Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Liberalism and Australian Education

By Jacques Chester in Op-Ed
Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 12:48:14 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Massive funding cuts, privatization, VSU - these are words that hold special meaning in Australian education. So why should you - who are likely to be an American - care? Because education is a guardian of liberal democracy, and Australia is following the USA down a dark spiral indeed.


ADVERTISEMENT
Sponsor: rusty
This space intentionally left blank
...because it's waiting for your ad. So why are you still reading this? Come on, get going. Read the story, and then get an ad. Alright stop it. I'm not going to say anything else. Now you're just being silly. STOP LOOKING AT ME! I'm done!
comments (24)
active | buy ad
ADVERTISEMENT
Last year, "Inkling" ran a ticket to control the SRC newspaper at the University of Sydney, Honi Soit. They stated explicitly that they would censor or ignore any articles which did not conform to their leftist view of the world. It came as no surprise that they rejected the article below - but the message remains clear.

As Paul Keating - former Prime Minister of Australia - recently said, all we have here in the antipodean fringe is ideas. We do not have a large population. We don't have resources easily at hand. All we have to rise above our given circumstances are ideas, and yet the current Government refuses to seriously back education.

Some notes for American and British readers. The Liberal Party of Australia are more similar to the Tories in the UK or the Republicans in the USA. It was founded to "that light on the hill", a call to fight for and defend little-l liberalism, instead it has becomes Just Another Conservative Party. Hopefully the insights in this article will strike cords with many of you, not just fellow Australians.

THE GREAT EQUALIZER
Pseudo-Liberalism and Education's Demise.

Liberalism is mortally wounded. It lies by the superhighway of Economic Rationalism, bleeding, near to death. Once the beating heart of the Enlightenment Project, it has grown sick from the ideological cancer of pseudo-liberalism.

In this article I'd like to talk about liberalism and education. Liberalism ("small-l liberalism") is not the policies of the Liberal Party of Australia. Instead it is a set of mutually-supporting precepts and principles which give insights into how societies can be run. And yes, economic rationalism - the idea that markets should be the unrestricted, dominant form of economic allocation - is a part of modern liberalism. But what I'd like to talk about is how this rationalism - "neoliberalism", it is also called - has usurped the very principles upon which liberalism was founded.

At the heart of liberalism is the idea that the individual is the fundamental unit of human experience. Liberalism pessimistically argues that minorities are bound to be oppressed, and that the smallest minority is the individual. Hence liberalism sets about identifying threats to the individual, trying to deflect or cancel them.

The next principle coming from this basic point is the fear of concentrated power. Liberalism says that while power is itself morally neutral, it tends to attract people who are not. Hence, while the "enlightened despot" is the ideal society, the odds are that in time concentrated power will be abused to the detriment of individuals and society at large. Hence power must be checked, restrained and restricted.

The third principle I will call on is the idea of equality of opportunity. Whereas socialism argues the case for equality of outcomes, liberalism says that this will inevitably punish those who have done something above-average, whilst rewarding those who haven't. Hence liberalism says that the better, more realistic (but imperfect, uncomfortable) option is to create equality of opportunity: make it equally possible for everyone to get started, but after that, back off.

Taken together, we can see why liberalism supports free, high-quality public education. American liberalism was explicit on the issue. In Boston (where the American Revolution began), the inscription on the public library reads: "The commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty". Education is "the great equalizer". I can be Packer's daughter or a dirt-poor aboriginal son - but so long as both of us can get the same education, the gap between our opportunities is dramatically narrowed.

Less clear is the position on neoliberalism or economic rationalism. Liberalism supports free trade on the basis that when one enters the market to buy or sell, one should do so as one's choice, rather than being coerced by a central planning mechanism. Some economists married this ideological approval to a crusade to prove the total superiority of markets in allocating resources. For the neoliberal, there is no God but the Market, and Friedman is its Prophet.

There are two problems with this. The first is that markets are not the be-all and end-all of economic organization. They have significant flaws in their nature which pseudo-liberals are keen to ignore. The other problem is that more and more often, the driving imperative of unrestricted capital and commerce - profit - has come into direct conflict with the interests of the individual. When anyone calling themselves a "liberal" happily concedes dominance to the market and corporations on these issues, they have ceased to be liberals, having entirely whored away their belief system to the beguiling allure of neoliberalism.

Pseudo-liberalism, a kind of rude child of the real thing, has therefore felt guiltless in overriding the strictures laid down by its parent. Part of this program has been to try and sell off education. The justifications are twofold: first, that the free market will make for a better standard of education; and second, that public education costs too much public money - money which is extracted by force (ie, taxes).

But neither of these allegations of true. The US system of private tertiary education is usually cited as a good example of why free enterprise provides better education. Yet some of the USA's best universities are proudly public. And as for the rich private universities (Harvard and its ilk), their wealth comes most substantially from their vast capital holdings and donations from wealthy alumni. Student fees do not make up the majority of their funding. And, of course, this system violates the precept of equality of opportunity. A poor black man with the score as a rich white girl is far less likely to be educated at Harvard. Hence we can dump the assertion that markets will provide better - more liberal - education.

As for the "taxes are theft" argument, we must confront the fact that liberalism is not so much a set of rules as it is a set of guidelines. It is not unusual for certain things within the ideology to be in a state of competitive tension. This is why we deploy liberal democracy as the solution to these tensions.

As part of the democratic solution, liberalism espouses the need for fundamental units of Government, and that these units should be ultimately controlled, counterbalanced and overmatched by the citizenry. In this approach education serves two central purposes: in equalizing opportunity, and in providing an educated group who will more effectively retard any Government's attempts to unduly expand or abuse its powers.

Yet, for all of this, education is clearly failing to fulfil its role as the great equalizer. Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves why this is so.

The first and most immediate symptom is that access to a quality education is becoming harder and harder to obtain. A series of raids upon public education spending by the Liberal government has meant that cash-starved Universities have had to kiss up to corporate sponsors in a quest for cash. In doing so they have debased the idea that Universities are seats of learning, rather than training. Somehow - so we are told - the kissing corporate arses is going to be a totally neutral activity. Going cap in hand to Cisco, Shell et al will have no effect on course material.

Please. Get real. While I am usually pretty gung ho on the good properties of market capitalism, I am not blind to its many deep and ugly flaws. One of those is that in the war between Profit and The Right Thing To Do, you just can't trust Profit to play nicely when left alone.

In a capitalist market, corporations are formed with the express purpose of maximising profit. The pursuit of profit is the driving soul for the firm, both in the spirit and the letter of the law. Directors and executives who do not ruthlessly pursue this goal find themselves in deep, smelly shit.

In and of itself, I believe that the motivation of seeking profit is amoral. I say "amoral", meaning, "does not take morality into account". Profit will go where the money is. If the money exists in giving away teddy bears, teddy bears will be given away. If the money exists in screwing students, students will be consequently raped. The profit motive is blind to the moral and philosophical framework which gave it form in the first place. In short, the modern corporation and liberalism do not exist in happy coexistence. On an abstract level, they are more often than not enemies, rather than chummy pals. This is most especially true in the University.

Corporate involvement in Universities is not morally neutral. It has a real, deleterious effect on the process of collecting, digesting and disseminating knowledge. It has a more insidious effect on the inculcation of critical thought, which is the first and last weapon in the struggle for the individual. When Cisco or Shell endow a chair, there is an implied prohibition placed upon the Professor to avoid criticising that company. Do this often enough and you develop a kind of intellectual club of "Untouchables". Liberalism flinches from this subtle assault on freedom of thought and freedom of speech.

If we are honest with ourselves, the current assault on Universities is simply the culmination of a process that has been underway ever since compulsory schooling was made the law of the land in Prussia. Prussia introduced compulsory school in order to create citizens who were homogenized, unquestioning followers. Primary and highschools were engineered to prize conformance over individuality, to produce unthinking collectives before critical thinkers. Attempts by schools and teachers to change this fact are hampered because they don't understand that the system was engineered to produce drones.

