subjects would get the answer wrong when it meant concurring with the group.
In 2005, neuroscientist Gregory Berns conducted an updated version of Asch’s experiments, complete with brain scans to determine if the wrong answers were a conscious acquiescence to social pressure or if, instead, test subjects believed that their group-influenced wrong answers were in fact correct. Not only did the subjects report that they thought their wrong answers were right; the brain scans seemed to confirm it: they showed greater activity in the problem-solving regions of the brain than in those areas associated with conscious decision-making. And the nonconformists who went against the group and gave correct answers showed heightened activity in the part of the brain associated with fear and anxiety.
Commenting on the implications of these experiments, author Susan Cain writes,
Many of our most important civic institutions, from elections to jury trials to the very idea of majority rule, depend on dissenting voices. But when the group is literally capable of changing our perceptions, and when to stand alone is to activate primitive, powerful, and unconscious feelings of rejection, then the health of these institutions seems far more vulnerable than we think. (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking)
Groupthink, in other words, is dangerous to a free society. And we don’t always realize when we’re not thinking for ourselves.
This kind of cognitive conformity, however, isn’t fixed or universal. Not only does it vary, for example, between East and West; it has also declined in the West since the 1950s, according to a 1996 review of 133 Asch-type studies from 17 countries. That review assessed the cultures in which the studies took place to see if their results “related cross-culturally to individualism [versus] collectivism.” Unsurprisingly, test subjects were least susceptible to the reality-distorting effects of the group in the more individualistic national cultures.
We should expect the same to be true of more and less individualistic subcultures. I bet homeschoolers, for example, are less likely to show the Asch effect. I suspect the same thing of the oddballs at school.
That doesn’t mean everyone should homeschool, or that only weirdoes can be independent thinkers, but it does suggest that the more a culture values independence and diversity, the less vulnerable it will be to the distortions of conformity. And if socialization means helping kids fit in more easily with the culture of their peers, then parents of homeschoolers and schooled kids alike may want to reconsider the value of socializing our children.
“College students are not customers. That analogy needs to die. It needs to be drowned in the world’s largest bathtub. It needs a George R.R. Martin–esque bloodbath of a demise.”
These are the strong words of education writer Rebecca Schuman in response to Iowa’s recent attempt to pass a law tying professors’ job security to their teaching evaluations. Such laws, Schuman and others think, are based on the misguided idea that students are akin to customers.
OK, So College Isn’t Like a Restaurant
To an extent, we agree with Schuman, but we think she vastly oversimplifies. In one way, it is hard to deny that students are customers. They (or someone acting on their behalf) pay for a service and, like customers in any other market, students can take their tuition money elsewhere if they aren’t satisfied.
Whether the educational experience was to the student’s “liking” may not be a good measure of the quality of the university’s educational services.
On the other hand, as Schuman points out, college education looks quite different from many other businesses. Unlike restaurant patrons, for example, students are buying a service (education) that isn’t geared toward customer enjoyment. A good college education may even push students in ways they don’t enjoy.
Whether the tilapia was prepared to the patron’s liking is a good measure of the restaurant’s food. Whether the educational experience was to the student’s “liking” may not be a good measure of the quality of the university’s educational services.
Rather than this distinction being evidence for Schuman’s claim, however, it actually points out one of its flaws. She overlooks the fact that not all customers have the same sort of relationship with a business as we see in the restaurant industry, which serves as the only basis of her customer analogy.
Yes, colleges certainly have a different relationship with students than restaurants have with patrons. Patrons are there to get what tastes good and satisfies them for that specific visit. Students are (presumably) there to receive a good education, which may not instantly please them and may sometimes have to “taste bad” to be effective. (Most people who go to the dentist don’t find it immediately pleasurable, either, but, in the long run, they are certainly glad they went.)
No Pain, No Gain
We can think of three alternative business analogies for the university-student relationship.
First is personal training or physical therapy. Like university education, they involve services that aren’t geared toward immediate consumer happiness. To help a client achieve good results, a trainer often has to make the workout difficult when the client might have wanted to go easier. And good physical therapy often involves putting the client through painful motions the client would rather not undergo.
Yet, these businesses see their clients as customers and probably take customer feedback quite seriously. Trainers need to push customers past where they want to go, but this doesn’t mean trainers dismiss negative feedback.
Second are certification services, firms that provide quality assurance for other firms. Such providers may find themselves at odds with their customers when they withhold certification, but if the firm asking for certification really wants an assurance of quality for its customers, that firm will understand why its unhappiness at being denied isn’t a reason for the certifying organization to just cave to whatever its customers want.
Schuman suggests that if students are customers, the university must be a profit-grubbing business.
For example, a manufacturer of commercial refrigerators might seek certification from Underwriters Laboratories to prove to restaurant owners that its appliances have been independently tested and proven to hold food at safe temperatures that won’t sicken customers. If tests reveal that the fridges aren’t getting cooler than 50 degrees — far above food safety guidelines — the fridges won’t get certified.
Any certifying bodies that give in to pressure to certify all paying customers will end up being punished by the market when someone (a competitor? a journalist?) reveals that the company’s certification doesn’t really certify anything. Protecting the quality of the certification process is in everyone’s interest, even if it makes some of a certifier’s customers unhappy with particular outcomes.
College students may well be like the firms seeking a certification of quality, with employers and graduate schools being the analogue of their customers, who will only hire or admit “certified” students.
