In re: Market education.

So I had been meaning to write on this topic for a bit, ever since I read an article in the Economist that discussed how America’s university system was the best in the world. It is true by almost any measure that it is (They cite that 17 of the top 20 universities, or something to the tune of that, are in the US) and the strong draw it has on foreign students who seek a good education. This is not to say of course that countries like India are working to catch up and Germany is trying to create a teutonic Ivy League.

The reason I got interested among others is why do we do this so well and why is our prior education doing so poorly (at least in some areas) I don’t have any data with me but I know that in the Sciences and Maths particularly are being horibly out paced by a lot of the world, especially Asia. It is clear that there are two systems at play here, a private market for college, that doesn’ let everyone in, and an inclusive system (say almost European or socialist) for getting to that point. There are really strong reasons that we wan’t and require everyone to get an education, students at a young age cannot make the rational choice of whether to go to school or not and clearly many parents cannot either.

How do we include the market incentives that have created such good schools however in our public schools? Well to some it has been the ideas of vouchers, in England they have tried by allowing free enrollment and the publishing of ‘League Tables’ that allow you to compare stats among schools. Obviously there isn’t ‘an’ answer, but one answer isn’t the teaching of intelligent design in our so called ‘Science’ classes. It is precisely this kind of conflict that keeps me from being a Republican or Democrat as both sides have certain ridiculous stances on these issues. No child left behind no matter how wonderful the intent might have been, is not going to do much, teaching to artifical standards will only yield students who are able to pass a specific test and only yield results that just get the schools above minimums.

Somehow we need to have carrots, not sticks, to get schools to be better, and we should be trying everything. In Cleveland Heights where I am from originally (although didn’t attend the schools) they are experimenting with a small schools inititaive funded by the Gates Foundation. While it isn’t showing up now, we will soon be facing a time when many of our own countrymen aren’t prepared to attend our own universities.


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