Universities have long stood as centres where some people, at least, could have this long process of boxing-in undone. The University - as a platonic ideal - is famous for harbouring individuals. Although one can cast one's eyes across endless conformant packets inside the University (the political Right and Left, the religious, the various faculty-bound), there nevertheless remained an open invitation to transcend 10 to 13 years of grinding indoctrination and mental suppression and become truly individual.

The corporate invasion changes that. Industry in Prussia were one of the groups most in favour of compulsory schooling - it churned out well-behaved, commoditized workers. Individuals are difficult to organise, because they tend to want silly things like good working conditions and a democratic voice. Likewise, modern corporatism demands that there be less Chiefs and more Indians. Despite all the advertising bunk about wanting innovators and visionaries and other such persons, companies want as few of those as possible. So long as you can be buzzword-compliant, so long as you conform to the image of innovation, without actually being individual, you can come aboard. Otherwise you are encouraged to go away.

Remember that earlier, I nominated the fear of power as a central tenet of liberal theory. This fear arose in the context of monarchs, and later, majoritarianism. At some point liberalism took a nap and companies slipped through the net. Concentration of power is the same in all its guises. It is likely to be abused unless checked by the citizenry.

Liberalism must wake up and put the boot into the unacceptable traits in this economic irrationalism that has gripped the Liberal Party. Neoliberalism is little more than a kind of pseudo-liberalism which pays lip-service to the fundamental axioms that the rights of individuals should be protected, and that the citizenry - the people - must be able to easily counterbalance the powerful. University is the last remaining place where we can systematically, institutionally encourage free-thinking individuals.

One way or the other, this century will see the end of the human race as we understand it today. In the next 50 years will come changes so utterly titanic that they defy everything you know. But one thing is for sure: if we acquiesce now, if we bend backwards and say "Yes Sir Mister Powerful Sir", and give away our individual rights and freedoms, we will soon find that it will be too late to reclaim them. Human rights defend humans, but only if humans defend human rights.

This is your last chance to believe. Time to do it.

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
Education is ...
o an expensive proposition that should be privatized as much as possible 13%
o a vital guardian of liberty 55%
o a ticket out of poverty 28%
o the only way nations can differentiate themselves 2%

Votes: 69
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by Jacques Chester


Display: Sort:
Liberalism and Australian Education | 48 comments (41 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
Empowering the Individual (3.75 / 4) (#2)
by br284 on Tue Apr 24, 2001 at 08:02:17 AM EST

I quote:
    But neither of these allegations of true. The US system of private tertiary education is usually cited as a good example of why free enterprise provides better education. Yet some of the USA's best universities are proudly public. And as for the rich private universities (Harvard and its ilk), their wealth comes most substantially from their vast capital holdings and donations from wealthy alumni. Student fees do not make up the majority of their funding. And, of course, this system violates the precept of equality of opportunity. A poor black man with the score as a rich white girl is far less likely to be educated at Harvard. Hence we can dump the assertion that markets will provide better - more liberal - education.
Umm, US News and World Report reports otherwise. Out of the top 20 schools on that list, only two public schools were present - UC Berkley and Univ. of Virginia. This seems to suggest that in these rough terms, your assertation that they provide education on par with the private schools is wrong. (However, they may provide "adequate" education.)

Another interesting thing to note is that while they have made the top 50 list, their selectivity ranking is higher than their overall ranking. If these public universities were offering "better education" for the masses, I would suspect that their selectivity rankings would be lower than those of lesser private schools. But they are not. To say that because it is public affords that everyone gets in is just plain wrong. A point may have been brought up about the cost of college at some point. I will concede that private schools cost more than public ones. However, you are ignoring that at most of these top schools, finiancial aid extremely generous. It is also getting more generous.

At my school, the one at the top of that list, I am receiving financial aid such that I do not have to worry about coughing up money for 79% of the "real" cost of this education. Furthermore, the Ivys, led by Princeton, have started to abolish loans in the financial aid packages and replacing them with grants. So, I think the argument that people had against private schools as far as the outrageous price tag is slowly disappearing. (However, it is still outrageous if you can afford to pay that much. :-])

So, given these couple of rebuttals, I would have to say that you cannot assert that because a school is public, that it is more "equal", and if a school is private, its cost serves as a screen keeping the poor black man out of it. And seeing that your article is based on education and the false liberal assumption that there is no value offered by a private school above a private school, I'm starting to think that capitalism in education is not such a bad idea.

-Chris

Whoops... (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by br284 on Tue Apr 24, 2001 at 08:56:47 AM EST

    ...a private school above a private school...

You know what I mean...

-Chris

[ Parent ]
huh? (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by alprazolam on Tue Apr 24, 2001 at 09:54:27 AM EST

However, you are ignoring that at most of these top schools, finiancial aid extremely generous. It is also getting more generous.

I'd like to see you back that up. AFAIK at the same time tuition for private schools are increasing, aid is actually decreasing. And more schools are using financial aid packages to hook incoming students, and then dropping the aid to lower levels once they're in.

[ Parent ]

Personal experience and an article to help out (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by br284 on Tue Apr 24, 2001 at 12:57:48 PM EST

From my personal experience, my bill and the bill that my parents have received for my schooling has decreased significantly since I started school.

As far as some sort of article to back this up, here is a link to an article on Princeton's most recent financial aid supplement, and here is an article that describes other Ivies following suit after Princeton's announcement.

As far as your point about schools dropping aid once students are in school, I have to admit that I am not familiar with that and would appreciate any information to that effect. However, my experience here has been the opposite. It is possible that costs can go up as the Hope education tax credit only covers the first two years of school, but I don't think that this has much to do with the point that we are arguing about.

Perhaps you are thinking of the loss of some lottery scholarships that are applicable to public institutions?

-Chris

[ Parent ]
Loans (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by weirdling on Tue Apr 24, 2001 at 03:13:24 PM EST

In almost any college in the US, you can defer the entire cost of your education through loans. Even an Ivy-league college is possible, but you have to have very good grades to get the top cut, which argues the basic point made, which is that a poor black man can't get in as easily as a rich white woman, which is simply no the case. If you are a sufficiently good student and have kept your nose very clean, Princton, Harvard, William and Mary, or any one of a number of schools will take you. They won't take me, though, and I am a white male who didn't do well enough in college to make it into an Ivy-league university for post-graduate work, although I can make it into a state college and pay around $6k/year to get a master's degree with $10,500 in guaranteed student loans available to me...
If my grades had been high enough, William and Mary would have paid 100% of my tuition as well as a comfortable stipend and money for the purchasing of computer equipment, all to go to their school to get a doctorate in conjunction with NASA's JPL, where I would be required to perform directed research.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Top 20 by what standard? (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by jreilly on Tue Apr 24, 2001 at 11:37:43 PM EST

I'm afraid I don't have a link here (could someone please find one? it's late and I'm tired), by Ivy league colleges, while harder to get into, don't necessarily provide a better education. A recent study of people who went to Ivy League schools, and people who were accepted to Ivy League schools, but attended college elsewhere, showed that there was no significant earnings difference between the two groups. People who are good enough students to get into an Ivy League school will do well no matter where they go.

Oooh, shiny...
[ Parent ]
Exactly (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by Pseudonym on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 03:19:11 AM EST

Besides which, universities specialise in different fields. I'd far rather study computer science, for example, at UIUC, UCBerkeley or MIT than at Harvard or Princeton any day. Harvard would be a better choice if you wanted to study something like law or medicine.

Similarly, if you want to study marine biology in Australia, James Cook University should be your first choice, though for any other degree, you'd probably be better off somewhere else.

This just goes to confirm by belief that top "N" lists of universities are pretty much useless.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Historical Perspective (4.11 / 9) (#5)
by Wonko The Sane on Tue Apr 24, 2001 at 09:01:31 AM EST

In the first part of the article, you make some valid points, but your terminology is rather wrong. What you call "pseudo liberalism" is, in fact, libertarianism or classical liberalism, while "real liberalism" isn't the original at all, but a later developement. Both the classical and the later forms indeed accept several basic principles, those being human rights as applied to the individual. "Equal opportunity" is not one of those principles, but an early a socialist one. The modern liberal movement adopted that principle as its own, however it is not a necessary part of classical liberalism.