The Cheapest Product at the Highest Price?
A third analogy is the nonprofit organization. Schuman suggests that if students are customers, the university must be a profit-grubbing business, and since a “business’s only goal is to succeed,” a customer-focused university will “purvey… the cheapest product it can at the highest price customers will pay.”
But does viewing the people one serves as customers necessarily turn one into a business whose concern is to sell poor products at a high price rather than to provide a good service? Credit unions, art museums, area transportation services, and, yes, private K–12 schools are often organizations that don’t operate for profit and yet provide services directly to paying customers.
Nonprofit museums charge admissions and nonprofit ride services charge for rides; therefore, they serve paying customers. But this does not mean they aim to make the maximum profit possible, or in fact any sort of profit, by providing the lowest quality at the highest price. (Of course, we would take issue with Schuman’s characterization of even more traditional profit-seeking firms as aiming to sell junk at high prices, but we can leave that to the side for our purposes here.)
Schuman is wrong to think that if universities see students as customers, this must turn them into profit-driven businesses in this narrow sense.
Is the Customer Always Right?
For all that, we sympathize with some of the basics of Schuman’s argument. As college professors, we understand her concern over putting too much stock in student evaluations of teacher performance. Even if students are customers, they surely aren’t customers in the same way the restaurant patron is a customer. And a restaurant will not automatically treat every customer comment card as equally influential in changing how it does business. Some restaurant customers have unrealistic expectations or don’t understand the food service business, and restaurants often have to decipher what feedback to take seriously and what to disregard.
We suspect that Schuman’s confusion may result from universities and professors thinking that they are selling something different from what students may think they are buying. Students generally want the degrees that come from education, with education being the process to get the degree. Universities (and professors) sell knowledge and skills, and the degree is simply the acknowledgement that students have obtained that knowledge.
Professors may think that they are selling something different from what students think they are buying.
Good learning may be difficult and, in the short run, unpleasant. But for students aiming for a degree, it would be better to go through classes that are agreeable and aren’t too difficult. If this is right, you can see why there’d be a mismatch between how students think their education is going and how it may actually be going, and why the former may not be the best gauge of the latter.
With a restaurant, the customer and the seller both agree on what the product is: a good meal (and good restaurateurs will generally defer to what the customer wants). With personal training, it may be that the trainer’s job involves pushing customers past where they’d go on their own, but the trainer and customer do still generally agree on the service: the trainer helps customers achieve their goal of fitness.
We appreciate and share Schuman’s concern that universities not over-rely on student evaluations and the degree to which students find their educations pleasurable in a narrow sense. But the issue isn’t as simple as saying that, because professors’ job security shouldn’t come down entirely to student evaluations, students aren’t customers.
Yes, there is a danger in treating students the way restaurateurs treat patrons. But there is also danger in the other extreme: if we stop viewing students as customers in some sense of the term, then instead of treating them with the respect we generally see in the personal training and certification industries and among nonprofits, we risk turning universities into something more like the DMV.
Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions.
He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.
RELATED ARTICLE: This State Offered Free College Education. Here’s What Happened.
“But what about socialization?”
We who educate our children outside the school system confront an exhausting array of accusations posing as concerns, but the most puzzling — and the most persistent — is the socialization question. For years, I’ve taken it at face value:How, the skeptic seems to be asking, will your kids ever learn to be sociable if you keep them locked up at home all day?
That very few homeschooled kids lead the lives of sheltered isolation implied by this question does not seem to assuage the questioner. There’s something kids are assumed to receive from the process of group schooling — especially from large, government-funded schools — that helps them fit in better with society at large.
Learning to Be a Cog
I recently talked to a mom who wants to homeschool her daughter. The girl’s dad objects to the idea because, he insists, home education will fail to prepare her for “the real world.” I find it significant that this man is career military. The real world, as he knows it, is regimented, tightly controlled, and bureaucratized into stasis — at least compared with the very different real world of voluntary exchange and spontaneous order.
If your goal for your children is a lifetime of government work, then by all means send them to public school: the bigger, the better. But if, by “socialization,” you mean ensuring that a child becomes sociable, that he or she develops the intelligence and social reflexes that promote peaceful and pleasurable interactions with larger groups of friends and strangers, then the irony of the what-about-socialization question is that it gets the situation precisely backwards. It is schooled kids, segregated by age and habituated to the static and artificial restrictions of the schooling environment, who demonstrate more behavioral problems while in school and greater difficulty adjusting to the post-school world.
Does “Socialization” Mean Peer Pressure?
While homeschooled kids learn to interact daily with people of all ages, schools teach their students to think of adults primarily in terms of avoiding trouble (or sometimes seeking it). That leaves the social lessons to their peers, narrowly defined as schoolmates roughly their own age.
If your goal for your children is a lifetime of government work, then by all means send them to public school: the bigger, the better.
Thomas Smedley, who prepared a master’s thesis for Radford University of Virginia on “The Socialization of Homeschool Children,” put it this way:
In the public school system, children are socialized horizontally, and temporarily, into conformity with their immediate peers. Home educators seek to socialize their children vertically, toward responsibility, service, and adulthood, with an eye on eternity.
As a result, most homeschooled kids grow into well-adjusted, flexible, and emotionally mature adults, open to a diversity of peers and social contexts.
Psychology professor Richard G. Medlin wrote in “Homeschooling and the Question of Socialization Revisited,”
Homeschooling parents expect their children to respect and get along with people of diverse backgrounds.… Compared to children attending conventional schools … research suggest that they have higher quality friendships and better relationships with their parents and other adults.
