Being a Liberal is Not an Excuse

There's an article over on Slate.com that's been generating quite a bit of sturm und drang on teh interwebz of late regarding how, if you send your kids to private school, you are a Very Bad Person:
You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.

I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good. (Yes, rich people might cluster. But rich people will always find a way to game the system: That shouldn’t be an argument against an all-in approach to public education any more than it is a case against single-payer health care.)
[Emphasis very much mine, h/t Vox Day as usual]

Those are just the first two paragraphs of this article. It continues on like this for several hundred more very inept and economically ignorant words.

Vox raised a good point in his take (on someone else's take) on this bit of liberal moonbattery- this could easily be Slate's idea of trolling for links, but even so I wonder how they picked someone to write something this spectacularly stupid. Monkeys throwing darts in the office break room, perhaps? Octopi rolling dice? Whoever has the most Obarmy flair on his desk?

Anyway, the point that requires examination here is the flatly ridiculous notion that if something is Really Bad, increasing customers for it makes it good. Now I realise we're talking about liberals here, so profound ignorance of basic economics is pretty much a given. Even then, it would take positively sinister dexterity to contort one's rational mind into concluding this.

When you go to a coffee shop with lousy coffee, inedible pastries, and rude, abrasive, and forgetful (read: French) service, you have two choices. One, you continue to patronise the place (which is unlikely unless you happen to be a female submissive, in which case you WILL use the email functionality up top to get in touch). Two, you take your business elsewhere (which is what most sensible people would do). Now suppose the town sheriff comes along and forces you to drink your morning coffee there, along with everyone else. Do you seriously believe that service would improve given that the staff has not changed, the product has not changed, but demand for both has gone up dramatically? The more likely reaction is that the staff will quickly realise that no one has any choice but to be there, and therefore nothing is required of them to improve their product and service.

Then there's this notion that We Must Do This For The Greater Good. This has to be one of the more amusing examples of rabbit-think that I've come across recently- it doesn't matter how much suffering or pain you inflict on your children or grandchildren, it's all for the Greater Good!!! How many Stalinist and Maoist regimes have used this exact "logic" to justify all manner of stupidity? And yet again, this exhibits astounding ignorance of basic economics.

One of the simplest and easiest concepts to understand in economics is the seemingly contradictory idea that people generate better outcomes for everyone by acting selfishly. This applies to education as much as it does to anything else. By opting out of the public education system and going private- or, better yet, homeschooling- consumers send a very clear message that they are not satisfied individually with the product offered by their governments. Governments will probably never adapt- it tends to be outside their abilities- but parents and their children will be better off.

It's also worth pointing out that private school is not exactly a great choice either. I went to private schools all of my life. I went to one of the best (and most expensive) private schools in all of Asia for my last two years of school, and did pretty well there. Yet I can tell you this right away: most of what I learned outside of mathematics, physics, English literature, and Japanese was almost completely useless. I learned the standard economics curriculum while I was there, and have spent the last 5 years undoing the damage inflicted by years of high school and college economics courses. I studied history while I was there, and have spent the subsequent years unlearning all of the nonsense I learned while I was there. With no disrespect to my parents, all I can say is that less than 40% of what you learn in a private school is of any use or is even correct; I suspect that the figure in public schools is closer to 10%.

The only option that makes much sense any more is homeschooling. Your kids are likely to get much more learning out of the experience, without having to deal with the negatives of bad teachers, bad curricula, and peer bullying.

Comments

  1. Schools are a scam. I hated sitting in a class, day in - day out, waiting for my "peers" to catch up. If I were a superstitious man, I would say that schooling is a ploy, by those in power, to give the useful idiots enough hope to not rock the boat.

    Japanese, nice. I want to go over there next year to climb Mt Fuji and to check out the culture. However, finding the motivation to learn the language is proving difficult - It's so foreign.

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    1. I'd say it's worse than a scam, actually. I'd call it outright indoctrination. Two examples of this come to mind- the information that I was given on the War Between the States, and the way they taught us the difference between Left-wing and Right-wing in my IB history course.

      I was in Australia when I was being taught about the War Between the States- they called it the American Civil War, of course. My teacher was great- he brought the dry battles and history to life by telling stories of the men who fought in it. But make no mistake, what we were taught was pure Northern propaganda. It wasn't until I came to the States and read The Real Lincoln that I realised just how much of what we learn in history classes amounts to only the victor's side of history.

      In Singapore I was taught that Stalin was an example of a left-wing dictator, and Hitler was an example of a right-wing dictator. This is of course completely arrant nonsense. The reality is that the National Socialists were left-wing loonies every bit as much as their Commie counterparts. Unfortunately, if you write anything of the sort in your final exams, you fail, because for all of its vaunted claims about teaching you how to think, the IB still follows a rigid curriculum predetermined by the Powers That Be.

      Personally I'm of the opinion that if I ever have kids, I'm going to have them homeschooled. They're likely to end up progressing a lot faster if they do. I was lucky in that I went to very demanding, very selective schools, but even then, there were times when I was sitting in class (especially maths class in my last 2 years of school) thinking, "I get this already, let me move ahead".

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    2. Oh and about Japanese- you might be surprised to find out that it's actually a very logical language. The difficulty is not in learning the sentence structures- if you're of a methodical cast of mind, that's actually pretty easy. The difficulty is in reading the language. Because it is character-based, like Chinese, rather than alphabet-based, it is very difficult for a foreigner to become fluent in it. In order to read a newspaper, for instance, you have to memorise roughly 10,000 characters and their meanings. In order to read full books in Japanese, it's supposed to be closer to 50,000. But if you have a good teacher (or good teaching software), you'll pick up the basics of what you need in a few weeks of dedicated study.

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