The free market on the other hand, is a manifestation of (classical) liberal thought, as demonstrated by some of its founders - such as David Hume, Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson. (Well, not exactly founders. To be precise, the founders, like John Locke, lived some 70 years earlier, but the difference in this context is negligible.) So, you've got your definitions wrong - it is those who prefer public services to the free market that are neo or pseduo liberals.

As for the second part, let's just say "encouraging free thought" by denying free enterprise seems like a bad and ineffective compromise at best.

This is an EX-PARROT!
Clarifications. (4.60 / 5) (#15)
by Jacques Chester on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 01:13:52 AM EST

In the first part of the article, you make some valid points, but your terminology is rather wrong.
It varies from country. Saying "liberal" means different things in the UK, in the US and in Australia. This is one of the difficulties in writing an article with an international bent (and why I said "American liberalism", for instance).

What you call "pseudo liberalism" is, in fact, libertarianism or classical liberalism, while "real liberalism" isn't the original at all, but a later developement.
I don't think so. As I say, liberalism is about individuals and their rights. Companies aren't individuals, so they should be subject to individual rights, neh?

Both the classical and the later forms indeed accept several basic principles, those being human rights as applied to the individual. "Equal opportunity" is not one of those principles, but an early a socialist one. The modern liberal movement adopted that principle as its own, however it is not a necessary part of classical liberalism.
I did not say "Equal Opportunity", a term invented by the American Left ("liberals", in US parlance - another example of the flexi-term that is "liberal"). I said "Equality of Opportunity". This means that apart from ability, everyone will get a chance to take a punt. There will be no caste system dictating life occupation, for instance - instead, your career will be dictated by how hard you worked and how smart you were.

The free market on the other hand, is a manifestation of (classical) liberal thought, as demonstrated by some of its founders - such as David Hume, Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson. (Well, not exactly founders. To be precise, the founders, like John Locke, lived some 70 years earlier, but the difference in this context is negligible.) So, you've got your definitions wrong - it is those who prefer public services to the free market that are neo or pseduo liberals.
As I note, free-marketism is compatible with liberalism but only up to a point - and that point is where markets and competitive firms begin to impinge on the rights of individuals.

As for the second part, let's just say "encouraging free thought" by denying free enterprise seems like a bad and ineffective compromise at best.
Free enterprise doesn't need to dictate syllabi in order to compete, does it? Remember that in Australia, Universities are public institutions, and must therefore have impartial equality of speech (or must at least try to sustain it).

Obvious my use of the term "Pseudo-liberal" is a pejorative one reserved for hard-core marketists. It's cheap of me, I know, but it grabs people's attention and makes it clear that we are not a facade - we are intelligent individuals with differences of opinion.

--
Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
[ Parent ]

wrong (5.00 / 7) (#20)
by streetlawyer on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 08:28:42 AM EST

"Equal opportunity" is not one of those principles, but an early a socialist one

Absolutely wrong, equality of opportunity is in Locke, Smith, Hume, Mill, Bentham and all points north, and is easily deducible from the liberal commitment to universality of basic rights in any case. Equality of wealth and/or control of the means of production is the socialist principle.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

A quote? (none / 0) (#34)
by Wonko The Sane on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 07:09:03 AM EST

A qoute from Locke, Smith or Hume would be nice.

This is an EX-PARROT!
[ Parent ]
Liberal party (3.83 / 6) (#12)
by enterfornone on Tue Apr 24, 2001 at 05:14:45 PM EST

Actually the Liberal party is a conservative party and makes no secret of the fact. The Liberal name comes from the days when the original Liberal party was a liberal party in between the Conservative party and the (much larger) socialist Labor party. When Menzies formed the current Liberal party, he merged a number of smaller centre and right wing parties. The Labor party had long since lost it's socialist focus and was more a true liberal party, while the Liberal party (no idea why they kept that name) shifted more to the right.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
examples, please? (4.00 / 2) (#16)
by washort on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 01:32:44 AM EST

There are two problems with this. The first is that markets are not the be-all and end-all of economic organization. They have significant flaws in their nature which pseudo-liberals are keen to ignore. The other problem is that more and more often, the driving imperative of unrestricted capital and commerce - profit - has come into direct conflict with the interests of the individual. When anyone calling themselves a "liberal" happily concedes dominance to the market and corporations on these issues, they have ceased to be liberals, having entirely whored away their belief system to the beguiling allure of neoliberalism.

What other systems for economic organisation other than markets have been shown to work?

Where has the 'driving imperative of profit' come into direct conflict with the interests of the individual?

Individual rights. (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by Jacques Chester on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 01:53:21 AM EST

There are two problems with this. The first is that markets are not the be-all and end-all of economic organization. They have significant flaws in their nature which pseudo-liberals are keen to ignore.
What other systems for economic organisation other than markets have been shown to work?
Perhaps you've misread me. I said: " ... markets are not the be-all and end-all ... they have significant flaws ...:. I meant exactly that - markets, whilst being powerful optimizers, are not perfect. A debate on the imperfections on markets can go on for a very long time and become quite heated.
The other problem is that more and more often, the driving imperative of unrestricted capital and commerce - profit - has come into direct conflict with the interests of the individual.
Where has the 'driving imperative of profit' come into direct conflict with the interests of the individual?
While I'm pleased you're clearly not a Slasherati, I must admit that their continuing hard-on about online privacy over at that other site gives me the example I need. I believe that I have a right to choose how certain information about me is gathered and used. I have a right to protect my good name through seeing what information is kept about me, and so on and so forth. Yet online companies, in pursuit of a profit, have been notoriously bad at respecting my privacy (*cough*spam*cough*) and as such I believe my rights have been impinged.

It is an imperfect example. There are many others. Do I have an individual right to live? Yes I do. Do I have an individual right not to be killed by someone else? Yes, I do. Should it matter whether that killing comes at the hands of an individual and gun, or a corporation spewing poison into a river to save money? Hell, no. That is what I was talking about.

--
Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
[ Parent ]

Privacy... corrupted in U.S. like "Liberal&qu (none / 0) (#23)
by beergut on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 10:21:43 AM EST

I meant exactly that - markets, whilst being powerful optimizers, are not perfect.

Agreed. However, they are the most efficient means we've yet devised for fair resource allocation. I am interested in your views of how markets could be modified to increase fairness and efficiency. I know this is tangential to the discussion at hand, but I am curious.

I believe that I have a right to choose how certain information about me is gathered and used. I have a right to protect my good name through seeing what information is kept about me, and so on and so forth.

I must admit that this is the overpowering problem I have with the current rash of corporatism here in the U.S., too. The larger problem is that the government is about to start collecting and centralizing medical records, etc., on U.S. citizens. Look for access to those records to be for sale to HMO's, employer groups, and other corporate types soon.

What's irksome is that this is being done in the guise of "protecting our privacy."

Another big mess is the credit reporting agencies. They are a) generally not up to date with current financial situations on people they track, b) pawns of various financial institutions who don't work and play well together, c) capable of working and playing together all too well, c) impossible to dispute when an error is detected, and d) so numerous and far-reaching that, assuming you did expunge an error in one credit bureau's systems, you will never take the black mark off all of them, and the mark may return at any time to the one you corrected via their commerce with one of the agencies you might not have been able to catch or correct.

I am considering renouncing my citizenship to the District of Columbia (allegedly the reason they are allowed to take Social Security taxes from you), discontinuing all use of, and foreswearing all knowledge of, any government identification number. This is a contract I was submitted to before I was of legal age, without my consent, and therefore should not be binding upon me.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Markets, Information and Economics (none / 0) (#28)
by Jacques Chester on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 07:15:03 PM EST

I meant exactly that - markets, whilst being powerful optimizers, are not perfect.