Furthermore, says Medlin, “They are happy, optimistic, and satisfied with their lives.” How often do you hear those words applied to any other group of children?
Meanwhile, “there seems to be an overwhelming amount of evidence,”according to researcher Michael Brady, “that children socialized in a peer-dominant environment are at higher risk for developing social maladjustment issues than those that are socialized in a parent-monitored environment.”
The Persistence of the Socialization Myth
The contention that kids kept out of large group schools will somehow suffer in their social development never made any sense to begin with. (In fact, large group schools may hurt social development.) Did no one enjoy any social skills before the era of mass education?
Decades of research now support the common-sense conclusion: the artificially hierarchical and age-segregated structure of modern schooling produces a warped form of socialization with unhealthy attitudes toward both authority and peers.
The students who escape this fate are those with strong parental and other adult role models and active engagement with a diverse community outside school. Homeschooling holds no monopoly on engaged parents or robust communities, but those advantages are an almost automatic part of home education.
So why does the socialization myth refuse to die?
Perhaps we have been misunderstanding the critics all along. Homeschoolers think of socialization as the development of an autonomous individual’s social skills for healthy interactions within a larger community. But maybe what we consider healthy isn’t at all what the critics have in mind.
Reprogramming the Quiet Child
Susan Cain’s 2012 book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, does not specifically address homeschooling, but Cain does talk about the history of education and the evolution of what she calls the “Extrovert Ideal — the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.”
Starting in the 1920s, Cain tells us,
The experts advised parents to socialize their children well and schools to change their emphasis from book-learning to “assisting and guiding the developing personality.” Educators took up this mantle enthusiastically.…
Well-meaning parents of the midcentury sent their kids to school at increasingly young ages, where the main assignment was learning to socialize. (emphasis added)
In the 19th century, education was still understood to mean the development of an individual’s character, intellect, and knowledge. By the mid-20th century, education reformers had shifted the emphasis away from preparing the individual student for his or her future and toward integrating individuals into a larger group and a larger vision of a reformed society.
The New Groupthink
We 21st-century Americans may think of ourselves as “unlike the starched-shirted conformists of the 1950s,” to use Cain’s phrase, but she sees the extrovert ideal asserting itself once again in what she calls “the New Groupthink,” which, she explains, “elevates teamwork above all else.”
In ever more schools, this teamwork is promoted “via an increasingly popular method of instruction called ‘cooperative’ or ‘small group’ learning.” This “cooperative” approach, whatever the intentions behind it, actually hurts students — introverts and extroverts alike — both academically and intellectually. To explain why, Cain cites the work of Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist and one of the world’s leading researchers on expertise.
Occasional solitude, it turns out, is essential to mastery in any discipline.
It’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which [Ericsson] has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly. Practice sessions that fall short of this standard are not only less useful — they’re counterproductive. They reinforce existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them.
Cain and Ericsson offer several reasons why deliberate practice is best conducted alone, “but most important,” writes Cain, “it involves working on the task that’s most challenging to you personally.”
Co-ops, study groups, playgroups, and à la carte classes mean that a homeschooled student spends plenty of time with other kids, including conventionally schooled kids. But homeschooling also allows children more alone time for the kind of learning Ericsson describes.
This is not what most schools offer; neither is it compatible with the emphasis on cooperative learning.
The Homeschooled Self
“The structure and reality of traditional schools,” writes Rebecca Kochenderfer for Homeschool.com, teach kids “to be passive and compliant, which can follow the children throughout life. Children can learn to take abuse, to ignore miserable bosses or abusive spouses later on.”
“In a traditional school,” Kochenderfer adds, “someone else usurps authority.”
Kids from homeschooling families learn a very different lesson about authority and responsibility.
Researcher John Wesley Taylor used the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale to evaluate 224 homeschooled children for self-esteem. “On the global scale,” writes Taylor, “half of the homeschoolers scored at or above the 91st percentile. This condition may be due to higher achievement and mastery levels, independent study characteristics, or one-on-one tutoring situations in the homeschool environment.”
A strong “self-concept ” doesn’t mean that homeschooled kids are self-centered. “Their moral reasoning is at least as advanced as that of other children,” according to Richard G. Medlin’s research, cited earlier, “and they may be more likely to act unselfishly.” What it does mean, however, is that children educated at home are less likely to grow up to be followers.
In 1993, J. Gary Knowles, then a professor of education at the University of Michigan, surveyed 53 adults who had been taught at home by their parents. He found that nearly two-thirds were self-employed. That’s more than twice the global average and about 10 times the current national average. “That so many of those surveyed were self-employed,” said Knowles, “supports the contention that home schooling tends to enhance a person’s self-reliance and independence.”
That independence may be the real source of critics’ concerns.
“Public school educators and other critics,” Knowles commented, “question whether home-educated children will be able to become productive, participating members of a diverse and democratic society.”
But with so much evidence for the superior results achieved by homeschooling — both academically and socially — we have to question the critics’ goals. Is their concern really for the welfare of those educated outside the schools? Or is it rather, as so much of their language suggests, for the success of a particular vision of society — a vision that they fear the independently educated may not readily accommodate?
B.K. Marcus is editor of the Freeman.
