Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why Suggest Private Schools as Solution to Educational Woes?

Public school teachers hate hearing about privatization as the solution to the decline and fall of American public education.  I would too if I were in their shoes.  It is important to distinguish between the privatization of public schools and privatizing education.

Privatizing public schools involves moving workers from a broken system and introducing them to a foreign atmosphere where all of the sudden they have time to actually teach and incentives to become experts in the subject that they teach.  It always strikes me as odd that a person with a doctorate in mathematics is not "qualified" to teach children how to count.  The usual objection is something along the lines of "But they haven't completed any courses on how to decorate the classroom, make a coloring book, insert a catheter, etc"  This is not a knock on teachers, but in general the people who best know how to communicate information about a subject are the ones who know the most about a subject.  So, moving public school teachers and the rest of that broken system into a private system would produce quite a mess.

Privatizing education is the more plausible route.  It involves allowing private schools to proliferate, not following a cookie cutter approach but allowing individuals with passion, drive, and initiative to experiment with different learning techniques and environments.  It involves letting parents choose where their children attend school, switching from low performing schools, or schools not suited to their child's needs, to more appropriate ones.

People deeply rooted in the public school system will most likely scoff at the ideas in the above paragraph.  "That's not possible.  There won't be a massive increase in private schools.  These amazing and innovative learning institutions will not appear out of nowhere.  The quality of private schools isn't under control, you'll end up with so many bad ones."

These are silly arguments.  When you unleash the power and creativity of the private sector to solve a problem and they have incentive to solve it, it gets solved.  These institutions would absolutely appear out of nowhere, they would utilize greater technology, focus on subjects actually in demand, and educate your children more quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly than anything you think possible.  The quality of private schools isn't under control?  That implies that the quality of public schools is under control, they aren't.  The public school's quality looks about like the neighborhood it's in.  If it's in a wealthy area, the school is nice.  If it is in a poor neighborhood, it isn't.  There are some exceptions to this I'm sure.  Do you want to know the difference between a public of poor quality and a private school of poor quality?  The private school eventually goes out of business.  The public school lasts forever unless an act of god (or congress) allows it to go out of existence.

It always strikes me as ironic that public school teachers with any talent and drive defend the public school system.  They tell you all about how passionate and caring they are, how talented they are, and then they defend the institution that restricts or destroys any opportunity they have to implement their unique and innovative ideas and they defend the system that divorces the relationship between their effort level, intelligence, and passion and their income level.


Sherry Locke said...

This is a very interesting article. My sister is planning on putting her kids into a private school in WA. I really don't have much knowledge about this, so I thought that I would do some research. Thanks for this article.

Michael Garrison said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it.