Agreed. However, they are the most efficient means we've yet devised for fair resource allocation. I am interested in your views of how markets could be modified to increase fairness and efficiency. I know this is tangential to the discussion at hand, but I am curious.

I think the first thing one needs to do when assessing markets is to go at it from principles. Markets are simply a mechanism for allocating resources. The advantage of a market is that they are generally quite scalable, dealing as they do with localized information. Witness, however, that as a market grows markets tend towards having a handful of large players. This is a buyer response to information overload (or could be viewed as such).

Information is really the unsung hero of economics. I engaged in a discussion over the flaws of Command Economies, but the core issue was that the only "real" way to do it was through Input-Output Matrices, which have O(3) complexity. Basically it becomes unworkable very quickly, even with some shortcuts kicking in around the 600th matrix reducing it to O(2.75) or so - but 600 matrices wouldn't model Microsoft, let alone a whole economy.

My outlook on markets is driven by pragmatism. What do we want this market or that market to achieve. Secondly, how can we do it with minimal intervention, now and in future? Often the trick is to try and speak the market's language: profit. Hence we should not fine for dumping poisons, but rather directly bill the company responsible for cleanup costs, health costs and so forth (this approach is called "externality feedback"). One might also try social bonds, an investment vehicle which pays dividends only when a certain goal comes into being (say, CO2 emissions down by 20%).

In fact, economically elegant ways of guiding markets - as opposed to "brute force", govern-and-punish methods - are quite plentiful. They are however largely off the radar screen of mainstream politics and economics, precisely because "the market" has been hailed as the One and Only Truth. The fact that market capitalism is actually quite young in its modern conception is lost on these people - but the evolution of ideas takes time.

So, taken together, I believe that while markets must be the heart of any sensible, workable plan at this point in time, we should not be afraid to intervene (gently!) to guide the market away from impinging on individual rights, and towards serving the goals we want them to serve - whilst rewarding market members themselves for the effort.

My favourite correspondent on economics is a gentleman by the name of PM Lawrence, his site is here. A lot of it won't hold much relevance to you, especially if you aren't Australian. A quick search on groups.google.com will, however, give you access to a large corpus of writing on USENET which give some insight to the depth and breadth of thought that this economist-mathematician-programmer has given to economic issues and novel approaches to government.

--
Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
[ Parent ]

Huh? (3.33 / 3) (#24)
by drhyde on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 11:19:54 AM EST

> What other systems for economic organisation other than markets have been shown to work?

If you are to ask that question, you have to demonstrate first that markets do in fact work. Whilst I agree that they work for some people, they do not, in my experience, work for all.

> Where has the 'driving imperative of profit' come into direct conflict with the interests of the individual?

Every time someone is screwed over by a capitalist. Whether that be by having no real choice but to accept shoddy goods (Windows, for instance), or losing their job through no fault of their own, being unable to get a job through no fault of their own, or a company discontinuing a favoured product because it isn't profitable enough. All of the above are obvious.

[ Parent ]
Maybe he should have said it differently. (none / 0) (#39)
by acronos on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 03:06:21 PM EST

Change:
> What other systems for economic organisation
> other than markets have been shown to work?
to:
What other system for economic organization do you know that works better than markets?

I challenge you to find a system that would handle the problems you have listed better than capitolism. Do you think socialism would offer you more choice? Do you really think government monopolies, even democratic ones with a vote, are more effective that capitolist systems where money is the vote. The government one is the true monopoly. You have no choice. For convenience I will relist your objections:

>Every time someone is screwed over by a
>capitalist. Whether that be by having no real
>choice but to accept shoddy goods (Windows, for
>instance), or losing their job through no fault
>of their own, being unable to get a job through
>no fault of their own, or a company
>discontinuing a favoured product because it
>isn't profitable enough. All of the above are
>obvious.

The only one that other systems sometimes fix is the losing the job thing. I urge you to pay attention to what life was like in socialist countries so far. I think the cost of garenteed jobs far outweigh the gains.

I personally disagree with your statement that someone is unable to get a job through no fault of their own. If I want a job I will always be able to get one. You just have to want the job more than other people and be willing to do what it takes to get it. Apply enough places and you WILL get prospects. Capitolism naturally gravitates toward giving everyone who wants a job an opportunity. Imbalances will not last very long. This is the very reason capitolism is good.
If you don't have a job, it is through a fault of your own. You have not been managing your resources very well or you would be more marketable. You are responsible for you in a free society. Nobody owes you anything. If you think otherwise then there is the problem that is causing you not to get a job.

[ Parent ]
Liberalism and Education in the USA: (4.00 / 3) (#21)
by Canimal on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 08:54:46 AM EST

It sounds like you are saying the Australian Liberals need to reform the way liberals in the USA did. :)

Over here, "liberal" basically means "supporting more government activity as a way of improving society". Most of the time they are opposed to protecting or promoting individual rights, on grounds that individual rights are destructive to society at large or they undermine equality (or "equality of opportunity").

An example of this is the education debate that is currently taking place here in the US. There is a movement to let students and their parents choose the (K-12) school those students will attend. The state will stop giving money to schools directly, and give that money to parents, to be spent only on education for their kids.

Most USA "liberals" hate school choice. I think this is a little sad and a little funny. I don't know what it means when you call yourself a "liberal" and also vehemently argue that parents are too stupid and shallow to direct their own childrens' education. But it does show that "liberalism" here has completely cut loose from its roots.

(I will say there are some honorable exceptions, supporters of school choice, on the liberal side. Mostly they seem to be black representatives whose constituents would really like to have their kids get an actual education.)

Anyway, though we mean rather different things, I thought it was interesting that you think your Australian liberals are not really liberals on the subject of education, while I have long thought the same thing about liberals here.

Matt

liberals (3.33 / 3) (#22)
by irregexp on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 09:19:34 AM EST

Most of the time they are opposed to protecting or promoting individual rights, on grounds that individual rights are destructive to society at large or they undermine equality (or "equality of opportunity").

It is a sad fact that in USia, many liberals will not allow our children their basic human rights while in the schoolyard. The two most important amendments, the Second and First (you *cannot* have the latter without the former, see eg. China or Singapore for examples), are routinely denied to children while they are in school. Will someone please point out to me where in the Constitution an age limit is placed on Freedom?

Just writing about it makes me angry. If the liberals had their way, the Constitution would have been re-written to support leftist political candidates like Al Gore in their war agains humanity.


/Irregular Expression/
[ Parent ]

School choice (4.50 / 2) (#25)
by John Thompson on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 02:58:28 PM EST

Canimal wrote:

Most USA "liberals" hate school choice. I think this is a little sad and a little funny. I don't know what it means when you call yourself a "liberal" and also vehemently argue that parents are too stupid and shallow to direct their own childrens' education. But it does show that "liberalism" here has completely cut loose from its roots.

---

AFAIK, the liberal objection to "school choice" does not arise from thinking that parents are "too stupid to direct their own children's education" but rather a concern that money diverted from the public schools cannot be used to benefit all childern. Private schools can be selective about the students they accept. Public schools do not have this luxury.

Disruptive students, expensive disabled and other "special ed" students and so on cannot be rejected by the public schools. At the same time funding for the public schools is being reduced by school choice and education budgeting limits, mandates for inclusion in the public schools and provision of education to all childern regardless of cost continue.

My wife is a speech pathologist working for the public schools. Her job not only includes public school students in her district, but also parochial school students, even when they have enrolled in schools quite some distance from her district. As long as the student is considered a resident of the district, she is legally mandated to provide services to that student, even if it means driving 20 miles out of her district to the parochial school the child attends. The district is not compensated in any way for this. Needless to say, traveling to various public and private schools to provide these services takes time that could otherwise be used to provide services in her own district.

Perhaps if the private schools accepting "school choice" vouchers were held to the same standard vis-a-vis providing services as the public schools we would feel differently about this. But as it stands, this is not the case.