Tyler Cowen caused quite a stir with his e-book, The Great Stagnation. In properly assessing his work it is important to state explicitly what his argument actually is. Median real income has stagnated since 1980, and the reason is that the rate of technological advance has slowed. Moreover, the technological advances that have taken place with such rapidity in recent history have improved well-being, but not in ways that are easily measured in real income statistics.
Critics of Cowen more often than not miss the mark when they focus on the wild improvements in our real income due to quality improvements (e.g., cars that routinely go over 100,000 miles) and lower real prices (e.g., the amount of time required to acquire the inferior version of yesterday’s similar commodities).
Cowen does not deny this. Nor does Cowen deny that millions of people were made better off with the collapse of communism, the relative freeing of the economies in China and India, and the integration into the global economy of the peoples of Africa and Latin America. Readers of The Great Stagnation should be continually reminded that they are reading the author of In Praise of Commercial Culture and Creative Destruction. Cowen is a cultural optimist, a champion of the free trade in ideas, goods, services and all artifacts of mankind. But he is also an economic realist in the age of economic illusion.
What do I mean by the economics of illusion? Government policies since WWII have created an illusion that irresponsible fiscal policy, the manipulation of money and credit, and expansion of the regulation of the economy is consistent with rising standards of living. This was made possible because of the “low hanging” technological fruit that Cowen identifies as being plucked in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the US, and in spite of the policies government pursued.
An accumulated economic surplus was created by the age of innovation, which the age of economic illusion spent down. We are now coming to the end of that accumulated surplus and thus the full weight of government inefficiencies are starting to be felt throughout the economy. Our politicians promised too much, our government spends too much, in an apparent chase after the promises made, and our population has become too accustomed to both government guarantees and government largess.
Adam Smith long ago argued that the power of self-interest expressed in the market was so strong that it could overcome hundreds of impertinent restrictions that government puts in the way. But there is some tipping point at which that ability to overcome will be thwarted, and the power of the market will be overcome by the tyranny of politics. Milton Friedman used that language to talk about the 1970s; we would do well to resurrect that language to talk about today.
Cowen’s work is a subversive track in radical libertarianism because he identifies that government growth (both measured in terms of scale and scope) was possible only because of the rate of technological improvements made in the late 19th and early 20th century.
We realized the gains from trade (Smithian growth), we realized the gains from innovation (Schumpeterian growth), and we fought off (in the West, at least) totalitarian government (Stupidity). As long as Smithian growth and Schumpeterian growth outpace Stupidity, tomorrow’s trough will still be higher than today’s peak. It will appear that we can afford more Stupidity than we can actually can because the power of self-interest expressed through the market offsets its negative consequences.
But if and when Stupidity is allowed to outpace the Smithian gains from trade and the Schumpeterian gains from innovation, then we will first stagnate and then enter a period of economic backwardness — unless we curtail Stupidity, explore new trading opportunities, or discover new and better technologies.
In Cowen’s narrative, the rate of discovery had slowed, all the new trading opportunities had been exploited, and yet government continued to grow both in terms of scale and scope. And when he examines the 3 sectors in the US economy — government services, education, and health care — he finds little improvement since 1980 in the production and distribution of the services. In fact, there is evidence that performance has gotten worse over time, especially as government’s role in health care and education has expanded.
The Great Stagnation is a condemnation of government growth over the 20th century. It was made possible only by the amazing technological progress of the late 19th and early 20th century. But as the rate of technological innovation slowed, the costs of government growth became more evident. The problem, however, is that so many have gotten used to the economics of illusion that they cannot stand the reality staring them in the face.
This is where we stand in our current debt ceiling debate. Government is too big, too bloated. Washington faces a spending problem, not a revenue problem. But too many within the economy depend on the government transfers to live and to work. Yet the economy is not growing at a rate that can afford the illusion. Where are we to go from here?
Cowen’s work makes us think seriously about that question. How can the economic realist confront the economics of illusion? And Cowen has presented the basic dilemma in a way that the central message of economic realism is not only available for libertarians to see (if they would just look, or listen carefully to his podcast at EconTalk), but for anyone who is willing to read and think critically about our current political and economic situation.
The Great Stagnation signals the end of the economics of illusion and — let’s hope — paves the way for a new age of economic realism.
Peter Boettke is a Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University and director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.
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The student speech bullies have won at Yale. Erika Christakis, Assistant Master of Yale’s Silliman College, who had the temerity to suggest that college students should choose their own Halloween costumes, has resigned from teaching. Her husband, sociology professor Nicholas Christakis, Master of Silliman College, will take a sabbatical next semester.
One of the bullies’ demands to Yale President Salovey was that the couple be dismissed, and a resignation and sabbatical are a close second.
As had been widely reported, Erika Christakis said,
Is there no room any more for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious, a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.
At issue are costumes such as wearing a sombrero, which might be offensive to Mexicans; wearing a feathered headdress, which might offend Native Americans, previously termed Red Indians; and wearing blackface to dress up as an African American.
Dr. Christakis’s comment is so obvious that it hardly needs to be said. Students who are admitted to Yale are some of the brightest in the country, and it should not be the role of the University to tell them how, or whether, to dress up at Halloween.
The speech bullies want mandatory diversity training, rules against hate speech, the dismissal of Nicholas and Erika Christakis, and the renaming of Calhoun College because its namesake, John Calhoun, defended slavery.