BTW, we are residents of Wisconsin, where school choice has been an option for several years already under Gov. Tommy Thompson, who is now our Secretary of Health and Education for the Bush administration.


[ Parent ]
Okay, but why not school choice? :) (none / 0) (#30)
by Canimal on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 10:01:11 PM EST

True that there are other reasons why folks oppose school choice. But when I have talked to those against school choice, most eventually get around to the claim that ordinary parents just can't be trusted to manage the education of their kids. See Strlen's comment above.

Why should private schools be held to the same requirements as public schools? The whole point of school choice (to me, anyway) is to make it practical for ordinary people to educate their kids in _different_ ways, according to what seems right to them. Having a school voucher program that says "you can choose your school as long as it is exactly like all the other schools"--well, I can't see the point.

There is more than one way to handle disruptive students. (When you are talking about grade schoolers, you might start by not making them sit at a desk six hours out of eight.) There is more than one way to accomodate handicapped students. There is more than one way to teach to slow students, and more than one way to teach to gifted students. Why should every school have to try to accomodate these "special" kids in the same way?

You talk about your wife taking care of kids outside the district, and seem to suggest that this is an unfair handicap for the public schools. Why is that an argument against school choice, or letting schools choose the services they want to provide? Seems to me you should be fighting the legal mandate that says your wife has to drive 20 miles out of the district, rather.

(By the way, I can't help noticing that special ed, speech pathology, etc, only benefit a select group of children, and require money that is diverted away from all children, as you noted in the case of your wife. Your argument against school choice is that it diverts resources away from all children. Does it apply to these kind of services too?)

I don't know anything about the school choice program in Wisconsin. Can you tell us a little bit about it? I can't tell for sure, but I get the sense you don't like it. Want to explain why not?

Thanks,
Matt

[ Parent ]

School choice (none / 0) (#40)
by John Thompson on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 04:54:55 PM EST

Canimal wrote:

>There is more than one way to handle disruptive
>students. (When you are talking about grade
>schoolers, you might start by not making them sit
>at a desk six hours out of eight.) There is more
>than one way to accomodate handicapped students.
>There is more than one way to teach to slow
>students, and more than one way to teach to
>gifted students. Why should every school have to
>try to accomodate these "special" kids in the
>same way?

The public schools *DON'T* treat special needs students identically. Officially identified special needs students are *required by federal law* to have "individualized education plans" (aka "IEP" in education jargon). This means special needs students may need 1:1 attention in many cases. Of course this makes special education much more costly than regular education.


>You talk about your wife taking care of kids
>outside the district, and seem to suggest that
>this is an unfair handicap for the public
>schools. Why is that an argument against school
>choice, or letting schools choose the services
>they want to provide? Seems to me you should be
>fighting the legal mandate that says your wife
>has to drive 20 miles out of the district,
>rather.

I think you miss my point. The students need services wherever they happen to reside or attend school. The way the present system works, private schools get a free ride in providing services to special needs students. With the school choice voucher system as implemented in Wisconsin, money is taken from the public school district and given to the private schools without an expecation for those schools to provide these services. If you look at the portion of your tax bill as a tuition payment for your specific child to attend the public school, you have the wrong idea about the public school system. Education is provided by the state to allow our children to get a foundation in what they need to know to function as productive citizens in society.

Everybody benefits from this, so everybody pays into it, much like the taxes we pay to provide potable water and sanitation services or transportation infrastructure. I may never drive the Interstate Highway system in Southern California, but nonetheless my tax dollars are used to build and maintain it. If, as an individual, you decide to send your child to a private school for whatever reason, then it is your individual responsibility to pay for that, just as you are responsible for building and maintaining the driveway and sidewalk in front of your home.

-John

[ Parent ]
Well, it was nice talking. (none / 0) (#44)
by Canimal on Fri Apr 27, 2001 at 09:31:03 AM EST

I think this is about tapped. I am compulsed to go one more round, though.

Me:There is more than one way to teach (. . .) Why should every school have to try to accomodate these "special" kids in the same way?

You:The public schools *DON'T* treat special needs students identically. Officially identified special needs students are *required by federal law* to have "individualized education plans" (aka "IEP" in education jargon). This means special needs students may need 1:1 attention in many cases. Of course this makes special education much more costly than regular education.

That wasn't my point. You had said that school choice would be worthwhile only if private schools had to run under the same requirements as public schools. I was asking why "teach the same way as public schools", not claiming "teach each student the same as every other".

Do you think that the way things are presently done in the public schools is in fact the very best way things could possibly be done? Are there no alternate approaches, to any educational issue, that might be better even some of the time for some students?

If you have school choice, then folks who think they have a better idea can set up a school and start teaching that way. If you are right, you will get students. Without school choice, like now, you have to mount a successful political campaign and impose your better idea on everybody. If it turns out to really be a worse idea, so much the worse for them. (q.v. "whole language reading" in California.)

As far as the costs and extra needs of special ed kids, well, I am pretty skeptical about the whole "special ed" movement in general. But if "special ed" students are a paramount concern, then special measures for them could be written into a voucher plan. It does not make logical sense, and seems horribly wrong to me, to say that the vast majority of parents should be denied choice in their childrens' education, solely to maintain that small part of the existing system that benefits special ed kids.

You:I think you miss my point. The students need services wherever they happen to reside or attend school.

But with school choice, not every school needs to provide every service. Parents can choose the school that best meets the particular need of their particular kid.

You:The way the present system works, private schools get a free ride in providing services to special needs students.

Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the public school get extra money for the special ed services they provide? If the public school is getting paid extra to provide special ed services, and the private school is not getting paid extra, it doesn't sound like the private school is getting "a free ride" when they let the public school provide those services.

You:Education is provided by the state to allow our children to get a foundation in what they need to know to function as productive citizens in society.

We are getting near to what does it mean to be a liberal again. Is education supposed to mold you into a good citizen for the benefit of your neighbors, or is it supposed to give you knowledge and tools to pursue your own personal goals? I suppose a lot of people want it to do both, but when you are talking about school choice I think you really need to make up your mind which is more important. To me, in a free society, individuals exist not mostly to function as productive citizens, but mostly to live the way they please and pursue their own happiness. My preferences in what education ought to be for follow accordingly.

Matt

[ Parent ]

School choice (none / 0) (#46)
by John Thompson on Fri Apr 27, 2001 at 08:42:57 PM EST

Matt wrote:

>That [individualized education] wasn't my point.
>You had said that school choice would be
>worthwhile only if private schools had to run
>under the same requirements as public schools. I
>was asking why "teach the same way as public
>schools", not claiming "teach each student the
>same as every other".

I'm sorry. I misunderstood you. But if private schools are expecting to take public money to pay their students' tuition, shouldn't they be held to the same standards as the public schools? The money taxpayers pay to support the schools isn't earmarked for individual students; it goes into a common pot from which all the budget needs are met. Special education takes a significant and growing portion of that pot. If the private schools are taking this erstwhile public money, why shouldn't they be expected to provide the same special education services? If a strongly religious parent wants to send their special-ed student to a religious school that student still needs those special-ed services, after all. Or are you suggesting that the private religious school can discriminate against special-ed students by not providing these needed services and yet still draw money off the general taxes?

>Do you think that the way things are presently
>done in the public schools is in fact the very
>best way things could possibly be done? Are there
>no alternate approaches, to any educational
>issue, that might be better even some of the time
>for some students?

Certainly. But do you think private schools will go out of their way to provide needed services? Taking the religious parent wanting to send their special-ed child to a religious school again: if this child is perhaps wheelchair-bound, private schools have not been held to the fedral requirements for handicap accessibility as public schools. Is this school going to be willing to install the needed ramps/elevators/accessible bathrooms/etc. this child needs? Yet this is *EXACTLY* what happens in the public schools. My wife works for a small district and they had to retrofit their building with an elevator to accommodate a wheelchair-bound student at considerable expense (IIRC, it was almost $50,000). I can pretty much guarantee that private schools will lose interest in school choice vouchers if they were expected to make this sort of accommodation to special needs students.

>But with school choice, not every school needs to
>provide every service.

It doesn't need to be that way anyway. All I'm asking is that the private schools be expected to meet the same standards in providing needed services. You suggest that the parent wanting to enroll their student in a private school merely pick the school most appropriate to their student's needs. What if the parent thinks that a religious education is their child's most important need? Can the religious school still reject that child if they feel making the needed accommodations would be too expensive for them? If so, why can't the public school do the same? If you say the public schools should be able to do the same, how is that child to get an appropriate education? And who pays for it?

Itinerant teachers are very common, especially in special-ed. As it stands now, the private schools get the benefit of having these professionals give services to their students without having to pay anything for these services. In fact, with school vouchers, money is essentially taken from the district to pay the private school student tutition, thereby reducing the money available to the district to provide those special services.

>Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the public
>school get extra money for the special ed
>services they provide?

You're wrong. Special-ed services are mandated by the federal government but not funded by the federal government. Each district must find their own money to make the required accommodations. If they do not make these accommodations, they can lose *ALL* their federal funding for *ALL* programs.

-John

[ Parent ]
One more time . . . (none / 0) (#47)
by Canimal on Sat Apr 28, 2001 at 04:01:23 PM EST

You: But if private schools are expecting to take public money to pay their students' tuition, shouldn't they be held to the same standards as the public schools?

No, they should be held to the standard of being a place that parents willingly choose to have their children educated in.

You: Or are you suggesting that the private religious school can discriminate against special-ed students by not providing these needed services and yet still draw money off the general taxes?

I do not think that failing to provide a particular special ed program is "discriminating against" someone who wants that program. I do not think that every school should provide each and every service that some parent might want. That seems silly to me.

I alluded to this in the last post, but if you are really worried about programs for special ed kids, a voucher program could be set up so that special ed kids get a rider to cover the cost of their special ed program. I don't really agree with this approach, but I would consider it better than no school choice at all.

You: if this child is perhaps wheelchair-bound, private schools have not been held to the fedral requirements for handicap accessibility as public schools. Is this school going to be willing to install the needed ramps/elevators/accessible bathrooms/etc. this child needs?

As far as I know, private schools, at least in the US, are obliged to comply with the ADA, which says the facility does have to be handicapped accessible.

You: I can pretty much guarantee that private schools will lose interest in school choice vouchers if they were expected to make this sort of accommodation [wheelchair accessible] to special needs students.

Don't know how you can guarantee that. Want to make a bet about what they do right now? If you want, on Monday, I will call the 3 most recognized private schools in my town and ask if they will accept a wheelchair-bound student, and report back here. Let me know.

You: What if the parent thinks that a religious education is their child's most important need? Can the religious school still reject that child if they feel making the needed accommodations would be too expensive for them? If so, why can't the public school do the same? If you say the public schools should be able to do the same, how is that child to get an appropriate education? And who pays for it?

I take it you are presently lobbying to force the public schools to provide religious services to parents who think that is their child's most important need. Or is it okay for parents to have to make compromises, as long as it is a public school that is making them compromise?

If we get school choice, it will be up to parents to decide what services are needed for their kid and whether or not their kid's education is appropriate. If your kid is slow and needs extra tutoring, I do not think that will be hard to find, in either religious or secular schools. If your kid is blind, you probably ought to look for a school that specializes in teaching blind kids, and you may not be able to find one that also caters to your faith. I don't see anything wrong with that, though.

Me: Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the public school get extra money for the special ed services they provide?

You: You're wrong. Special-ed services are mandated by the federal government but not funded by the federal government. Each district must find their own money to make the required accommodations.

That appears to be false, unless by "find their own money" you mean "ask the state government". I looked around on the web a bit, and found this link:

csef.air.org/papers/tbl1-1.pdf

It looks like every state has special programs to cover the costs of special ed, including Wisconsin.

I note that in your first comment, you objected to vouchers on grounds that they would benefit only the kid that got the voucher, and not "all children". Now you are arguing exclusively from the tack that private schools will focus only on "most kids" and not want to divert enough resources to "special kids". Interesting switch, care to comment?

Matt

[ Parent ]

Good Point (none / 0) (#38)
by acronos on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 02:34:33 PM EST

I am very strongly in favor of school choice. I have been very interested in how anyone can be opposed to it. Every argument I have ever heard before this one was just stupid. But you have actually shown me one reason to reconsider the system as it is set up now. I rated you a 4 because you actually taught me something.

I still hold that school choice is the only thing that can save the American school system. We have a pathetic system for the exact same reason that the USSR fell. Socialism doesn't work as I have argued in other posts. Our school systems will just continue to get worse because there is no real (read financial) incentive to improve.

Back to your point. It seems to me that it would be possible to solve this real problem in another way. Using the voucher system, it seems to me, that all schools would be public funded and therefore public schools. Now what rules the government sets would determine which private schools would consider participating. Currently it is already illegal to turn a student away on the basis or race of color. And what for profit institution would ever turn the poor away if they had state money. The only reason they would likely use is performance. I think a school that set a high performance standard would create exceptional students and people because the students would create a synergistic affect against each other. This is a major factor in the current failing of the public school system. The other underachiever students drag down many very bright people.

I value everyone getting an education. I do believe, as the origional article said, that education is a equalizer between the rich and the poor. And, this is a very good thing. As such there should be some schools that support the underachievers. This would be very similar to how the current system works except that now people who could never afford a private education would be able too. How could this be a bad thing.

You think the current public system would then fail. I think that the current public system would just end up with the worst students and become schools for problem students if they continued to be forced to help all children. Obviously you would not need nearly as many schools to serve this function because the majority of students would be in the performance based education system. It is a valuble function these schools would serve for society. Let me explain my position here. I recognize that it is valuable to create an equal opportunity society. But students who flunk out of private schools were given an opportunity. They blew it. They now need to go choose jobs in the work place that match the effort they were willing to put into the system, meaning very little effort gets very bad jobs. Those who are born stupid should not be allowed to drag down the entire society. Like in the book 1984 where they put inhibitors on the smart people so that everyone would be equal.

I realize an obvious retort is to state that I also should not be allowed to drag down society. I forgive you for thinking this.

The real problem that I see with the voucher system is that the private schools could just continue to charge their students the same amount of money in addition to the government vouchers. This would continue to isolate the schools to the rich and allow the rich to have a MUCH better education. To stop this the state would have to require the school not to charge any tuition beyond the voucher. I believe this would solve the problem and be a good solution.

I'm sure I'm going to get hammered for this post.


[ Parent ]
Harrison Bergeron? (none / 0) (#42)
by sec on Fri Apr 27, 2001 at 02:20:07 AM EST

Those who are born stupid should not be allowed to drag down the entire society. Like in the book 1984 where they put inhibitors on the smart people so that everyone would be equal.

I don't remember anything like that happening in '1984', but it's been 10 years since I read it, and I have no intention of reading such a downer of a book again.

You may be thinking of Harrison Bergeron, a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, though. I do know that such a thing happens there.

It's not the only thing that happens in the story, though. The experiences of the title character suggest that those who have it in them _will_ succeed regardless of roadblocks in their way -- at least so long as you don't kill them off for doing so.