If America is to be whitewashed of the names of individuals from prior centuries who fall short of the political standards of the 21st century, we will be a nation not only without names but also without a past. The names of our states, our municipalities, and even our universities would disappear. Elihu Yale was a governor of the East India Company, which may have occasionally engaged in the slavery trade. It is easy to condemn the dead who cannot defend themselves. But if we curse the past, what fate awaits us from our progeny?
Not all Yale students agree with the tactics employed by the bullies. Freshman Connor Wood said,
The acceptance or rejection of coercive tactics is a choice that will literally decide the fate of our democracy. Our republic will not survive without a culture of robust public debate. And the far more immediate threat is to academia: how can we expect to learn when people are afraid to speak out?
The Committee for the Defense of Freedom at Yale has organized a petition in the form of a letter to President to express concern with the bullies’ demands. Over 800 members of the Yale community have signed. Zachary Young, a junior at Yale and one of the organizers of the petition, told me in an email, “We want to promote free speech and free minds at Yale, and don’t think the loudest voices should set the agenda.”
Nevertheless, it appears that the loudest voices are indeed influencing President Salovey. He has given in to protesters by announcing a new center for the study of race, ethnicity, and social identity; creating four new faculty positions to study “unrepresented and under-represented communities;” launching “a five-year series of conferences on issues of race, gender, inequality, and inclusion;” spending $50 million over the next five years to enhance faculty diversity; doubling the budgets of cultural centers (Western culture not included); and increasing financial aid for low-income students.
In addition, President Salovey volunteered, along with other members of the faculty and administration, to “receive training on recognizing and combating racism and other forms of discrimination.”
With an endowment of $24 billion, these expenses are a proverbial drop in the bucket for Yale. But it doesn’t mean that the administration should cave. Isaac Cohen, a Yale senior, wrote in the student newspaper,
Our administrators, who ought to act with prudence and foresight, appear helpless in the face of these indictments. Consider President Salovey’s email to the Yale community this week. Without any fight or pushback — indeed, with no thoughts as to burdens versus benefits — he capitulated in most respects to the demands of a small faction of theatrically aggrieved students.
Yale’s protests, and others around the country, including Claremont-McKenna, the University of Missouri, and Princeton, stem from the efforts of a small group of students to shield themselves from difficult situations. Students want to get rid of speech that might be offensive to someone that they term a “micro-aggressions.” This limits what can be said because everything can be interpreted as offensive if looked at in a particular context.
For instance, when I write (as I have done) that the wage gap between men and women is due to the sexes choosing different university majors, different hours of work, and different professions, this potentially represents a micro-aggression, even though it is true. Even the term “the sexes” is potentially offensive, because it implies two sexes, male and female, and leaves out gays, lesbians, and transgenders. The term “gender” is preferred to “sex.”
What about a discussion of the contribution of affirmative action to the alienation of some groups on campuses today? Under affirmative action, students are admitted who otherwise might not qualify. In Supreme Court hearings on Wednesday, Justice Antonin Scalia said, “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to — to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well.”
The majority of students at Yale want an open discussion of all subjects, but the attack on the Christakises have frightened them into silence. Zach Young told me,
If the accusers’ intent was to enlighten and persuade, their result was to silence and instill fear. I worry that because of this backlash, fewer students or faculty — including people of color and those of liberal persuasions — will feel comfortable expressing views that dissent from the campus norms. Why risk getting so much hate, disgust, calls against your firing, just for the sake of expressing an opinion?
Why indeed? The answer is that arguing about opinions is the only way to get a real education. Let’s hope that another university stands up for freedom of speech and offers the Christakises teaching positions next semester.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor, is director of Economics21 and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Affirmative action is before the Supreme Court again this week, as it rehears arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas. (I’ve discussed the legal issues in Fisher here.)
But perhaps the most important question about racial preferences is one that’s not directly raised by the case: do they even work? Do they help underrepresented minorities to achieve their goals, and foster interracial interaction and understanding on elite campuses? Or do large preferences often “mismatch” students in campuses where they will struggle and fail?
Scholars began empirically studying the mismatch issue in the 1990s, but in the past five years the field has matured. There are now dozens of careful, peer-reviewed studies that find strong evidence of mismatch.
None of the authors of these studies claim that mismatch is a universal or inevitable consequence of affirmative action. But in my view, only demagogues (of which there is, unfortunately, no shortage) or people who haven’t read the relevant literature can still claim that mismatch is not a genuine problem.
It is helpful to think about mismatch as three interrelated phenomena that could affect a student of any race — let’s call her Sally — who receives a large admissions preference, so that she attends a college where her level of academic preparation is substantially below that of her peers.
First, “learning mismatch” occurs if Sally learns less than she would at a less competitive school, because the pace is too fast or her professors are pitching their material at a level that’s not ideal for her.
Others and I have argued that learning mismatch occurs on a massive scale in American law schools, where African-Americans (and some other students) tend to receive very large preferences and then, very often, are never able to practice law because they cannot pass bar exams.
Our best estimate is that only about one-third of black students who start law school in America successfully graduate and pass the bar exam on their first attempt (see my September 2006 blog post here).
A second form of mismatch — “competition” mismatch — occurs when students abandon particular fields, or college itself, because of the practical and psychological effects of competing with better-prepared students.
Suppose that Sally dreams of becoming a chemist, does very well in a standard high school chemistry course, and receives a preference into an elite school where most of her classmates have taken AP Chemistry. Even if Sally does not experience “learning” mismatch, she may nonetheless end up with a B- or a C in chemistry simply because of the strength of the competition.