[ Parent ]

Wrong user of liberals (none / 0) (#27)
by strlen on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 06:38:38 PM EST

In US liberals simply mean anything "left of center". And what's right of center are simply early 19th century liberals who failed to reform. There's no socialists and no fascists in the United States, unlike most of the old world. Although some members of the republican party come close to views of far-right parties in Europe (war on drugs, war on crime, end to immigration, no to anti-discrimination laws, no to gay rights, no to abortion)

I'm not sure however that tax payer hand outs to schools that are in no way regulated by tax payers, or even have to conform to the common sense standarts are a an idea. How will it benefit the society if instead of a school which offers the students with at least the basic minimum education necessary to enter a college, parents will be paid to send their children to school which won't even get them to college. Note that children don't decide where they go, parents decide where they go. Their parents do. And many parents stress moral values, obedience, religion and not actual knowledge. Not to mention that we can't constitually fund religious school, this is against the very basic concepts. Yes, the constitution says "Congress shall make no law", but the principle it embodies (separache of church and state) is there for a reason and states should understand that. If you want indidivudual libert, you have the very right to send your children to where you want. But if you're going to use my money to send them there, you better want that they get an education I'd aprove off. And not that my money is going to be enough - (private schools are expensive, much more then what you pay for a public school through a tax. Obviously a tax has an advantage that everyone pays, and not every one uses and hence there's a larger saving, then would happen in a user fee). -- I think that it will simply be used by rich and middle class parents to get back to themselves the taxes they used to fund public schools.

And as for equality, by not allowing a poor child to attend a school (as some libertarians propose), you're creating an inquality of oppurtunity, a permanent, demoralized, un education lower class. Privatization of learning will only expand and further clamp down that class. I'm sorry, but education is not outcome -- it's opportunity.



--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
free, high-quality public education (1.66 / 3) (#26)
by Shren on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 06:14:43 PM EST

free, high-quality public education

Let's take this one apart.

Free. You and I both know that you mean "taxpayer funded". Nothing is free except a good ass-kicking.

High-quality. High quality education is created by high quality teachers. Money helps. Good books and gear help. The primary key, however, is the teacher. Not all teachers can be high quality unless you want to destroy the meaning of the word quality. Taking all of the teachers on a scale, some are really good, and some suck, and this will always be the case.

The good ones are going to seek out perks. Sure, they may not be able to get more money, but they can get the best jobs - in, oh, say, crime-free yuppie parts of town. It seems very likely, therefore, that we can almost take inequality as an axiom. A high-quality national school system sounds like a contradiction in terms.

The only real hope for high-quality schools is to improve the overall quality of teacher training. I don't know about Austrailia, but here in the USA education programs are widely regarded as crap. You don't learn about the subject matter you're teaching. You learn to teach, badly. Education majors are point-and-laugh material at universities across my country.

Public.Yeah.

Free, high-quality, public education. (3.50 / 2) (#29)
by Jacques Chester on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 08:05:09 PM EST

free, high-quality public education

Let's take this one apart.

Free. You and I both know that you mean "taxpayer funded". Nothing is free except a good ass-kicking.

Yet the point of my article is that such a thing is a good investment in liberty - not to mention your future economy!
High-quality. High quality education is created by high quality teachers. Money helps.
[snip]
The good ones are going to seek out perks. Sure,
[snip]
A high-quality national school system sounds like a contradiction in terms.
I don't think so at all. Australia enjoyed an excellent public education system at the tertiary level until quite recently. There can be no dispute that on an intellectual level Australia has been able to hold its own - but dilution of the education system is not going to make that possible forever. Most damaging for the removal of public funding ("to save money") is that much of it has been reallocated to private schools which are already flush with cash, capital and rich parents.
The only real hope for high-quality schools is to improve the overall quality of teacher training.
With what, precisely - a big smile? A nice speech? A copy of Market Economics for Dummies? Nope. With money. And who's going to pay for all those teachers to be trained? Who else wants to pay? Nobody, really. Teaching, as you observe, is a low-prestige, low-paying job, especially here in Australia. The first thing one needs to do is to raise prestige and wages. Luckily these are not unrelated. Were teaching as well-paid as engineering, IT, or law, you could be sure that more and better applicants would be knocking on the doors at the Education building.
Public.Yeah.
Here in Australia, it is. Every University - bar one - is public.

--
Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
[ Parent ]
I'll bite. (none / 0) (#31)
by Shren on Wed Apr 25, 2001 at 11:27:45 PM EST

first point response:

I've come to doubt that anything done with taxes promotes anything resembling liberty. Saftey? Maybe? Stability? In the short and middle term.

second point response:

Sure, Australia holds it's own. And look at the fierce competition!

third point response:

Parents have an option, between the oatmeal flavored low standards everybody-gets-it education and paying more money for a better education at a private school. Paying a private school for a selective or better education is money towards better teachers. Most parents don't seem to give a crap, however, and settle for the intellectual wasteland of public schools, whose goal is more crowd control and indoctrination than education. It's hardly my fault that parents don't care about thier kids to see that thier brains are constructed properly.

fourth point response:

Not for long, it seems.

Damn, I'm in a right out vicious mood today.

[ Parent ]

Final stuff before going home for today. (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by Jacques Chester on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 01:45:09 AM EST

I've come to doubt that anything done with taxes promotes anything resembling liberty. Saftey? Maybe? Stability? In the short and middle term.
Pop quiz: which invention made the Reformation - the beginning of liberal culture - possible? Was it:
  1. Low-interest bank loans?
  2. Understanding the NAIRU and the Evils of Government Intervention In All Cases Bar Nothing?
  3. Tax-exemptions and corporate welfare? or
  4. Gutenburg's printing press, later, general literacy?
I cannot make it any more sarcastic than that. No, really, not even if I do it with a funny tone of voice.
Parents have an option, between the oatmeal flavored low standards everybody-gets-it education and paying more money for a better education at a private school.
You are talking about the US uproar, I am discussing the Australian one. In the US it's about the freedom to educate your child as you see fit to do so - we already enjoy that right to a limited degree here in Australia. What I was pointing out was that we are removing funds from public schools and giving them to the private schools. Not to parents who can then make up their own mind, but directly to private schools who don't need them. If you are University somewhere, and your library has a Dow Jones subscription, lookup "King's School" in "The Australian" for more.

--
Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
[ Parent ]
right. (none / 0) (#37)
by Shren on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 11:06:58 AM EST

I'm just pissing in the wind, I guess. After all, we all know that the gutenburg printing press was developed by a government funded instution.

[ Parent ]
Reactionary Cluelessness (1.00 / 1) (#32)
by craigem on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 01:26:36 AM EST

I'm sorry, Shren but your opinions are SO biased by your experience and it shows. How else could they be though? To quote:

"I don't know about Austrailia, but here in the USA education programs are widely regarded as crap."

The spelling mistakes are yours, not mine ;) You are right about the US education programmes, they are regarded as crap, not only in the US, but globally (and you don't know about Australia).

Tax-payer funded education provides freedom of education. Corporate sponsored education (by either student fees or direct sponsorship) promotes a narrow stream of education directed towards either corporate requirements or jobs that enable students to comfortably repay their student debts.

This does not lead towards a balanced society and goes a long way towards explaining why US society is such a shining example of an unbalanced society.

Shren, take a deep breath and acknowledge that the US education system is regarded as the worst in the developed world and work from there.

I hope we nip this in the bud in Australia. I do not want my children growing up where education is not free and on every street corner you can find an example of abject poverty and homelessness.

[ Parent ]

Anything multiplied by zero is zero (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by leonbrooks on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 08:36:13 AM EST

Didn't they teach you that in school? )-:
The only real hope for high-quality schools is to improve the overall quality of teacher training.

Nope. One of the most effective teachers on the planet started with literally no training, and look at what the system tried to do to him.

The system is your enemy, not the teachers in it. Throw away the whole broken regimen. Stop marching hundreds of different individuals in lock-step to the beat of a distant curriculum consultant and let them go at their own pace. Stop disciplining them to be cogs in a huge faceless political machine and free them to become genuine people. You'll be amazed at the results!

Oh, and their academic progress skyrockets, as well.
-- If at first you don't succeed, try a shorter bungee
[ Parent ]

Liberty? Tall order, and education don't cut it (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by leonbrooks on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 08:17:31 AM EST

In Boston (where the American Revolution began), the inscription on the public library reads: "The commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty".