A long line of studies (e.g., this excellent study by two psychologists) have shown that students receiving large preferences, facing these pressures, tend to abandon STEM fields in large numbers. Competition mismatch thus appears to have large and damaging effects on the number of African-Americans, in particular, graduating with science or engineering degrees.
The third type of mismatch — “social mismatch” — is in some ways the most intriguing.
Several studies have now found that college students are much more likely to form friendships with students who have similar levels of academic preparation or performance at college. The phenomenon operates even within racial groups, but when a college’s preferences are highly correlated with race (as they are at many elite schools), social mismatch can lead to self-segregation by minority students.
The result is decreased social interaction across racial lines. That’s particularly relevant to the Supreme Court’s deliberations because its tolerance of racial preferences has been based on the idea that a diverse racial campus promotes interracial contact and learning.
But if preferences promote substantial social mismatch, then race-conscious admissions actually decrease interracial contact and learning — not only at the school where the preferences are used, but also at the college that the preferenced minority student would have attended in the absence of preferences.
Of course, new studies of higher education come out all the time, and one can point to some study to argue almost any point. What makes the evidence of mismatch so compelling is the large number of very high-quality studies that have appeared in the past few years, performed by a wide array of scholars and appearing in the strongest academic journals that exercise the most stringent peer review.
For example, the highly-respected Journal of Economic Literature last year commissioned two economists to summarize the state of research on higher education mismatch. To ensure an impartial study, the two economists JEL selected started out with different views of mismatch: one was a skeptic, the other the author of research that had found evidence of mismatch. JEL also asked seven other economists, again representing a wide range of perspectives, to peer review the article when it was drafted.
The resulting article is circumspect, but unequivocal in finding that much of the evidence on mismatch (especially in law school and the sciences) is compelling.
The American Economic Review — one of the three or four top journals in the social sciences — also recently announced that it is publishing a comprehensive study of mismatch in the sciences. It takes advantage of an unusually large database from eight campuses of the University of California, covering the period before and after California voters, through Prop 209, made it illegal to consider of race in public college admissions.
The study could thus examine how UC students who, through racial preferences, attended the most elite UC campuses before Prop 209 compared with very similar students who attended less elite campuses after Prop 209.
Peter Arcidiacono, Esteban Aucejo, and Joseph Hotz conclude unequivocally: “We find less-prepared minority students at top-ranked campuses would have higher science graduation rates had they attended lower-ranked campuses.”
The gold standard for empirical research is a genuine experimental design, where a group of subjects are randomly assigned to “treatment” and “control” groups. While random experiments are routine in medical research, they are still uncommon in the social sciences. A revealing study of that kind was recently conducted by three economists working with the Air Force Academy.
Based on other work, the researchers hypothesized that students entering the Academy with relatively weak academic preparation would learn more and do better if they were assigned to squadrons with particularly academically strong cadets, thus creating opportunities for mentoring and tutoring. The Academy agreed to do a large randomized experiment, assigning some of the targeted students to the experimental squadrons with strong peers, and other students to “control” groups comprised of more typical students.
Again, the results were unequivocal: academically weak students in the experimental group learned less and got worse grades. Having much stronger students in the same squadron increased the weaker students’ tendency to form study groups with other weak students — a strong demonstration of “social mismatch.”
All this impressive research — and much more in a similar vein — has had little impact upon educational institutions. Even though many educational leaders will admit in private that the research is compelling, they believe that any public admission that racial preferences are counterproductive would be met with the sort of campus reaction that routinely drives college presidents from office.
For the same reason, university presidents and other educational leaders aggressively block the release of information vital to mismatch research — data which could, for example, help determine the border between small, safe preferences and large, harmful ones.
All of this should give the Supreme Court pause in assessing racial preferences. Past Court decisions have invoked a traditional deference to the independence of educational institutions. But colleges and universities have demonstrated that they are politically incapable of acting as good fiduciaries for their most vulnerable students.
Richard Sander is an economist and law professor at UCLA, where he has taught since 1989.
Radical students at the University of Missouri are turning on the university which created them. They are neo-Frankensteins.
Most of the coverage of recent college demonstrations has been largely sympathetic to the demonstrators. Indeed, few sources were consulted who would speak any evil of them.
Nevertheless, our November author’s night speaker—William Barclay Allen—saw in them the culmination of a disturbing trend. “I have spent my whole life in academia and I can tell you I have witnessed the deterioration over the course of time,” Dr. Allen, a professor emeritus at Michigan State University, said in November. “It is no longer to be assumed that freedom of speech prevails on a university campus.”
“Instead, there are codes of speech.” Dr. Allen is the former chairman of the U. S. Civil Rights Commission.
“What I am suggesting to you is not that there are outliers, a few extremists who at college campuses especially in elite institutions who the rest of us can look at as perhaps, in their own way, testaments to our virtue because they are so unlike us,” Dr. Allen said. “No that is not the case.”
Here is a different perspective on the problem.
Bernie Sanders has tapped into a frenzied millennial base by proposing “free” college tuition (that is, tuition paid for by the government). Bachelor degrees are pitched as the primary means by which individuals can gain skills and increase their incomes, so skyrocketing tuition is becoming a hot election topic. But are more subsidies to the university system a legitimate solution to the problem, or simply a stunt to capitalize on youthful outrage?
There’s no denying that the price of higher education is unrealistically high, and a fix is needed. But Sanders’ plan doesn’t even purport to be a solution. It does nothing to address the root problem of rising costs. It merely spreads those costs to society as a whole by socializing them.
Proponents of this idea don’t ever seem to explore the more fundamental question of why the cost of college continues to increase, let alone how socializing those costs stops the inflationary trend.
The assumption seems to be that rising costs are simply a law of nature that we have to deal with. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. If we look at the wider economy, the cost of higher education is clearly an anomaly. Products across the economic spectrum, from smartphones to automobiles, decrease in cost and increase in quality year after year, despite heavy demand. Indeed, consumer demand is what drives continuous innovation in these industries.
Could the problem be something as simple as decreased public funding? Even if that were true, it still wouldn’t explain why universities seem incapable of cutting costs and maximizing performance. Apple, Samsung, and most any other firms seem perfectly able to do so without any regular source of taxpayer funding.
Higher education possess no unique characteristic that prevents it from improving and adapting as every other industry regularly does. But incentives matter, and the market incentives that drive competitive innovation in other industries are heavily distorted in the college and university system.
For starters, under the Higher Education Act signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, universities and colleges gained a de facto monopoly on higher education.
As Senator Mike Lee explains,
Under the federal Higher Education Act, students are eligible for Title IV student loans and grants only if they attend formally accredited institutions. That makes some sense, for purposes of quality control.
Except that under the law, only degree-issuing academic institutions are allowed to be accredited. And only the U.S. Department of Education gets to say who can be an accreditor.
That is, the federal government today operates a kind of higher-education cartel, with federally approved accreditors using their gatekeeper power to keep out unwanted competition.
Can this explain why higher education seems perpetually stagnant and inefficient? Since 1965, computers have gone from being the size of a small building to vastly more powerful, more common, and more affordable pocket-sized devices. Whole other industries have been continuously disrupted again and again, giving way to newer and better models for doing business.
Yet despite a relentlessly increasing price tag, a college education is largely the same beast it was decades ago. In 21st century America, our higher education system is still governed by rules written in 1965.
Because of these rules (and a flood of taxpayer-backed loans), more students are funneled into accredited higher education every year, while the supply remains artificially restricted. Even the smallest regional colleges turn away more students than they could hope to take in.
Is it any surprise then that tuition continues to climb when there exists so little competitive pressure to keep it in check? Without the risk of losing potential students to superior alternatives, universities lack the basic incentives to maximize the value they provide while minimizing the cost.
With this in mind, what does Sanders’s proposal do to address the underlying structural problem in higher education? As it turns out, worse than nothing.
Instead of seeking to weaken the cartel and drive down prices by increasing competition, free tuition goes the exact opposite way. Like decades worth of failed higher education programs, Sanders seeks to continue stimulating demand while doing nothing to address the artificially limited supply and dearth of innovation. Unchecked by any last remnant of market forces college costs will continue to run away at an even faster rate than before.
Were it still 1965, the Senator might suggest we deal with the AT&T telephone monopoly by demanding free landlines for all Americans forever. Thankfully, this isn’t what happened, and instead of a sprawling federally subsidized landline monopoly, we have a cheap, competitive nationwide market for cellular and mobile internet providers.
But this is exactly what Sanders proposes for higher education: a stagnant, expensive, uncompetitive industry, stuck in the past and eating up billions in subsidies. In doing so, he threatens to deny us the creative destruction sorely needed to bring higher education into the 21st century.
Socialized college tuition may provide a popular and illusory respite for students, but only the competition present in free markets can actually reduce costs and spur sustainable innovation.
Ariel holds the Henry Hazlitt Fellowship for Digital Development at FEE. He is a student of Florida International University with a focus in finance and economics.
Here at Conservative Review we recently launched a new feature called the Taxpayer’s Monthly Government Receipt where we detail for you a receipt documenting the extraordinary financial burdens the cost of government is placing on your life. Whether taking the form of taxes paid, future taxes owed, government debts incurred, or future government obligations, these financial burdens are YOURS. There is no money fairy to rescue us. There are not enough wealthy people to pay a “fair share” high enough to get us out of this debt hole. These are our debts and they WILL be paid off by the sweat of your brow and the labor of your children and grandchildren.
After reading through the Taxpayer’s Monthly Government Receipt I decided to write this piece to call attention to the burden on your freedom, as well as your wallet.
The Liberty Receipt:
Prior to the passing of Obamacare, using questionable legislative tactics, you were free to purchase health insurance or not, and to tailor it to your family’s needs. Many self-employed, or young and healthy individuals who felt it was more cost effective to pay their medical bills themselves took advantage of their freedom and liberty and didn’t purchase expensive health insurance. After Obamacare, you lost the ability to make those decisions for yourself. The government makes these decisions for you now, using the power of the IRS to ensure that you comply.
In short, liberty was lost.
President Obama’s tax increases on income, capital gains, healthcare, payroll, and more, have taken record amounts of money from the wallets of hard working Americans, reducing their economic liberty with each additional dollar removed from their wallets. Your hard-earned money cannot belong to you and the government at the same time, and as the burden of government grows, your ability to economically support yourself and your family recedes. In short, liberty was lost.
In 2014 alone, the Obama administration added over $180 billion in new regulations costing YOU over $500 per capita. This tidal wave of additional government red tape has not only stolen your economic liberty, it has also countermanded personal control of your private property, local control of your neighborhood and your business. Either way, decisions about your home, business and neighborhood which you were free to make prior to the Obama presidency, are no longer available to you. The government has already made those decisions for you. In short, liberty was lost.