Unfortunately, education as practiced today is only the safeguard of order, and crime stats show that it's doing a rotten job of that. There are a lot of glowing words in your essay, but as a previous poster has done in a different area, they need to be taken apart so you can see what makes them tick.

education

Education as practiced before it was made compulsory and regimented was wonderful. Massachusetts had 98% literacy before the armed troops marched children off to school. Now it has a woeful literacy level, and literacy is only one indicator of general public wisdom and competence. To cap it all off, the State wants to start doing us over - ``educating'' us in very specific ways - before we even hit school. All in the name of ``order'' not of ``liberty.'' Perhaps most damning is the observation that in the absence of compulsion, illiteracy was less than a quarter of the current rate.

order

Order? What kind of order? Which one? Conspiracy theorists will answer in harmony ``New World, of course!'' But whether or not they turn out to be right in the end, you'll notice that ``order'' has once again come before ``liberty.'' Oops.

liberty

Well... there have been some odd definitions of ``liberty'' bandied about.

Quoting the wishes of Pope Leo the 13th in 1886: ``the Church should enjoy full and integral freedom in the whole kingdom of Hungary as it did in former times'' - what former times? The only ``former times'' that fit with ``We are most anxious that those things which conflict with the rights of the Church, diminish its liberty of action, and impede the profession of the faith be removed from the laws.'' are the Dark Ages.

To the Popes, to the corporate Roman Catholic Church, ``liberty'' means ``free to do what the Church wants you to do'' as opposed to the concept which you have in mind, probably closer to ``free to do what you want to do, as long as it doesn't harm others.'' Nowadays, the Roman Church uses nicer words, but the purpose, the intent is unchanged.

Sadly, definitions of this character abound in a variety of despotic arrangements. Words gain new, sinister meanings: what you said didn't really mean what you intended. You have to check, and even then you will probably be lied to if the situation really is crooked.

Public (State) Education is one of those fields. There are various industries founded in State-controlled regimented schooling, each with their vested interest in maintaing the status quo and never mind what effect this might have on the children. Where else but in the military or in prison do you get as much regimentation as in school? Don't let the little clusters of desks fool you, that's only learning in formation instead of learning in ranks, akin to rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic to keep it afloat. State education maintains the State and all of the hangers-on.

It does not maintain democracy or liberty, it undermines them.
-- If at first you don't succeed, try a shorter bungee

Mental Dribbling: Education, Liberty and Democracy (2.00 / 1) (#41)
by Epoch of Entropy on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 07:22:39 PM EST

I really don't like quoting the dictionary and stating the obvious, but at some times it's just fun

From dictionary.com
1a. The condition of being free from restriction or control.
1b. The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing. 1c. The condition of being physically and legally free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor. See Synonyms at freedom. 2. Freedom from unjust or undue governmental control. 3. A right and power to engage in certain actions without control or interference: the liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.


Most notably is 1a, which is the underlying concept behind any more specialized interpretations. How do we understand what this concept of freedom is, and even more important is how do we express ourselves in a manner of choice? Pavlov might argue that we are classically conditioned, and in some senses we may be brainwashed by our higher education, but that is all dependent on the individual. A skeptical individual will question the whole of everything he is told, unlike a sheep who takes concepts partially and intergrally.

With most people, we are not all purely skeptics, nor entirely a follower. But why not expand, conceptialize, understand, summarize, judge and rate all of what we're told? (check the link, view the bottom mid/btm)That's just too much damn work. But, when we need to completely understand a concept which is presented to us (for the sake of it, let's say there is a problem, and it needs a solution) we will take those afformented mental steps in order to reach a solution.

What does all this spew boil down to? Well, there can be no great solutions to challanging problems with out having a prior knowledge base. Understanding is the key to problem solving. Education a method of understanding. Liberty is the fundamental paradigm to education. Democracy is achieved through our right to liberty, and liberty is not order or control. Do not underestimate the sybiotic relationship between education and democracy. as it applies to your actions, or the actions of another. It may be true that public education was founded by the church in a effort to control it's flock, but we no longer live in the 1800's.

In an age when you're right to information is paramount ask what you'll do with it if you don't UNDERSTAND


.:: Epoch of Entropy ::. .:: http://entropy.ice.org ::.
[ Parent ]
Retentive Student Guilds/Councils? (none / 0) (#43)
by Robby on Fri Apr 27, 2001 at 06:22:34 AM EST

This comment poses more of a question, namely on:

Last year, "Inkling" ran a ticket to control the SRC newspaper at the University of Sydney, Honi Soit. They stated explicitly that they would censor or ignore any articles which did not conform to their leftist view of the world. It came as no surprise that they rejected the article below - but the message remains clear.

Down the road, and around the corner, at UNSW (The University of New South Wales), we're having the same annoying trouble as Usyd. To be quite honest, it's becoming one of the most dissapointing aspects of my education at the place

the Magazine (tharunka) spouts out anything thats magnificently socialist (which is fine by me), but refuses and ridicules anything that isn't. Of course, this creates unreadable rubbish, which has only one problem: i'm paying it for it (You know, the "Student union" fee ).

I'm wondering if this sort of problem is common around all universities around the world (where the supposedly student run organisations - or if we're the unlucky ones! (I want to go on exchange next year: Your say may matter :) )

Of course, this is part of the problem that your posed (and I mean, you sound surprised that it happened at Sydney ) : The power to control the paper and to corrupt was bound to happen. So what do you intend to do about it?

I'm not paritcularly politically active (although "actively non vocal" is the word i'm looking for.) - - but my vote this year will definately be going away from the left wingers (it was last year too, but not so actively so) .

Anyway, just my two cents, hoping for a dollar back from kuro5hin as it's dissapointing to have such shit being thrown away (And wasting paper)

hypocrites (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by mami on Fri Apr 27, 2001 at 10:32:41 AM EST

This discussion stretches my patience. I am trying to understand what is so different about the German educational system and the U.S.' or Australian's.

We have a completely tax funded elementary, secondary and higher educational system. There are very few private schools (highschools etc) and only a handful newer private university level institutions.

I would say nobody would think in Germany, that the individual family has lost its freedom to choose a private school, just because they expect all education to be equally accessible for anybody independent of their income in the public school system and they expect each public school to be funded equally.

As long as I can remember, people didn't choose private institutions, because they were considered inferior of the public school system. In general they couldn't assure quality of education the same way a public school "had" to assure it. Private schools were for those, who couldn't make it in public schools.

This might have been changing during the last 20 years or so, but the general idea is, that the public schools system should keep up high educational standards with academic challenges for any child no matter what the individual capabilities of a child are.

I find the discussion about school choice here in the U.S. hypocritical. People don't support school choice, because they are "liberal" and love freedom so much (that's just their advertisment's lies to sell the idea politically), they support it, because they want their kids to escape from and "OUT OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM" !

Why so many distracting lies from the facts ? This movement is rooted in desperation from parents, who have had it. It's idea is politically abused by the people, who can profit from supporting and developing more private insitutions. Does this mean it is the right policy ? I don't think so. The problem is simply in the structure and the funding of the public school system. It's not working. Private schools are not always better in the U.S. either (there is no quality control and you have as parent to rely on "reputation promoted by word of mouth from alumni parents"). I have seen many more excellent teachers in public schools than in private schools.

And, of course, if you are lucky, you can find very good education in public schools in the U.S. at times, the problem is, no outsider can be sure to know where those schools are, how long an excellent school will remain excellent, how excellency is measured (that's really a problem too). It's a hassle to find out and it's pure luck if you find a school and that's what it's not supposed to be.

The German born wife of the former presidential candidate Bill Bradley summed it up quite nicely once in one of her low-key public appearances. The U.S. educational system is paradise in heaven (for a German at least) on a research graduate and PH.D. level, but they "have a bit work to do" in the elementary, secondary and first year college level. She teaches here since a long time. I found her remarks hitting the point, but apparently very few are able or want to hear it.


Poorly thought out (none / 0) (#48)
by dzimmerm on Fri May 04, 2001 at 05:28:23 PM EST

Thanks for pointing out that my quick comment was not well thought out.

dzimmerm

Liberalism and Australian Education | 48 comments (41 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!