The Obama administration insists on standing in the way of educational liberty, and standing in the way of lower-income, minority children and a quality education. After suing, and then requesting a federal review of Louisiana’s school voucher program, followed by the administration’s refusal to fund the Washington D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, it’s clear that the Obama administration has stolen away the ability for struggling parents to freely choose where their children attend school. This life-changing decision was once just a school voucher away from changing the lives of lower income children just looking for a shot at the American Dream. That decision is no longer yours, the government made it for you. In short, liberty was lost.
Once liberty is lost it’s a difficult two-step process to get it back. First we have to raise awareness to what happened. President Obama has a gift for stealing your liberty and making you believe that he left you with a gift. We must all become Paul and Paulette Reveres and make every effort to sound the alarm as to what is going on. Second, we must elect and support fearless leaders who fear the loss of liberty and freedom more than the fear of losing an election. In short, liberty was lost and here’s your receipt. Use it to organize and fight back.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review. The featured image of the Twin Towers and Statue of Liberty is courtesy of the Associated Press.
Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee surprised many conservatives by sending a mailing asking them to “Endorse Mike’s Pledge to Kill Common Core.” It reads, “I, Mike Huckabee, pledge allegiance to God, the Constitution, and the citizens of the United States: As President I will fight to kill Common Core and restore common sense. Education is a family function—not a federal function.”
Huckabee then came out with another mailing in which he vowed not only to kill Common Core, but to abolish the Department of Education.
Huckabee declared his candidacy in May. Reporters and commentators questioned the motivations for his shift on Common Core. At the Daily Caller, Blake Neff called Huckabee’s “strong, total condemnation” a “relatively new trait” and questioned the governor’s explanation: “the unexpected involvement of the Obama administration.” In January, at National Review Andrew Johnson noted that Huckabee had publicly praised Common Core standards that he claimed were developed by governors and state education officials. A blog called “The Truth about Mike Huckabee” basically repeats these claims but in a heightened, defensive style, stating, “It is important to note that The National Governor’s Association Common Core IS NOT the same as the Common Core associated with the Department of Education Grants. If you take the time to research this topic you will see that one of many differences is that the federal government requires those who administer the grant project meet certain diversity guidelines, which is completely foreign to the work done by the National Governor’s Association. These are two completely different programs, begun by different organizations, with different implementation and operational objectives.”
Huckabee’s defense does not stand up to scrutiny. Neff pointed to Huckabee’s 2011 book A Simple Government, in which Huckabee endorsed the role of the federal government, writing, “I fully endorse the new federal program Race to the Top, which has states compete for additional education funds, allowing them to decide what reforms to enact, rather than having specific reforms imposed on them from above.” This was two years after the Race to the Top program required that states agree to adopt the federal Common Core guidelines as part of the application process.
As he contemplated his presidential run, Huckabee knew that his “complicated history with Common Core” could be the reason he’d lose a significant portion of the evangelical base that supported him in 2008, according to Johnson. Conservatives already had a problem with Huckabee’s record as governor that included increases in taxes and pardons for criminals.
Furthermore, Huckabee’s efforts continued in 2013 and included sending a letter to Oklahoma lawmakers ahead of a vote to dump Common Core in that state; he encouraged them “to resist any attempt to delay implementation.” That year, Huckabee also told the Council of Chief State School Officers to “rebrand” Common Core, and not “retreat.”
The authors of Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates (by American Principles in Action and Cornerstone Policy Research Action) write that Huckabee’s “rebrand advice to the owners and supporters gut-stabbed the national grassroots movement right when it was gaining traction.” Rebranding, or renaming, the Common Core standards, while making superficial changes, has been a favorite strategy of politicians and bureaucrats trying to fool voters and legislators who really are trying to kill Common Core in their states.
Huckabee claimed his comments were “misconstrued.” By December of 2013, Huckabee was using his Fox News show to outline his concerns about “what Common Core has become” – a divisive issue. He encouraged “activists on both sides of the issue to move past Common Core,” and “argued for a renewed, broader effort to improve education,” according to Johnson.
What is the federal government’s role, and specifically a president’s role, in improving education? On his campaign site page Huckabee pledges to abolish the Department of Education, while insisting, “We must demand results, accountability and success for every child in every classroom. I oppose watering down our education standards or automatically promoting every student.”
The rationale behind federal education programs, including the No Child Left Behind initiative of the George W. Bush administration, is precisely the demand for “accountability.” NCLB was built on the false notion that every child can achieve “success” and that it is the federal government’s role to see to it. Indeed, the current education reauthorization spending bill is called the “Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA). Common Core was hustled through on such pretexts of accountability and standards.
The Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates gives Huckabee a “C,” in spite of his “checkered past.” (Grades range from “A-” for Ted Cruz and Rand Paul to “F” for Jeb Bush.)
Raising his grade is Huckabee’s “forceful general argument” of late about the problem of special interests currying the favor of the federal executive branch, which then puts mandates on the states. State departments of education, state boards of education, and governors then become “supplicants” to the U.S. Department of Education.
Real Clear Politics puts Huckabee in ninth position in a field of 15 candidates. Four major polls show him garnering four percent of the support. It appears that Huckabee will not be the candidate who ends the system of “supplication” to the Department of Education. Let’s hope we get one, nevertheless.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.